Month: March 2020

Magical Masks for Muggles

(Or, Even wizards Get the Flu)

By Kitty

UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written.  Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete.  Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.

Expert opinions are very divided on what face masks can or can’t do.   In some places they say masks are practically mandatory, and in other places (especially where there’s a shortage, if you’re of a suspicious bent) we’re told they’re basically useless.  I don’t know who to believe yet, but I do know that if I get sneezed on while out buying milk, I’d rather be wearing a mask than not wearing a mask, but not so much that I’d take one from a health care professional who needs them more than I do.

That’s not what this particular blog is about (if you do actually you want more general info on that sort of thing, read the FAQs we just put up here).  This is about the fact that if you don’t keep your sense of humour at times like these, you will go completely squirrelly.  And also, that it’s a dreadful idea to use magic to treat non-magical illnesses, because that way lies danger.  All kinds of nebulous but terrible danger.  You know, for subverting the course of nature and so forth.  This is known. 

Ergo, even wizards get the flu.  Or the common cold, or novel coronavirus/COVID-19/first pandemic of the millennium, or pollen allergies, or throat irritation from road dust because we need some #@#$* spring rain already.  We do not yet know if face masks can help protect you from viruses, but it may stop your kid with the cold (or dragon pox) dribbling on grandma. Plus I’m pretty sure your sneezes can’t travel 2m/6′ through two layers of tight-weave fabric, so you’re at least somewhat protecting others, right?  It sure does work well on that dust problem too. 

As a borderline-pathological introvert and confirmed misanthrope, I quite like wearing face masks.  It reminds people to stay back, and I can scowl when I haven’t had my coffee without offending anyone.  It also happens to keeps me from mindlessly pawing at my face, which I do appallingly often.  So do we all, probably; we just don’t notice.  In this regard at least, masks absolutely ARE effective!

If you, like me, want to join Team Mask, but also don’t want to scare anybody or be a downer (“Mommy, why’s that lady wearing a mask?”  “Well, sweetie, it’s because we’re amidst a terrifying pandemic, but don’t you worry.”), why not go with a mask that makes people smile? 

Hence Magical Masks.

I’ve had Harry Potter stuff on the brain, just having re-dressed our mannequins in Steampunk Hogwarts gear (blog post here), so this is where my mind went.  So we present face masks in House colours:

We’re making them available on our new masks website for both Muggles and Wizards who want to fly their House colours during this trying period.  For each mask you buy (Magical Masks or just the regular Muggle ones), we will be donating one to someone who must interact with people in order to do an essential job, like grocery store employees, medical receptionists, or delivery folks. 

Please help us support our essential workers and spread the word to all your friends, magical or otherwise, and then ask them to spread it on as well.  This is the best thing we can think of to turn our skills and equipment to something useful for the world right now.  Just because I dislike humans as a species doesn’t mean I don’t want to help people.

Thank you to all and stay well! 

Donating 1-for-1

We’ve decided to donate a free face mask (to someone who’s in public doing an essential job) for very mask we sell through our website (   Masks are being offered for sale for the cost of materials (plus minimum wage for labour). 

Please help support essential workers and help a Canadian business survive the pandemic by spreading the word far and wide.  Tell anyone who might want or need face masks, and ask them all to tell others too!  There are safe use and sanitizing guidelines and FAQs about face masks on the website as well.

It’s NOT a Surgical Mask. Honestly, it isn’t. But it might help anyway….

Or, a Dog Named Kitty

UPDATE (Nov 2020): A lot of changes and new knowledge have come to light since this blog was written.  Some of this content is still accurate, but some of it may have become obsolete.  Please read the more recent mask-related blogs for up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and mask-related issues.

Somewhere in chilly Canada, there lives Kitty, who looks like a human, but is very much like a dog.  If Kitty doesn’t get her walkies, she starts barking at walls and chewing the furniture.  She needs her morning walk like some people need their morning coffee.   She needs to be walked at least three miles or so.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

So when it’s midwinter and those windstorms blow in, complete with sleet and maybe a little hail, Felix and Kitty are out walking.  So Kitty made face masks. 

This was three or so years ago now, when “Pandemic” just meant a board game.  These masks aren’t surgical masks, and they were for preventing frostbite, not a virus.  Look, this one’s made from red leopard print Arctic Fleece with a wrap-around for ear warming.  We even made a nose hole, because it’s hard to breathe through two layers of fleece.

This one is for slightly less cold weather, cotton instead of fleece.  It has black labs and golden retrievers on it, so guess whose it is.

In ancient times, Kitty spent her checkered youth wandering over East and Southeast Asia, where loads of people wore, and still wear, face masks as a matter of course — for weather protection in winter, for pollen protection in spring, and for filtering godawful pollution in the dry season.

Back to present times. 

We all know, or should know, that face masks, surgical or otherwise, don’t really protect you that much from other people’s cooties.  Among many other things, Seamstress Kitty can’t help but notice that those things are just flat rectangles and don’t actually fit your face that well, and leave huge gaps.  Kind of like trying to fit a flat man’s shirt around DDD-cup breasts, like I was talking about here.  You need a proper air seal to keep out a virus, and you are NOT going to get that from some paper and elastic.

They do somewhat protect other people from you, though, if you’re spraying droplets from your face.  That lunch lady isn’t wearing that mask so she doesn’t catch your cold.  When Kitty was teaching in Seoul, if they had a sniffle, the teachers were required to wear masks before interacting with students.  Back then I had the choice of white cotton or, if I was feeling extra-daring, blue cotton.  Nowadays, masks are a fashion staple in much of Asia, and come in a huge array of colours and prints.

As far as I can tell, fashion face masks aren’t a thing in North America or Europe.  Well, they weren’t until we woke up in the apocalypse.  Now apparently there’s a surgical mask shortage because people are buying them up for reasons that seem a bit unclear. 

For the last few months, Felix and Kitty have had the occasional scratchy throat and mild runny nose. No, we’re not part of the epidemic. This happens every winter and it’s probably just dried-out air from the heating, and anyway, it started in October, long before all this started.

All the same, we live in a town populated mainly by elderly retirees, and we both have the immune system of a water buffalo (so if we did catch a cold, we may hardly notice anyway).  Ergo we are not going to chance sneezing on a bunch of octogenarians in the waiting room if we go in for an annual checkup.  If I feel sneezy and I must go someplace with lots of people, I will probably wear a mask.  

But I wasn’t going to buy an actual surgical mask and deprive someone who has a legitimate need for it.  So I made a few extra face masks, just like my fleecy hike-in-the-blizzard ones (but without the nose holes, and in lighter fabrics), so I can throw them in the laundry after each wearing.  Honestly, I normally only go out amongst humans when it can’t be helped, so I probably didn’t need more than one, but they were so much fun to make that I kept going once I started! 

I tweaked the pattern so it cups a bit more snugly against the face. If you look at the way a store-bought mask sits on someone’s face, you’ll often see a big gap on either side of the wearer’s nose. This is because a standard mask is flat, whereas your face simply isn’t, especially where your nose sticks out. I added a curved seam that goes over the nose and chin which makes the mask hug everything more closely, and reduce any gaps where stuff could fly in or out. It’s also much more comfortable, since the proper fit keeps the whole thing from shifting around.

Mainly, I think it’s important to keep our perspective and sense of humour while the world goes bonkers around us.  Let’s keep calm and carry on, folks.  At least it’s not a zombie apocalypse.  And for me, that means making face masks out of beautiful, colourful, adorable, or just funny fabrics, so I don’t make some nice old folks nervous every time I cough at the dentist.  Look, neon green giraffe print!  In baby-soft cotton flannel, of course.

Neon Giraffe Print

In that spirit, we’ll be sending a free face mask to the first ten people to ask in the comments below (for postage reasons, Canada-only, please).  Just give your name and a suggestion for the colour or print you would want, and if you’re one of the first ten, Kitty will pick a fabric from our stash that comes closest and make you a custom mask.  For example, you could say “Red and black lace,” or “camo print,” or “purple dinosaurs.” If we don’t have purple dinosaurs, you could end up with purple hippos, or blue dinosaurs, and so forth, unless you specify otherwise (e.g. “Pink dinosaurs, but if not, just not blue — maybe another animal”).  It’s designer’s discretion.

Once we’ve announced the winners, you can email us with your mailing address.  If you didn’t win one but want one anyway, please let us know; if there’s enough demand, we’ll make them available.  Remember, face masks can’t make any promises about your, or anyone else’s safety — but wearing pink paw-prints on your face might make you a bit more cheerful in trying times.  And your great-grandpa might appreciate you not sneezing on him.



PS: Those of you who have tried on one of our Contessa Coat (f.k.a., hooded jackets) might recognize that red-with-black-flocking fabric. Here’s what the coat looks like with the mask:

Steampunk goes to Hogwarts

By Kitty

There are some things to be said for uniforms.  You never need to decide what to wear to school or work tomorrow, you only need two changes of clothing, and…er…uhm. 

Yes, back when dinosaurs wandered the Earth, Aunt Kitty was a schoolgirl in a convent school, complete with uniform, and she hasn’t quite gotten over it.  The nuns would whack people with a ruler for any dangerous sparks of individuality, such as pinning a button to your blouse or adding a bow to your pinafore.  Which is why the school robes at Hogwarts (though they are a vast improvement on pinafores) still make me cringe a tiny bit, and also why the following project came about.

Imagine a school for magic, but populated by people dressed in their steampunk-inspired best.  Maybe not for the kiddos, but surely even wizards need institutions for post-secondary education.  No one wants to see grad students in uniform robes, right?

Gryffindor was easy.  To begin with, we already had a burgundy-red fabric in the ol’ stash which just happened to have gold phoenixes on it!  So that became a corset, and the rest of the outfit was built around it.  I imagine Gryffindors would be edgy dressers, leaning a bit toward drama, who aren’t afraid of being noticed, hence the ruffled high-low hemline, the opera-length cloak, and artful pattern-mixing.  

I also did a men’s version, mainly because Felix is an unmitigated Gryffindor and he already owns everything in this colour, so I didn’t need to make much new stuff.

Ravenclaw is what Kitty always gets sorted into, like it or not.  We’re going to skirt the debate over the book-correct bronze/film-correct silver thing, and just go with elements of both.  I feel Ravenclaw fashion would be intricate, imaginative, and just a smidge impractical — more about vision than putting in a hard day’s mucking in.  I don’t even really like blue, but  (in spite of secretly feeling like a Slytherin and wishing to be a Hufflepuff) I quite like this combination.

Slytherin feels to me like it should be mysterious, opulent, a bit sensual but subtle.  The full-circle skirt, complete with eight more full circles in the flounces, has just the right sort of secret richness that only shows up in motion, when you twirl or walk.  You could hide anything under that, and a nice big hood can hide still more, if you’re so inclined.

Hufflepuff colours carry a certain amount of built-in drama (in nature, black and yellow does mean “PAY ATTENTION!”).  Here, we counterbalance this with designs which are highly practical, with actual useful features and sensible lines.   Hence the breathable cotton skirt with capacious pockets and real-life-appropriate blouse (which could easily go to work under a robe, blazer, or lab coat, then straight on to the ball once you whip on the brilliant yellow-gold corset).  I feel Hufflepuffs would appreciate this.  The world would be a better place if everyone were a Hufflepuff.

Next time: It’s really not a surgical mask.  Honest.