Help me make LOOSE masks for medically vulnerable people to wear
April 1, 2020 11:44 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to balance protection and comfort and ease of wearing. The PPE that I have made at home, from fabric, has been on the tight side aka I would wear it in an infectious area but wouldn't wear it through the day.

What would you make for people who will be infectious areas throughout the day. This is a version of how to make a mask for, just regular people to wear every time they go out. The CDC I hear is now toying with officially recommending this, Fauci is recommending it.

Let's say that this mask had to be made for medically vulnerable people, who are in pubic a lot, i.e. immunocompromised people who live in shelters. What would be a good way to cut it. Wonderfully, a local org will accept any donations that I make.

Would a face shield that hangs straight down be a good idea. (Better than one that hugs the face tightly). Fabric was my first thought but am also considering something less durable, but easier to make.

I guess this is a question for all of us, right - how to make the masks as comfortable as possible for a NON-medical setting, aka where comfort can be considered a little more than strict safety?

Tips from anyone appreciated. PM me if you want?
posted by societypages to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You can make masks with cloth ties instead iof elastic so the user can adjust them to their preference.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:07 AM on April 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

These are the two I'm making for people when they go out...

Fitted Mask
Surgical Style Mask

I make both with fabric ties (no elastic), so the fit can be adjusted somewhat. You can also omit the wire around the nose if you're looking for a looser fit.
posted by pdxhiker at 1:31 AM on April 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

whatever design you settle on, try to make it so that it can be fastened tight enough so that people are not constantly reaching for the mask to adjust it. That is per definition touching your face and your target group would seem to be out and about ie not have washed their hands extensively before every adjustment.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:28 AM on April 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

Here is a cool thing I saw on facebook but just found a proper link: a way to stop face masks from hurting people's ears.
posted by greenish at 3:40 AM on April 2, 2020

Insofar as masks work, they work by sitting snug against the face and limiting direct, unfiltered air flow. I don't think making a loose mask is a good idea -- a loose mask by definition will allow lots of slop where air can get around. It also may lead to more adjustments by the user, causing them to touch the mask more.

But there are ways to make close-fitting masks more comfortable. It may be worth looking for more fitted designs, adding a nose wire, changing to cloth ties, etc. All of those things allow the user to customize a bit, and keep the mask tight-fitting, but in a way that is more comfortable to them personally.

Here's a pattern I have had good luck with personally for a fitted mask with a number of options, including options for removable filter pocket, nose wire, etc.

Or if the curved seams on that one are too complicated, Angela Clayton has a tutorial for a tucked, tied face mask that adds darts to improve the fit over the chin and nose. This one doesn't allow for the filter pocket/nose wire, but the darts do appear to help with fit a great deal.

The other alternative would be to go with something like a clear plastic face shield -- but if you have the materials and equipment to make those, it may be better to donate to hospitals, as they are desperately short on them.
posted by pie ninja at 4:32 AM on April 2, 2020 [18 favorites]

Cloth ties will help with fit, but honestly, if a mask is loose enough to be comfortable, you might as well wrap a bandanna around your face like the CDC originally recommended and call it a day. These viral particles are really tiny, especially if airborne transmission is true (as opposed to relatively chonky droplet transmission) -- there's a reason the tightly fitted N95 masks are better than the loose earloop surgical kind.

A loose/comfortable mask, which might be just fine for a young immuno-competent person driving to the grocery store and able to wash their hands before and after, is not going to help an older, medically vulnerable person living in uncertain housing, for whom even a small viral inoculum might be fatal.
posted by basalganglia at 4:33 AM on April 2, 2020 [9 favorites]

Still looking for the link, but I saw a pattern with adjustable ribbon/flat cloth tie--it's a 4' length that passes through the hemmed ear ends of the mask in an upside-down U. Pulling the ribbon ends tight lets the loop end cinch high up on the head; the loose ends get pulled back and tied lower behind the head.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:04 AM on April 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here is an officially approved mask pattern and instructions. I would stick to something like this as it has been reviewed carefully for use in a hospital setting. With strings, it is adjustable for each person and probably more comfortable. Part of the fear of people using masks would be that they would be less cautious and if they do that, you do not want a mask that may be ill-fitting/too loose.
posted by maxg94 at 6:25 AM on April 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

I came across this pattern for a duck bill-style mask the other day. The designer is a physician who the regular-style masks don't fit well. It's designed for a filter and metal nosepiece for medical use, but the basic shape should work without those - I'm not sewing right now and haven't had a chance to try it out.
posted by camyram at 6:44 AM on April 2, 2020

pie ninja and basalganglia have got it: if it's loose, it's not working. It may be psychologically helpful, but the only way these handmade masks "work" is as a physical barrier, so if they are not physically closing off access to nose and mouth, they aren't working. The last people who need that are those who are medically vulnerable. Focus on fitting, not on looseness.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:55 AM on April 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

There is a neat idea here . It looks to me like it can be arranged to have two layers of cloth in the desired places.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:14 AM on April 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

More information and design ideas are included in this FPP: Ask for Masks, and these previous AskMes: So - tell me about wearing masks and So now they say we should wear masks..
posted by katra at 12:06 PM on April 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you. Argh, I wish you could get two questions a week, but can anyone point me to PPE drives in NYC? Who is organizing the efforts to get these to hospitals? And I guess, -- for all the other types of masks that aren't made to exact hospital specifications -- to the homeless services?

Does it make the most sense to mail this stuff directly to the places or are there starting to be organizers for this effort in NYC?
posted by societypages at 10:59 PM on April 4, 2020

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