COVID-19 DIY Fabric Face Mask

Updated: Apr 11

With contagious COVID19 rapidly spreading throughout the world, many people are shopping for surgical masks to protect against this dangerous disease. But what if you can’t find any face masks at the shops?

On April 3, the CDC in the US updated its guidance on the matter recommends people use fabric coverings, not surgical masks or specialized N95 masks, which should be reserved for health care providers.

Wearing a face mask in public areas may impede the spread of an infectious disease by preventing both the inhalation of infectious droplets and their subsequent exhalation and dissemination. In the event of a pandemic involving an airborne-transmissible agent, the general public will have limited access to the type of high- level respiratory protection is worn by health care workers, such as N95 respirators.

If you are making your own covering, new research finds that some fabrics are better than others at filtering out viral particles.

So why should you make your own face masks?

1) In the event you become sick, having a supply of masks at home will give some level of protection to friends and family while you seek medical advice. It will certainly be better than no mask at all (see research notes).

2) By making your own, and hopefully, for family and friends, you will be decreasing demand on limited supplies of industrially manufactured, disposables, which are desperately needed by hospitals and nursing homes

Fortunately, you can make medical masks if you have basic sewing skills. However, keep in mind that manufactured masks are much more effective than homemade masks, so fabric masks should only be used if no medical-grade masks are available.

Manufacturers have struggled to keep up with demand for face masks.

DIY facial covering tips

Fabric Face Mask Pattern by the stitching scientist
  • Opt for masks that tie around the ear, rather than ones that have a standard elastic band. The ties can be adjusted to fit each face better than the elastic band.

  • Make sure to use dry masks. When masks get wet, even from the moisture emitted when a person exhales, the fabric could be more likely to transmit the virus.

  • Wash masks regularly, with regular detergent and in regular washing machine cycles.

  • Avoid “bleach or other harsher chemicals until we know the effect on the fabric’s effectiveness.”

How to Sew the Fabric Mask

1. Choosing the Right Fabric

  • Pick a heavyweight, tight-woven fabric for both layers of the mask.

  • Use a preshrunk 100% cotton T-shirt as an easy option.

  • Cut up a pillowcase if you don’t have a T-shirt.

  • Pair different colours or patterns so it’s easy to identify the front.

2. Cutting Your Fabric

  • Make sure your hands and surfaces are clean.

  • Print and cut out the face mask pattern.

  • Fold both pieces of fabric in half with the “good” sides facing in.

  • Trace the pattern onto the backside of your outer fabric piece.

  • Cut out the outer pieces with an extra 1.5 in (3.8 cm) side margin.

  • Trace the pattern onto the backside of your liner fabric.

  • Cut out the liner pieces using fabric scissors (or sharp scissors)

3. Making the Body of the Mask

  • Put the liner pieces together with the smooth side facing inward

  • Sew along the traced seam on the nose edge of the liner fabric.

  • Line up the outer pieces with the pattern facing the inside.

  • Sew the outer pieces together along the traced nose seam.

  • Iron the outside seams on each fabric piece so they lay flat.

  • Line up the outside seams on both pieces and pin them in place.

  • Sew along the traced line on the top and bottom of the mask.

4. Inserting the Nose Ridge

  • Turn the mask right-side out and iron the seams flat.

  • Insert a 5.5 to 6 in (14 to 15 cm) floral wire into the top of the face mask.

  • Do a top stitch along the top side and bottom side for reinforcement.

5. Sewing the Sides and Inserting the Filter

  • Make a .25 in (0.64 cm) fold on the sides of the outer layer.

  • Sew the edge of the side loop down into the outer layer of fabric

  • Fold the frayed edges of the liner inside and stitch seams on each side

  • Push 1 end of the elastic through the channel on the side.

  • Wash the mask in laundry detergent and hot water before you use it.

  • Insert an air filter into the side of the mask for added protection.

Not a Substitute for social distancing

If you decide to use homemade face coverings, masks should be used only as an “additive” to social distancing, not a substitute. People often feel “an artificial sense of protection because they are behind a mask. Don’t get a false sense of security.

Coronavirus Prevention

We continue to encourage hand-washing and social distancing by leaving at least 6 ft. of space between yourself and others when you are outside of your room or apartment. This includes walking around outside, eating at a dining hall, or visiting the library. Here are some other ways to stay healthy. Finally, please continue to keep our Principles of Community in mind. Don’t forget to practice grace, empathy, and compassion towards yourself and others. We will get through this moment in time together.

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