Sunday, 26 July 2020

Masks for the motion-sickness challenged

First up - this is a post about a fairly niche subject, with a long introduction. I'm aware that most people won't read it, but I'm putting it out there anyway, just in case it helps anyone else.

As a child, I suffered dreadfully from travel sickness, especially in cars. This was unfortunate as both sets of grandparents lived over 200 miles away, so long journeys were a regular event. However, even trips to a beauty spot about 40 miles from home were rarely achieved without an emergency stop. Various people assured both me and my long-suffering parents that I would grow out of it.

Reader, I did not. What actually happened was that as an adult, there are fewer occasions when I have to sit in the back of a car, so it troubles me less often. Even sitting in the front though, journeys on roads with plenty of twists and turns are still problematic. Mr Tulip and I holidayed in the Peak District a lot, and the drive over the Pennines often had the same result as those childhood picnic trips.

None of this is to say, 'poor little me'. Yes, I feel an idiot as a grown woman travelling with friends to have to ask to sit in the front "because I get car sick" (and I feel even more of an idiot if I have to ask the driver to stop), but I'm well aware that a lot of people cope with far worse. This is just to set the stage for what's coming next.

Presumably whatever prompts the travel sickness is in some way linked to the fact that I absolutely cannot stand anything against the back of my ears. I can't even tuck my hair behind my ears for more than a minute or so without feeling queasy - in fact part of the reason why I keep my hair long is so that I can put it up when I'm working on anything which requires me to lean forward.

Normally this isn't an issue; in fact apart from the fact that I have hair clips all around the house, I never even think about it. Then Covid-19 came along and with it (eventually) the requirement to wear a mask in some situations. The vast majority of commercially-available masks (and most patterns) have ear loops, which for me are a complete non-starter. Not for the first time in my life, I thanked my lucky stars that I can sew, and set out to make myself a solution. The solution hasn't been perfected yet, but I thought that I would share my progress so far.

Version 1
My first attempt at a tie-on mask was made using these instructions. They were easy to follow but, to keep the construction of the mask simple, the ties run vertically from the sides. However, they go around your head horizontally, so in time they will pull away from the main part of the mask. I dismantled this mask to make version 3, so there are no pictures.

Version 2
This was a variation on version 1. This time I put binding along the sides, and attached the ties horizontally along the top and bottom.

Version 2, front

I also added a channel on the inside of the top binding, to hold a length of wire so that the mask can be fitted round the bridge of my nose (and hopefully stop my glasses from misting up). All those scraps of millinery wire which I kept because they 'might come in handy' - just did!

Version 2, back showing the channel for the wire

Because these are flat masks and not shaped in any way, I make the interior in a different fabric so that I can easily tell which side is which.

This design fixed the weak point of the ties, and is a perfectly wearable mask (although I do look as though I'm about to whip someone's appendix out). The only problem is that with the two sets of ties it is a bit cumbersome to put on.

Version 3
This was a further adaptation of version 1, I gathered up the sides some more, and rather than binding them I enclosed them in curved side pieces. The mask hooks under the chin, and the single set of ties come from the top and tie at the back of the neck. I also elasticated a short section of the ties, to make the mask fit more snugly.

Version 3, side view

Again there is a channel for a wire over the nose. This can be removed for washing the mask.

Interior view

Showing how the wire shapes the top of the mask

I'm a lot happier with this version. The only problem is that I do tend to get the ties tangled up in my hair when I'm tying it on. Version 4 is currently in production: this will involve slightly longer elasticated sections, and an experiment with a button fasten at the back. If it doesn't work, I can easily convert it back to ties. If anyone reading this would like more information, please add a comment and I will get back to you.


  1. Great evolving masks!
    I also prefer the "tie on" mask, but I tangled my hair in the ties. To solve this problem I lay a small kerchief across the back of my head/hair while tying the scarf and pull the scarf out when the mask is all tied. No more split hair. (One covid problem solved...)
    Stay safe!

  2. You should try Dhurata Davies’ free pattern! She’s in the UK and has a great tutorial, plus the masks are multi sized and easy to adapt for different tie styles. I use a yard of fold over elastic tied in a knot and put the knot at the base of my neck and the loop over my head—no ear involvement at all! The elastic keeps it flexible and the loop means you can have it hanging round your neck for on and off times.

    1. Thanks Juliana, I'll check it out. The requirement for masks is clearly going to be around for some time to come, so I'll have plenty of opportunities to try different designs!

  3. I found a suggestion online somewhere to use pony beads for the ties, so you put the ties that you'd normally tie together through the bead and then when you put the mask on you just slide the bead towards your head until it's comfy; apparently it works really well and is less annoying with the whole long hair thing. I've not tried it yet, no masks required in NZ yet but I've got them for when it is needed.

    1. Thanks Rachelle, this sounds like a really good idea, and far less annoying than my current approach of accidentally tying my hair into the knot!