The Mask Making Society: setting up a network of mask makers to provide PPE for the local community

Face masks are now recommended being worn by the government to help with the successful application of ‘project restart’ and the reopening of the economy, so it makes all the more sense to either acquire or make your own mask.

Cults resident Françoise Stolte has gone one step further by starting a process of trying to set up a network of mask makers that could make enough masks from home with discarded and unused material to help equip the local public.

-£1000 target to donate to charity for local mask-maker
NHS staff working within inches of coronavirus

A network of connections developing an industrial style system for producing home-made masks

Françoise Stolte, a therapist who has lived in Cults with her husband and two sons for over three years, wants to encourage people to make home-made masks not just for themselves but, through creating a network of connections, develop a production style system which would produce enough masks to give away to the public.

Françoise decided to act on the idea when she was talking to family back in her native Belgium where communities have come together and are producing home-made masks on an almost industrial scale.

This clamour to produce masks comes as there has been a shift in recent weeks towards applying face coverings to help prevent the spread of covid-19 even though it is still not clinically proven that this method prevents people catching coronavirus.

The Reporter spoke to one doctor this week who sighed in exasperation at there even being a debate as to whether the public should wear masks. However there is caution in rolling out the requirement of wearing masks nationwide with supplies of PPE for key workers and NHS staff still fragile.

Françoise Stolte wants to set up a network of mask makers in Cults

Doctors “absolutely, totally and entirely” recommend using masks

“Doctors who have spoken underline social distancing as the most important measure in reducing the chances of someone catching coronavirus.”

Home-made masks will not offer the same protection as medical grade masks and all the doctors who have spoken underline social distancing as the most important measure in reducing the chances of someone catching coronavirus.

Retired ophthalmologist Dr Hattem Atta believes masks have a part to play. Trainnee ENT specialist at Raigmore Hospital Inverness Dr Fergus Cooper says masks “almost certainly” stop asymptomatic carriers spreading the virus, while ENT surgeon at Albyn Hospital for 25 years Dr Akhtar Hussein said: “absolutely, totally and entirely masks work in helping reduce the spread of respiratory disease.”

Dr Hussein explained: “Coronavirus virus is regarded as a respiratory disease because the portal of entry is the respiratory system, so you should first of all protect the respiratory tract and that is why masks are so critical.”

Françoise has had help making the masks from friends Sue Boyd and June Brown
Françoise’s youngest son Flynn has been cycling round collecting donated material

Aware her family could be carriers

“They are solely for the purpose of helping members of the community to make them feel better about going out and running errands.”

Françoise was concerned about spreading coronvirus through being an asymptomatic carrier (having the virus and showing no symptoms) as well as catching the virus.

Françoise said: “I first thought about this three weeks ago to help my family go out and about. I was concerned about whether I could be carrying this and passing it on and vice versa so I decided to make masks for my husband and two boys. Then I started to move on to something larger when I got in contact with a family member on the continent. I thought it was a fabulous idea and maybe it could be replicated here.”

Françoise writes a letter that accompanies the masks giving advice on how to use and clean them as recommended by AFNOR.

AFNOR is a French organisation which standardises voluntary processes so they can be used across France. One of the processes that has recently been ‘officialised’ is making home-made face masks which is being widely adopted in a country that is ahead of the curve in the coronavirus cycle.

Françoise explained: “The idea is that the masks are not for medical use. They are not to be used by medical staff, they are solely for the purpose of helping members of the community to make them feel better about going out and running errands.”

The letter Françoise attaches with her masks explaining how to use them as advised by French organisation AFNOR
Association de Française Normalisation designs and deploys solutions based on voluntary standards around the world

Masks coming into play in the strategy to defeat covid

Masks have been frequently used for years in Asia and due to this pandemic they are now being adopted in the UK. At the end of April, Nicola Sturgeon called for the public to use face coverings while the UK government’s 50page ‘project restart’ document released last week as England tentatively began stepping out of lockdown, has two sections highlighting the importance of face masks.

UK government now recommends wearing masks
A call by the First Minister in April

Help from above

“You can see as you go about more and more people are wearing masks and for those who have the skills to make them, I think it is a really good idea that they could be making enough to distribute.”

Françoise’s family are supportive of her plans with husband Christian saying it is a great idea. Youngest son Flynn speaking about his mum’s intentions said: “it’s a good community driven project that can help Cults stay safe.”

There’s also support from minister of Cult’s Parish Church Reverend Shuna Dicks who has been making face masks in her spare time.

Reverend Dicks said: “I certainly think Françoise’s idea is helpful because not everybody will be able to buy masks and we probably shouldn’t be buying the surgical masks so if folk are willing to make some and for them to be used by those in the community then that’s absolutely a good idea. You can see as you go about more and more people are wearing masks and for those who have the skills to make them, I think it is a really good idea that they could be making enough to distribute.

“If Françoise wants to speak to the church more about her idea we would be absolutely delighted to help her.”

Cults Parish Church minister (Rev) Shuna Dicks has offered to help Françoise in her efforts

Advice for making home-made masks

Dr Hussein believes the best material to make a mask with is a bed sheet. His other pointers to anyone wanting to make their own masks is:

  • use natural materials such as cotton
  • don’t make the mask too thick or too thin
  • two layers of material is highly recommended
  • design the mask in a rectangular shape

Dr Hussein said: “Material cannot be too thick as it would increase the resistance to airflow particularly when breathing out. Material that is too thin would also not be very good in terms of filtration capacity so the best option is cotton material and at least two layers of it. A DIY mask will be good enough to filter the vast majority of pathological and bacterial viruses.”

Possibilities are endless

“This can be something that shows we can be there for one another and build relationships even if it’s over something as small as a piece of elastic.”

Françoise says this project, to create a community of local mask makers, is not just about tackling covid-19 but also about trying to somehow bring people a little closer in a time when we have all been told to stay away.

Françoise said: “What is possible in this project is that somebody from a gardening group on Friarsfield Road that I have never met got in touch with me through email and said I have elastic, can I come by and drop it at your house. They gave me the material and I made them masks. Through that I have met some people that I would not have met otherwise living in the same street as me for over 3 years. So this can be something that shows we can be there for one another and build relationships even if it’s over something as small as a piece of elastic.”

If you wish to get involved making and preparing masks, contributing supplies of materials or help distribute the masks get in touch with The Reporter via email and we’ll pass on your details to Françoise.

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