DIY face masks, sewing your own face masks
March 20, 2020 10:09 PM   Subscribe

A friend phoned me today all excited that we could DO SOMETHING and start sewing face masks to donate. Apparently this is actually a thing, I was wondering if anyone has information on which materials are best? Cotton, polyester? Is there a preferable style? I've googled, but the internet is just full of unreliable information right now.

Even if the help is very minimal, or they wouldn't be used for long, I think it would really help this friend to feel useful.
posted by Dynex to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Here’s a thing from a local non-profit hospital consortium. You can send them masks and they’ll insert a filter, or you can make a mask for yourself and, if you want to, make a filter out of a vacuum cleaner bag.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:22 PM on March 20, 2020

According to this NY Post article that was published just yesterday, "A vacuum cleaner bag was considered the most formidable household material with a rate of nearly 86 percent protection against the smallest particles tested. Falling behind was a standard dish towel at nearly 73 percent; a cotton-blend T-shirt at 70 percent; and an antimicrobial pillowcase at 68 percent."
posted by mezzanayne at 10:22 PM on March 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Japanese kids often use homemade or cloth masks for mandatory usage on cafeteria/lunch duty at school. Here's one instruction page in Japanese (found by searching "ガーゼマスク作り方"). It's usually a basic thin cotton but folded over into a few layers. I think the design could be improved by adding some sort of aluminum nose bridge shaper like the store-bought ones. Not sure about swapping other/better materials, but could probably swap materials to this basic design.
posted by p3t3 at 12:12 AM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I read a study that tested DIY single layer masks - their conclusion was cotton was best, and a cotton with some stretch ideally because better fit makes a big difference in mask efficiency.

here is the link
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:15 AM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here are some other links I found useful, sorry for the lack of formatting: publication/ 340032925_ Notes_on_facemasks_ for_the_general_publicpdf

I am currently drafting a basic pattern starting point for my Facebook group, let me know if it would be useful.
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:19 AM on March 21, 2020

One complication to be aware of is that the materials that research has shown filter best (vacuum cleaner bags, tea towels) are also the hardest to breathe through. I think most resources I'm seeing are recommending tight-woven or tight-knit cottons, possibly with a pocket for a removable, replaceable filter.

I would start by googling to see if there's any local programs your friend can sew for. The ones I've seen (MA, WA) have had so many volunteers they've shut down to new help, but there may be other ones opening up over the coming days. Some of those programs will give the sewist the correct fabrics and pattern to use so the masks are more useful in a hospital setting.

If there's nothing local to you, I'd prioritize:
-The mask your friend can make. If they're better at tucks than curved seams, make the one with tucks.
-Washable, washable, washable. I'm planning on trying some with a channel for a paper clip to help the mask conform to the nose, but that paperclip needs to be removable to keep it washable.

This is probably the best article I've seen breaking things down on material considerations.

And here's a pattern with a bunch of options (curved seams).
And the Deaconess link above has a version with tucks, which is probably easier to sew.
posted by pie ninja at 4:55 AM on March 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm planning on trying some with a channel for a paper clip to help the mask conform to the nose, but that paperclip needs to be removable to keep it washable.

Brass shim stock won't rust, has some of the antibacterial properties of copper (because it contains copper), and can be conformed with your fingers depending on thickness. You can get it at any auto supply place or even some hobby shops. One small sheet would allow you to cut out dozens of nose clips identical to commercial dust masks that can be left in the mask while washing. Probably more comfortable then a thin wire paperclip to boot. It can be cut with bandage scissors.

Solid 14 or 12 gauge copper wire might also work. If you know someone handy they may have a chunk of loomex building wire that would give three feet of copper wire for each foot of cable.
posted by Mitheral at 8:44 AM on March 21, 2020

Craft Hope is currently doing this as one of their projects, they make handmade things and send them to people who need them. They have some patterns as well as a list of places that have requested these masks on their website.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 10:11 AM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I signed up for this Seattle-area project yesterday. It got a huge response, and apparently a local business stepped up to manufacture masks, so they no longer need volunteers (they did post a tutorial video, which is great). This is probably for the best in terms of efficiency and quality control, but there are a lot of us out here with sewing machines and time on our hands! I expect more projects like this will crop up, if I find them I'll come back here and post them as long as this thread is open.

I'm not going to start sewing masks and sending them unsolicited to hospitals. I don't have the right materials and I figure in a medical setting, an inadequate mask could be more dangerous than no mask. But if your friend knows people who need to be out and about, a homemade mask used well could be better than nothing.
posted by doift at 7:28 PM on March 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

The wire closures from bags of coffee would work, and I have have a zillion of them.

Belgian with 20% lung capacity starts home mask-sewing army
posted by theora55 at 2:52 PM on March 22, 2020

This Seattle-area Facebook group Crafters Against Covid-19 Seattle is coordinating with local medical providers and seems promising.
posted by doift at 3:25 PM on March 23, 2020

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