This blog post originally was created to help people sewists making face masks (and later, scrub caps and gowns) to donate to health care professionals who are lacking enough supplies. I continue to update this information as needed.
Additional information has been added for those who wish to make and wear cloth masks themselves and for their families when they must go out.
PLEASE wear masks when out. It offers a little protection for you, but it offers even more protection for others.
Please use your discernment when choosing which style of mask to make and wear. They have their pros and cons, but at the very least, you want them to fit well with no gaps. I’ve heard that there are those that work well for some people and yet don’t fit well for others.
This is from a well respected doctor who outlines the importance of wearing masks and what types work best. There are a few no sew ideas there as well.
Here is some information about how to properly clean and sanitize your masks.
Calling all Sewists: Making Face Masks
You may remember that back in January, I shared the need for materials being sewn, knitted, and crocheted for the animals being injured by the Australian wildfires. They don’t need our help anymore (but some local rescues are still in need so be sure to reach out locally if you still want to help with those. Now, there’s been a request for us to start making face masks.
Please understand that no one is saying these will replace proper medical masks. However, I have already seen multiple places around the world saying that they have run out of the proper masks and need the next best thing. In fact, the premier of Ontario even said that companies with sewing machines are stepping up to help make these.
The CDC says, regarding these homemade masks:
In settings where facemasks 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.”
NEW – NO SEW VERSION:
No sew mask made with a bandanna (or scrap of fabric) and a couple rubber bands or hair ties.
GROUPS MAKING AND DONATING MASKS AND OTHER SUPPLIES
If you have a sewing machine and some suitable fabric, you can make these. Search on Facebook for local groups – one has already popped up in London, Ontario and many other places around the world.
Here is the local London group. People are sharing resources and tips there and a local sewing shop owner is offering supplies and even the loan of machines if needed.
Here’s the overall Canada Sews Facebook group.
If you can’t find any local groups, try reaching out to local medical clinics or even veterinary clinics. I know our vets want to donate their medical grade masks to the hospitals but they need cloth masks in place of them first!
If you don’t have wire on hand, use pipe cleaners or twist ties.
Run out of fabric? Try old bed sheets, pillowcases, t-shirts, or other clothing.
For elastic, try the elastic hair ties. People have also been buying bungee cords and cutting them open to use the elastic inside of them but use caution with these. Some have found that the bungee elastic breaks down quickly after washing.
Others have been finding wide elastic (narrow tends to be sold out) at online sewing stores and cutting it down to size. Some people are cutting Ace tensor bandages up into strips to use for the elastic too.
For “ready-made” ties, use bias tape.
A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF OPTIONS FOR MAKING THE FACE MASKS:
This is my favorite mask pattern that uses elastic and has a pocket for filters. Note: it is pleated.
And this mask pattern is my favorite one that that uses ties and has a pocket for filters. Note: it is not pleated.
Basic folded cloth mask pattern is available here.
More options for masks including with HEPA filters.
Created for Crisis has a 3 layer mask pattern here.
One of my favorite blogs, Living Locurto, has shared 6 mask patterns here.
One Million Masks has some of the simplest face mask patterns I’ve seen. Even non-sewists say they’re simple!
FILTERS FOR MASKS:
You will find that there is a lot of discussion out there about what the best filters are. Again, you’re going to need to decide for yourself. Remember that none of these have truly been tested against this virus so some of it is simply educated speculation until they can conduct proper scientific experimentation.
There is some information to indicate that using those blue shop towels could be really effective (more effective than cotton fabric) at filtering out the germs. Again, take this with a grain of salt and use your own discernment but I’m going to make cloth masks and add in a “filter” of 2-3 layers of blue shop towels. Find more information on blue shop towels masks here.
It has been suggested that 2-3 layers of regular paper towels are just as effective as the blue shop towels. Others have said that simply making a mask that has three layers of cotton fabric is sufficient and they won’t need separate filters.
Other people are making a double layer mask – cotton on the outside with flannel towards the face, claiming that the flannel works as a built-in filter.
Some people are using the HEPA filters in vacuum bags. Some health experts are strongly advising against this because these filters were not meant to be near people’s faces. They have minute particles of glass in them and if inhaled, can cause lung damage. In an abundance of caution, I am not using these.
I just heard of people using parts of furnace filters in their masks but this is also not advised for the same reason as the vacuum bag filters.
PROPER USE OF FACE MASKS:
I tried looking for some really good articles or videos about using the face masks but it seems hit or miss out there. The key things I have read is:
Make sure your masks are clean. Wash and dry them and before handling them, wash your hands well. If you’re going to put them down before putting them on, be sure to clean and sanitize the surface you are placing them on.
With freshly washed hands, put on your face mask. Try to handle it as little as possible, touching only the parts necessary. Adjust the pleats, gathers, elastic, ties etc. so that it fits well with no gaps. Once adjusted well, wash your hands again.
DO NOT touch your mask while you’re wearing it.
When you take your mask off, again, touch it as little as possible, preferably only by the ties. Place it directly into a bag or something else to contain the germs until it can go into the laundry. WASH YOUR HANDS!
Note: The group I’m in has said that you must make a channel for the wire so it can be removed for washing. It can warp in the washing and drying process.
However, handling it (removing and putting it back in over and over again), can warp it too and you would need to either separately disinfect the wire or use a new one (and they can be hard to come by right now!).
I am, however, finding that the wire (I’m using pipe cleaners) is just fine and I’m sewing it in place permanently. When it comes out of the dryer, yes, sometimes it is a bit wonky. I simply open the mask out, hold onto each side, and run it over a table edge to flatten it back out again.
I have had one where the wire started poking out. I bend the ends of each piece to help prevent that, but in this case, I made a slit so I could remove that wire. I put a new one on and used fabric to essentially sew a patch over it to hold it in place as a fix.
SCRUB CAPS AND HOSPITAL GOWNS:
Here is one option for a scrub cap pattern.
This one is a pixie style tie back scrub cap. Note that it is not a free pattern. If the cost of it is holding you back, please contact me. I am happy to cover the cost of pattern for as many people as I can.
This post will continue to be updated as I learn more. I welcome comments with other links to places that are looking for them.