Last week, Bronwyn Napiorkowski went to her local doctor to get a script filled.
“I sat in the waiting room feeling really vulnerable,” she says. “I wasn’t showing signs of being sick but I knew people around were and I wished I had brought a face mask with me.”
When Bronwyn – a qualified art therapist who grew up in Bega and now resides in Melbourne – got home she sat down with her two young sons and made a pattern for a fabric face mask.
“The kids and I made it as a craft project and I posted a picture on Instagram. I never intended it as a business … then people started messaging me, saying they wanted two, or four, and the orders haven’t stopped since,” she laughs.
Although she has been creating art and craft all her life, Bronwyn says she’s never seen such a response to anything she’s made.
“People often say, ‘That’s so beautiful, you could sell it,’ but they don’t offer to buy it,” she says.
During the past weekend, Bronwyn’s husband helped her set up a PayPal account while she created a spreadsheet to keep track of orders, and sewed face masks – sold as Face Friends – as fast as she could.
“I’ve made about 50 over four days,” she says. “One night I stayed up until 3 am.”
If orders continue at this rate, Bronwyn will pay some friends, whose income has dried up due to COVID-19 shutdowns, to help sew the masks.
The face masks are a fun way to protect yourself and others if you have to go out for essentials, but should not replace following government recommendations on hand-washing and social distancing, says Bronwyn.
“I read a few studies that said two layers of cotton are as effective as most commercial masks and mine are made with three layers of cotton. But please don’t think you can go out [socially] because you are wearing a mask. They are designed to wear when you have to go out,” she stresses.
Bronwyn has had requests for her pattern and says she’s willing to make it available – if only she had the time.
“I’m happy to share but right now the pattern is a cut-up taco box,” she laughs. “I will work on making a downloadable version soon.”
Being able to do something practical has been positive for Bronwyn and her family.
“It’s been quite good for my mental health to be so busy while we’re all at home,” she says. “I’m actually loving this time, having my husband working from home and sewing like a mad thing when I can.”
Face Friends masks are handmade in Melbourne from three layers of 100 per cent cotton. All masks come with adjustable elastic straps for a perfect fit. Children’s size, $18; adults, $22. You can email Bronwyn with orders or questions at [email protected]
Face Friend masks do not replace surgical masks in case of active COVID-19 infection. You can read the Department of Health’s recommendations regarding masks here. If you are diagnosed with coronavirus, you must only wear a surgical mask supplied by your primary care provider when you enter an emergency department or general practice.