Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

Lockdown: orchil and masks

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A 5mm square of silk mousseline showing typical orchil colour

My last post featured some purple orchil or cudbear dust detached from stained paper. I attempted to convert it back to dye and soaked it in water for several days. I didn’t know if it would dye fibre after 167 years but after several weeks’ cold-dyeing a fragment of silk with the purple liquid, it has taken on a typical orchil fuschia purple – see above. I don’t know what that proves, but it’s wickedly, super-nerdily satisfying.

And now to Covid-19 masks. In the early 1990s I completed a number of publishing commissions to design textile craft projects. I accumulated boxes of fabric scraps in vibrant designs which I have failed to part with because ‘one day they might have a use’. Translated into stash language, that means I couldn’t bear to part with them. But their day has finally come and I have made masks for family and friends during the pandemic. After some online research I settled on the Olson design for adults which has a pocket into which a HEPA filter can be slipped. Research suggested that high thread count natural fabrics made the most effective mask and my 90s fabrics were ideal, being quilting cottons, cotton lawns, or fine weaves. It seems a suitable way to let these fabrics go. I made children’s masks but found the scaled-down Olson unsuitable since I couldn’t approach individual children to adjust the fit and instead used one of the many pleated designs on the internet. To supply designs that children would actually wear I bought a few new fabrics. All the girls wanted pink masks, and being Devon, small boys chose tractors and I’m unapologetic about this apparent stereotyping. I made fabric ties but advised parents to change to elastic if they weren’t efficient. There’s no point wearing them if the masks slip down all the time.

Four masks in the Olson pattern design (see link below). There are three layers of fabric in the centre where the pocket sits and if a HEPA filter is inserted a further layer is added. I fed a copper nose-wire into a channel along the top centre which shapes the mask to fit the face as closely as possible

Although appearing simple, I found mask-making fiddly because of the curves, layers of fabric, nose-wires etc. and the labour rapidly became tedious. I’m full of admiration for the army of makers who have made so many masks and scrubs over the past few months.

Children’s masks with a pleated design. Two layers of fabric overall

Olson Pattern Links

https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Cloth-Face-Mask/

Olson Pattern

2 thoughts on “Lockdown: orchil and masks

  1. Did you make Graham a tractor one??😍😍

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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