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sewing, resourcefulness and mutual aid on the Internet

By Nicolas Six

Posted today at 4:45 p.m., updated at 4:50 p.m.

The wearing of the mask being strongly advised by the government from now on, and soon imposed in certain places, the seam saw a big return of tendency for a few weeks. There are hundreds of video masks for making fabric masks on YouTube, at least a dozen of which have been viewed by over a million people. One of these videos reaches four million views.

Rarely designed by specialized youtubers, these tutorials are more often filmed by people who have never published a sewing video, or even no video at all. The advice ranges from the expert level – sewing machine, rigorous patterns and three thicknesses – to the large beginner level – folded fabric, staples and elastic.

Most go straight to the point, just explaining step-by-step manufacturing. But some videographers slip messages of support to medical staff, who have ” no time to sew and heal people at the same time ” And if some rare videos slip into the political field by criticizing, for example, the scientific and governmental reversals on the politics of masks, the climate is generally calmed.

Read also How to make your mask from homemade fabric: patterns and uses

Coquetry and nostalgia

On Instagram too, the making of handmade masks has become a popular subject. Tens of thousands of people share photos of their creations there and congratulate each other.

Coquetry has not disappeared. Masks are often matched with clothing, even makeup. The lace fabrics are mixed with the straw hats, the models are sometimes photographed in the foot in a worked posture, ultimately leaving little room for the mask. In families, parents sew with fabric Batman or Snow Queen, not without a certain nostalgia, as a mother explains:

“Each mask tells a hollow story. The fall of fabric from a dress for the youngest (…) or a pocket sewn ten or twelve years ago, of which we had kept the remaining pieces. By finding these little bits, sewing them again, let the memories go back. “

We manufacture for ourselves, for our loved ones, but also for strangers. We meet on Facebook a person who makes free clothing for those who request it, in exchange for a 20 g envelope for shipping, and a little fabric or elastic if possible. The Instagram account Save your caregiver offers to connect professionals who would need masks with volunteer dressmakers. An Instagram member welcomes his shipment of a “bundle for a small group of paramedics.” A moving Facebook group celebrates the work of fashion designers.

Volunteering or “business”?

But Facebook is also a forum for dozens of artisans who trade their masks in groups, open or closed, with sometimes misleading names, such as “Creating surgical masks from tissue”, which has 8,700 members. The publications follow one another monotonously: “I am looking for masks in the Aquitaine region”, monitoring of several service offers. These commercial proposals extend even into self-help groups. The creator of the group “Making protective masks out of fabrics” was forced to block new publications. He explains in preamble to subscribers:

“When we created this one a month ago, it was a question of exchanging on the manufacturing practices of the masks (…) and helping the medical personnel (…) If we understand that some people may need to get into their manufacturing costs, or that they live on sewing, on the other hand, we have to manage a colossal work of moderation around what is becoming a business, obviously very lucrative for some. (…) Many moderate messages show that people do not hesitate to take advantage of people's fear and dismay to set shameful prices on masks. “

Read also Where to get a “general public” mask? How long to wear it?… Our answers to your questions

The question of participation in costs, or remuneration, is sometimes experienced in a sensitive way. On Instagram, a group of angry professional fashion designers proclaim it loud and clear: “Why should we keep sewing for free? “, explaining that many have drawn from their own stock of tissue by making tens of thousands of masks voluntarily.

If the fabric is missing, the original ideas are not lacking. A medical professor offers instructions for using a mask made from a paper towel. Many youtubers point, perhaps wrongly, that the bra cups have a shape that is well suited to masks. Videographers explain how to take advantage of the elasticity of an old sock to create a mask with three scissors. The singer and tennis player Yannick Noah himself risks it in a video as funny as it is unconvincing.

The question of efficiency

Not all mask DIYers share the same concern for efficiency. If some refer to the recommendations of the French Association for Standardization (Afnor) or the CHU of Grenoble, sometimes going so far as to compare the filtering properties of different fabrics, others trust their instincts, wearing masks as filters coffee or knitted fabrics, probably far below average performance.

Efficiency is not always the concern of fashion enthusiasts, who go so far as to insert acronyms of prestigious brands on their masks or add openwork veils in fine lingerie: ” I help everyone look cute during quarantine Explains a youtuber. The most lucid warn that their creations are intended to be worn over a first mask, effective this one.

Youtuber children take it all for fun, maker of masks “Null, very very null”, reminding in passing that social networks are never left behind. Particularly tasty, an Instagram account lists photos of absurd masks – cans, bandages, old computer screen – which bring us a little lightness when France is preparing to break out of its long confinement.

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