As many of you might know, my wife is a talented seamstress. With all the scary news about catching Covid19, she decided to make her own face masks. Her instructions are below:
I know that a homemade fabric mask is not the same as an N95 mask. So I wasn’t going to even bother making one until my friend who owns a pharmacy put out a desperate plea for help. “We’ve been told to use whatever measures we can to protect our staff and I can’t get any masks even though I’ve been ordering them since February,” she said. “If you want to make some I’ll give them to my staff and my at-risk patients. Something is better than nothing!”
I decided to download a couple of patterns from the internet and try them out. I was disappointed because the masks didn’t fit snug next to my face, and I could actually feel my air flow going in and out of the gaps above my nose. I also didn’t like the masks that had elastic gathering up the sides of the mask.
But I took the parts of the mask patterns I liked and combined them with my own ideas and came up with this pattern. It is simple to make, and because there’s a pipe cleaner over the nose, it hugs your face. I made some masks for my family and we noticed that the masks get sucked inward when we breathe in, so they must be working!
I read this article that lists the effectiveness of different materials against 0.02 micron particles. I made several masks out of some of these fabrics and I will tell you down below which ones work the best with my face mask pattern. You can download the pattern and instructions here as PDF: bestfacemask.
I couldn’t wait to try making my mask out of a tea towel. I even wanted to double it to make the mask more effective. But the towel was way too thick and bulky, so I had to settle for just one layer, and no lining. I turned all the rough edges in and zig-zagged them. I put the pipe cleaner in and zig-zagged over it.
I think the tea towel mask looks cute, but it’s hot and hard to breathe through. Also, because the towel is so bulky, the pipe cleaner doesn’t get bendy enough to conform to my face well. This one’s a fail.
Next, I made a face mask for my husband out of a 100% cotton T-shirt. I used the T-shirt for both the mask and liner, so the t-shirt is doubled. The t-shirt was a little bulky, but not too bulky to prevent the pipe cleaner from working. This mask stretched a lot as I sewed, and doesn’t hold its shape very well, but my husband likes the comfortable stretchy feel and says it’s easy to breathe through. Win!
Then I made a mask out of some lightweight quilting fabric and used a cotton t-shirt as the liner. It’s a little bit warm but overall works well. Win!
I read that hospitals that use homemade masks suggest using flannel as the lining. The flannel is soft against the skin, and it absorbs moisture from breathing. When I tried this mask on, I told my husband, “Oh! It’s so comfy! Try this one!,” and he tried it on and said, “mmmmmmm!” Unfortunately, I think it would be too warm to wear for an extended period of time, but maybe that’s because the flannel I used is really thick.
The last one that I made is similar to the striped one. One layer is 50/50 cotton/polyester bed sheet, and the other layer is a 100% cotton Ralph Lauren sheet. It’s lightweight, easy to breathe through, and cute! Win!
After washing these masks in the washing machine, I noticed the pipe cleaner worked its way through and was poking out of the T-shirt fabric and the flannel. So, I would mark those fabrics as a “fail” for this pattern, unless you bend down the ends of the pipe cleaner to make them not pointy.