Some Advice on Making Your Own Face Masks

I spent the day making face masks. Despite what WHO and the CDC have been saying, face masks can significantly reduce your likelihood of contracting COVID-19 or any other virus. There are decades of research to prove it, especially since SARS, MER, and Swine Flu. We know it’s about viral load — we may all get this sooner-or-later, but it’s better later (to not overburden the health care system) and it’s better if we get it from a smaller load (symptoms will likely be less severe).

For example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2440799/ “Professional and Home-Made Face Masks Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Infections among the General Population” — Any type of general mask use is likely to decrease viral exposure and infection risk on a population level, in spite of imperfect fit and imperfect adherence, personal respirators providing most protection.

From https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/best-materials-make-diy-face-mask-virus/
My resized version
Pattern at sarahmaker.com

I found several free sewing sites with patterns. The easiest for me was at Sarah Maker. This is a pattern for a rectangle that you add elastic for the ears and pleats for the face. The original pattern was huge, too big for even my husband’s face. I cut the pattern down by 2 inches, and got a mask that works well. It’s an easy pattern. The second one went in about 30 minutes, but the whole process took me a couple of hours because I had to relearn my machine. I haven’t used it in two years.

Then my mother showed me a DIY bandana mask going around on Facebook. (I don’t do FB.) I watched the video. You fold a standard bandana into fourths, loop rubber bands on the ends — “ponytail” she called it, then fold it and tuck it. Works well, except it is enormously bunchy. So I cut the bandana in half, sewed it inside-out, reversed it, and made the bandana face mask fit better. Plus, I added a pipe cleaner inside to pinch over the nose. The more seal, the better protection. Rubber bands are problematic–too loose, too tight, too weak. You’ll need a variety pack to find ones that work for everybody in your house.

No pipecleaner
With pipecleaner over the nose

I had tried the surgical masks with various material suggested by different sites: pillow case, t-shirt, kitchen towel.

  • The pillow case was too thin and didn’t hold my stitches well. You have some tugging going on in reversing it, and you’ll be tugging to put it on and washing it in a machine, so make it sturdy.
  • The t-shirt was too stretchy. Not easy for my level of skill.
  • The kitchen towel was too thick, not something anyone would keep on long.
  • The bandanas were just right! Super soft, especially the oldest ones. No stretch, and the four layers across your face will be good protection.

So…don’t touch the face part of the mask after you put it on because that’s where the virus is. Use the rubber bands. Wash the masks after use. maintain social distancing and washing hands. The mask does NOT mean it’s okay to quit the basics we’ve already been doing.

I made two masks from each bandana. Throw them in the wash each day so clean ones are around for the family. The pipecleaner is inserted, so the color doesn’t matter LOL. The pleated masks were my completed projects from sarahmaker.com. It’s a good pattern just time consuming for my level of skill. I wanted to have 3-4 masks clean at all times.