Handmade Face Masks
Do you know how to sew and want to help out the community? 5 days ago the CDC recommended the use of cloth face coverings when in public. Etsy sent out a plea to their online community urging sellers to help keep up with demands by adding handmade face masks to their shops. Here's what you need to know to get started.
Not All Masks are Created Equally
It is important to understand that the effectiveness in protecting you from the virus is unclear in the case of cloth handmade face masks. They may be more effective than nothing, but they are not the same as the N95 respirator masks used in a medical setting. The N95 masks have filters and multiple ways to try and prevent particles from penetrating the mask. Current CDC guidelines are recommending against public use of these masks so that they are reserved for medical professionals during the shortage.
The recommendation for cloth face masks is to help the spread of the virus. If you are carrying covid-19 and are asymptomatic, wearing a face mask helps contain droplets. You may also be less likely to touch a surface then touch your face.
What material should you use and how many layers do you need?
The CDC recommends two cotton layers for handmade masks. A Wake Forest research project tested handmade masks and found these two options to be the most efficient.
- Double cotton layer with thread count of at least 180. (Heavyweight "quilter's cotton" or batiks).
- Double cotton with flannel layer in between.
The results of the study were that the best handmade masks were able to achieve filtration of 79% as compared with N95 masks which achieve 97%. That isn't bad considering surgical masks typically range from 62% - 65%.
The worst performing masks were single layer masks or double layer poor quality lightweight cotton. Some of these masks performed as low as 1% filtration. This is important to consider if you are making masks for yourself or the community. Please consider the quality of your fabric! This also shows the benefit of purchasing a quality handmade mask over just tying a bandanna around your face.
More layers doesn't necessarily mean better! The more layers added, the harder it is to breathe from your nose. If it is too difficult to breathe through your nose, you may end up taking in air from the sides of the mask instead of through the filter. This would actually end up reducing effectiveness.
What are the CDC Guidelines?
Your mask should meet the following CDC guidelines:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of face.
- Secured with ties or ear loops.
- Multiple layers of fabric.
- Allow for breathing without restriction.
- Able to be washed and dried without damage or change to shape.
Use your mask effectively!
Make sure to review the CDC guidelines on proper use to increase the effectiveness.
The mask should cover both NOSE AND MOUTH. I have surprisingly seen many people wearing cloth face coverings without covering their nose! When we breathe, we should be breathing from our nose. By not having your nose covered, you are completely circumventing the filtration of the mask and reducing your chance of protection altogether.
If worn daily, masks should be machine washed with detergent and machine dried. The virus can potentially live on fabric for hours to a day.
When removing the mask, make sure not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Wash your hands for 20 seconds immediately after removing the mask.
Handmade face mask Patterns
Below are links to some popular patterns. Happy sewing and thanks for supporting the community! If I left anything out, please feel free to add in the comments.
- CDC Offers sew and no sew picture tutorials.
- JOANN Fabric offers a PDF or video tutorial.
- Hobby Lobby has a video tutorial.
Donate Handmade Face Masks
Are you able to donate your masks instead of sell them? Here are some ways to donate.