Jun 24, 2021 | No-Niche Posts

I don’t sew. Or didn’t,
Though I bought a machine:
A nice, beginner-level sewing machine,
along with some “how-to” books.

They all wanted me
to make a drawstring bag.
I have no use for drawstring bags;
Seems like a waste of time and cotton.

But idle hands, make idle minds;
That dive down rabbit holes. And so
Inexpert, but with purpose, I sew
Masks for the war effort.

Old, fitted bedsheets – sacrificed!
No more folding. They’re off to war!
Or maybe, just… the grocery store,
Where Sherman’s tank is armed

…with toilet paper.

In all seriousness, I think that this effort serves some additional purposes:

  • Gives people a sense of purpose and control – a feeling that they have a constructive way to help themselves and others;
  • Keeps panic prone people from stockpiling PPE that is desperately needed by medical workers;
  • Keeps hands from being idle – if you can figure out how to make these or get supplies to others, you’re not just sitting around dwelling on apocalyptic scenarios;
  • Made correctly, they are not pleasant to wear and should also help encourage folks to stay home.

Cloth masks like the ones I’m making are less effective than surgical masks and way less than n95. BUT… they are 2 layers of bedsheet cotton with a pocket for adding additional filter (like HEPA filter from a vacuum bag).

There are two styles being made out there, and some confusion – the other one is designed to cover and prolong the useful life of an n95 mask. It’s probably still effective for people running errands, but I don’t know if the fit is as good.

And unfortunately, even our medical professionals have had to resort to these in times of shortage. The call was put out by a hospital in New York, originally. Now that supply is being reserved for medical professionals, these are a good idea for the rest of us as an ADDITION TO social distancing. If nothing else, they keep you from touching your own face while grocery shopping. Why are they being recommended, now? Because you could be infected and showing no symptoms – mainly, wearing a mask is a way to protect others from you, whether it helps you much or not. Not to put too fine a point on it, but SARS-CoV-2 (“novel coronavirus” that causes COVID-19) is airborne, and wearing a mask in public helps you to keep your (possibly infected) “droplets” to yourself.

Launder on HOT and dry on HOT; only touch them after proper, vigorous handwashing. After use, wash hands, remove, throw into the laundry, and wash hands again. Assume both sides are dirty.

Stay safe and healthy out there!

Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. Mitchell Allen

    My dad told me that one of my cousins is busy sewing masks for distribution others. I am warmed by this outpouring of social caring.

    Also, your poem was funny.



    • Holly

      I love your latest, “The Last Supper.” We have done similar things; I recall finding a rattling, atrophied hard boiled egg inside the innards of a stuffed hands puppet, once, and had no idea what year it was hidden there. Thanks for the memories! (PopTarts are also part of my usual disaster kit, too, but this pre-hurricane stock-up was done by my husband, and he prefers tuna and granola to PopTarts and Spam. I sneaked in a jar of Jif.)

      • Mitchell Allen

        Thanks, Holly! Marian prompted, I had a flash-back and, you know the rest. Our disaster kit has all of the items you mentioned, with Skippy being the only Mom-approved peanut butter. My grown kids threw in some organic brand, so serenity reigns supreme in our household.

        I used to love granola bars, if that’s what you’re talking about. Then I read about how much sugar was in them. I figured a bowl of Froot Loops would be cheaper. However, in this time of sheltering, our stash of irradiate milk will stretch only so far…so, it’s back to the Nature Valley bars (talk about a misleading company name!!)



      • Luis Vilanova

        “Wearing is Caring” as they say when you bring your mask to public places. I like your article and the education. Many people still don’t want to wear a mask and yet others do not know the difference between a homemade and N95. Thanks for being thorough in your explanation !



        • Holly Jahangiri

          Thank you, Luis! It’s true, what you say – “Wearing is caring.” And it’s displaying that all over your face. (My mom used to say things like, “Think it all you want, but don’t let me see it all over your face!” when I was being not-nice. And maybe it’s a good thing I’m wearing my mask in public, because when I see someone’s utter lack of concern for their fellow humans written all over their BARE face, I can’t keep the contempt off mine. But I can hide it under my mask, if only I can keep it from reaching my eyes!)



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    […] 112. With the proper motivation, I am finally learning how to sew. […]

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