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It's more than a face mask

This week our governor asked people to wear face coverings when going out in public. I’ve been mulling making some face masks for a few weeks just in case we had to go to the doctor or somewhere necessary. I realized today that I have had “make masks” on my list of intentions for the day for the past week! I make a list every morning when I journal of the things I intend to do, not must do or should do - intend to do. That way it’s low stress for me to look at this list throughout the day and not feel like I have to “do it all” each day.


I love to sew when I have time and it’s too miserable to go outside, like it is today. Rainy and cold with a chance of storms is my kind of sewing day. I don’t have a sewing room or even a decent table right now - I used to have my grandmother’s table but it fell apart a few years ago and I have no space in this house for a permanent sewing spot. I keep all my notions, fabric, etc. in a few baskets under my library seat, my machine in the coat closet, and a tiny fold-up table I use for my crafting in the same place.


My tiny sewing set up.



It’s not ideal, especially for someone who likes to make clothing and quilts and whatever strikes my fancy, but it works. After realizing that I needed to get on my mask-making sooner rather than later, especially since I need to send a few to our older daughter who is a first responder, I hurried up and washed the cotton I had set aside for the job.


And there it sits, in a crumpled mess on the coffee table. Staring me down, waiting for me to do something with it. There’s also some flannel for napkins and the fabric for the Japanese apron I plan to make myself for gardening, but it all just sits in a pile.


Why? Why am I dallying on a project that is not only something I enjoy doing, but also necessary for safety right now? Maybe it’s the fact that by making these masks I have to finally admit things are much worse than I allow myself to believe. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to admit the reality of my family being in danger. Maybe I’m just out of energy from being sick for so many days…whatever it is, it is like writer’s block for the sewing crowd.


Having been a writer for over two decades, I know what writer’s block feels like - that strong intention that fades away as soon as you sit down to write. That overwhelming sense of dread at even writing, holding a pen, sitting down at the keyboard. The feeling that you will never be able to write well again, that what you do is pointless, that it all is just baloney.


Oh yeah. That feeling. And I think that’s just it - I know these masks really are more of a safety blanket, a panacea for the paranoid. N95 masks exist for a reason. Healthcare workers don’t use homemade fabric masks for a reason. Somewhere in my subconscious I feel like it’s all pointless. The masks, the napkins, the apron - nothing matters, why bother?


Ouch. Yup. We have a winner! It’s just hopelessness and helplessness in the face of such an overwhelming enemy. We’re seeing food shortages in the stores here, online and across the world. Supply chains are starting to have issues. Economic uncertainty has thrown a wrench in everyone’s planning. We’re struggling to provide a new “normal” for our kids - and they’re struggling to accept that the world they knew back in February is now no longer.


Talk about being a Debbie Downer - it just all hit me this morning as I sat staring at the pile, knowing it needs done. Not just for the sake of safety, but to reclaim just one little thing back from this virus that has taken so much. I am not going to let the enemy take what I love without a fight.


And while we don’t know what tomorrow or next week will bring (did we ever?) - we can take back our normal today, even if it’s just a little thing like a needle and some thread. So, I gather up my material - sorting it into piles for each family member based on their favorite colors - and I set up my machine on my little plastic table. Sliding the material under the presser foot, I feel a sense of victory over something I cannot control, a sense of agency and ownership of my own existence. This virus may have worn us down, but it will not win in the end. We are here to thrive, not just survive.


They're not my best work, but they'll do in a pinch. My iron died and I have yet to replace it, so they're also a bit wrinkly.


**If you need a good pattern and tutorial, Sweet Red Poppy has a great description and YouTube video on how to make masks (https://sweetredpoppy.com/how-to-sew-a-surgical-face-mask ). It’s the one I used in the photo above. There are other masks on the site that can help first responders and healthcare workers by extending the use of the N95 masks when worn over top. There are many local and national organizations looking for people to sew masks - they’re easy to find just by searching online. If you have elderly or high-risk loved ones, sew a couple extra for them as well. We’re all in this together, and together we will thrive.


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