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Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

Riding Out The CORONAVIRUS – Covid-19 - March 28, 2020

This is the 21st day of my incarceration. I have been confined to my house since March 7. 2020. I don’t dare violate the restriction of movement because I am a “high risk” potential patient.

I have been aware of the seriousness of the situation since early February and impetuously booked a flight home to visit friends and family for the last week of February and first week of March that I enjoyed very much. When I returned it was clear that the virus was going to spread all over the world. The cat was out of the bag. A part of my education includes a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Minnesota. Yes, I studied epidemiology. I knew what was coming so I voluntarily confined myself.

After a few days of staring blindly at the news for hours on end, I gathered myself together and came to my senses. It seemed important that I do something positive and get my head in the game.

I decided to start making surgical masks for health workers and my family. That sounds simple enough, but as usual, my path to providing a service was fraught with obstacles. For those who don’t know me, I am famous (or infamous) for finding the most difficult way to accomplish anything. I am the woman whose first Barbie doll dress was a satin ball gown. You get the idea.

First of all, my sewing machine was in the shop for repairs. Of course, it isn’t the only sewing machine I own, but the other two had not been used in many years and both had missing parts. Undaunted, I devised a way to spring my machine from repair jail. I called the shop (still open at the time) and asked if I could pay by check and if the owner would bring my machine to the car. He agreed, so I drove to Bloomington (about a half hour away) and we exchanged objects. I drove home triumphant.

Next, I decided to find the BEST pattern so I spent hours watching videos on YouTube. Soon I was overwhelmed with information and completely paralyzed. After a period of recovery, I found a pattern that looked possible. I once was a fairly skilled seamstress and unafraid to tackle anything from a garment to a complex quilt, but this little 6” x 9” rectangle was not so easy. The mask requires two layers of tightly woven 100% cotton fabric. That was easy enough. As a quilter, I had a stash of fabric – enough to last me the rest of my life and then some. I had my sewing machine and off I went.

Then reality struck. I found I needed to wash the fabric first. I had washed all of it several years ago, so I had to wash, dry and press several yards of cotton print and plain white fabric for the lining. Elastic no wider than ¼” is suggested in most patterns, but I finally found one that used ties. It took several trials to realize that the most efficient way to put on ties was a 45” strip of fabric folded like bias tape and sewed down to secure the raw edges. Much more efficient that 4 shorter ties sewed to each corner of the mask.

I won’t bore you with the details of the various trials, but I made every known mistake and invented a few of my own. I sewed the wrong pieces together, sewed them in the wrong order, cut holes in the wrong places and created chaos in my sewing room and my mind.

After four days of flailing about, I finally settled on a pattern from that worked. They had several versions, but the one I liked best was made with a serger with a little machine top stitching.

But then the serger tension went kerflooey and I had to go to the most dreaded document in my life – the manual – to figure it out. Finally, I got it going properly and set out to make a demonstration mask.

In a matter of minutes I managed to cut into the mask with the serger blade and then I cut into another piece with my very sharp scissors. I decided to take a break.

Tomorrow I will start with a fresh mind after a strong cup of coffee and make some masks. I think I have a pretty good chance of succeeding. Wish me luck.

* * * * * *

March 23 at 1:15 PM:
After 2 days of having every thing possible go wrong, I finally finished one (1!!!) face mask. (Pic below: Finished mask.) I inserted wire over the nose to hold it down. One thing I learned, they are HOT to wear. (Pic: Marilyn models mask.)

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