(Or, introducing the most breathable mask style ever. Especially for this heat.)
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.
As I sit here writing this, the thermometer says it’s 38 Celsius outside. That’s over 100 Fahrenheit if you only speak American; it’s just plain mythical if you live in England, as I did once upon a time. And they told me Canada was cold….
Of course, I’m trying very hard to avoid going outside, because fainting from heatstroke often offends. But tomorrow, we’ll run out of milk, and I’ve promised to bring the neighbours some of our exploding zucchini crop, meaning I will have to don a face mask sooner rather than later. Zucchini waits for no one!
To Mask or Not to Mask
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve now firmly come over to the Mask Side of the Force (if you want to know why, I explain my reasons here). Sweet are the uses of a well-fitting, properly-worn face mask, as Shakespeare almost said. But it is getting harder to appreciate its charms as the midsummer heat bakes us all into a sticky, jammy mess.
Look, we all know that it’s a myth that a fabric face mask can significantly increase CO2 inhalation or prevent you from exhaling toxins or any of that rubbish (at least I hope we all know that, because science). Still, when your face goes all squelchy and your mask sticks to you like clammy clingfilm, it can FEEL as though you can’t breathe, which is almost as bad.
Well, some people solve their problems with drink, and others with a chainsaw. Your old Aunt Kitty solves all hers with sewing, and only occasionally tiramisu. So I turned to a little experimental mask-redesigning, and here’s what I came up with:
It looks simple enough, doesn’t it? But those looks deceive! You wouldn’t believe the sheer amount of pattern-making gymnastics I had to go through to reach this end result.
First, note that this style of face mask has a distinctly 3D profile, even just lying there on a flat surface. Not to bore you with too many details, but that dimensional volume is achieved through a plenitude of darts, tucks, pleats, and weird seaming. The ziggurat-like sides might look funky on the table, but through some stitch sorcery, they make a nice gap-free fit once the mask is actually on you.
Hmm. I think a name just suggested itself. Dear Kittens, meet my shiny new invention, the Ziggurat mask! Tantara-ra.
But I digress. Getting back to the mask and the way it fits: it feels like it’s making serious contact with the face ONLY at the outside edges of the mask, NOT in the middle bit. In these photos, you can see how the centre of the whole structure stays up and off the mid-face:
In short, when you wear it, there’s plenty of clear space between it and your nostrils and mouth. All that soft-sculpting and engineering have created a dome-like structure which keeps the fabric partially lifted up and away from your airways and skin, where it really counts. It makes the mask feel less hot and sweaty to wear, and infinitely easier to breathe through.
Comfortable in Hot Weather
It’s so much more comfortable in the summer heat than the standard mask designs we’ve tried. Both Felix and Kitty liked this new style more than the our previous favourites, which was a surprise to us. Before this, Felix had strongly preferred the Accordion style mask, which Kitty couldn’t stand, while Kitty had liked the contoured style, which Felix equally loathed.
Since we have face shapes that are pretty much polar opposites of each other, it’s to be expected that we would prefer different mask styles (see here and here for a discussion of mask styles for assorted face shapes and sizes). I have no idea why we both love this new one, but it really does seem to fit each of us reasonably well. Here are some photos of Felix and Kitty in masks made from exactly the same pattern:
Maybe it’s because the whole point of the newly-named Ziggurat mask is that it DOESN’T closely follow the contours of your face, but rather keeps the #$%& off your hot sticky icky skin. I mean, while we have wildly different facial features, but in the (relatively for a mask) vast airy space under that 3D dome, we might be harbouring anything and you wouldn’t know it. Pointy or snub noses, flat or round cheeks, pouty or recessed mouth, it really doesn’t matter much in a mask that’s designed expressly to rise (literally, tee hee) above all that.
The top line is curved to give good coverage over the nose bridge without getting in the way of your eyes, and the pleats, which only go over the bottom part of the mask, will open up as needed to accommodate different chins and face lengths. Or a beard, if you have one.
Oh, and if you wear glasses (or sunglasses, which means pretty much everyone in the glaring summer sun), I find the Ziggurat mask is MUCH less liable to fog up your lenses than the other styles. Partly it’s because the fit over the nose is contoured and darted within an inch of its life. But I think it’s mainly because your exhaled breath takes the path of least resistance, which in this case is the big empty place over your airways and not up and over the top edge.
When Summer is Gone?
Will we go back to my previously beloved mask styles when the weathers cools off? Kitty probably will, at least when I feel like pretending to be somewhat fashionable. The sleek face-skimming line of the “Put on a Good Face” mask is definitely more appealing (to me, anyway) than the slightly Plague Doctor aesthetic of the Ziggurat mask. However, when it’s time for our winter hikes and comfort counts for more than style, I think I’ll make myself a few Ziggurats in cozy flannel or polar fleece.
On the other hand, Felix is never going back, being completely won over by the improved breathability of the new style over the Accordion mask. Let’s face it, no one really wears an Accordion mask for its looks anyway (my bias may be showing here), just its practicality. Whereas the Ziggurat mask has a certain Darth Vader-ish vibe, especially done in straight black, which is kind of fabulous if you can pull it off. Felix, being a six-foot-tall man with a Roman nose and sculpted bone structure, can totally manage it. Kitty, being round-faced and pug-nosed with apple cheeks, will not even try.