Saturday, 25 April 2020

A new product: AR Face Gaiter (face mask)

On Wednesday, I received an urgent request from a dear friend for a batch of face masks for her 50 staff at a company involved with medical testing.

I quickly checked with my mom, who makes all of our AR Gaiters, to see whether she had enough cotton fabric on hand. She uses lovely cotton prints to make little pouches for the gaiters. She did and so we got cracking on Wednesday afternoon.

Making face masks is a perfect re-purposing of our AR Gaiters production line. Face masks are very much 'gaiters for the face': they protect your face, are made from fabric and they require the same skills (sewing and attention to detail) to make. We've now got a new product in the AR Gaiters line - AR Face Gaiter.

We found a bunch of recommended patterns online, selected one and made a prototype to check fit, sizing etc. We then made some modifications for a better fit as well as the addition of a third layer and a more comfortable and adjustable tie. Our version also has a 'pocket' that can accommodate those regular hospital masks for yet another layer.

I was tasked with cutting out the pieces from the various fabrics -  a labour-intensive task. My mom began with the pinning and stitching.

There are easier masks to make, which are fine for popping into the shops. These masks are for people who will wear them most of the day at work. With the two masks that I've been using, I find that my glasses fog up and the one, which is a good shape, has slightly too-tight elastic squishes my nose and is too close to my mouth so I can't talk properly. The experience of wearing these helped to improve the one that we were to make.

We put in a good 6 hours on Wednesday afternoon and into the night and then a solid 12 hours on Thursday. As we were using materials on hand, we didn't have enough cord for the ties. I turned tee shirting into tee-yarn, which I think I prefer to the cord because of the stretch it offers. But cord is definitely much easier and faster to cut to size!

We recruited help from a local friend on Friday morning and the three of us got the production line working beautifully, from assembly to sewing, ironing and threading. Once my tasks were done, I got promoted to sewing.

By 2pm on Friday, the masks were boxed and ready for delivery to a branch of the company in Potch, kindly taken by a friend who had to go through to fetch meds.

The box has already been delivered to my friend in Jo'burg by their driver and the masks are already being handed out to the people working today's shift.

I made contact with our local fabric shop in town and will be able to get fabric and other supplies from them on Tuesday morning. There is a great need all over as the wearing of face masks in public is now compulsory, which makes sense.

We'll also do a less labour-intensive version of face masks - the pleated design. I've had one that my mom made for me a few weeks ago. We'll make a few improvements to her original design first. This style is much faster and easier to make so it will be cheaper. This makes it great as an item to buy and gift to other people, especially if the mask does not have to be worn all day for work.

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