In the time of COVID-19, we are now all being warned to wear face masks. However, if you have tried to buy a face mask recently, you know they are hard to come by. Many people are making their own. As an immunocompromised person, these are very important for me. I have done a ton (like days) of research to figure out the best things to use and the best patterns. This past weekend, my family had a mask-sewing day. So that you do not have to do all the research and trial-and-error yourself, here is what I learned.
Yes, the material matters. Anything is better than nothing. Wake Forest recently did a study on the best materials (you can find is summarized in this article here). The basics are that you need to use a breathable material (DUH!), tighter weaves are better, and a flannel filter layer is great. But again, something is better than nothing in most cases.
We used 1200 thread count 100% cotton pillow cases, with a layer of flannel blanket in the middle for the “filter”.
We also do not like elastic for the ears. My oldest daughter who works in veterinary medicine said that after a while, those hurt your ears. We made ours tie. We tried one with ribbon to tie, and that was okay, but the best was making ties out of the same cotton material we made the mask from.
There are 2 basic types: the rectangular, pleated variety and the rounded variety that ends up being shaped kind of like a snout (see picture below). If you do not care about a tight fit or you are cranking out a lot, the flat, rectangular pleased variety are the easiest. Having said that, these are also less effective, have larger “openings” that air and particles could get in, and these generally do not protect as well.
The pattern we liked best was the rounded, snout-style. It works for everyone in our house, from age 11 to 46. This is the type I will be referencing in this article. It is much better to use a sewing machine for this project.
I got the pattern we used here. I printed the pattern (as shown to the right) from that site. However, I did not use the pattern exactly as that site explains. Here is what we did:
- Cut out the pattern you printed. Use it to size on the largest face you are making the mask to fit. Trim if needed.
- Fold it in half.
- Trace that onto 4 layers of your cotton fabric. Make sure your fold of the pattern matches the fold in your fabric.
- Unfold the fabric you cut. You should have 4 pieces of fabric all shaped like the picture above.
- Sew 2 of the pieces together along the arc/curved edge. Follow the curve. I allowed for ¼” seam.
- Sew the next 2 together the same way.
- Press the seams flat and trim extra fabric if needed.
- Cut a piece of flannel or other material to be the filter. It should be the same pattern, but ¼” smaller all around.
- Hem ¼” seam all the way around one of the cotton panels.
- Using an iron, flatten ¼” seam around the second panel so that the interior matches against the interior of the panel you sewed in 9. Regularly check to make sure your panels match.
- Lay the flannel so that the ironed “seam” flap from 10 covers the edge. Double-check that the panel still matches with the one you sewed in 9.
- Sew the seam on the second panel, with the flannel attached.
- Cut 4 strips of fabric 18″ long and 3″ wide.
- Reverse that fabric, sew one end, then sew the sides as close to the edge as you can to make a tube.
- Invert the tube (we use a chopstick to help with this).
- Top sew the open end. These are your 4 straps.
- Lay the 2 mask panels you have with good sides together.
- Put the straps so that the traps are inside between the two layers. The end of the strap should be aligned with the end of the panels and the angle of the straps should match the angle of the side of the panels.
- Sew across the end of the panels so that the straps and ends are all attached.
- Invert the panel so the straps are on the outside and the right side is out for the mask.
- Check your alignment again, pinning where needed.
- Top-sew the two panels, all the way around.
Your mask is complete!