COVID-19 has changed so many things for so many of us. I haven’t been able to see my dad (in a nursing home) for four months. My daughter is quarantining for two weeks before the birth of her baby, so we can’t see her family. My son lost his job. We are in a state of uncertainty and unknowns about our youngest son starting college in less than a month.
These are unprecedented times — for all of us. We all have similar stories to tell, many more serious and hardship-laden than mine.
But let’s get to the most serious of subjects hitting us all in the face right now: masks. I never would have predicted I’d spend so much time contemplating masks and their comfort, efficacy and ability to make a fashion statement, but these are the days we are living.
Like just about everything in 2020, masks have proven to be polarizing. No matter what side of this particular polar vortex you reside on, you know, without a doubt, that the other side is 100% wrong. Am I right?
But I’m not going to get into that. I try to avoid angry topics whenever I can. After four months of shut down and quarantine, I don’t have it in me to argue about masks. (At least not two months before Halloween.)
And, whether you are pro- or anti-mask, there is one thing we can all agree on. They are mandated in many, most and nearly all public places — depending on where you live.
I am a do-it-yourselfer, so I initially addressed the mask issue with my sewing machine. My daughter was required to wear one during doctor’s visits. Essential workers needed them on the job. We weren’t yet at the required-mask stage, still I was sewing. My first masks were, in a word, failures.
I made them too small, or too big. I finally got the pattern right and made enough for my family. At this point I found myself completely out of elastic. And with the current and well-documented elastic shortage of 2020 I was stymied.
I paused in my mask-making adventures — for the moment.
Also (full-disclosure here) I attempt to be prepared for anything — pandemics included. So I already had a small stash of the home-improvement masks available from the dollar store. (I’m guessing they’ve been sold out since April.)
Fast-forward a couple of months. Masks started out on our outer radar, but they are currently front and center. We are required to wear masks; therefore we are required to acquire masks. And as alluded to earlier, I like to be prepared.
A couple of days before masks were required at some major big box stores, my husband and I purchased a few bandanas — just in case of a pinch. Why have just one mask when you can have a dozen? Besides, isn’t it important that a mask match or at least coordinate with your clothing?
Since I wasn’t totally satisfied with my first sewn masks, I went back to the drawing board.
We took a trip to the dollar store, and I kept my mask options open. I found a long scarf and thought maybe I could fashion some sort of a mask from that. I also bought socks; I’d seen a couple of online tutorials showing how to make masks from socks — no sewing required.
Still, I had my no-elastic dilemma.
Then I hit on the obvious: rubber bands and ponytail holders. They are stretchy and elastic, similar to the real thing.
I restarted my mask tasking. I can make three nice ones from a scarf at the dollar store with only one straight and easy seam on the sewing machine. (It could also be hand-sewn.) I’m not as sold on the sock masks. They don’t require sewing, but they will fray in the wash. Rubber bands and ponytail holders work just as good as elastic — a happy discovery in these unhappy times.
Six months ago I never would have predicted I’d be mandated to wear a mask to the grocery store. I never thought I’d be color-coordinating masks with my outfits, but we are living in a new reality. And no matter what side of the mask debate you reside on, we can all agree on one thing: we might as well look good wearing them.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.