Mullingar milliner’s ‘make your own mask’ tutorial viewed thousands of times

A Mullingar milliner who has seen the demand for his hats dry up with the arrival of Covid-19 has found a new outlet for his creative talents: making masks.

Derek Montgomery of Montgomery Millinery in Mount Street uploaded a tutorial to Instagram showing how to make a double-layer snug-fitting facemask.

To his amazement, he has since been inundated with orders from people wanting to buy masks him – even though he never started with the intention of making them to sell.

Derek, a former hairdresser, started his career in fashion as a handknitter, but once he expanded into the creation of hats, he realised he had found the career he was meant to have, and as demand for his hats grew, he opted to leave the world of knitting behind: “The hats have taken over my life!” he laughs.

Montgomery Millinery headpieces have been worn all over the world, and among the celebrities who have worn them is Britney Spears.

The Bellview Heights native loves the creative process behind millinery – but like many small business owners, he is trying to find a way in this Covid-19 world.

“When everything started closing down I was getting calls from people telling me their weddings were postponed, so my business was closed.

“I closed it just before Paddy’s Day, when everybody was closing their shops down. I was at home, bored, and because I’m a good cook and I can bake, I did tutorials on scones and a muffin cake,” he says, explaining how the mask-making came about.

“There’s a history of baking, cooking and fashion in my family – in fact, I’m the fifth generation working in fashion in Mullingar.

“I was getting huge interaction on the tutorials, so I said: ‘I will do something on sewing – how to make your own mask’.”

Within a very short time the tutorial received 11,000 views, and after it was shared on Instagram by Michael Costello, who designs dresses for Beyoncé, J-Lo and Mariah Carey, and who has 1.4 million followers, it quickly notched up more views.

Uploading it, Derek expected all viewers who wanted a mask would make their own, although he did say that if someone wanted a mask made he would make one for them: “but I wasn’t really, expecting to get any orders in for them,” he says.

“And,” he continues, “unfortunately – or fortunately – I don’t know which to say, I’ve been getting orders for them. I got hundreds of orders for them, including from the HSE, from nursing homes and from supermarkets.”

He admits he finds the satisfaction from sewing masks to be a poor second best to the hat-making, although it’s good to have an income at this time.

“It’s not something I want to be doing. It’s not one of my life choices. It’s not something I ever thought I would be doing, making masks to help protect against diseases.”

Before putting up the tutorial, Derek did a fair bit of research to establish what degree of protection different fabrics give.

“So, a medical mask gives you 100% protection; a double folded tea towel gives 85% to 90% protection, and two layers of cotton – and I am using heavy cotton – gives you between 74% and 80% protection.”

An advantage of the masks that Derek makes is that they can be washed daily and thus reused.

At the moment, he is making approximately a hundred masks per day. They are not used by medical staff working with Covid-19 patients but by auxiliary staff such as cleaners, which enables the facilities to reserve medical masks for medical staff, he said.

Derek is more than happy for anyone who wishes to make their own mask to use his free tutorial and pattern. You don’t have to be an experienced crafter to follow them.

• On Instagram, search for ‘montgomerymillinery’.

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