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.
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: