Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been recommended that the general public wear face masks when venturing out of home isolation to hunt for groceries or medicine. And because of the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment), surgical face masks need to be saved for medical workers.
So, to fill the gap, a brigade of sewers across the country are making cloth face masks. Of course, they are not as effective as the surgical masks, but they are better than nothing.
The internet is full of patterns and suggestions for how to make them and there’s a lot of discussion about what kind of fabric and how many layers to use. This article from the New York Times, What’s the Best Material for a Mask? is very helpful. It cites a study that compares the effectiveness of various combinations of materials, including both air filters and fabric.
I’ve made some cotton masks using a simple straightforward pattern from the New York Times, which you can link to here. My husband Rob and I put together a DIY video based on this design, which you can watch below. Besides a sewing machine, you’ll need tightly woven cotton, cotton flannel (or another filter) and 1/4″ wide elastic to hold it on around your ears, although ties made of grosgrain ribbon or flat shoe laces will work, too. And a pipe cleaner, if you want to make a nose bridge.
There’s also a big discussion about the best way to wash cloth masks. These are some ideas; wash in bleach water (not if there’s elastic), boil in soapy water, press with a steam iron or zap it in the microwave (not if there’s elastic or a wire nose bridge) for 2-3 minutes.
I’m limited by the amount of elastic I have, but I’ve made enough masks for my family and friends. Here I am delivering masks to my friend’s mailbox, which is hidden in an overgrown wall. And, no, that is not their house pictured in the background. Stay safe everyone!
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I bet you could use some form of cording, make tie strips out of fabric, or if they were just for yourself repurpose elastic you have from clothing you don’t wear anymore . Thank you for posting this!
I am totally hopeless with this, but I can admire and respect the work.
Yes, I do know if I had to, I could figure it out with your guidance.
For now, I will rewear the masks I have and try to sanitize them in between trips to the grocery store. This might be a godsend for the workers in StopnShop who often aren’t wearing a mask (probably more of a comfort to the rest of us).
Thank you so much Salley! We hope you and Rob are staying healthy. We are good here.
Sending virtual hugs 🤗
You make it look so easy.
It has inspired me!
I am following a pattern put out by Kaiser Permanente (slightly different pleating, but fits a bit better over the nose). I have prewashed cotton fabrics in hot water and dried on hot setting, twice, before using. And as I also have limited (and old) elastic, I have been using homemade bindings to make cloth ties. I’ll be donating to the family practice clinic I work in.
Nice clear instructions. I’ve made a few based on Leah Day’s instructions. I am focusing on my husband now, who volunteers at Meals on Wheels. The first mask I made based on LD’s measurements was too small–he has a rather long face. He’s also claustrophobic, so he asked that it not press against his mouth too much. I put another layer of fabric in the middle, as you did, affixed with fusible interfacing. Now it can be formed into a cupped shape fairly easily when the pleats are opened out. (Learned not to sew through the adhesive–it gunks up the needle.) He also complained that wearing the elastic for multiple hours hurt his ears. I cut up an old piece of clothing made of a mixed knit fabric that included spandex. I specifically cut the finished edging into strips. Softer, with a bit of stretch to them. Now I have to shorten the loops to account for making the mask bigger. I’ll get there eventually. I was also thinking it would be good to have cloth bags marked “clean” and “dirty” for before and after handling, or a single bag with two pockets. This is all beyond my impatient husband who is failing to wrap his head around the whole concept of contamination. At least he’s wearing a mask. (I don’t dare mention the quirky thing I’m using for the nose piece in lieu of pipe cleaner…) So glad your book was finished before this happened.
Thanks, Salley! You make it look so easy! But I’m going to try with some old bandanas, some rubber bands and a stapler! Wish me luck and stay safe! (I might even have some pipe cleaners somewhere around here in my studio!)
Hi Sally, thank you for the instructions. I have a couple of masks that have been given to me but they don’t fit tight across the top and around my nose. Therefore my glasses steamed up and I took the mask off. I noticed you wear glasses, do you think if I try to make one using the pattern you provided and adding the pipe cleaner that will help push it closer against my face so my glasses won’t steam up? Or maybe I can just try to sew the pipe cleaner to the masks that I do have, if you think that would help with the glasses issue. I love your work and enjoying your photos and creations. I have your books but I am no seamstress in my little revote people come out terrible but I enjoy looking at your work. Thank you.
Hi Sue, thanks for asking about solutions to the glasses fogging up issue. Yes, a pipe cleaner or other wire sewn onto the top edge helps with that. Try adding it to the mask you already have. With repeated washing, it will eventually rust, but we don’t know how long we’ll have to wear these masks. Some people are sterilizing their masks in the microwave, but it’s a problem with metal pipe cleaners and it also makes elastic breaks down.
Great video, Salley and Rob, thanks! Straightforward and easy to watch (with nicer music than so many on YouTube). I think I can do this now!