Updated on September 14, 2022 by Sarina
All of us know about the necessity of the day – why we should be careful, why we should wear masks while outdoors. But still many hesitate to wear that mask, unless absolutely necessary.
Why? Some find that they cannot breathe inside their mask, some are skeptical about their mask fabric, some feel claustrophobic inside the thick layers of the mask. Then some others have preconceived notions of the effectiveness of any kind of protection and may feel an inevitability about the whole thing.
There is no solution to the last dilemma, you cannot convince some people beyond a point (those who use masks only as a means of getting into a shop, or train) But for all others, there are solutions.
There is no doubt that fabric masks are saving us. They are also saving the earth from being a gigantic plastic garbage dump of disposable masks.
Disposable Surgical masks can only be used once and needs to be discarded many times over (6 hours use maximum) the same day.
Fabric masks trumps over disposables here. The fabric masks can be washed and used. But the downside is that the surgical masks are more effective. The ones with filters are even better. Anyways, here is a tutorial to make a fabric mask with as many layers as you want.
Make a fitted mask with full coverage
You have to take two pieces of 12 inch wide and 6 inch long fabric for making this mask. Fold them both by the half so that you have 4 layers of 6 inch square in front of you with the fold on the rightside.
Mark the pattern as given in the picture below.
The two fabric pieces will look like this, when open.
Keep the fabrics folded and then Sew the dart closed. Do this for both the pieces.
Keep the two pieces rightsides together. Sew along the outer edge (do not sew the side edges closed)
Turn the fabric inside out.
Turn the short edges to the inside twice and sew – leave enough space to insert the elastic through.
Insert elastic through the casing. Use 2 pieces of 8 1/2 inch elastic piece of width 1/4 inch for a woman. For a man or a big faced person you can use 9 1/2 inch piece elastic.
Sew the elastic edges together with hand sewing needle and thread. After sewing adjust this overlapping sewn area to inside the casing so that it is hidden from sight.
Do for both the sides. There it is, your fabric mask with enough coverage.
Make a contoured Mask
To make this mask you need to cut out 4 fabric pieces -2 from the outer fabric and 2 from the lining.
Keep the two outer fabric pieces rightsides together and join them along the curved edge . Do the same for the lining fabric as well.
You get two fabric pieces like this.
Clip the seam allowances at regular intervals along the curved seam so that it turns smoothly. Press the seam as well.
Keep outer mask piece infront of you, rightside up.
Take 4 3/4 inch long elastic pieces – 2 numbers. Keep it along the side edges and stitch in place with hand sewing needle and thread, as in the picture below- ensure that the elastic is not twisting. (You can use ties instead of elastic)
On top of this, keep the lining mask piece, right side down.
Sew all along the outer edges (the elastic pieces are enclosed inside, remember?); leave 2 inch space unstitched, anywhere along the edge. Red line in the picture below is the stitching line.
Bring the right side of the mask out through the unstitched portion.
Top stitch along the outer edge, in the process sewing the unstitched portion closed.
How to make a flat Fabric Mask
For making a flat mask you need to use a fabric with a slight stretch like a knit fabric or a bias cut fabric with stretch and flexibility.
Cut out the fabric pieces – you need the center mask fabric, two strips to bind the sides and then the strap. Cut the long strap from fabric on the bias. Here is a tutorial on making bias strips and also for binding with bias strips.
Use simple back stitches to hand sew if you do not have a sewing machine.
Bind the side edges.
Fold and stitch the short edges of the long bias strip 1/4 inch to the inside.
Now this long strip is used to bind the mask fabric.The strip is to be arranged as in the picture below.
With the long bias strip, start binding the top and bottom edge, with the straps measuring 5 1/2 inches on either side.
Finish stitching the strap on either side.
Join the short edges together at one side – overlap the edges and stitch in place. Isn’t it easy enough ?
If you are a novice at sewing and cannot be bothered about binding and stuff, just add extra allowances at the sides and top and bottom edges as you cut and turn under the edges and stitch. Then use thin elastic as straps on either sides. The steps are as follows.
Cut out 2 fabric pieces and 2 pieces of elastic of width 1/8 inch, length 6 1/4 inch.
Keep one of the fabric pieces right side up in front of you.
Keep the elastic pieces on either sides of the fabric as in the picture below. Baste stitch in place – use a hand sewing needle and thread to stitch it there.
Keep the other piece of fabric, right side down on top of this, as in the picture below. Ensure that the elastic is sandwiched inside, not peeking out.
Now sew the whole thing shut along the edge (with 1/4 inch seam allowance) except for a 2 inch gap. The red line in the picture below is the stitching line. Use hand stitches (stem stitch or back stitch)
Turn the whole thing out through the gap you have left unstitched.
Fold the edges at the unstitched portion to the inside. Top stitch the whole edge, in the process closing the gap shut.
You can use a hand stitch like ladder stitch to sew the hole shut.
Alternatively, you can use your surgical mask as a pattern.
No Sew Mask
If you would rather not sew at all, or you do not have any elastic as strap, here is an easy way to convert a sock into a fast and easy mask. I saw it as a video forward and it is a very clever hack.
Cut out a rectangular piece from your sock – from the leg portion or the feet portion.
Cut up from the folded edges as in the picture below – this cut portion will serve as the facemask straps.
Use as a mask – you can insert another cotton fabric piece or tissue inside the fold of the socks mask to make it foolproof.
Best Fabrics suitable for making masks
You may use 100% cotton fabric (tightly woven with thread count more than 180) Use two or more layers of fabric for more effectiveness. I think a good quality Nylon is a tightly woven fabric that wouldn’t let anything pass through its holes. But there is the problem of breathability. Some say that a combination of cotton and synthetic fabrics in layers helps to keep off the germs.
Here are some pointers on the fabric and other materials for making one.
The number one criterion for choosing the best fabric for making your own masks is that it will filter out small microorganisms both to the outside and to the inside. But compromising breathability is also dangerous as after some time people will have enough of trying to breathe through several layers of unbreathable fabrics and may abandon wearing the mask altogether.
The best bet is to use a tightly woven premium cotton (more than 180 thread count) and that too more than 2 layers. Cotton twill is such a tightly woven soft high quality fabric.
You can use thin 100% cotton layers (cotton jersey) with Microfiber fabric or flannel inside. If you are using a cotton-polyester blend you need at least 3 layers for it to be effective but poly-cotton fabrics are not as breathable as cotton. If you can buy fabric with antimicrobial properties that is best.
This article says that using cotton and silk as layers or cotton and chiffon works better in filtering out droplets.
Some of the N95 masks on the market have upto 6 layers, likewise you can add layers of fabric to your mask to increase its protection.
For the layer that touches your skin, you can choose a fabric with moisture-wicking (take water away) properties like bamboo fabric, silk. Cotton, though it absorbs moisture, can retain moisture and this may cause discomfort but this is relevant only if you already have cold, cough, etc and the mask will get wet. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester have moisture wicking but you may question their breathablity.
Whatever you use, prewash the fabric before making masks.
Decorations on your mask ?
For my husband’s birthday this week I managed to buy a shirt for him secretly, sanitize it, hide it and then when I presented it to him, he tells me “But this is not what I want”. Well, talk about ungrateful. Then he showed me the photograph of a shirt with a matching mask in an online shop. It drew a laugh from me and though it was said as a joke, I understood his viewpoint. We have to wear masks, so might as well wear it with some semblance of style, other than the same old black ones.
What I would do is make it in a neutral colored checkered fabric. Checkered patterns are always classy. Learn the names of different check patterns here.
I am going by the many many checkered shirts he already owns. But it may be too matchy-matchy with similar shirts.
A denim one is always in demand.
You can even use embroidered jeans scraps to make a mask. Or maybe not.
Most kids need to be insisted on wearing masks. Appealing fabric patterns can make masks more enticing to them.
Or You can make it interesting by embroidering funny faces.
I have seen masks with some really weird looks. If you are into bling you can try some simple bead work along the edge as in this post.
And end up with a mask like this.
Do not feel offended if this is not your cup of tea, I mean mask. Live and let other people wear the mask they like.
Filters for the masks
Usually, people who make masks add filter inside the mask through a pocket opening accessible from the inside of the mask. This filter is disposable and is removed before washing. For the inside layer /filter, polypropylene (the kind of material used to make reusable grocery bags), and Nonwoven interfacing are used.
It is an extra protecting layer but the problem is that you may feel constricted inside, some of the filters used. It is not the most comfortable thing to wear for a long time. But if you are going out for a short detour, then by all means wear the mask with a filter in between its layers.
Fastening – Ties / elastic bands.
Sewing elastic ear bands are convenient. But they prove to be a disaster after a few washes. The elastic will stretch out of size soon enough. Or your ears will end up like that of the elf. You can instead use fabric ties, bias tape or twill tape, or even ribbons. If you are using elastic you can buy rope elastic or 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch elastic.
Though homemade masks are not enough as protection for health care workers working in intensive care units and those who are directly in touch with patients, the DIY Fabric Mask has proven itself again and again as a piece of equipment for the common man’s fight against the common enemy (along with all other precautions). The right kind of mask serves a community rather than an individual.
Masks help in one very important way – it makes us touch our nose and mouth less frequently. Actually, touching eyes, nose and mouth with contaminated hands is the most dangerous thing in spreading the germs.
To use the masks properly, wash hands before donning the mask and after removing the mask. Ensure that the mask is covering your nose and mouth effectively. And remove the mask from the behind, to avoid touching nose or mouth.
Wash the fabric masks frequently in the washing machine keeping them inside a laundry bag (to avoid damaging the elastic) or Handwash the fabric masks, with detergent and disinfectant.
If you do not have a sewing machine and can only hand sew here is tutorial to hand sew a mask easily and that too with a small pouch to keep them neat inside a bag.
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