Weeks after health officials advised us not to wear face masks unless we show symptoms of the novel coronavirus- Covid-19, last Friday the White House announced that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) now recommends wearing face masks. Specifically when visiting grocery stores, pharmacies, and when social distancing guidelines are hard to sustain. - Unfortunately, the supply for the medical-grade masks is extremely limited, and should be reserved for health workers, first responders, and patients. But don't despair, we can still join the national health movement using items you already have in your home.
No worries if you lack a sewing machine or hand sewing skills.
I'm sharing with you 3 easy options to make this project an easy and proactive one for everyone.
So, are you up for a homemade DIY project?
Materials You'll Need
Materials for options #1 + #2
- Needle or sewing machine
- Thread- 100% polyester if possible
- Scissors or cutting blade
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Pencil or permanent marker
- Pins, clips, cold tape, or bobby pins
(To help keep the fabric pieces in place when sewing - If you're an experienced sewer use your hands)
- One 20" x 20" scrap of 100% cotton
(Or Two 10" x 10" scraps of 100% cotton in contrasting colors to help you remember which side of the mask faces outwards)
- Two 7” long x 1/4” wide pieces of flat sewing elastics for Option #1, Four clean flat shoe laces or drawstrings for option #2
Materials for option #3
- A cotton bandana
- Two rubber bands or hair ties
For this project, I am using a woven lightweight cotton in olive green leftover from my thesis collection. (I used it as the lining for the Petronila Waist-cincher I wore to the Neiman Marcus x FIT's Future of Fashion presentation.) If possible always go with 100% cotton- The higher the thread count the better. Cotton is an ideal fabric because it's breathable, easy to launder and disinfect. Refrain from using synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, nor fabrics with spandex blends like the ones used for t-shirts. The synthetics will be tougher to disinfect and tend to trap high levels of bacteria. You can use household items like cotton pillowcases and tea towels. Aside from the two layers of green-camo cotton fabric, I'm including an additional layer of silk brocade for aesthetic and literally an extra layer of protection. Researchers also found that when certain common fabrics were used, two layers offered far less protection than four layers.
- Hand or machine wash the fabric scrap in warm water
Air or machine dry and iron the fabric scrap using an iron on the highest setting
Fold the 20" x 20" fabric scrap in half and mark 9.5" x 6.5" with a pencil and cut around the markings
Now you have two equal rectangles measuring 9.5" x 6.5"
- Mark 1/4" around from edge the of the fabric scraps (These will be your sewing guides)
- For option #1 - Pin the elastic edges to the corners of the fabric rectangle that'll be facing outwards. Place them 1/2" down from the edge on the right side of the fabric. As shown on slide A. (I'm using the silk jacquard as my outward fabric piece, so I pin the elastic edges on top) For option #2 pin the edges of the drawstrings or shoelaces to each of the corners of the side of the fabric scrap that'll be facing outwards. Pin them 1/2" down from the edge on the right side of the fabric.
- For option #1 + #2 with needle + thread or a home sewing machine, sew the edges of the elastic, shoelaces, or drawstrings to each of the corners of the fabric piece.
- Lineup the right side of the other fabric piece with the right side of the piece with the sewn straps of choice. Prepare to sew all these elements together by pinning, using clips, cold tape, or your steady guiding hands- You got this!
- Stitch around the pieces making sure you're stitching on the 1/4" sewing line and catching all the layers as you go. Also it's very important that the straps are kept within the perimeter of the rectangle when sewing. Like a sandwich or pastelito- where the fabric rectangles represent the bread/ dough, and the straps your toppings
- Leave a 1 1/2" opening on the bottom as shown on slide B (This gap will be use to turn our face masks right side out) When you're done with sewing go ahead turn your project right side out, then get excited, we are almost finish!
- With your ruler and pencil mark the guidelines for the pleats following this pattern- Start marking 1" down from the top edge of the face mask.
- Following the markings fold down the mask a if you were going to make a paper fan out of it and pin or tape to create three staggered pleats.
See slide C for reference and prepare to sew. I made my mask a little smaller to adjust the side of the silk scrap I had left. For this reason my first mask only has two pleats.
- Topstitch 1/4" away from the edge of the face mask with machine or by hand sewing - Add an additional top stitch 1/4" away from the previous topstitch. Voilà! You are done.
Victory screech! Project completed. As it's typical during the design development process- the 1st sample (prototype) is not always the perfect fit. After fitting the face masks on myself and on James I decided to add 1/4" darts at the center of the mask (as shown on the brocade sample on the left.)
This helped with the fit around the nose bridge. The goal is to have your face masks fit you snug but comfortable. Another alternative is to tape a twist tie with cold tape to the wrong side of one of the rectangle on the nose bridge area before sandwiching the fabrics to sew together. This will allow for easy adjustment and a custom fit for all nose types.
The image below shows a slightly bigger alternative I made with two layers of the solid green cotton.
- I strongly recommend you make several pairs. The point is to treat these homemade face masks as if they were underwear.
- It is essential for you to wear a clean one every time you go out.