HOME FRONT: Kathlyn Thompson producing masks on her new sewing machine
HOME FRONT: Kathlyn Thompson producing masks on her new sewing machine

A COUPLE from Barnard Castle have turned the coronavirus lockdown not only into an opportunity to learn a new skill but also to help others.
Kathlyn and Brian Thompson started out sewing protective face masks for their family by hand, but have now bought a sewing machine to make them for anyone who needs them.
Mrs Thompson, 84, said: “I used a sewing machine when I was a girl, but then I never used one again. I remember certain things from my grandma’s machine and the school’s machine.”
Her husband, 83, relied on his engineering skills to also master the art of using a sewing machine.
Mrs Thompson said: “I call him captain courageous – in everything he does, he always perseveres.
“We have made mistakes on the machine and there has been a lot we have had to learn. It takes quite a long time [to make a mask] because there is loads of sewing.”
The couple turned to YouTube and other sources to find the best way to make the masks, initially making double layered masks which have a filter between the layers. But because of difficulties in finding the filter material, the couple decided to use two Egyptian cotton sheets they had as material for a three-layered mask.
Mrs Thompson said: “Egyptian cotton is very tightly woven. We have improved it until we have one that we are happy with.”
As the masks are white, they can be washed using bleach so that they can be reused.
Asked how long it takes to create one mask, she said: “It depends on how many times the cotton breaks or if we make a mistake and have to go back. At our age we can make about two an hour.”
The couple have created a production line where they rotate from using the sewing machine to ironing material or other tasks.
They paid tribute to the many people who are helping others during this time, and liken it to what they went through during the war, including being evacuated, rationing and having to queue for food.
Mrs Thompson said: “The climate today is similar to what we experienced. In some ways it prepared us for this.”