Tag: 3D masks

The weather outside is frightful

(But these masks are quite delightful!)

By Kitty

In normal years, when the holiday season arrives, I head down a deep dark hole and hibernate there until all the party-goers have gone to sleep it off and it’s safe to re-emerge.

But not all people are misanthropic goats like me, and some of them even want to celebrate Christmas/Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa/Diwali/Hanukkah/Las Posadas/non-denominational holiday of choice with family and/or friends and/or attractive strangers, pandemic or no pandemic.  

This gave me to think.  You, being all sociable and well-adjusted and the like, are probably getting dressed up and sallying forth sometime this month.  And you likely don’t want to top off your glamorous outfit with a mask you got out of a ten-pack in Surgical Blue or Grim Reaper Black.

Can masks be a fashion statement?

Unequivocally, yes.  Some masks absolutely can, the operative word being “some.”

Like any other item of clothing, I think masks can project certain messages.  They can cover the full spectrum, ranging from “I’m covered enough not to be illegal; can’t be arsed to do laundry too” (think ill-fitting, one-size-fits-none disposable masks that gapes open at the top and sides) all the way to “I’m mysterious, alluring, and something fascinating awaits discovery beneath.”  

Which latter is what I’m hoping to evoke with our latest style.  Bit ambitious for a simple mask, maybe.  But designers without ambition are like eggnog recipes without rum: they exist, but shouldn’t.

Compare and contrast the following two concepts:

The Sparrowhawk mask

This is the mask style for people who don’t mind being surreptitiously stared at.  

If ever a mask could be said to make a statement, this one does.  Co-ordinate one of these with your office suit or party dress, and suddenly the face mask gets elevated from merely utilitarian to the perfect finishing touch to a thoughtful ensemble.

Here are several examples of the breed, both plain and embellished:

Pros, cons, and undecided

The geometric, angular design forms what can only be described as a beak, which projects far enough off your face to give you loads of breathing room.  The extra 3D space is definitely a pro.

It’s very structured, with a three-layer mask folding into side panels that are at least six layers thick.  It’s the face mask equivalent of a super-secure, ultra-modern skyscraper.  Just so we’re clear, the part directly over your breathing passages contains only three layers, because you still need to breathe.  It’s a myth that thicker is better, beyond a certain point.

Is all that a pro or con?  It’s a pro if you prefer a solid-feeling mask that stands upright on your face.  It’s a con if it feels too rigid for you, and you’d rather have something a bit cuddlier and more flopsy-soft.

The extra layers at the side panels definitely forms a better barrier, and makes them sturdy enough so gaping is generally a non-issue.  But the trade-off is that not as much air can move through those 6 plies, which bothers some people and others don’t even notice.

I personally find the panoramic height of the “beak” compensates for any restriction through the sides, and the three layers over my nose and mouth allow more than enough air flow.  I went for a brisk hike in a Sparrowhawk mask and had no trouble at all.  In fact, I think this might become my go-to style, because I like the solidity and the extra vertical space over my nose.  Plus it does look so interesting.

But if you’re highly sensitive to the least reduction in breathability, you might be best off in a mask designed mainly for easy breathing, like the Gondola mask.  There’s a certain charm to its Empty Child aesthetic, if you’re into that (if you don’t do Doctor Who references, think WW2 gas masks).

And we’re off to the ball!

The drama of the Sparrowhawk mask lends itself especially well to ornamentation.  I rummaged through my box of shiny things, and put together a few fun possibilities for your next party, special event, or just showing your festive spirit at work:

By the way, all of these embellished masks are being offered for sale here while they last.  We’ll match each one sold with a mask to be donated to a local shelter (especially in child sizes and unusual sizes, which are harder for them to come by).   

We have enough special materials left to make another one or two of some of these, while others are really one-of-a-kind.  They’re gone when they’re gone.

You can find regular (undecorated) Sparrowhawk masks here.  These can be made in any number of fabrics from our vast fabric galleries to match your outfit, so your imagination is the only limit.

Happy holidays to one and all!

Is this the best mask of them all?

Or, better late than never.

By Kitty

In this instalment of our continuing adventures in mask making:

  • Old Aunt Kitty eats a helping of humble pie, with a side of crow
  • We encounter a mask style that may just be the best ever
  • We are reminded that wet masks are bad, and unimpeded vision is good

The hunt for the perfect seasonal mask

So after I spouted off at some length about the latest official mask recommendations and the pros and cons of assorted filter materials (herehere, and here), I turned to the task of creating a new style of mask with some quite specific requirements.

  1. The shape must allow maximum ease of breathing, while being able to accommodate a filter pocket for those who wanted to use disposable filters.  Now that we’re supposed to have a minimum three layers of tight-woven material, breathability is more important than ever.
  2. It must be fairly simple to make, so we could keep the price down, and so we could produce them quickly for donation.  Since every single health authority says that wet masks should be changed AT ONCE, we all need to carry around three or four masks in the wintertime, meaning they can’t cost an arm and a leg.
  3. It must maintain its 3D loft and resist sagging, even if it gets damp.  For those of us in the North, rain/snow/condensing breath/runny noses are a fact of life now, and we do not want possibly contaminated, clammy fabric crumpling against our breathing holes.
  4. It needs to form a good seal around the nose to prevent glasses or sunglasses from fogging up, even in nasty weather.

The new mask style (well, new to Kitty, anyway)

For weeks I pounded my head against the sewing table, trying out design after design and rejecting them all.  Some were too complex, some stuck to my nose or mouth if I took a deep breath, some pulled down every time I talked or moved my jaws, some caved inward when a little moisture from my breath precipitated on them, and so forth. 

Finally, I struck upon the perfect idea, and there was much rejoicing.  Hurray and huzzah!

Then about two minutes after that, I found out that about eleventy-thousand other people had struck upon it already.

It turns out that this mask concept is already out there, and has been for months.   Origami enthusiasts, sewing mavens, and droves of millennial Youtubers had all gotten there before me. If there was an originator for the design, it has been obscured in the mists of time.

Which goes to show that even an elderly, experienced seamstress like myself can stand to learn from the internet.  I could have saved myself a deal of head-banging if I’d just sone a little Google search first.

In my defence, my version does contain several refinements of my own, which I really believe will make these masks a bit more comfortable and even a touch safer.

So here they are, these not-exactly-new but still kind of brilliant masks. If they have a standard name I haven’t found it, but we’re calling them Gondola masks, because that’s what they look like to me:

The selling points

First, these masks are comfortable.  Airy, lofty, with a metric buttload of breathing space.  We didn’t think anything would beat our Ziggurat masks for ease of breathing, but Felix and I both agreed that these are significantly better for sheer airflow, even with three layers of fabric.

Next, the 3D shape is genuinely self-supporting.  The pin-tucks work like reinforcing beams to help keep the huge “dome” of the mask high and dry, well off your nose and mouth.  Even when you deliberately inhale deeply, it’s all but impossible to suck the fabric down far enough to touch you.  If the mask does get wet from rain or snow, the fabric will stay lifted up instead of collapsing onto your face, which is rather important for safety.  

Observe how the mask dome stays up by itself

The dome is nice and tall — too tall to soak up those unspeakable fluids we all leak from time to time in the cold (it’s mainly water vapour from the air condensing in your breathing passages, but that sounds less fun).  

Because the path of least resistance means that your breath travel outward into that big space, it really minimizes fogging up of glasses.  I also scooped out a dip under the eyes, so the mask conforms better over the bridge of your nose, and doesn’t interfere with your vision — even when you wear it high enough.  You can see how nicely the mask sits against the nose here:

Close-Up showing the snug fit around the nose

By the way, next time you see someone in one of those disposable masks with the straight-across top, note how low-slung down their nose they’ve got it (and also note the big gaps that result at the sides of the nose).  They have to do it that way, because if they had it at the proper height, the straight top would wander into their eye region. So it’s either impaired vision or bad fit.  Either way, it’s dangerous.

If you want to use disposable filters

If you’re into filter pockets, this style does offer you the option.  No, not all mask styles work with filter pockets.  No matter what anyone tells you, adding a filter pocket to a pleated mask is an exercise in logical failure (it can be done, of course; it just negates the point of the pleats).  

Keep in mind that a filter pocket must perforce float free from the pin-tucks buttressing the mask’s structure, therefore may be more liable to get sucked up against your nose.  I have yet to find any supported studies indicating that disposable filters are better in any way than a three-layer mask, but you’ll need to decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

The negatives

Well, there really aren’t many.  This one is a winner in most respects.  

If you have a big beard you want to keep covered, or stubble that tends to catch on and pull down masks, you may want to stick to a mask style with pleats at chin level, like the Ziggurat mask.  Though Felix swears the Gondola mask doesn’t ride down even when he gets all stubbly, which is a complaint he has against all other non-pleated styles.

The Gondola mask does take up quite a lot of footprint on your face, which may be a plus or a minus depending on what you’re after.  It’s better coverage, but if you really don’t like the World War gas mask aesthetic, this style may not be for you.  

It’s uber-practical and perhaps lacking in elan.  If you’re attending a fashionable holiday masquerade, maybe try the Sparrowhawk mask instead.  Speaking of which….

Next time, the other new mask style

With the holiday season upon us, some of us are probably preparing to attend various gatherings.  In a world of mandatory face covering, I thought there’s a place for a mask made for glamour — all striking looks, but still not without practicality.  Kind of like a dramatic swirly cloak, as opposed to a parka.

If that sounds like your cup of amontillado, join me in the next instalment, in which Fairy God-Aunt Kitty makes masks for the kittens who want to attend the ball.  Guaranteed comfier and safer than glass slippers.