I thought it would be appropriate for my first blog post to be about one of my first major projects that I feel really defined me as a crafter. I was attending college getting my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship when one of my class projects was to develop a product from start to finish and write a business plan for it. At the time, my father was beginning hospice for lung cancer and I had just had a close friend of mine recover from breast cancer only to have her daughter be diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. Although my father opted not to have chemotherapy treatment, those who do have drastically impaired immune systems.
My idea was to create a surgical mask that could be worn to protect the patient during this weakened state, but not make them stand out as being sick. White surgical masks immediately scream illness and people stare and avoid those who are ill. So, I thought, fashionable facial masks!
I did my research, developed prototypes, and wrote my business plan. It was difficult because the only sewing lessons I had were in junior high school home-ec. As it was a prototype, I used actual surgical masks as a base and crafted around them. Thus rendering them not washable – which wasn’t ideal. However, my best friend at the time was hosting an art show and invited me to be in it displaying my masks. So, I had to complete several for this art show. I bought a mannequin head and took pictures of the masks and opened an Etsy store to put the business plan in action.
I wasn’t sure how people would respond to the masks on Etsy being that they were really just prototypes, but I actually sold several. Another demographic opened up for the masks during this time as well – the nail technician.
Part of my research during my business plan phase which was disappointing was that a surgical mask worn by a healthy person doesn’t actually protect them. Surgical masks are more effective at protecting the wearer from particulates and keeping their germs from sneezing and coughing away from others. This applies to the nail technician as well. For instance, if they were to use an e-file on their clients, the dust created would not be inhaled by them or their client (if wearing a mask); however, there is no protection from the chemicals associated with the nail industry. Vapors can only be filtered through a respirator mask – which exist, but would be hard to make fashionable. They’re not really washable or made to be worn more than once.
Despite the disappointing results from my research, I completed the project anyway and went on to sell the masks because I felt they still had a purpose and were effective in some ways, although not 100%. The individuals who purchased my masks gave me positive reviews and really admired their design – so I was happy that they were happy, but I felt the product was inferior and felt guilty selling them so I stopped. I still have a box filled with several prototypes from the art show, but I wanted to have a full finished product that was washable and did not contain a store bought mask as the base, but knowing little about fabric and sewing I wasn’t sure what to do.
When a close friend approached me with a special request, I took the opportunity to create a finished product. Because it was an experiment I did not charge him. His father would chop wood outside using a bandana tied around his face to protect himself from dust, however the bandana would consistently fall off. My masks had ear loops which kept them firmly in place. I bought some basic blue fabric and began researching how I could make the mask actually hold shape. Should I use thin batting or interfacing? What about the flexible nose piece? I chose interfacing and I cut the metal from my store bought masks for the nose piece because there was no point buying in bulk or manufacturing one for this project.
The interfacing didn’t quite work as I had planned and I think it may have been more stiff than it should have been, but it really did help hold the shape. One of the problems I encountered was that if I had to pull out my stitching due to an error, the interfacing caused the previous holes to stay in place and really show. So there was no hiding the mistakes I made. This might have disappeared after washing. In the end, it was a very professional looking product and I believe my friend was happy with it, but his dad preferred his bandana.
Making the finished mask was such hard work that I never made another. I’m the type that really tenses up and doesn’t take breaks during crafts so my neck, shoulders, and back really hurt afterward. When deciding the price of a product, the labor needs to be figured into the cost – not just the supplies. Considering the hourly rate I saw fitting, these masks would be too expensive. So I just sort of dropped the whole thing. I’d like to pick it up again as I had all sorts of ideas, but just moved on to easier projects.
What do you think? Should I have continued with my masks? Feel free to leave your comments below.
Thanks for reading!