Surprise ending to mask-making tutorial

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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