How To: Make Do And Mend

Today we shall focus on using existing resources to create things we will need for the coming hopefully weeks, but possibly months. I am talking about face masks. At the time of writing, more and more countries are either recommending the use of non-medical masks in public, if not making it compulsory à la Austria.

Us regular people do not need medical masks for our weekly haul to fetch more gin and tonic, and indeed given the desperate shortage of them (the masks, not gin and tonic), we should leave them to the medical professionals. A non-medical mask will do fine for the rest of us, and it is very easy to make yourself.

The shops are closed, so I had to source the fabric at home. I keep 100% cotton white muslin in permanent stock to use as lining for skirts. It appeared to be of perfect weight and gauge for a mask when used two-fold.

For one mask you will need about a 20 x 25 cm square of fabric. You will then also need the same amount for lining, for comfort and keeping the shape, but also because you might want to make a pouch for slipping in a filter if you are feeling hi-tech. I was.

I will not give you precise sewing instructions for this project, because while the quarantine feels long, life’s too short. There are numerous instructions online to guide you through it. I will simply list what you will need.

So, on top of the fabric you will need thread for sewing, which I trust you will have stored in a colour-coordinated multi-drawer clear-perspex storage unit like any normal person.

You will need elastic, or alternatively regular ribbon. I prefer elastic for my masks, because it is less fiddly than the non-elastic ribbons that must be tied around one’s head. Good sources for elastics include Moleskine notebooks.

You will also need a sewing-machine, and then you’re good to go.

(Today, by the way, marks the day when I finally feel I’ve well and properly risen above the endless mocking by friends and family for having hoarded a small storage-room worth of haberdashery at home. I always knew the day would come. But enough about me.)

I decorated the white muslin masks (I made a few because they must be washed after each use, otherwise the whole exercise is pointless) with small iron-on figurines.
Please do not ask why I have such things in my possession.

Below you will see an everyday muslin mask:

The fancy might take you to create something festive for special outings, such as visiting a pharmacy or a particularly sophisticated delicatessen. I have something just for that: use your posh, satin dust bags for this. Honestly, you were never going to actually store your shoes and handbags in them anyway.

I decided to use my Prada dustbag for a fancy going-out mask. The pale pink colour is nicely neutral so it goes with any lockdown-outfit. I made a 100% cotton lining also for this satiny number.

Just wash any such fabrics before you make anything out of them. The shoebag-satin was absolutely fine after a 60° cycle in a washing machine.

There are other, crafty things to make in confinement that one can create from almost nothing. Given that we are spending so much time at home these days, why don’t you spruce up the old place a bit with something special that is both decorative and useful?

I received this rather fetching cross-stitch project today by post. It is hand-stitched by my sister, and yes, some things seem to run in the family.

The wall-decoration (or indeed this could easily be turned into a nifty cushion-cover as well – do let your imagination run wild!) features an always useful Quarantine Meal Schedule for easy referencing and time-keeping. The simple black schedule is adorned by delicate, crimson English tea-roses to take one’s mind off the pandemic and to sunny garden-parties.

Cross-stitch, or indeed needlepoint projects need not be seen merely as traditional decorative elements – I can quite see with my mind’s eye a similar piece garnish both a modern, austere Scandinavian home as well as a more traditionally chintzy English country cottage.

I was gifted a piece that is roughly the size of A4 sheet, which makes it a treat to frame as it fits most standard frames. I would recommend hanging such a treasure very close to the sofa (obviously), and if possible, very low down on the wall on top of a side table, so as to give it perfectly scaled-down surroundings.

For a finishing touch, place a little bowl of potpourri on the small table (go for white florals which are best for spring) so that while you are having your post nap luncheon on the sofa, you can easily check the piece for the next mealtime while the potpourri, every now and then, lets out a blast of deliciousness.

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