Making Masks

As face coverings are required in shops from tomorrow, I’ve been busy making my own. There are loads of patterns available on the internet – there seem to be three main types: pleated, shaped and with a pocket for a removable filter. I made a couple of pleated ones a while ago, but decided I needed more. I now have enough use once before washing ready to use again and I can even co-ordinated with outfits! I’ve already noticed discarded disposable masks lying around – I’d far rather have reusable ones and not contribute to litter and plastic pollution.

There are lots of guidelines about using masks correctly. Of course they have to cover mouth AND nose, without gaps at the edges. They should be removed and handled with the elastics rather than the fabric and washed after use.

I experimented with some different designs and decided the shaped ones fitted me better. I used one of the the Big Community Sew patterns – The website includes a couple of patterns (one shaped, one pleated) and instructions, along with lots of videos of people from Great British Sewing Bee making them. I did modify the method though. My version includes 3 layers of fabric (as recommended by World Health Organisation) instead of two. This is how I did it.

I used an old sheet for the inner and lining and print cotton for the outer layer. I only used the lining pattern piece, cutting 3 pairs of pieces.

With a 1cm seam allowance, and right sides together, machine stitch the long curved edge of each pair, then cut notches in the seam allowance and press.

Next, stack the three sections together as follows to ensure the centre seams are hidden.

Bottom: outer print layer right side up

Middle: lining, right side down

Top: inner layer, right side down.

Then stitch the three sections together, 1cm from the top and bottom edges and turn inside out. Press.

Fold all the raw edges on both ends of the mask inside (1cm) and press. Measure how much elastic you’ll need. to fit round your ear, allowing 1cm at each end to stitch inside the open edge you’ve just pressed under. (I use about 18 cm each side, but it’s worth measuring – I’m having to redo the elastic on one I made for K as his was too small!). Insert the elastic to form ear loops at each side, pinning the ends of each elastic piece Icm inside the opening. Stitch all the way round, simultaneously closing the open ends, securing the elastic and top stitching the top and bottom edges.

And that’s it!

I now have a quite a selection, from florals, to pinstripe, animal print to nautical. Which one do you like best?

10 Observations After 100 Days of Lockdown

  1. I miss hugs. Shortly before lockdown (when things were just starting to get a bit scary) we met up with friends who were staying nearby. As they arrived at the pub we all just sat down (normally it would be hugs all round). It felt weird. It’s hard on huggers!

2. The contents of my handbag have changed. Not that I go out much, but essential items now include mask, disposable gloves and hand sanitiser.

3. I’d have no social life at all if it wasn’t for Zoom. Regular quiz nights, coffee mornings, choir and ukelele sessions and even a hen party have all been made possible thanks to the joys of video conferencing. Can’t get it to work for me to initiate meetings though – annoying!

4. Our language has changed. Words like lockdown, furlough and social distancing are now part of our everyday conversation. We even sign off e-mails differently …..stay safe.

5. I’ve rediscovered baking (like everyone else) – mainly scones and banana loaf. I have had to add baking powder to plain flour as there was no self-raising available, but that works fine.

6. I miss my hairdresser. I have made a messy attempt to trim my fringe as it was annoyingly in my eyes and out of sheer boredom I dyed my hair pink. Daughter said I was having a mid-life crisis. It was only a temporary colour but I thought it would at least cover my grey roots. Alas no! I’m still having to cover them up with a hairband. The pink is washing out now.

7. I’m drinking more (like everyone else). Not excessively, it’s just that if I go out I’m usually driving. Now all the social activities on Zoom are accompanied by a large gin and tonic!

8. I seem to have fallen out with some of my hobbies – I’ve not picked up knitting needles or crochet hook for weeks and am only blogging occasionally. I’ve done some crafty odds and ends, but struggle to settle to anything.

9. The diary is empty. The number of things that have been cancelled is crazy. Our holiday in North West Scotland, various concerts and shows I had tickets for, and a craft course – all off. Holidays and 2 of the gigs are rearranged for next year. It’s a long wait but at least there’s something to look forward to.

10. I’m ok. I’ve had bad days (like everyone else) but that’s fine. They haven’t been very often. I suppose that after a period of readjustment lockdown became a new normal. I’m pretty lucky, with a supportive family, living in a place I love. Coming out of lockdown will be another readjustment that maybe I’m not quite ready for yet.

How has your life changed under lockdown?

The Virtual Ukelele Band

Trying to keep our spirits up during these difficult times is so important and the social isolation is going to be hard, especially for those who live alone. Even when you live with your family, being with them and only them 24/7 could be a little claustrophobic.

I’ve just found out about video conferencing with Zoom. Several choirs are using this programme to interact online – you can enjoy the uplifting activity of singing and have social contact even when you are self-isolating or in quarantine from Coronavirus.. I’m planning on joining in with one of these choirs on Friday night, but then I thought we could try something with my ukulele group.

Some of us tried it tonight. It was great fun, though not perfect. When we all played together it was a bit of a cacophony! The volume on my laptop was a long way from being in the room with the others (might be worth trying headphones) and there was a slight time delay. It worked a lot better when one person led and everyone else muted themselves. That way we were each singing along to that one lead player. Tomorrow we are going to try taking turns leading songs.

There is also a 40 minute limit on meetings of more than 3 people, unless you subscribe to the premium version of Zoom.

In between tunes we unmuted and had a good catch up. Various husbands, children and dogs joined us at some points too which was nice. One of our members got a FaceTime call from her son in London in the middle of it all so she pointed her phone at the laptop camera and we all said hello.

It was so lovely to spend some time online with my friends this way. It really cheered me up. We might even use it for our book club or have a virtual coffee morning.

Have you come up with any creative ways of dealing with social isolation?

We have Frogspawn!

Spring has sprung! The frogs in the garden ponds have been busy and we have several clumps of spawn. K reckons they have been a couple of weeks later than usual this year, so I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has noticed the same.

I went for a wander round the garden today while the boys had gone out to take the dog for a walk. The primulas are flowering as are the daffodils and crocuses. The buds are swelling on my beautiful little amelanchier tree, so it will soon be covered in the prettiest star-shaped white blossom, followed by reddish foliage. I promise to post a photo when the flowers are out.

That’s one thing at least to look forward to. Everything is being cancelled as the Coronavirus measures ramp up. Our plans for a theatre visit to Edinburgh to see The Lion King is off, as is a late birthday present for my mother, to see a show at the Sage, Gateshead. I also had tickets for two shows at the recently refurbished Alnwick Playhouse. As a community venue that receives only a small proportion of its income from public funding, this much-loved local theatre has asked if those who had tickets would either waive refunds or accept a credit to be used against future purchases instead. Other theatres are doing the same. No doubt the Elbow concert we were to see next month will be off too. I hope the vibrant UK Arts Scene recovers and that the businesses threatened by this crisis survive.

Regular activities are curtailed too as unnecessary social contact is advised against. For me that means that choir, ukulele group, book club and knit and natter are stopped for the foreseeable future. Most of us make use of WhatsApp and other social media to keep in touch and I hope we can be creative about maintaining some sort of virtual activity online.

All this is against a background of no reported cases in Northumberland, though as people are being advised to self isolate if they have symptoms there may well be some affected by now. It makes the whole situation seem rather unreal.

We live in interesting times!

Are you involved in any groups that are grasping the challenge of online-only activity? I’d love to hear about what you are doing.

No Knit & Natter Today

I just had a call from Tony, the Practice Manager at Alnwick Medical Group to let me know that this afternoon’s group is cancelled. He asked me to put something on the blog.

As they haven’t received full guidelines on how the surgery should respond to latest Coronavirus guidelines it was decided to err on the side of caution and try to let everyone know not to turn up.

I did wonder if this would happen. It seems sensible to play safe. In the meantime it is up to all of us to follow the guidelines to protect ourselves and others.

It’s also important to keep a sense of perspective. There’s a lot of misinformation on social media so let’s stick to reliable sources like the NHS…and keep calm!

Hopefully normality will return before long. I’ll be staying at home practising my brioche knitting instead this afternoon.

Has the Coronavirus outbreak made you change your plans today?