Mask Math

Mask maker, mask maker, make me a mask! This chorus keeps playing on a loop through my mind lately. Much in the same way, it seems like my days are perpetual cycles of batched tasks. Sewing, sorting, packing, and shipping masks have been occupying a large percentage of my time and focus for the last 8+ weeks.  

I had all intentions of maintaining a weekly posting habit with this blog and the 2020 Math Project, but we all know that unprecedented times like these are dramatically changing the course of many well laid plans. As it is, I’ve been trying to write this post for the past 3+ weeks. I’ve continued to write in my journal every morning, but my focus has been scattered and my free time is quite limited. As such, blogging has taken a backseat indefinitely. My hands are busy sewing for hours every day, and nearly all the words I write these days have something to do with face masks. Has the 2020 Math Project morphed into the 2020 Mask Project?!? It appears so.

There is no shortage of math involved in mask making, though I’m not sure yet what metaphors may be woven throughout these face covering threads. Most of the math I’m using lately is quite basic: calculations of yield, productivity, speed, efficiency, and projections. Yield is calculated by how many masks can be cut out of one yard of fabric, and how many yards of binding are used on each mask. Multiply that by how many masks make in an average day plus the numbers that my other sewing partners are producing each week. I’m also constantly calculating and adjusting the lead time for new masks orders based on daily sales and outstanding orders.

The mask math questions are constantly top of mind. How much fabric do I need to order? How long will the binding last before I need to reorder? How much thread am I using per week? How many packing slips per minute did my old ink jet printer spit out, compared to my new laser printing work horse? The right tools for the job make all the difference, and my Rollo thermal label printer is one of the most satisfying purchases I’ve made in quite some time.

What percentage of orders do I make a mistake in packing? How many masks is reasonable to donate? How do I begin to set aside a percentage to give back to charities when I’m still trying to find time to review and update my balance sheet? What causes can I contribute to that will have a significant impact?

It’s been a race against the clock: how much can I cross off the list each day? Am I getting ahead or falling behind? How much help do I hire, and how long will any of this even last? One day at a time. I know it’s been said that this is a marathon, not a sprint…but I still feel this urgency to keep running as fast as I can. I’m sewing 6 days a week, and I don’t know how to take an entire day off, as there is always a mountain of time sensitive tasks to tackle when I step away from the sewing machines.

The gratitude and positive feedback from mask wearers is one of the main things that keeps me going day after crazy day. I’m giving people comfort and confidence to venture out in public, and for the first time in my nearly 2 decades of sewing for customers, I feel like my skills and efforts are valued in an exciting new way. Perhaps I’ve been preparing for this moment in time for my whole life, and I can’t begin to express how good it feels to be sharing my talents with a larger audience and making a difference in people’s lives all across the country.

I don’t intend to abandon the 2020 Math Project altogether, but my writings will most likely continue to be infrequent – at least for the time being. I have no idea when I will have the bandwidth again to resume writing and posting my mathematical musings, but 2020 will most certainly be a year to record and remember for the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime.

For the foreseeable future (and until I have some time to update my COsewn website), my face masks can be purchased on Etsy at LadybirdSewsHerNest.