Please note that DIY face masks are not meant to replace medical grad N-95 masks. Wearing a mask does not mean you will not catch the COVID 19 virus. It can only help reduce your chances of catching COVID 19. Observation of other preventative measures such as hand washing and social distancing are still necessary to reduce your risk. Do not touch your mask when wearing it as it can become contaminated.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself because it is so hard to believe this pandemic environment is our current reality! The city is like a ghost town with no pedestrians wandering around, many of the downtown store fronts are boarded up and sirens are going off every 10 minutes as emergency vehicles rush down Douglas Street. We now have to practice new social norms such as social distancing and no handshakes or hugs. Face masks are becoming the latest fashion accessory.
At the time of this writing, the Canadian government is dissuading the use of face masks because they fear it would give the populace a false sense of security. However, many other countries, particularly in Asia and Europe, encourage the use of face masks and see this as a cohesive community effort to fend off the pandemic. Whatever your stance is on face masks, consider this.
We, as humans, have moisture in our mouths. Whenever we talk, laugh, sneeze or cough, some of that moisture is expelled. It is not always visible droplets that your audience can see and cringe away from. Many times it is just vapour. But apparently this corona virus is carried on the water droplets that the body exhales. Check out the (kinda gross) results from this experiment.
While homemade cotton face masks will not and are not meant to replace the N-95 medical masks, I think they can provide a rudimentary first line of defence barrier between you and others around you. This is, of course, in conjunction with maintaining the 2 meter personal bubble and rigorous hand washing. There are many face mask designs out there so I decided to try some out to see which I liked best.
The most popular designs seem to be the tri-fold style and the respiratory style mask. Both styles have adaptations to include a slot for a filter, but since the filter material was difficult to obtain, this was not a priority for me. Both styles have positive anecdotal reviews from people in the medical profession. But which would work for me?
The tri-fold style (pattern used was the Fabric Mask Sewing Instructions link) seems to be the style that has a one-size-fits-all feature. It is also easy to make (literally 2 rectangles sewn together) so it is good for those who are not experienced sewists. While it doesn’t really conform to the face, it does provide good coverage. This style can be made with ties or elastic.
The respiratory style mask is a stylized face mask. It has a curved front seam to fit over the nose, a shaped top seam to curve under the eyes and a curved bottom seam to cup the jaw (such as the style by Jennifer Maker – see below). It requires a little more advanced sewing skill because of these curves. Since it comes in different sizes, you have to figure out what size fits you. This style can be made with ties or elastic.
With my Asian nose, I have a low bridge which can make fitting glasses a challenge. But with fitting these masks, I had little difficulty. I think for someone with a more prominent nose there could be some gaping which is why adding a metal nose piece might be helpful. One suggestion for the metal used is to cut up the base of a foil baking tray. Cut a strip 1″ x 2.5″. Fold it 3 times so it is approximately 3/8″ x 2.5″. Stitch it into the mask along the top seam. Check out 13.40 of this video.
My personal preference from these 2 styles is the tri-fold mask. Besides being easy to make, it is a one size fits all. I can see why people in the medical profession request this style. It is not the most appealing in looks as it looks like I have a wattle chin but it is the most comfortable being I don’t have to fuss with it.
I liked the fit and look of the respiratory style (Craft Passion and Jennifer Maker) but they are fussier to make. Of these two, I preferred the Craft Passion style but I did make the largest size available. Anyone who needs a larger size will have to remake the pattern.
The Jennifer Maker style has a similar fit and design, however, it curves under the chin. What I found when wearing this style is that the mask kept riding down my face when I was speaking which meant I had to keep touching it to readjust the fit.
I also found I preferred using bias tape as ties. Ribbon was too slippery. The elastic, while easy to put on, ended up hurting my ears when wearing the mask for extended periods of time. Also, I felt there was too much stuff behind my ears what with wearing glasses as well.
Feel free to try out the different styles and see which suits you best. I’m off to mass produce some masks for family members.
Check out this link from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention which gives suggestions on taking care of your homemade mask.
Here are some handy links if you wish to make some masks for you and yours.
Fabric Mask Sewing Instructions (this researched instruction sheet was given to me by a sewing friend of a street nurse who works with the inner city population of Victoria)
I also just found this link for a tri-fold mask with a filter pocket and nose guard addition!