Friday Reflection: Surprise ending to mask-making tutorial

A compliant Dianne Motton goes in search of fabric and a YouTube demonstration.

Elderly senior woman working on old sewing machine - making home made face masks

Like many Melburnians I have spent a bit of time recently making face masks, both for myself and for my family members.

When I first heard about the compulsory nature of mask wearing, I dug around in the cupboard for scraps of fabric. Nothing really stood out as ideal, though I did find hat elastic and I have since discovered it may well be worth its weight in gold, something along the lines of a scarce commodity. Elastic is now the new toilet paper.

So, it came to pass that I ventured out into a well-known discount fabric shop, chose a few bolts of fabric and joined a queue. Not any ordinary queue, mind you, but one of 30 women long, all laden with their own bolts of fabric and a steely, determined look in their eye.

There was to be no queue jumping here as we all waited, not so patiently, for an hour and a half to get to the front counter. How long can it take to cut fabric, went the question in my head, as my arm muscles started to ache holding the heavy, many metres of fabric and my back let me know of its discomfort standing on a concrete floor.

Fortunately, all the women in the store were wearing masks, so I felt safe and at various times we exchanged complimentary chats about each other’s designs.

Finally, managing to purchase my cloth, the next question was of design and method. A friend messaged a link to a YouTube mask-making demonstration and I settled in to watch. The woman demonstrating was somewhere in Asia, judging by her accent and appearance. She patiently showed how to use a dinner plate as a circle and then proceeded to fold and cut the template. I re-watched the demonstration a few times and then felt I had a hang of the pattern part of the mask making.

Then she proceeded to cut out the pattern and sew. But as I watched, I realised in horror that she was sewing by hand. Not a sewing machine in sight.

She obviously had a mobile phone to record her demonstration, and phones are ubiquitous everywhere around the globe, but to not have a sewing machine struck me with sadness and discomfort. She was clearly showing potentially millions of poor women (and this is generalising and stereotyping but probably true) around the world how to protect their safety and their family’s, by using a needle and thread.

As I sat at my machine with the phone playing the demonstration again, I had one of those moments when you realise how lucky you are, how privileged I was to be able to whip up a few masks in minutes. No complaints from me.

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    31st Jul 2020
    I have Retired and now live in Thailand and what Dianne Motton says is very true. There are very few women in most of the Asian countries (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Malaysia) that do not have any of the many conveniences that the western woman has for making clothes and even cooking food because they just cannot afford these luxuries that western women take for granted. I brought a sewing machine and other appliances with me when I move here from Australia and the Thai people are amazed at what can be done with this type of equipement.
    31st Jul 2020
    Its interesting. I saw a clip where the person sewed by hand but sounding Australian and I thought it was a good idea as not everyone owns a sewing machine - by choice, not because they can't. Sewing with needle and thread is easy and saves the expense of buying a machine that otherwise they probably won't use so it was good to see. I often repair by hand because its less of a hassle to get the machine out.
    31st Jul 2020
    I dont think they teach sewing in class rooms any more. They did in my days. Guess the clothing business don't exist in a lot of country's.
    31st Jul 2020
    Not sure about schools. - I do agree with what you say. Its one thing to choose not to have a machine and another altogether not to have that choice. I taught all my kids how to use a needle and thread and how to replace a button as both are so useful and I didn't trust their school to do it.
    31st Jul 2020
    Fortunately when I was applied to join the military as a 17 year old, my mother gave me lessons in how to wash clothes, iron shirts and sew buttons. Very valuable lessons, I got paid 6d to iron a shirt in the days when a middy in the wet canteen was 9d and a packet of Marlboro was about 3/-. Good business, thankfully other mothers did not have the foresight to teach their sons.
    31st Jul 2020
    Hi Marigold, I'm sure I taught my kids to sew, but my daughter ask me to repaire her dogs bed, too big for the sewing machine. I bought her a sewing kit from aldi a few weeks ago, I've put it away for a Christmas stocking filler. She will be able to repair things her self. When she was a child I bought her a child singer sewing machine. Most parents do not learn their kids to sew. Oops sorry gone of the subject. May be next time I will get on my mobile phone to my daughter and demonstrate how to sew a seam by hand. Just incase the dog bed rips...

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