The CDC has said "In settings where face masks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face." Please note - I know that these masks are not PPE, but where some are struggling with supplies, I know these are more helpful than bandanas or scarves.
So this is our chance to help. I have posted the basic tutorial first (with elastic - although ties are now most recommended), and have updated it with more info and alternative ways to make the face masks. My hope is that for all of us that can sew, will take the time to sew at least 5 masks to donate to your local hospital, or another medical facility in need. It won't make sense for us all to send masks to one central location as that can easily be overwhelming at a time like this. Nursing homes and midwives and so many others are looking for masks. Even persons that work in hospital kitchens and other places where person hygiene is most important.
Here's what you'll need:2 pieces of fabric cut 7 1/4"w x 7 1/2" h (yes you can simplify to a 7 1/2" square but please know I based these measurements off of an actual medical mask) To make a kid sized mask - the fabric measurement is 5 1/2"w x 6"h.
Download a copy of the template I have made for the overall piece and the pleats here.
1) I used quilters cotton on the top outer layer, and a tight weave gauze for the inside layer that touches the face. It's not too thin but also not too thick to make it harder to breathe or too hot for the wearer. Two layers of quilters cotton is also great, just use two different colors or prints. By using two different fabrics, the wearer will know which side was outward and which side was touching their face, which keeps them safer!
2) It is also recommended to use (brand new) t-shirt material that is 100% cotton as the inside lining. (again - I don't recommend using the same quilters cotton print for both sides, as you want to know which side you've potentially touched, and which side is safe to go against the face.)
FILTERS - PLEASE DO NOT USE:
Please DO NOT USE Vaccum Cleaner bags or other Air Filters as they have not been tested for human breathing filter use in a mask...and I have read elsewhere that antimicrobial fabrics are not the safest option either.
Likewise, Sanitary Napkins should NOT be used. This is dangerous and wholly unnecessary. Sticking to 100% cotton and even cotton t-shirts - is always best. If the medical professional wants a filter, they can simply wear the PPE mask UNDER the homemade mask.
TIES or ELASTIC:
1) Straps sewn into the seams on the corners - should be 14" long each, cut 4. A little longer is ok - better long than short. Ties sewn all the way across the top (as shown with selvage in photo below) should be 37" - 40" in length, cut 2. Straps/ties are preferred by many medical professionals as they can be sanitized properly with high heat washing and drying without breaking down.
2) 2 - 5-7" pieces Elastic - (TIP: The 1/8" flat soft stretch elastic by Dritz truly is the best, but you can use the round cord elastic - tip on that coming later, or a flat clear elastic not shown). Elastic length for kids can be the same as adults but adjust shorter for youngest kids (depending on age and size of child). Elastic is becoming harder to find. 1/8" elastic is the best, and most comfortable on the ears. If it's not available, please sew ties.
ADJUSTABLE NOSE PIECE:
1) Adjustable Nose piece (this nose piece really helps to create a better seal over the wearers face:
1 piece of 1/8"w x 5"l (up to 6") aluminum strip (TIP: this can be found at some hardware stores like ACE but I found mine as a 3/4"w x 12"l piece - as shown above - and cut it down to size with strong metal scissors.
2) You can also use twist ties - twist two together to make a double, and then twist two doubles together - or pipe cleaners - aka chenille sticks.
Here's how:The first tutorial shows how to sew the mask with elastic, but please read all of the instructions to see how to sew a mask with straps/ties.
Want to make a whole bunch? Mary @Z_Fabrics in Portland Maine is kitting up some mask kits with straps (no elastic needed). We will post more on that soon via @kidgiddy on Instagram.
Step 1: Pin the elastic to the sides of the mask. One on each side. The end of the top elastic shown will go to the right side of the mask, while the bottom elastic will go to the top left side of the mask. I wanted to show the piece flat so it's a bit easier to see.
Step 2: Place the gauze (or lining material) right sides together. The two pink pins will be the start and stop when stitching all around the mask.
Step 3: Before sewing all around the mask, pin the ends of the elastic as mentioned above.
Step 4: Sew all the way around the mask, leaving an opening to turn right side out. Clip the corners and turn right side out and press the edges.
Step 5: Place a metal strip, pipe cleaner, or twist ties up through the opening to the top of the mask. Place is under the seam allowance so you can't see it on the gauze side (this will protect the wearers face while using).
Step 6: Pin just under the metal strip to keep it in place.
Step 7: Add three knife pleats to the mask so when wearing the pleats are facing downward and press with a mini iron and be sure to avoid the pins. Download a copy of the template to easily make your 1/2" knife pleats.
Step 8: Pin the 1/2" knife pleats in place so they don't shift as much while sewing.
Step 9: Sew a top stitch all the way around three sides of the mask, making sure not to sew the top stitch on the metal strip, but rather just underneath it. This will keep the metal strip securely in place.
Don't have elastic or metal strips? That's ok - here are some other variations.
Variation 1: If you don't have elastic, you can use cotton twill strips, binding or bias binding left over from quilts, grosgrain ribbon, or even shoe laces per my hubby. They should be at least 14" long and you'll need 4 strips. Place the raw edge along the side edge and approximately 1/2" below the top edge and 1/2" above bottom edge and pin to sides. Place the gauze on top and like Step 2, and stitch all the way around leaving a small opening for turning right side out. I would recommend sewing with the gauze on bottom to prevent it from stretching.
Here are some of the other things you may have around your space that you can use for ties and straps. It's ok to be creative, so long as it doesn't put the medical professional at risk while wearing.
Bernina Ruffler #86 Foot, you can ruffle the sides instead of pleating. This ruffle was set to 1. That means it was 1 ruffle per stitch. If you own a different machine and ruffler, please check the length on a scrap. The end result should be sides about 3 1/2" long.
Thanks so much for visiting and I hope to see some of your face masks before you donate them. I am also making some for my family and elderly friends in the hopes that if we or they have to go out, we can have that added protection from the virus. I have asthma as does my daughter, so we are doing all we can to stay safe. If a member of your family gets sick, a little extra protect helps then too. Feel free to share info below and also on Instagram by tagging me @kidgiddy.
Disclosure: I received the mini iron from Oliso but the opinions and comments provided are always my own. Thank you.