Medical Disclaimer: This is our best-educated guess at a solution to helping people avoid Covid-19 during this global pandemic. As with anything you read on the internet, please consult with your doctor. As of May 28, 2020, the information from the CDC is that masks can help reduce the spread of the virus, new things are being learned daily so use YOUR best judgment.
I haven’t sewn anything in over 20 years, particularly not something as tricky looking as a cloth mask, but the Covid-19 Pandemic has caused many of us to dig deeper and learn new skills, or embrace old ones you thought you forgot. My hubby has been an essential worker from the start and with my auto-immune issues & age, I’m at higher risk than most so I realized he was going to need to use all methods possible to stay healthy for both of us. So… after having him wear bandanas for a few days we realized that was just not very effective so I pulled out that Brother Sewing Machine I bought at Costco years ago and set out to find the best pattern and methods to make him some masks.
There are literally 1000’s of pages with patterns, sewing tips, advice on materials so wading through all that took me a week or more. Locally a group of mostly women were called to action to sew masks for our hospital staff as along with most of the world, we didn’t have sufficient PPE to protect our most important assets in the fight against the Coronavirus.
They asked for the pleated masks made from 4 layers of cotton. My simple sewing machine just couldn’t handle that so I had to find another solution. After reading ALL of the information out there, I knew that more layers of cotton really wasn’t doing anything for filtration so more research.
My Favorite Mask Pattern & Sewing Methods
Finally, I found a woman, a retired nurse turned quilt shop owner in Washington who was heading up the mask making efforts for their local hospitals. To date, her group has made over 167,000 masks! She had done a lot of testing and knew what was going to be the safest, wearable and comfortable for the nurses and doctors. I found her ideas for creating the supplies we were all looking for out of unexpected items that were in the beginning and still are out of stock everywhere.
She also found a cloth mask pattern that someone else designed but that fit the bill. This mask pattern comes with 4 sizes, Large (Men’s) , Medium (Women/Teen) Small (kids ages 7-12) and Extra Small (kids ages 3-6) (Children under 2 should not wear masks)
Wearable Washable & Breathable Masks for Pandemic or Flu Season
I love how deeply she explains why things will work or won’t work from a nursing perspective and from a fabric expert perspective.
Supply List for Mask Making
Use 100% Cotton Fabric, no flannel, no polyester.
1/4 inch elastic (any color) or cord elastic with a knot tied in the end you sew to the fabric
Filter Options for Fabric Face Masks
Recommended Non-Woven Interfacings
Click on Joann’s or Amazon Links to Order
- 910 Sew-in Featherweight by Pellon Joann’s
- 911FF Fusible Featherweight by Pellon Joann’s Amazon
- 930 Sew-in Mid-weight by Pellon Joann’s
- 931TD Fusible Mid-weight by Pellon Joann’s
- 880F Sof-Shape by Pellon Joann’s Amazon
- 950F Shir-Tailor by Pellon Joann’s Amazon
- 830 Easy Pattern by Pellon Joann’s Amazon
- 380 Soft -N- Stay by Pellon ( I couldn’t find this online)
- 810 Tru-Grid by Pellon Joann’s Amazon
- 808 Craft-Fuse by Pellon Joann’s Amazon
- Oly-Fun by Fairfield Several Colors are available on Amazon. Oly-Fun is also available at Walmart here in several colors & options
- Pellon interfacing at Walmart.com (It’s been sold out but you can keep checking)
If you don’t see it here it either did not work for us we did not try it. If the packaging says “non-woven” and it is permanent it should work.
Mask Making Options when Supplies are Out of Stock
At the beginning of my mask making, nothing was open, everything was sold out so I went to my hippie recycling training and looked around my house. I found a pair of Denver Bronco’s Pajama bottoms of my husbands that had ripped so I cut masks out of that, then an old pair of cotton pants, perfect, a 100% cotton sheet works perfectly for the mask fronts or the lining and I had many of the reusable bags that she talks about as an option for oly fun so I cut those up. Honestly, we like that weight and sturdiness the best so if you have those cloth type reusable shopping bags you might be in luck.
Now you can find elastic at Joann’s, Etsy, Amazon & Walmart but if you can’t find it we actually now prefer using good old t-shirt yarn. Super simple to make, If you have a rotary cutter it’s fast but you can use good old fashioned scissors as well. Just cut them across in 1″ strips, and then cut to 12-18″ ties. I reached out to friends and neighbors for donations and I was able to get dozens of t-shirts so I have a nice variety of colors to use. Leggings can work as well.
Jesse Fitted Masks
If you are just making masks for you and your family then you might want to check out the “Jesse Mask” which has several different sizes designed to fit you to perfection. It’s a little more tedious as you have to measure each persons face and possible adjust the pattern but I’m going to give it a try for my immediate family now that I’ve provided about 200 masks to friends, family, doctors offices etc. I’ll update this post as soon as I’ve sewn, worn, washed and tested it.
Masks specs/instructions for medical personnel:
FP95’s A DIY Surgical Mask from the Fabric Patch
First, although we feel confident with our design, we can make no safety claims. There are variabilities with construction, sizing, and user handling.
We will repeat the statistic that wearing ANY mask will decrease the risk of exposure by 77%. If you add the layer of 100% polypropylene, that risk can be substantially decreased. Two-ply spun Polypropylene is surgical sheeting. It can be used to make Tyvek (has an added antimicrobial, not
intended for mask/inhalation) and garden barrier (has an added herbicide, not intended for mask/inhalation), and Olyfun (a simple 100% polypropylene used for sewing grocery bags. No added chemicals). The polypropylene cannot be penetrated by water, bacteria or particles. Bruse
Spiess, MD, a professor of anesthesiology in the UF College of Medicine made the calculation that 100% polypropylene was 4% more effective than N95s. at blocking particulate matter.
Our design uses an outside layer of cotton, an inside layer of cotton, and a lining that is either two layers of non-woven interfacing, or one layer of 100% polypropylene. The difference is the nonwoven fiber has a polypropylene mesh that bonds the fibers into a non-porous fiber, and it is a softer cup style that is less warm, and possibly more comfortable for the layperson. The 100% polypropylene is a stiff product that will feel like a softer version of an N95. It will be a little warmer, it will maintain it’s shape, but best of all, both are fully washable.
We suggest a cup mask and have selected a template from a dust mask designer, it does have a center seam, but the seams are nestled, which means there are two layers going opposite directions behind the holes created from stitching. There are other templates that offer no center seam, but we did not feel they offered the same tight fit. If the mask fits snugly, and is worn properly, safety is achieved.
The issue with reusing the N95’s is the risk of exposure thru contaminates. N95’s are not washable. If each nurse has several FP95’s, they can take them home and wash them with their uniforms and feel comfortable with a fresh start for each shift.
The masks should be washed in a washing machine, in warm water with soap, bleach and agitation. They can be put in the dryer, but, just like a bra, you will have a better fit if they are shaped and set out to air dry. This is not “sanitized” by hospital standards, but it is as clean as your uniform, and certainly 100% cleaner than the 3 day old N95 that has been sitting in a paper bag.
We suggest that each nurse have at least 8 that fit well. They can be changed out during the shift, with potentially contaminated masks going into a bag for washing. When the nurse leaves for home, s/he should put on a clean mask to wear to decrease potential risk to her/himself and others.
Our intent is to offer a solution for our frontline caregivers. While we wait for additional N95’s to arrive, this is our best suggestion. Stay covered, stay safe. And most of all, quit handling and putting on those filthy N95’s.
You can check out their Q&A page, and see construction details at www.fabricpatch.net.
*This is not a business opportunity, it is an educated solution to a global crisis. We understand both healthcare, and fabric. Our intent is to mobilize
community quilters and sewers to provide these DIY PPE’s for their area hospitals, clinics, LTC facilities and more, and have made everything available to achieve this.