CocOon are creating hand-made, naturally dyed, and biodegradable masks for the future
Masks have become an essential part of our day-to-day but the increase in masks getting chucked away after one use is a whole new issue we’re having to deal with. Buying a reusable mask should be your first call to action but supporting a sustainable, small business to buy your mask should be your next! CocOon masks are hand-made with care using natural materials sourced locally to ensure each mask has the longest life possible. I spoke with the founder of CocOon Rachael to find out more about how CocOon was created and learn more about making the masks.
was CocOon created?
Rachael: “With the sudden need to wear a face mask came a new waste problem. I was seeing mask litter on the streets and alarming images of wildlife entangled with single use masks. For many years I have been deeply conscious of our impact on the environment, witnessing a huge amount of waste running through the theatre industry, and subsequently made changes in my personal life to live more sustainably.
This sense of urgency is what drove me to create CocOon, knowing that I could make a difference by offering an alternative – with careful yet simple choices I could create a mask that would champion sustainable practices as a traceable, low impact, compostable, and importantly, effective, and affordable product.”
“...with careful yet simple choices I could create a mask that would champion sustainable practices as a traceable, low impact, compostable, and, importantly, effective, and affordable, product.”
is the process of making the masks?
Rachael: “It really starts with collecting the dyestuff. I forage locally for the leaves, and leave a basket out which my neighbours kindly fill with their rescued avocado stones, dry onion skins, and used coffee grinds. The cacao husks are donated by my local chocolatier, Lucocoa Chocolate. I love making this one as the dye bath smells delicious!
The fabrics are then washed, soaked, scoured, mordanted, dyed, dried, and steamed. There is quite a bit of leaving to soak overnight within these steps, so it takes around three or four days to complete, but by giving the fabric time to soak it allows the dye to penetrate the fibres really well, giving a strong, colourfast result.
Each dye colour needs to be made up as a separate vat – I save old vats in order to reduce water waste, and top them up, which involves either a lengthy soaking of or a spell of boiling the dyestuff.
Once the fabric is dry I cut out the mask and bag shapes using my templates, then layer together the silk and hemp and get stitching. I use a 1920s hand crank Singer sewing machine which still runs like a dream and means I don’t use electricity (you could say it runs on biscuit power…). Lastly the aluminium nose strip and eco-elastic ear straps are stitched in.”
does CocOon hope it can make a better environmental impact?
Rachael: “I truly believe in these masks as an environmental first, the difference being the fabric choices – hemp is the most environmentally sustainable fabric to produce yet it is sadly rather underused by the garment industry. It enriches the soil as it grows, absorbs more carbon than it produces, and it takes up less land and 1/5 of the water needed to grow the equivalent weight in cotton.
The organic peace silk I use is from the UK’s only silk farm, meaning a tiny carbon footprint compared to ubiquitous Chinese silk imports. Using natural dyes is a fantastic way of ensuring the environmental credentials of a product, as chemical dyeing is one of the most wasteful, polluting and exploitative industries on the planet.
I was inspired by Fibreshed’s Soil-to-Soil model to view creating a product as cyclical, as opposed to linear, process. I have placed equal value to each element within this cycle. The origins of the component materials – organic fabric that cares for the soil, sourced as locally as possible, thread made from waste wood pulp, plastic free eco-elastic. The production process – minimal electricity, minimal water, recycled paper packaging. The resulting product – lifetime repairs to lengthen the mask's lifetime, compostable and biodegradable – back into the soil.”
“I am excited by the thought that for every mask I make there is the potential for at least one less single use or chemically dyed cotton mask to be needed and, ultimately, wasted.“
can you get your own CocOon mask?
Get your CocOon mask here.