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Kawaii Masks

Jonelle Patrick wearing face mask with Kuniyoshi woodblock cats
Nyan, nyan, mina-san!

Hey, just because we all have to wear masks now doesn’t mean we have to look like grim extras from ER. In Japan, face masks have been a fashion go-to forever, because everyone still wanted to look kawaii while not spreading around their sneezy, cough-y plague-droplets in public. But it wasn’t long before the masters of style realized that masks weren’t just edgy accessories – they could be like wearing a hat on a bad hair day. No time for hours of makeup? No sweat. Clothes, mask, DONE.

These are (no surprise) are sold out online until the next millennium, but fear not! You can totally make your own, and rock your own style while doing it

Anyone who’s stuck at home with a spare sewing machine can whip up some masks that you’ll still want to wear, even if there isn’t a plague going on.

Jonelle Patrick wearing face mask printed with traditional Japanese plum blossom design
Finally, a great use for all those adorable tenugui towels I was powerless to resist, but couldn’t quite figure out what to do with
Jonelle Patrick wearing face mask printed with cute cats
And even though you can’t see I’m smiling (because mask), these kittehs can do the smiling for me
Jonelle Patrick wearing face mask with Kuniyoshi woodblock cats
These Kuniyoshi woodblock nyan-nyans used to be a dishtowel
Jonelle Patrick wearing face mask made of floral Liberty print cotton
But I think my favorite mask is this one, made from a scrap that was too small to really do anything with, but I couldn’t bear to throw it away PACKRATTING VINDICATED

I made all of these masks from a really excellent pattern on the Craftpassion website – all you have to do is download it and print it out. They have sizes for men, women and children. I used the women’s mask with the seam allowances already added.

Detail of face mask construction
The only changes I made were to round off the pointy bit above the nose so it would look a bit more friendly, and sew a little pocket at the top edge to insert some thin wire so it would mold to my regrettably tall nose better
Homemade fabric face masks for men
I made a few larger ones too, for men-persons

Of course, fabric masks can’t protect you from catching (or giving) the ‘Rona as well as genuine surgical masks, but they’re better than nothing. According to this study that was published in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, masks made from two layers of tightly woven fabric (think tea towels) filter out 83% of germs, and masks made from two layers of 100% cotton t-shirts filter out 70% (compared to genuine surgical masks, which catch 95% of germs).

Important note: Cloth masks lack the waterproof coating that gives professional surgical masks their germ-proof barrier, so airborne droplets that contain virus are absorbed by a cloth mask, not repelled. This makes cloth masks much better at preventing the spread of the virus from you to others, than protecting you from catching it. Wearing a cloth mask when you go out in public to get essentials like groceries is still a good idea – especially if you haven’t been in lockdown for fourteen days, so you could be infected, but without symptoms yet – because you’ll be protecting the other people you encounter and slowing the spread.

In any case, please be well and safe, and I hope your Netflix queues are long and satisfying. Looking forward to getting out the other side of this, when the best reason to wear my new cute masks will be allergy season!

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

“I don’t know when I’ve been more caught up in a story. A masterful achievement.”—Terry Shames, award-winning author of An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had, and produces the monthly newsletter

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

7 thoughts on “Kawaii Masks Leave a comment

    • Yeah, HA, I wish I could have all my pictures taken in them! I was really happy to find this nice pattern, because I think masks usually make people look kind of scary (especially foreigners in Japan) so it’ll be good to have some that are sort of smily, even though you can’t see I’m smiling

      • Yes they definitely look a lot less scary than the plain ones, we have a couple of plain black ones that we got from Tokyo and wearing them around the streets, people do give strange looks, for some reason they must look a bit intimdating or spooky. The cartoon and patterned ones you wear here are the opposite of this though!

  1. So cute! I had a kitty face one like the examples but in black- gave it to my partner because he didn’t have a good one.

    Your masks are so cute! You’ve inspired me to make more lace cherry blossoms to put on a mask!
    And i need to make the lavendar one for my aunt still(guiltily eyes the plain mask)

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