How to make face masks

By Percy Mohn

Elm Staff Writer

In the midst of what feels like an apocalypse, the most useful skills that are arising are household skills, such as baking and especially sewing. With the shortage of face masks in the wake of this epidemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending everyone wear masks in public, , having the ability to make your own is indispensable.

It is important to note that homemade masks are not perfect substitutes for surgical or N95 masks. Dr. Jill Seladi-Schulman from Healthline states that while homemade masks can help reduce the chance of spread, “homemade face masks may be half as effective as surgical masks and up to 50 times less effective than N95 respirators” and that “Proper hygiene practices and social distancing are still the best methods of keeping yourself safe.”

If you have any kind of experience with a sewing machine and have the materials on hand, Joann Fabrics is collecting various tutorials made by the sewing community, including links to other sewing websites and PDFs by other individuals. The best tutorials I have found on Joann’s website are by Tina-Elmore Wright and Monica Nauert.

These tutorials have two different styles of masks. Monica Nauert’s pattern is a bit more involved, using elastic, and also requires knowledge of how to make pleats. Nauert says that if elastic does not work, the pattern can be easily adapted to have cloth ties instead. This pattern was posted in 2018 to help with pollen allergies but Nauert has added edits to the bottom of the pattern regarding the use of her pattern during the COVID-19 crisis.

Tina-Elmore Wright’s sewing pattern is not a step-by-step tutorial but a printable pattern in the style of the N95 respirators, which are rounder in shape and offer a bit more coverage. You simply cut out the pattern, line it up on the fold of your fabric, cut out the shape and sew where it tells you. While it lacks the same level of protection that proper N95 respirators offer, it can offer more protection than simply going without a mask.

However, if you are not proficient with a sewing needle, these tutorials may prove to be too difficult to execute. There are some no sew patterns that are great for people without the necessary skill in sewing to make a more complicated mask. These masks offer less protection than the other masks but again, it is better than not having a mask at all.

One method described by Lexie Sachs from Good Housekeeping uses a bandana, a coffee filter, and two hair ties. You simply fold the top and bottom of the bandana toward the center twice after placing the coffee filter in the middle. Fold the sides in and loop the hair ties around each end before tucking one end into the other.

Another method I have seen is cutting off the bottom section of a t-shirt and cutting a smaller square out of it so that you are left with a mask with straps that tie around your head. This is probably the least involved method, but also can lead to greater risk since it cannot provide as tight of a seal.

These homemade masks should only be used in situations where you are required to leave the house, but this does not mean you should be scouring the internet for N95 masks, as hospitals are experiencing a shortage in proper materials. The best practice to avoid catching and spreading the virus is to stay home. So do your part to help flatten the curve and try to remain at home.

Want to know more on how to make your own masks? Here are the sources I used to make my own:

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