Ladies’ Column


What to do with pandemic supplies

Excess masks, gloves, and other pandemic items bought in an early frenzy a year ago may yet be used gainfully after the end of the crisis. Godey’s Lady’s Book this month suggests a few clever crafts in which the thrifty housewife might employ her surplus, with the added benefit of amusing children who have grown weary of the games and toys with which they have played for the past year.

Surely, readers of a certain age will recall those paper boats we used to fold from newspaper pages — N95 masks are the very shape of those boats without all the bother of folding! A couple of the long swabs might be added form a cross-bar and mast and a plain disposable mask will serve admirably as a sail. 

Alternately, the disposable face masks can be used as seed-starters; just dampen the mask and sprinkle with seeds and then cover with potting soil. When sprouted, bury the entire mask in your garden where you want the plants to grow; the mask will make it easy to transport your seedlings without damaging their roots — so essential for successful transplanting. This is the season for starting seeds indoors, so start your gardens on your surplus disposable masks promptly.

The ear strings from disposable masks can be cut off and knotted or braided into friendship bracelets. These will make tasteful mementos of this unprecedented year, which you will want to exchange with all your friends. Since the ear-loops do not come in as wide an array of colors as the embroidery floss traditionally used for friendship bracelets, some women are adding beads, jewels, and small charms to their bracelets, but I cannot approve these vulgar excrescences.

Also to be avoided for its vulgarity is the use of nitrile gloves as balloons; the sight of children tossing them back and forth or stomping on them to pop them is condemnable. They are to be used as intended, on one’s hands: a lady might wear a pair overnight to keep her hand-softening cream from marring the sheets, or add them to the supplies to be used by her scullery maid.

From excess toilet paper hoarded from the early shopping sprees one might make paper mache; it will also use some of the flour that has not been fed to the sourdough starter. Children might make paper mache models of the corona virus, which would be educational as well as artistic. Paper mache masks, however, have no hygienic value unless they fully cover the nose and mouth. 

And what to do with all the dried beans and rice emptied from the grocery shelves a year ago?! The answer is obvious: beanie babies. These will be pleasingly retro, as well as entertaining for little ones with cabin fever. One might cut the pieces for the little animals from one’s disused cloth masks. Those who want a simpler  stitchery project than fashioning  tiny animals — suitable as sewing practice for your younger daughters — might make simple bean bags, which readers in Cincinnati will want to use to play cornhole as the weather improves.

And if you got hold of PPE that you haven’t used, just put it by for an easy Purim costume. But not this year; it’s too soon, and nobody is quite ready to laugh about the past year just yet.

— Feb. 29, 1918

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