COVID face mask
This is a guide to creating an in-character looking mask for Empire. It has been approved by members of our COVID health team, so if you make or modify a mask in accordance with the guidance laid out here then it should be suitable for Empire.
- Face masks are optional while outdoors at the event
- Face masks will be required in Profound Decisions tents and IC buildings when not public speaking or eating or drinking unless exempt
- A simple bandana or single strip of cloth pulled up over the mouth does not meet our requirements
- It is always OK to wear modern medical masks at Empire, whether visibly or covered with a more IC looking cloth or scarf
You will be required to wear a face mask when you are in a Profound Decisions communal tent or structure with one or more sides and a roof, unless you are mask-exempt. This includes the GOD tent, the Conclave, the Academy, Senate, Military Council, the Hub, our encounter tents, and when ordering from the bar at Anvil. We will raise some of the tent walls on our tents to increase the ventilation - if we are able to raise all the sides then we will do so. You do not have to wear a face mask while in any Profound Decisions tent or structure that has no walls on any sides. Participants may remove face masks while eating or drinking, and while public speaking to address a large group of players, such as when addressing Conclave or Senate.
Medical face masks are covered by our rules for accessibility aids - this means it is always acceptable to wear a modern medical mask at Empire. If you want to cover the mask with a more in-character looking cloth or scarf then you can do that, or you can make or modify a mask in accordance with these guidelines if you wish to do so.
Buying and embellishing cloth masks
Look for masks with either three layers of cotton, or two layers of cotton and a non-woven filter layer. This is the best compromise between filtering out virus-containing droplets and still being able to breathe.
You cannot use anything calling itself a buff or snood or other stretchy cloth that covers the lower half of the face unless it has an actual facemask with filter built into it. These do not meet PD regulations even if made from cloth that claims to have antiviral properties. Do not attempt to use a leather mask, you will breathe around it not through it.
If you're embroidering onto a premade mask, embroider on the outer layer only! You don't want to make stitching holes all the way through the mask. Try to stick to light designs that don't cover too much of the surface because you want to be able to breathe through it. The same guidance applies to painting a mask - don't cover too much of the surface with paint, you need to breathe! Craft-grade acrylic paint will work and should be non-toxic because they sell it to kids.
Covering a purchased mask with lace or net fabric is fine, but test it carefully. Adding an extra layer may make it too thick to breathe through. UK regulations prohibit beads, glitter or sequins on face coverings due to the risk of inhalation. Please do not modify your mask by adding anything you could conceivably inhale - you do not want glitter in your lungs!
If you have a mask that looks good but is not protective (eg it's too thin, or made of leather with ventilation holes) then you can wear it over the top of a disposable surgical mask. This also applies to masks with valves - you need protection while breathing both in and out!
If you are using cloth masks, bring a spare and keep it dry. Wet masks are both uncomfortable and not as protective as dry ones.
Making IC looking cloth masks
Face coverings should be made of material that you can breathe through that isn't loose-woven. Quilting cotton (the sort of thing pillowcases are made of) is a good compromise that will look acceptable in-character but still protects. You might find tightly woven linen cloth but make sure the fibres are small and the holes are even smaller. A good search term for mottled/subtly colour-shaded fabrics that are slightly more interesting than working with plain colours is “quilt blender”.
You want two layers of this, with a filter layer ideally of meltblown polyester (search ebay for mask filter fabric!) or failing that, a third layer of the outer fabric, or t-shirt fabric.
If you are embroidering the mask, make sure to only embroider the outer layer so you don't put stitching holes through the entire mask that will let droplets through.
Some free patterns that have been tested; all but the first come in multiple sizes. To add a sewn-in filter layer, just cut it out along with the lining and treat the two as one fabric:
- Very easy low-sewing pattern from the Welsh government
- Pleated front mask
- Flat-fronted contoured mask
- Pointed-front contoured mask
Thanks to Rosemary Warner for the contents of this page.