If you just want instructions to make a mask you could skip the intro and the research, although there are some important messages within!
I am what you would call an enthusiastic sewer if not the most competent. I can make my own dresses and trousers as long as the pattern does not include anything as tricky as s zip ( I can do it, I just don’t want to). The reason I love felting is that it’s not precise, wet felting is the equivalent of cooking a casserole – a pinch of this, a handful of that. Sewing is more your Victoria Sandwich – precise measurements are required if disaster is to be averted.
Before I say anything about how to make a face mask its important to remember that they do not replace good hand hygiene and social distancing. If you have the symptoms of Covid 19 you can not wear a mask and leave your home, you must quarantine yourself for the time recommended by your authorities.
There is an argument that by wearing a mask in shops and on public transport you can, if you are asymptomatic, reduce the chance that you might infect someone unintentionally. They may also offer some protection but this very much depends on what they are made of, how you wear the mask and if you are practicing the other aforementioned measures of good hand hygiene and social distancing. To stop the spread of Covid its important to listen to the advise of science, its likely that we will need to continue limiting the social group that we interact with (to less that 30% of pre covid) until there is a vaccination or an effective treatment.
At the end of this post I will share the best instructions I have seen for wearing and using a face mask.
I have type two diabetes, its my own fault and probably a bit of genetic propensity. I did have it under control, lost weight , did exercise. But I let it slip in the latter part of last year and I know that I might not have had it under as much control as I did (although I am remedying that right now!) I do not like the idea of being more vulnerable to Covid 19, my way of dealing with vulnerability is to research the science, obsess over the news and think about solutions. So I have lost weight, spent far too long dancing with Oti, used the treadmill and practiced very strict social distancing.
There have been 100’s of articles written about face masks, there are 1000’s of sellers on etsy, there are numerous free patterns that you can download, from the very simple single layer of cotton with three pleats, to masks that include pockets for filtration materials (like cut up coffee filters). My requirement were:
- It had to fit properly – no gaping sides
- It had to stay put – one of the golden rules it you don’t touch it unless to take it off
- It had to be comfortable
- It had to look good – I know but….
- As a design it had to be as effective with ties as with elastic (1/8 inch elastic is impossible to find at a sensible price with a realistic delivery time)
- It had to use materials that were effective as a barrier and enabled you to wear it for long periods of time (I may have to wear mine whilst teaching)
With Nicola Sturgeon recommending the wearing of masks in Scotland in shops and on public transport it looks like they are going to become part of our lives for some time to come. I think, if you can, you should make your own or at least buy from someone you know has done their research. This graphic from oxford university shows that not all materials are equal. If you can not get a medical grade face mask , and you should not they are needed in hospitals, the next best materials are good quality cotton/poly cotton, at least 180 thread count, two layers at least and something like interfacing for added filtration, it also gives some structure which helps in keeping it in place whilst you are wearing it. Some designs have a pocket for adding a coffee filter but as you would need to touch this to remove it it seems an unnecessary way to expose yourself to the virus. Research into the best materials is ongoing with some very detailed research (summarised here in the New York Times) that suggests a mix of silk and cotton or poly cotton acts as a good filtration, and that the face masks must have few if any gaps. All this makes it wise to avoid single layer cotton masks that are ill fitting and make your own. There are many, many to chose from. When it comes to materials to use you have to balance breathability and filtration.
Instructions ( apologies in advance for any typos – I finished writing this at midnight also apologies for my explanations. I am a geographer not a skilled sewer)
To make this face mask you will need:
- A copy of the pattern (can be found at the bottom of the page to download)
- Two pieces of good quality cotton 11in by 7in- preferably plain and patterned so the front is easily identifiable. If you are making them for yourself a good quality plain pillow case would be fine for the back.
- 14 inches of 1/8 inch elastic or 36 inches of ribbon/cord (most suppliers of elastic are either vastly overcharging or have dates for delivery that range from late May to July)
- One piece of interfacing 7in by 6 1/2in or the same size as the cotton if you are using non fusible
- Something to stiffen the nose, I used about 3in of pipe cleaner, measure it on across your nose first.
- And the obvious – cotton, scissors, a sewing machine and pins
- The sellotape is there for those who will print off the pattern on paper and want to make multiple masks – rather than pinning the paper on to the material sellotape around the edges and cut out – repeat.
Once you have cut out the pattern iron on the interfacing as per the photo. If you can, do this the night before as it ensures the interfacing is fully fused before you start sewing. If you are not using fusible interfacing you should have two pieces of cotton and a piece of interfacing all the same size.
Insert darts at the chin and nose of both sides of face mask, I find it easiest to fold each piece of cloth on half and mark off with a pencil the start and end point against the pattern, joining them up with a ruler to sew along. If you using non fusible interfacing pin it to the outside patterned layer before marking out and sewing the darts.
The measurements for the darts are on the pattern. Longer and wider at the chin. These can be adjusted for your face shape if necessary.
Once you have placed the darts at the nose and the chin match right sides together and pin at the darts to secure.
Pin each piece of elastic in at the sides, you want the elastic to be in the corners once you sew the two pieces of fabric together. Make sure the elastic is inside the mask. Pin the two sides together leaving a gap a the top next to the nose dart, as shown by the pins in the photo, this is so you can turn the mask right side out.
Step Three …
Sew a seam allowance of about 1/4 inch, I tend to use the foot of the sewing machine as a guide. Once its turned right way out iron the open seam inwards.
If you are using a pipe cleaner as a nose piece insert it through the opening in the seam and position it centrally above the nose dart. pin in place as in the photo and stitch around to secure in place, I would do at least two rows. In the process seal the open seam.
So that the mask fits neatly at the sides you should put in two pleats, as shown on the pattern. The two pleats should nestle next to each other, between the elastic.
The easiest way I find to do it is to place the pattern against the edge of the mask and mark the bottom, middle and top of the pleat with three pins. In this case you are folding down from the top of the mask.
In the photo the orange pin is at the bottom. Take the middle pin (yellow) and fold over the top pin (green) the bottom and top pins should now to be together. Take out the top pin and use it to secure the pleat. Remove the other two pins and repeat two create two pleats on either side.
You have a choice now you can secure the pleats by stitching over them alone or you can go around the entire edge of the mask about 1/8 inch in, I have found this makes the mask sit nicely on my face but I would try yours on first and see how it feels.
Wearing your mask
Firstly and most importantly a mask does not remove the need for the following:
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
- Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% if you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes.
- Keep a safe distance from others, at least 6 feet.
- Avoid public places if you are vulnerable
- Stay home for 14 days if you have any of the symptoms
If you choose to wear a mask you must follow the excellent instructions found here – when wearing this mask pinch the pipe cleaner so it seals the gap around your nose.
No elastic or cord
Take four lengths of material 18 inches long 1/2 inch wide and used make four ties and attach them as you did with the elastic. I used an old sheet to make these.