I’m sure you’ve seen a good deal of information about how the medical community is calling on crafters to sew face masks. I know that different states and hospitals and doctor’s offices have different views and requirements on this. And there’s lots of advice on what materials and patterns to use. Feel free to do your own research so you know what medical professionals are asking for in your area. I’m not here to start a debate on this, so please refrain from those types of comments.
I just want to pass along some resources in case you want to make some. Many of the health care professionals are using these over their special N95 masks, not in place of them so those special ones last longer. Or they are using these so they can reserve the N95 ones for those who need them most. I think they are all at the point of “something’s better than nothing.” So I’m making some. Please also note that this is NOT medical advice.
The masks likely will not prevent someone from getting Covid-19. BUT — if they already have it in their system and are not yet showing symptoms, this will prevent them from spreading it further. I’m beginning to see some reports suggesting we all wear them anytime we are out for this very reason.
UPDATE 4/2/2020: It appears the CDC is expected to announce very soon the recommendation that ALL people wear masks in pubic.
Tutorials I’ve found
- I made some last weekend after receiving an email from Joanns (find the video and info here). They are surgical style masks with pleats. I feel like the video makes it harder than necessary for both cutting and pleats, although they do link other videos. You don’t need a pattern — just cut a rectangle of fabric. The elastic for the ties is in short supply right now but see if you have some already at home. I’m also hearing that using ties instead of elastic and a bendable wire piece for fitting around the nose makes it more usable.
- Here’s a video for an easier method for surgical style masks that includes ties and wire.
- This one is good also for that surgical style. It’s written directions only but pretty easy to follow. I would definitely add wire for the nose, as well as a filter pocket.
- This one covers more of the face and does not use pleats. That’s called an Olson style. It includes the ties and wire nose piece and shows you how to include a pocket for a replaceable filter. She does include a pattern with multiple sizes in SVG, DXF and PDF formats. What I don’t like is that you have to fill out a form (aka, give her your email address) to get it. The instructions are very clear with lots of pictures, and she has a video. I’m hearing from some people that the seam right down the middle is not great as is the fact that that means the sewing machine needle punctured there repeatedly.
- Here again is the Olson style with Silhouette Studio and SVG files. It includes the nose wire and an option to add the pocket for a filter. There’s also a different way to use elastic so that it goes around the head instead of the ears.
I am sticking with the pleated masks for now, making them 3-4 layers thick with an opening to insert a filter.
Do you have to use your Silhouette to cut them?
If you’re using the Olson style, then you can use your machine to cut the pattern. That’s pretty easy with cardstock, copy paper or vellum. The surgical style is just a rectangle so for me it was easier to just mark it or use my paper trimmer to make the right size.
As far as cutting the fabric — that’s completely up to you. I’d say if you’ve cut fabric before without a problem, go for it. But it’s not at all necessary for the patterns that are just a rectangle — I think that takes more time than it’s worth. If you haven’t cut fabric before and are used to cutting fabric for clothing, go with cutting by hand.
There are 2 ways to cut fabric with a Silhouette.
- Machines other than the Cameo 4 — Use something to stabilize your fabric while cutting. You can iron on freezer paper or interfacing, or use a heavy starch.
- Cameo 4 — You can use a Rotary blade. That means you don’t have to stabilize the fabric.
Use what you have
You’ll probably see all kinds of recommendations for materials to use. Obviously it’s better if you don’t have to go out and buy something. That would fall into the category of non-essential shopping. So try to use what you have on hand. Or, order ahead at Joanns and do the curbside pickup.
Whatever you use, wash it first. For the outer fabric use cotton as it’s most breathable, preferably 100% cotton. Old t-shirts and flannel work great for the lining I’m hearing (the part closest to the face). I’ve got a whole box of t-shirts waiting to be made into a quilt so plan to use those after I run out of fabric (which will be, like, never). Tea towels are getting high praise because they are tightly woven.
Think about the fact that both males and females will use these and choose patterns appropriately. If you want to make it extra fun, use some HTV to add something on the front such as lips or a phrase like, “I’m a superhero!”
In my first set, I used iron-on interfacing as per the instructions from Joanns. Well, now I’m out of that. I think the biggest request I’m seeing is to leave an opening for the wearer to insert their own filter. Some are purchasing air filters used in home furnace/air conditioner units, dissecting them, and using that material.
Here again, there are lots of recommendations. Use whatever thin elastic you have (1/4-3/8″ works best). It can go around the ears or the whole head. You won’t be able to find any in stock probably, so here are some other ideas:
- Double fold bias tape. It’s easier to find it in stores but it’s disappearing. It’s not hard to make your own if you have plenty of cotton fabric.
- Ribbon 1/4-3/8″
- Fabric with velcro at the ends as long as you size it correctly
- Think outside the box. I had a user tell me she was using thin elastic headbands from the Dollar Tree, so was able to add some to my online Walmart order. Have an old bra that’s needing to be replaced? Those elastic shoulder straps are great.
Again, don’t go into the store to buy anything as that defeats the purpose of social distancing.
I was skeptical on this at first, but 20-22 gauge florist wire works really well.
Believe it or not, I found some industrial N95 masks in my husband’s workshop. They are from the home improvement store — the kind we use when sanding wood. They have N95 stamped on them. I don’t know if they can use them, but I went ahead and sent them to the healthcare professional I was matched with (see next section).
How to donate them
- Wash the completed masks. If you’ve made various sizes, label them.
- I think Joanns is a dropoff location for the completed masks, but call ahead to make sure. If so, you can probably do it curbside.
- Check to see if there are other places in your area. Ask a nurse you know (hopefully you’re checking in on and encouraging them already). Don’t call a hospital or doctor’s office — they are already too busy. Check your local news as well.
- Here are a couple of websites that help you connect with facilities who need masks. This one has a listing by state, including types requested and how to get them to the facilities. This one matches what you have with who in your area needs them. You fill out a form that asks what types you have. On that one, they are prioritizing larger donations (5+). I donated my first set of masks there.
- Think outside the box. My friend runs the local food pantry and requested some for her volunteers. I dropped off more yesterday and saw some in action. So cool!
Stay safe out there! And to my readers who are health care workers — bless you — we appreciate you — I’m praying for you!!!