You would think that at a time of a raging pandemic we wouldn’t have debates about whether face masks can offer protection or not. You would also think that the country would have a stockpile of essential respiratory devices and protective gear prepared since we knew of the imminent coronavirus threat for years but we don’t.
The good news is that even if neither we nor the country were properly prepared for this crisis, we aren’t helpless. With even the CDC and WHO telling the public that even simple cloth masks help protect against Covid-19, we’ll teach you how to make your own face mask at home.
Here’s what you’re going to need:
- A 20” by 20” piece of 100% cotton fabric. You can take that from a flat tea towel or a piece of clothing you’re not going to use anymore. Tea towels work best, according to the Stanford Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab.
- 4 cotton strips for the mask’s ties. These should be ~18 inches long and between half an inch and an inch wide so that they’re sturdy enough. You can also use sewing elastics or shoelaces. Keep in mind that elastic can’t be bleached so it will be harder to clean your mask. Also, elastic is in short supply so shoelaces are probably the easiest solution here.
- Needles and thread (a sawing machine would help but isn’t necessary).
- Safety pins or paper clips to hold the fabric in place while you work.
All those materials should be easily accessible to most people at home without even the need to go shopping. Still, they are also available in most stores so you can just get them on your next run for groceries.
Here’s the step-by-step guide for how to make your own Covid-19 face mask:
- Wash and dry the big cotton piece at high heat.
- Fold the piece in half and cut out a 9.5” by 6.5” two-layer rectangle. This will be the “body” of your mask.
- If you’re using flat cotton strips for the mask’s ties you might want to fold their lengthwise edges inward a couple of times and saw them across the length of the ties to make sure there aren’t any frayed edges. If you’re using sewing elastics or shoelaces this probably won’t be necessary.
- Take one of the two 9.5×6.5-inch pieces and pin the ends of the 4 ties to its corners. Make sure to pin them to the side that you want to be the “front” of the mask and NOT to the opposite side. Make sure that the free ends of the 4 ties are gathered in the center of the fabric piece.
- Place the second 9.5.x6.5-inch piece and place it over the other, covering the 4 ties in the process.
- Pinpoint the middle of one of the 9.5 sides and start sewing around the perimeter of the mask. Keep a distance of ~1/4-inch from the edges of the fabric at all times. As you reach the corners where the ties and the pins are, carefully remove the pins and sew the ties securely between the two pieces of fabric. Then, make a 90-degrees turn and continue going by the next side toward the next corner.
- As you get close to the starting sewing point, stop at about an inch and a half before connecting with it.
- Reach into the inch-and-a-half opening and turn the mask inside out. The 4 fabric or elastic ties should now be sticking out like limbs.
- Fold the mask sideways into three staggered pleats as if you’re folding a paper fan. This will help the mask conform to the face of whoever wears it. Pin the pleats in place so that they don’t unsettle.
- Stich around the perimeter of the mask again, another quarter of an inch away from the first seam. Make sure you stitch over the 3 folds carefully and securely.
And that’s pretty much it. It may seem like a lot of work if you’ve never sewed before and it might take you a while if that’s the case, but it’s perfectly easy once you get the hang of it. With this easy method, you can make perfectly viable face masks for you and your family.
If you’re feeling generous, you can also help sew masks for your nearby health care facilities and medical professionals who desperately need protection in these trying times. You can check a list of healthcare facilities that need face masks donations here.