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Face value: Crafters turn their hands to making masks for coronavirus battle

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Putting fabric to good use: Designer Melissa Dwyer packs some of her masks to post.. Photo: Alan Landers

Putting fabric to good use: Designer Melissa Dwyer packs some of her masks to post.. Photo: Alan Landers

Putting fabric to good use: Designer Melissa Dwyer packs some of her masks to post.. Photo: Alan Landers

Around the country, sewing machines are humming as crafters make face masks as a barrier to stop people constantly touching their faces and to leave precious supplies of medical grade masks for frontline professionals.

In her studio in Caherdaniel on the Kerry Way, Australian fashion designer Melissa Dwyer of Meld Apparel is making double-sided cotton masks instead of her usual line of activewear.

"I had to do something when I saw the Irish doctors coming home from Australia to help so instead of sitting around and moping, I decided to use my fabric to make masks," says Ms Dwyer, who comes from Queensland and now lives on a south Kerry sheep farm.

Ms Dwyer is giving away the washable, reusable masks free to people and her intention is to reach out to people who are most vulnerable and maybe have auto-immune conditions or who are having cancer treatment.

"I've had so many replies from people including a mother with a child with cystic fibrosis who said she felt reassured having some sort of protection for them."

Ms Dwyer acknowledges that the homemade masks are not medical grade, but said people wanted to wear something in order to leave the medical grade masks to the frontline staff who really need them.

Meanwhile, in Co Sligo, Nicola Durkin from Ward's Pharmacy and Active Life Pharmacy in Dublin's Talbot Street has a steady supply of double-sided cotton masks courtesy of her mother Margurite who is using her 'cocoon' time to be ultra practical.

"We were inundated with requests for surgical masks and we knew we were not able to get them so I asked my mother to make some and so far, she has made about 300.

"She does patchwork with the ICA and the point of wearing these masks is that they stop you touching your face."

Irish linen is also used because it is antibacterial and anti-fungal.

The Stable of Ireland lifestyle brand has used linen supplies to make double-sided masks which it sells and also distributes to vulnerable people.

Homemade masks are no substitute for the high grade ones but, in the US, it has been reported that hospital staff are wearing homemade fabric ones over their surgical masks in a bid to try and prolong the coveted masks' limited life span.

Irish Independent