silk masks + donations to the NHS

A year ago, in May 2020, I began making silk masks. Thanks to the pandemic, I had lost much of my freelance book design work, and then having to shield, thereby unable to leave the house, found myself at a bit of a loose end, wondering what to do next. So, taking my brother-in-law’s suggestion, silk masks became my busy-work in ‘the year from hell’.

Now, 13 months later, having painted and sewn over 200 masks, these have enabled me to donate over £1000 to my charity of choice, the NHS Royal Free Charity Trust. I chose the Royal Free because I am a regular outpatient in the renal transplant departement there, and I greatly appreciate the care they take with every patient.

I had previously sold them through my silks website, which is now slowly (again, thanks to the P word) being shut down. I don’t, however, wish to stop donating to the Trust for as long as I can, so I’m continuing to paint, sew and sell them on my main website….

Here is a direct link:

£4.50 from the sale of each mask still goes to NHS Royal Free Charity Trust.

(NHS Donation updates are listed at the end of this post. £1,031.00 donated date as of 16 June 2021)

If you’re curious to know how I make these, read on! I have inserted here my original post from the first lockdown….


(with updated links where needed)

The lockdown is mostly still in place and there seems to be only a little more freedom of movement given to us all. Vulnerable people like myself will have to stay indoors a little bit longer… given that, my brother-in-law suggested that I make silk face coverings, and so I’ve found a small way to contribute to the NHS staff who are doing such a stellar job in the crisis.

There were many, many samples made, tried and tested by my long-suffering husband and enthusiastic brother-in-law. In the end, I went for the one on the top right (in the image above). I did finally work out the best way to make the masks with minimum wastage of fabric and time. So. Much. Maths. Sigh.

So, having tested quite a few designs, including ones that were shaped to the face or looked a little like something out of a science-fiction film, the ones that I ended up going with were the simple pleated ones, because they:
a. fit a variety of face shapes and sizes
b. the pattern can be sized up or down easily for adults and children
c. are adjustable for comfort no matter the size of your nose and chin
d. have no wastage because the fabric is cut as a standard rectangular shape so that I can use the end bits to make other items such as necklaces or scrunchies.

In addition, silk and cotton are two of the fabrics that several research articles mention as the most effective to use. So I’ve planned for the outer two layers to be a tight-weave silk doupion from India, and the inner lining is a calico cotton commonly called ‘quilter’s cotton’.

Primarily to raise funds for the Royal Free Charity Trust, the face coverings are priced as low as I can manage, covering just the making costs with a small buffer in case the cost of materials increases (influenced by both Brexit and the Coronavirus, since silk is imported to the UK for the most part).

Here’s a little look at my sketchbook while planning for these products…

I’m listing new designs every week or so, keeping up with demand as needed. Galaxy-style designs as well as shaded colours will be the general patterns available. I’ve tried to keep them fun while also sticking with block colours that are easier to wear with any sort of clothing.

If you have any ideas or requests for a different design or colour, please do email me at and I’d be happy to make them for you. It’s always interesting to see who goes for which colour.

Making these also has the added benefit of promoting the use of washable, reusable face coverings, leaving the disposable or medical grade ones for the professionals who need them… they are already struggling with lack of PPE. We really don’t need more disposable plastic items in the world.

And, The Guardian (quoted below) has an article regarding face coverings being compulsory on public transport in England from June 15th. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Many commercially available masks are made from layers of plastics and are designed to be single-use. According to an analysis by scientists at University College London, if every person in the UK used one single-use mask each day for a year, an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste would be created. The use of reusable masks by the general population would significantly reduce plastic waste and the climate change impact of any policy requirements for the wearing of face masks, according to the UCL team, led by Prof Mark Miodownik. They say that according to the best evidence, reusable masks perform most of the tasks of single-use masks without the associated waste stream.”

Hannah Devlin, Science correspondent in The GUardian

And to lessen the waste even further but keep the hygiene levels high, each face covering is washed and then packaged in a completely biodegradable, compostable and recyclable cello bag made from bio-based film. So please put it in your compost bin and the paper postal envelope too!

I’ve also noticed that not everyone knows how to wear a mask correctly, so a small instructional sheet is being included in each order…. here it is, so that you know how to wear them too…

I’ll update this post regularly (see below) regarding the donations I make. I’ve calculated that approximately 15% of the total cost of each mask will initially go to the NHS, but as I make (and learn to be faster) and sell more, the amount will go up, to probably 25–30% of the total cost.
It’s a small but meaningful contribution, I hope. It’s the very least I can do, given how well they care for me (and others) as a regular outpatient with a chronic illness. I am so very grateful to them all.

If you would also like to donate but don’t need a face covering yourself, here is a link to the Royal Free Charity. You can choose which department you would like to donate to.



(updated 16 June 2021)

4 JUNE 2020: £28 donated to Royal Free Charity

12 JUNE 2020: £38 donated to general Royal Free Charity

30 JUNE 2020: £63 donated to the Royal Free Hospital (Renal fund)

23 JULY 2020: £101 donated to Royal Free Charity (Renal Transplant fund)

5 AUGUST 2020: £162 donated to Royal Free Charity (Renal fund)

15 AUGUST 2020: £108 donated to Royal Free Charity (Renal Transplant)

15 September 2020: £162 donated to Royal Free Charity (Renal department). Happily, the Royal Free have changed their payment portal and I could add gift-aid, which gives them 25% more! YESSSS!

12 November 2020: £140 donated to Royal Free Charity

1 February 2021: £130 donated to Royal Free Charity

16 June 2021: £99 donated to Royal Free Charity

Donations Receipts

Here are my donation receipts… if you would like to make a direct donation, click the button below:

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