Or, better late than never.
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 (here, here, and here), I turned to the task of creating a new style of mask with some quite specific requirements.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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.
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.