Photo by Michael Amadeus
STEP BY STEP GUIDE:
Learn How To Make Protective Face Masks at Home
with Non Woven Bags
It is time for us DIY-ers to make a difference. Right now due to the increase of COVID-19 there are patients in every single hospital out there fighting for their lives, coupled with the fact that many consumers are purchasing whatever they can with regards to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for their own use there is a significant shortage of surgical face masks in the healthcare sector.
Right now, hospitals are doing the best with the equipment they’ve got but they are asking for donations of N95 respirators. These are the masks recommended by the CDC for any healthcare professional that is working with patients currently suffering from the symptoms of coronavirus, not just in hospital, but in urgent care clinics.
But due to the increasing numbers of patients, not enough is being done to keep up with the demand for these N95 masks. But this is where we can make all a difference. It is now time for us to help the healthcare providers on the frontline fighting against COVID-19, and we need to help where we can.
Right now, the situation is very quickly reaching a crisis point. This is why we’ve got to fight back now. Numerous hospital workers are pleading through YouTube, Instagram, and other social media channels like Facebook and Twitter for more surgical masks so they can do the job they are meant to do safely. And people are responding in their droves.
Now has never been a better time for us to band together with our DIY skills and use our trusty sewing equipment to make homemade masks. Consider yourself to be part of the frontline of the homemade face mask movement. If you have a sewing machine at home, this is your weapon to help your doctors, nurses, and healthcare specialists.
But before you you get to work, let’s provide you with some vital information about face masks.
Are Face Masks Effective?
Right now we are at a critical point in the pandemic. While face masks made of fabrics aren’t as effective as N95 masks, they are still useful. So before you put your sewing machine away we have to remember that hospitals are running out of masks completely and many are reaching out to the public to help as much as they can.
The official party line is that the CDC recommends N95 masks as the most effective form of protection. But if your local hospital is desperate, any sort of material, such as a bandana, can be used as a last resort. And now as desperate times are calling for desperate measures, every hospital needs as much help as possible to make these masks for our doctors, nurses, and healthcare specialists.
While there are some hospitals that have a certain amount of N95 masks they are in limited supply. For those that already have N95 masks homemade versions are being worn on top of them so they can last longer. Unfortunately, because N95 masks are meant for single-use it has got to the point where hospital workers have been told that they need to wear the same mask for as long as possible. This is where we can come in…
What Sort Of Fabric Should We Use?
There are no official guidelines stating what materials need to be used at this moment in time. There are some sources that state tightly woven fabrics like cotton are the best, but non woven is also effective. You should also look at materials like bedsheets and heavy-duty shirts as well as denim. You should avoid knitted fabrics because when they are stretched, they create holes. This doesn’t make it a very useful protective device and the virus could potentially get through. Non woven materials like bags are strong and durable materials that are unlikely to create holes, making it an ideal form of protection. We have a dedicated section to non woven tote bags starting from as little as $0.36, so you don’t have to break the bank at this difficult time and still put your sewing machine to work, all for a great cause!
How Do We Prepare The Masks?
When you prepare the fabric make sure that you wash it first. It’s important to use hot water so it kills all the germs and this will pre-shrink the material. We want our healthcare professionals to be as comfortable as possible while doing their job and if the material changes shape after the healthcare workers wash them, this can potentially mean they could be working without PPE for any given length of time.
While at the moment there are no specific rules in making homemade masks there are some things that we can all take on board in order to make sure we are providing the best quality masks that help our healthcare professionals. Whether you are using material like cotton or non woven material like our tote bags, the non woven fabric is crucial to your homemade mask. Non woven filter fabric will help to block out the particles getting in. You also need a piece of metal, such as a paperclip. This will make the mask fit comfortably around the nose.
Are All Hospitals Accepting Homemade Masks?
While many hospitals are reaching out to people to make masks for them because they aren’t hospital approved, there is a chance that some hospitals won’t accept your donation. It is a good idea to get in touch with the hospitals in your local area to check what their specific policies are. It’s important to check on the day you intend to donate them what their policies are with regard to delivering them. Due to the ever-changing situation hospitals can be updating their policies on a daily basis.
But there are healthcare professionals making numerous requests online. The organization MasksForHeroes are posting requests for PPE from various healthcare workers via an Instagram account. There is also a very useful document compiled by the U.C. Berkeley School of Public Health. The document is listing hospitals in each state that are currently accepting homemade masks. In addition to this, there are attached instructions for delivering them.
There is also the Masks Now coalition. This was founded to match up organizations that need help with volunteers. The masks now collision has a Facebook page that details a three-layer mask pattern which was made in cooperation with the CDC. There are plenty of instructions online that are easy to follow but the mask instructions also include a filter layer which is crucial. If you want to sign up as a volunteer for them you can go to their website.
Now you’ve got the info, let’s get down to it…
How To Make A Homemade Face Mask (The Simplified Version)
There are numerous variations on making a face mask. But here, we have put together a simplified version but also one that is a bit more detailed. Both are effective but here is the simplified one first.
- Print the pattern: there are numerous templates that you can find online so you can pick the pattern you want.
- Cut out the pattern.
- Using the pattern, cut out two fabric pieces.
- Cut out two pieces of interfacing material, which must be non woven material.
- Place the cut fabric with the front sides together.
- Put both layers of the interfacing material together on top of fabric (but on the back side of the fabric).
- With the sewing machine, sew a top 9” seam (the best stitch length is 2.5-3”) With ¼” seam allowance.
- Flip it open, with front side of the fabric facing up.
- Press the seam flat down to one side.
- Take the metal piece and insert it along the seam between the 2 pieces of fabric.
- Stitch a ½” rectangle at the top of the pattern so you can secure the metal piece.
- Taking the back side and the right side, flip them together, and stitch a bottom 9” seam.
- Flip the back to the right side and press on the bottom seam.
- Use the pattern to help yourself mark the pleats. Be sure to pleat all 3 pleats in the same direction. If you are struggling to keep them secure, put a pin down to keep them all in place.
- Cut the binding tape at 36” for each side.
- Locate the center point of the binding; locate the center point of the mask- pin the binding onto the mask (make sure that the mask is between the binding, sandwiched in place.
- Sew the binding together.
- Once you have done this, repeat directions 1 to 17 on the other side.
- Press the pleats.
This is the simplified version. There is also a more detailed one, if you are looking to make a more complex surgical mask pattern, measuring 7.75″ wide and 3.75″ tall, the instructions are as follows:
How To Make A Homemade Face Mask (The Longer Version)
Materials You Need
Non woven material such as the non woven tote bags we provide (or 100% cotton fabric with a tight weave).
1/8″ flat elastic to make the ear loops, or 4 fabric ties (you can use the non woven material to make strips, or use the cotton).
- One pair of fabric scissors.
- A ruler.
- A collection of pins or clips.
- A sewing machine and some thread.
Cutting The Materials
To make the adult mask:
- Cut 1 rectangle out of the non woven material or fabric measuring 16″ long and 8.5″ wide.
- Cut out 2 pieces of elastic, each piece should be 7″ long.
- You can also contour the measurements for a child-size mask:
- Cut 1 rectangle out of the non woven material or fabric 14″ long and 6.5″ wide.
- Cut out 2 pieces of elastic, each piece should be 6″ long.
- To make the elastic ear loops:
- For an adult, cut out 2 7″ long pieces.
- For a child, cut 2 6″ long pieces.
If you are not using elastic to make the fabric ties:
- Cut out 4 rectangles 18″ long by 1.75″ wide.
- Fold the long sides so they meet in the middle.
- Fold them in half again to encase the edges.
- Stitch down the long side of the rectangles, going along the edge.
Making The Face Mask
This is all about sewing the top side, with the pocket.
- Fold the fabric/material rectangle in half, making sure that the right sides are facing each other.
- Along the 8.5″ width edge, with a large 5/8″ seam allowance, sew it. Make sure to leave a 3” opening in the center of this seam. This will give you the space for the filter pocket, and to allow the mask to be turned right side out after sewing. But if you don’t want a filter pocket you still need to leave an opening. This is so you can turn the mask the right side out, but when you’ve done this you can stitch the opening closed.
- Turn the fabric so the seam that has the pocket opening is dead center in the middle of one side. Press the seam open using an iron.
- Fold the excess seam under, so it encases the raw edge of the fabric. Once you have this, stitch along each side of the seam to finish up the edge. Doing this keeps the fabric from fraying when inserting and removing filters.
This step is where you pin the elastic or fabric ties.
- Pin one piece of elastic on the mask, one each side, one end to the top corner, and one end to the bottom corner of the material to create the ear loop when the mask is pleated and turned right side out. Place the elastic ends approximately ¼” from the top and bottom corners.
- The elastic will be between the two fabric layers of fabric so when you turn the mask the right side out, the elastic will be on the outside.
- Repeat so you have two ear loops.
Use 4 fabric ties, measuring 18″ long, with one in each corner. In each corner, sew one tie. Make sure you don’t catch the ties in the side seams.
- Where you sew the sides and secure the ties.
- With a 3/8″ seam allowance, sew each side of the mask. Secure the ties by backstitching them. Make sure you trim the corners to make it easier to turn the mask the right side out, but take care not to clip the stitches.
- Turn the mask the right side out and press down with an iron.
The final step is where you make the pleats.
Make the mask, but make sure you have three evenly spaced lines. Using the ruler, measure the space and mark with a fabric pen. If you don’t have a pen, fold the mask into quarters so the sides meet in the middle, and fold again in half. Make a crease with your iron.
Using the markings, make three evenly spaced pleats of ½”. Pin down the folds, making sure the pleats are all facing in the same direction. Secure the pleats by sewing along the sides.
The Importance Of A Filter
It’s important to note that these masks can only provide approximately a third of the protection that an N95 mask would provide. So if it is possible to install a filter into your mask, do so, as this adds an extra layer of protection.
If you are making a face mask for a very specific hospital it’s important to get in contact with them before you begin. They may very well have their own filters. And while a HEPA vacuum cleaner bag or air filter has performed the best in tests it can be more difficult to breathe through.
We hope you have found this useful. It seems that right now everybody has to do their bit and if you have a sewing machine at home and any leftover material, you can make a DIY face mask for your local healthcare providers. It’s worth noting that you don’t just need to send them to your local hospital. There are healthcare workers in numerous other facilities that are struggling with a shortage of face masks. Specialists that work in care centers and nursing homes are working with patients up and down the country, as well as those that don’t work in the healthcare sector. Firefighters and veterinarians also need face masks and many have already said they would accept donations of homemade versions.
We are currently in an unprecedented event in our lives. Surgical masks are a necessity for anybody working with patients and if you or somebody that you know has any N95 masks you are being urged to donate or sell them as soon as possible. As the CDC doesn’t recommend that anybody apart from healthcare professionals use N95 masks, anybody that has acquired some or is stockpiling should hand them over.
During this difficult time, we all need to help where we can. Using our DIY skills, we can all make a difference.