Deborah Hambly started making homemade face masks well before the Covid 19 coronavirus outbreak erupted.

There's now been a surge of interest in what she's been doing as well as an upscaling of her operation from general fabric face masks to industrial strength ones.

Last year Deborah, from Otaihanga on the Kāpiti Coast, was sponsored by a city in Japan to represent New Zealand in swimming.

While walking around the streets she noticed, and was impressed by, a number of Japanese wearing face masks.


"I'm not sure if people were sick or not but there was a large percentage of people wearing masks on a regular basis out in public.

"I thought 'I wish this wasn't such a stigma in New Zealand to put one on if you had a cough, cold or sniffle.'"

When she got home she got out her sewing machine, rummaged through a large stock of fabric, found a design, and started making face masks out of cotton.

Deborah Hambly at her face mask making station.
Deborah Hambly at her face mask making station.

She had been supplying friends and family but interest had grown a lot since lockdown.

Deborah, a beekeeping teacher, has now created a heavy-duty face mask especially for essential workers and locals.

"I had some beekeeping fabric, almost as thick as jeans, and it provides coverage from above the nose down to the shoulders at the front.

"On the inside of that fabric is a cotton pocket where you can add a kitchen paper towel that takes your mask efficiency up to 95 percent.

"When the towel gets moist, which reduces the efficiency of any mask, you take it out and put a new one in.


"It enables you to use the mask throughout the day without having to change it every time you come into contact with another person."

Deborah Hambly with a face mask made out of beekeeping fabric.
Deborah Hambly with a face mask made out of beekeeping fabric.

Deborah said the two types of mask, which are washable and reusable, are commonly known as duck masks.

"They're over the nose and the cheeks rather than the surgical type with the pleats, which has got significant gaps on all four sides."

She had been given the green light to sell her face masks during lockdown by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Deborah is doing e-bike deliveries as part of her exercise regime and to keep a "minimal footprint on the system as possible."

She didn't want to use a courier service for local deliveries "if I can avoid it."

If there was an essential services person from out of the area interested in one of the masks she would consider couriering it.

Lockdown was proving a very busy time for her.

"I'm probably doing 16 hour days between my mask making, beekeeping and keeping my 11 year old daughter occupied."

Her face masks are being sold via her business Facebook page Buzz Bee Boutique.