Despite so much uncertainty around us right now, one thing seems certain: wearing a mask when we travel or go anywhere in public is going to be our new norm for a while. Check out my recommendations on where to find masks made in Canada.
Please note that I am not accepting free masks or compensation for promoting any of these. I am trying to provide an honest update of what I like and what fits properly – and, at the same time, support small businesses in Canada.
Wearing a mask while travelling in Egypt
In early March, I travelled to Egypt for a Social Impact Traveller journey. COVID-19 was certainly an issue, but at the time, the reported case count in Canada and Egypt was so low that our group went ahead with the trip. My husband is immune-compromised so I am always extra cautious when it comes to matters of germs and hygiene, but my trip to Egypt was the first time that I wore a mask, almost all of the time I was in public places.
At the time, I didn’t know of any masks made in Canada, so I was using run-of-the-mill medical masks that cost just a few dollars from the drug store.
I felt thankful to have the masks with me because, by the time we flew home, the government announced closures due to COVID-19. Flights were packed – there was even a suspected case of COVID-19 on our plane, a young man who was escorted off by medics. Thankfully, I had a proper mask and a decent supply of them, at the time.
None of us on our trip got COVID-19. I’m not sure if it was by good chance, but when I was travelling, I took every measure I knew of – I wore a mask, disinfected my space on the plane, and used so much sanitizer that my hands became chapped. I even had the privilege of being able to upgrade my seat from a busy back part of the plane to a seat with no one beside me.
Mind you, that was back in March when there was so little known in Canada about the virus, and it’s obvious that air travel will become so different than what it was.
In the last few months, I have watched so many innovative local designers try to keep their businesses afloat by making and selling masks, while their bricks-and-mortar stores closed. I’ve purchased masks from many of them as a way to support them, try different sizes – and see what comes first in the mail! (Mail to Toronto was majorly backlogged).
I know that some of the big retailers are now getting in on selling masks, and some of them such as Disney and Old Navy, will be selling masks that are imported. But, I think it’s really important to show our support to local businesses, too. (Not to suggest that mega-retailers don’t employ a lot of people who need work, too.)
Some local designers are going above and beyond and donating masks to vulnerable communities, in addition to sales. It’s impressive that they are thinking of others, when this is no doubt a difficult time for them as well.
I wanted to share some of the places I’ve either purchased masks from or had my eye on. The challenge is that a lot of these designers are selling out so quickly that it can be hard to even find something in stock. So, I’m sharing some tips with you on how to order as well.
Check out these masks made in Canada
I have tested out a lot of masks (and actually wasted too much money doing it – but not feeling bad for that because I know my purchases are helping small entrepreneurs!) But, in this list, I have only included ones that I have either personally tried and actually liked, or have friends who have tried them and liked them. I’m still waiting for some orders that are stuck in snail mail and will keep updating this as I try new ones.
I love the Simone’s Rose online shop. If you go to her site looking for masks, take a look at her designs – she does beautiful work. Those are her masks in the cover photo of this blog, too. I first ordered two masks – one for my son, and one for me from her. They are beautifully designed with soft fabrics and jersey ties. I picked a floral pattern and this blue one for my son. She has beautiful new designs available.
I love her work. So I ordered three more – one for my husband, another for my son, and another for me. The first mask I ordered was size small, but I find it reaches my ear and starts to irritate it if I wear it for long, so I ordered a size XS to try next. My son wore his this weekend and it worked great for him.
The one problem I had with these is that the top strap kept sliding down my head to my ear. Simone’s Rose sent me these ideas for that sliding top tie: 1) Wear a ponytail or bun and tie the strap around it as an anchor. 2) You can cut the jersey straps and change it to a “behind the ear” style tie by tying the jersey straps to your preferred length / to fit around your ears. 3) You can remove the jersey ties altogether and replace them with elastic and tying them as noted above. 4) I find if I tie it tight enough by the back of my neck, I get a good secure fit around the nose and mouth.
I put a mini clip in my hair just under the knot of the top string and it worked perfectly. These masks are $12.50 – $15.
Allison Gauthier is an Ontario designer selling her handmade masks on Etsy. Her masks are simple cotton with an elastic tie that wraps around the head. No filter, no nose wire. On a special request, she made for us some superhero masks, which are now for sale on her site. My key thing here is to try and get my four-year-old son used to wearing a mask – and he does great with it on. It’s a snug fit, and he seems to be able to play and ride/run with it for about an hour. He hasn’t really ‘needed’ it yet, but I’m just wanting him to be ready, and this was an excellent way to introduce him to the idea. When he put it on, he felt like a real little superhero. All the neighbours stopped to honk and wave at him when they saw him wearing it. She has Captain Marvel, Spiderman, and Batman available. These masks are $9.
Instagram is going crazy for Moji Mask (they also have a pretty good social media marketing ad campaign going on, too). They are making masks that are beautiful and fun. Every day at 10 p.m., they usually post new designs, and sometimes they sell out in just a few minutes (good news though, at the time (May 29), they have quite a few in stock and available). They are based in Toronto and employing local seamstresses. They now offer pick-up from Toronto.
My Moji Masks arrived in the mail and I love them. They are made with really nice, soft fabrics, and I was happy to realize that they do have filter pockets in them. And even without the nose wire, they are a nice snug fit. I find the ones with the pleats have thick elastics that are a bit too short and really pull my ears. My husband’s large size was too big, but he put a clip in the ear elastic and now it’s a perfect fit.
The ones without the pleats fit perfectly. This grey one has been one of my favourites to wear. These masks range from $14 – $20.
If you want to wear a mask that is a little bit fancy, check out these masks by Mississauga, Ontario, fashion designer Maya Charbin. I bought a pink one with butterflies on it for $25, and it’s really nice. I happen to live nearby, so I was able to do a pick-up and get it within a few days. I had to tie a knot in the ear straps to tighten it, but after that, it fits well. It has a nose wire inside, and a filter pocket. I think a filter pocket is important for this one because the material feels silkier than all of the other masks I have tried, and I know the type of material used makes a difference. But that said, her masks have two layers as well. She has a nice selection for men, too, including this paisley one. These masks range from $20- $35.
Summer Gem Boutique
This is a great simple mask. I searched all through Etsy to find a made-in-Canada mask with a nose wire and a filter pocket and found this one: Summer Gem Boutique. The elastics around the ears are too big for me, but it’s super easy to adjust the knot and tuck it into the mask, so it’s not irritating the back of my ear.
I checked in with the owner of Summer Gem Boutique to find out what she normally sells, and she told me she makes tulle flower girl dresses! With the wedding season on hold, she quickly pivoted to selling masks. I love this entrepreneurial spirit! All of her masks are ready to ship, so the turn-around time is relatively fast (even with the slow mail, I got mine pretty quickly). I really like this mask (made New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada) and ended up ordering three more for her — another for myself, one for my husband and two for my son. I got my son the junior size and the kid’s size, and both are ok for him. The junior size is the one photographed here. These masks are $15 including delivery.
I found another great mask for my son and my husband.
These masks are made by a local woman who runs a dry cleaners downtown Toronto. I love that she put her sewing skills to work and started making these masks. Her masks are only $10 each but you have to go and pick them up from her place at Spadina and Richmond. I find the sizes too big for my face, but they fit my husband – he got the Spiderman one and wore it to a recent medical appointment 🙂 My friend Steve, photographed here, is the one who told me about these masks. He looks great! I got two for my son – Spiderman (so he can match his dad) and Superman. I have been trying to buy more masks for him that have straps that go over his ears. He said he likes it and he wears it well – plus, as you can see by his photo, he seems to think he is a real superhero when he puts it on. You can find these masks on Instagram and order them through DM. She has a really nice selection that you can see on her Insta feed and the cotton she uses for these masks is good quality. I paid cash when I picked them up.
Masks made for the community
Dr. Emily Howell
Kelly Cowell and Oxford County Quilty Pleasures
I want to recognize another friend, Kelly Cowell, who is part of a group of crafty volunteers from the Oxford County Quilty Pleasures – Coronavirus Mask Initiative which has made nearly 8,000 masks. These masks are given to front-line workers who are not in healthcare, such as cashiers, cab drivers, grocery store workers, and even banks, and post offices.
“We give them to anyone in need,” Kelly said. Efforts like these go a long way in helping to ensure that medical/surgical masks are prioritized for medical workers. People receiving the masks are asked to consider a donation for the mask when they pick them up. Already $8,000 has been raised for the Oxford County Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Ingamo Homes supporting women and children with transitional housing.
Kelly was kind to send me a few masks for my husband and son when I was having a hard time getting some in the mail. I made a donation to Ingamo Homes in return.
Keep in mind
Each mask is made differently. They fit everyone differently. And safety and quality vary.
Here are some helpful links I have read about wearing masks, and how to wear them properly to avoid contamination.
Guidelines for who/when/where to use a face-covering/mask – Ontario Government
Dr. Fauci talking about wearing masks – YouTube
About Social Impact Traveller
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