Health Unit not sold on homemade cloth

By Lisa Gervais

Haliburton seamstress April Martin is busily sewing face masks as her contribution to the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Martin, who runs a home-based business called Sew What!, said she is providing them for free to anyone who wants them. She said she is also willing to share her pattern with other home-based sewers in the Highlands.

The seamstress said she has seen the demand for homemade masks for private citizens on the national news. She said that is because people don’t want to buy up N95 particulate that frontline health care workers need.

She added it’s also about pulling together for the safety of our senior citizen population.


“I’m making them for anybody who needs them. They are in a Styrofoam cooler, bagged individually and marked men or women, on my front porch.”

She asks that people call ahead or text 705-457-8764 as she is social distancing.

Martin said she has “scads of odds and ends” to make the masks. She follows a pattern using two pieces of cloth, nine by 13 inches. She also uses elastic but is running low and would welcome donations on her front porch. She said people can also use shoelaces to tie them on.

It takes her about 15 minutes to make a mask. She said they feature outer fabric, a baton for filtering and a lining, as well as a nose piece that can scrunch.

Martin said when she was ill a few years ago, the community supported her. She added it has supported her grandson, who has autism.

“I try to give back to the community.”

Luba Cargill is another Haliburton County sewer who is keen to see patterns.

“There’s a lot of discussion about making masks,” she said. “If someone could share the patterns, and what’s proper and what’s not proper, we could have an industry here in Haliburton.”

Shawn Wilson is more of a designer than a sewer and has come up with his own prototype he is planning to share. It’s based on the hands-free harmonica concept musicians use when they also play the guitar. The base of his mask sits on people’s shoulders – connected to the actual mask on their faces.

“It needs to be refined a lot better,” he said.

Local MPP Jamie Schmale said people have been asking him and his office about face masks and helping the national cause.

He directs them to:

Health unit advice on handmade masks

Meanwhile, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says on its website that, When it comes to homemade cloth masks, Health Canada is cautioning people on their use. These types of masks are not medical devices, are not regulated and come with a number of limitations. There is no evidence these masks block particles, and may in fact encourage you to touch your face more as you try to adjust the mask.”

Martin replied, “I think it depends on how the masks are made … I say it doesn’t cost anything to take an extra step, but doing nothing could cost you everything. The intention is to have extra protection if you must go out, not a device to give you access to run amok. You should still be social distancing.”

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