The French adjective biscornu means wonky, skewed, irregular, or – if taken literally – twice-horned. The English adjective biscornu doesn’t exist, because English is totally unreliable in its use of the vocabulary it has filched from other languages. Like an overconfident teenager with an unfamiliar appliance, we are certain we can get it to work somehow, without bothering to listen to the instructions from those who’ve been using it longer.
English uses biscornu as a noun, meaning a small pincushion made from two squares of material – or, according to Wikipedia, “the boundary of a unique convex polyhedron….a flattened square antiprism”. (And if you understand that, I’m very happy for you.)
They’re usually made from Aida cloth or embroidery linen, with a counted-thread design, but it turns out you can make them from two squares of ordinary cloth. This is a very useful time to employ what quilters call English Paper Piecing.
I read today that more people die in this country from skin cancer than on the roads. Which, considering the average standard of Kiwi driving, is saying something.
The leading cause of skin cancer is radiation. Before you congratulate yourself on living somewhere nuclear-free, consider that what we are talking here is radiation burns from our nearest star, or – as we casually describe it – sunburn. (You can also develop skin cancer from being imprudent enough to use a tanning bed.)
There are two chief means of protecting yourself from this dangerous radiation. One: cover all your exposed skin in a thicker-than-you-think layer of gook – being sure to reapply every two hours, or more often if swimming, sweating, towelling etc.
Maybe you can’t afford N-95 masks. Maybe you don’t like sending so many disposable masks to landfill. Maybe you can’t get masks that fit you properly. (I find the blue/white ones always slide about and poke me in the eyes, no matter what contortions I inflict on them beforehand.) Maybe you find fabric masks comfortable but are a bit uncertain about how much protection they’re really providing.
On the grounds that the best mask is the one you wear, and which actually fits well enough to form a barrier between your breath and everyone else’s, I have been wearing reusable homemade fabric masks. But these are not your ordinary fabric masks! No, these leap tall buildings in a…sorry, turned over two pages at once. These are WHO-style triple-layer fabric masks!
There are, it turns out, two secrets to getting a mask that works and wears comfortably, whether you make it or buy it. The first secret is to get the right shape of mask. For example, the ones I make for the Caped Gooseberry have a special nose-piece to avoid glasses getting fogged. And the ones I make for myself are child-sized, because it turns out I have a child-sized face, which is why my whole head was being swallowed in a single gulp by your average standard masks. (We’ll get to the second secret soon.)
The good news is that if you have a mask pattern you like, you can still use it to make a mask that’s a bit more beefy in the protection area. For myself, I use this pattern from the Spruce, and for the Caped Gooseberry I use this one from Made By Barb – with certain alterations.