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Former Fashion student designs bespoke facemasks




Published: 27 April 2020


Mary Murphy is a brilliant example of how local heroes are helping our community during the COVID-19 crisis. Mary has re-purposed her design for manufacture skills to research and create the safest standard of facemasks possible that can protect frontline healthcare staff and their patients. Her bespoke design will fit perfectly to any face, and so minimises the microbes that leak out as you breathe.

Mary who lives in Magherafelt with her family and 2 young children followed up her Aeronautical Engineering Master degree with a City and Guilds Creative Techniques for Fashion course at Belfast Met, graduating in 2012. She had been sewing all her life and decided that she wanted to work for herself in a business that allowed her to combine her love for maths-based design with her sewing skills, as she realised that she could merge the two disciplines to design bespoke lingerie.

She explains, “The professional sewing, design and business techniques on the course were invaluable. I owe my lecturer Patricia Dickson so much, as these professional sewing skills enabled me to design bespoke pieces and set up successful Lingerie businesses.”

When Mary realised that there was going to be a shortage in face masks due to COVID-19 on the island of Ireland in March, she set up the public Facebook group Masks 4 All Ireland – Sewists Against COVID-19 where people could volunteer their time to sew face masks, donate material or money to help care workers. Mary offers her bespoke design for manufacture knowledge online on how to sew the safest face mask possible, and has daily Facebook live videos where she gives advice with another volunteer. There are now 3000+ members of this group and 500+ volunteers sewing face masks, producing an average of 12,000 masks to date with a weekly output of more than 4000 per week which are delivered to 7000+ care workers in multiple care homes all over the island.

Mary explained,”As there is a shortage of surgical face masks, one cannot underestimate the importance of making masks that are as safe as a cloth mask can possibly be, as they need to fit perfectly over the nose and face with for example, elastic straps around the head and not ears, so there are no gaps. This design, using cotton material with space for a filter can offer safety to staff and patients in the absence of surgical masks, and can be reused and boil washed. They are designed for the best filtration possible and for longevity as they are such a limited resource”

She added, “It is concerning that many face masks don’t completely fit to the face, and that hospital staff are unable to use face masks unless they are surgical masks which are in very short supply. Our masks are donated from the project, and material costs are supported by both fabric donations and our Go Fund Me appeal.”



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