You’ll notice a new fashion trend sweeping grocery stores, busy walking paths and other public spaces these days — homemade face masks of every color and construction.
Everyone’s doing it. That’s because last Friday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of cloth face coverings in public spaces where it’s difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance from others. The measure isn’t required, but it helps protect the public from people who may be carrying COVID-19 and not know it.
Let’s be clear: Homemade masks aren’t ideal for this purpose. But since it’s more important that medical personnel and first responders get higher-quality surgical masks and N-95 respirators, the rest of us get to be creative.
There isn’t one right way to make a mask. The CDC simply advises that your mask fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape. Their website provides basic suggestions and instructions for both sewn and not-sewn masks using materials most people have around their home, like cloths, rubber bands, T-shirts, bandanas and coffee filters.
Besides the CDC suggestions, an online search will turn up dozens of patterns, video tutorials, suggestions and claims. Remember, it’s hard to quantify the efficacy of these homemade masks — but they’re one more way to help slow the spread of the disease.
Here are some tips for getting in touch with your inner MacGuyver and finding a mask solution that works well for you:
- Look for fabric that doesn’t let light pass through it when you hold it up to a bright light. Typically that’ll be a tightly woven 100 percent cotton fabric that has been washed. Protection increases with additional fabric layers, so consider incorporating that into your design or wear two masks at a time.
- Using ties, instead of elastic, allows your mask to be easily adjusted and fit different members of your household. Ties also tend to hold up better than elastic when laundering.
- Consider creating a mask with a pocket where you can insert additional layers of fabric or filter material for added protection.
- Remember not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your mask and to wash your hands after doing so. Launder your mask after each use.
This video is one of many that demonstrates how to sew a basic mask making, or make one using the instructions below.
15-minute mask using basic sewing skills
CUT: Cut a 12-inch by 9-inch piece of fabric.
FOLD AND SEW: Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, wrong side out and sew the edge. Leave a 2 to 3-inch gap in between to create a two-layered 6-by-9-inch rectangle.
TURN: Turn the fabric right side out and adjust fabric so the gap is about 1 inch from the top. This will be on the inside of the mask and creates a pocket in which to place additional filters.
PLEAT: Fold the unfinished edges in ¼ to ½ of an inch; pin or iron if needed. Pleat the edges 3 or 4 times. Pleats don’t have to be exactly even, but they should go the same direction on both sides of the mask. Iron pleats or secure them with pins.
ADD TIE-ONS: Use elastic (two 6- to 7-inch pieces) or four 12- to 18-inch lengths of material that can tie, such as ribbon, shoelaces, fabric strips — whatever you have on hand.Tuck ¼- to ½-inch of the tie ends into the top and bottom corners of the mask. For elastic, fix both ends; for tie materials, secure just one end.
SEW IT: Sew a straight line down the pleated edge, securing the ties and pleats.
REPEAT: Fold, pleat and add tie-ons to the opposite side of the mask and sew.
ADD NOSE BRIDGE (optional): Cut a 3- to 4-inch piece of flexible wire or use a paper clip or a twist-tie. Fold over the blunt ends to keep the wire from poking through the fabric. Slide the wire into the inside pocket and push it against the top of the mask. Secure it by sewing across the top seam of the mask.