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How to Make a Face Mask

 
Anne Miller
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I have heard that medical workers and medical facilities are running out of face masks.  I have decided that now is a good time to make some and thought that I would share what information that I have found.

How to make a face mask articles:

https://nypost.com/2020/03/20/doctors-are-now-running-out-of-face-masks-heres-how-to-make-your-own/

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/19/opinion/guidance-against-wearing-masks-coronavirus-is-wrong-you-should-cover-your-face/



I like the red one in the picture though I am looking for the protection that layers might offer.  Here are some templets that I found:







This information is from the first article that I posted:

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.

They also tested how doubling up on the material could help. In the case of dish towels, two layers showed a notable increase in filtration rate — a 14 percent jump for particles of 1 micron in size — although the same level of increased benefits could not be said for cotton shirts or pillowcases.



Now to get started!  Any suggestions?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Wonder what the micron blockage for multiple layers of silk is? I know when I'm doing dye work, I filter out tiny blotches with silk, not cotton.
 
Judith Browning
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Has anyone tried to breath through two layers of tightly woven cloth?   I tried just breathing through two layers of cotton pillow case and then two layers of a lighter weight muslin...it's not so easy.

I am somewhat claustrophobic and just the thought of cloth over my nose leaves me breathless


I do love the idea of helping out and would definitely make some if I thought they were being used?
 
John F Dean
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It is not easy to breath through a properly fitted N95. You need to consider why you need the mask and what the mask needs to accomplish. In most home situations only an I'll person who is coughing needs the mask and that is to stop the spread of water droplets. That of course brings up the challenge of getting a sick child to wear one.  That leads to the secondary advantage of the caregiver wearing one, but the returns are less.  Yes having your mouth and nose covered will help to protect from droplets to an extent. Now what about protecting your eyes?

Something is better than nothing. But there are always trade offs.
 
Judith Browning
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I wonder about using some of the non woven things used in clothing construction like pelon or some other interfacing fabric sold by the yard (or something similar to the vacuum cleaner bags mentioned in Anne's quote above) that might filter but not make such a humidity pocket behind the mask like a cotton fabric does?

 
Pearl Sutton
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I am thinking make the layer closet to face out of something like one of the old lightweight quilted bedspreads, lots of air spaces and polyester to keep it from sticking to the face tightly, except on the edges. Think the bedspreads from the 70's...

So my plan here is that type of under layer, multiple layers of silk on it. Me and mom are both claustrophobic, and masks are always iffy at best, that's the most effective thing I can come up with that we could stand. Gives you the feeling of airspace inside the mask.

I have seen variants running around with charcoal in them as a filter medium, and the old plague masks had medicinal herbs in a deep filter system.

And, if you have them around or can get them, coffee filters are pretty tight weave. Might be worth working with them.

I have some dust masks, they showed up by the pallet full to the local ReStore last year, I bought several boxes for house construction. I'll work them into something better. One of those things in hindsight I wish I had bought more now. I thought of how many of them I would actually use. Storage is an issue here. Wish I had bought a LOT more than the 3 or 4 boxes I did.
 
r ranson
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I'm hearing from several friends who are, or have family who are, first responders and hospital staff in the USA (including some permies members).  They say at this time, the hospitals in the USA don't have enough protective equipment they are being told to reuse paper masks or use a bandana for treating people with (I hope I get this word right) non-aerosol based illnesses like COVID (they are rationing the super-duper masks for those highly infectious airborne illnesses).  So the goal to home-sew a mask is to make it better than those options.  

Since the primary transmission is droplets, we need something that will keep out droplets.  So I'm looking at allergy maks and what they used during WWI to deal with mustard gas attacks with the assumption that human droplets are mostly smaller than those particles.  Damp wool felt, soaked in vinegar or urine was successful in keeping out mustard gas, but I think those particles are smaller than cough droplets.  For grass and tree allergy, a single layer of quilting cotton does the trick, so I suspect a double layer would be better for cough droplets as they provide a slight air buffer between the layers to prevent the droplets wicking inside the mask quickly.  But to be effective, I think one would want to change the mask frequently, after each patient if possible, so one on the front line would need a dozen or two cloth masks per shift.  

That's a lot of masks.  So being simple enough to sew many masks, quickly is a bonus.

It also has to be comfortable enough for the health care professional to wear!  

And last, of all, it has to be washable at crazy-high temperatures.  Many, many, many times.  So cotton is sounding like our best friend at this time.

I'm looking at these two patterns (which are pretty much the same thing but one is a video and one is with words and pictures) as a possible thing to make.  Maybe out of flannel (I read in old WWI and WWII books that this was a popular choice for home-sewn masks) or quilting cotton which has a fairly fine weave and nice pattern.



facemask tutorial


I especially like this pattern as it can easily be worn over the paper masks for an added layer of protection and fun.  There have been some nasty incidents in Canada of people wearing paper masks in public and being mistaken as hoarders or breaking quarantine - when they were actually pregnant or immune compromised who are trying to stay safe.  But a colourful cloth mask over the top of a paper one isn't so threatening.  


As for a filter material between the layers - I don't know how much use it would be for droplet spread illness.  If one could get the paper they use in masks, then I would use this - but I wouldn't' want to take that supply away from the people who make proper masks and I don't think it's washable.  Charcoal is good at capturing odours, but I don't think it does much for droplet spread.  On the whole, I would be worried about the filter material increasing condensation inside the mask (giving the virus a place to grow), decreasing comfort (the person would be less inclined to wear the mask) and if synthetic, breaking down into plastic particles with the frequent high-temperature washing which could break loose and get in the lungs.  

I'll see if I can scrape together some time to make a few.  I would love a couple for myself as allergy season is just starting, as well as some for my friends in the US health care system.  But I don't have much 1/4" elastic and don't want to go to the store if I can help it.

 
Pearl Sutton
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Judith Browning wrote:I wonder about using some of the non woven things used in clothing construction like pelon or some other interfacing fabric sold by the yard (or something similar to the vacuum cleaner bags mentioned in Anne's quote above) that might filter but not make such a humidity pocket behind the mask like a cotton fabric does?



If you make it so it doesn't sit right on the face it would help. Ever worn a proper gas mask with filters? The face part is a rubber thing that makes an airspace above the nose and mouth, the filters come in off the side. Some of them have a one way valve exhale ports. That might all be ideas to look at. I'm a recycle type, I'd probably use something like a margarine tub out of the trash that I heat shape, then add filters to the sides, and output with one way flaps and separate filters. hmm. Now you have me thinking...

Thinking on it more, if the input and output filters are separate items, you can change/wash/throw away only the ones you need to. If the mask is on a person with CV, change the output filter more, their inputs will last longer. The caregiver though would change their inputs more, their output will last longer.

This is a paint spray mask, visual of what I'm thinking of... Only homemade, and with the output filtered too...
 
S. Bard
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In Belgium they have asked people to sew masks to help the supply for the hospitals. They released an Instruction PDF on how to make it.
They suggest a double layered cotton design, where you can insert whatever removable filter you have at home (cut up vacuum filter for example). The design is approved by the federal health office. They say this design isn’t medical grade, but given the shortage it is the next best thing. Once you remove the filter, the mask can be sterilised by boiling to be re-used.
The pdf plus printable pattern is unfortunately written in Dutch, but there are lots of pictures, so I’m sure sewing-savvy people will have enough info with this.
If people are interested, I can look into helping with the translation.

 
Pearl Sutton
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Something else that would hold it off the face is that plastic grid stuff that people weave yarn into to make little houses etc. Looks like it's called plastic canvas mesh?


Or wire to make a frame, anything that keeps it off the face... Might make these things a LOT more wearable. If you are sewing the masks anyway, sew covers big enough to cover your frame. Make the frame fit well, and put something on the edges where it contacts that makes it comfortable and seal well. Layers of duct tape or hot glue come to mind for me. or wrap it in yarn, then put wax on the yarn.
Especially with kids or claustrophobes, if the mask isn't comfortable, it will not get worn effectively.
 
r ranson
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Whatever you use, make sure it can easily withstand high temperatures.  I understand 90C or 200F is not uncommon.

 
r ranson
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To summarize my big post earlier, the masks need to be:

  • simple enough to sew many masks, quickly.
  • comfortable enough for the health care professional to wear!  
  • washable at crazy-high temperatures.


  •  
    Beth Wilder
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    Judith Browning wrote:I wonder about using some of the non woven things used in clothing construction like pelon or some other interfacing fabric sold by the yard (or something similar to the vacuum cleaner bags mentioned in Anne's quote above) that might filter but not make such a humidity pocket behind the mask like a cotton fabric does?


    Someone in my local fiber arts guild said, "I've just learned that the filtration membrane in a surgical mask is meltblown polypropylene. Better known to BFAGsters as nonwoven fabric interfacing! A layer of this in your diy surgical masks might be a good idea!" What do you-all think? That in between a couple layers of cotton? It should help hold the mask's shape away from the face, too. This Instructable is the pattern folks around here have started to use, I believe.
     
    Judith Browning
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    Beth Wilder wrote:

    Judith Browning wrote:I wonder about using some of the non woven things used in clothing construction like pelon or some other interfacing fabric sold by the yard (or something similar to the vacuum cleaner bags mentioned in Anne's quote above) that might filter but not make such a humidity pocket behind the mask like a cotton fabric does?


    Someone in my local fiber arts guild said, "I've just learned that the filtration membrane in a surgical mask is meltblown polypropylene. Better known to BFAGsters as nonwoven fabric interfacing! A layer of this in your diy surgical masks might be a good idea!" What do you-all think? That in between a couple layers of cotton? It should help hold the mask's shape away from the face, too. This Instructable is the pattern folks around here have started to use, I believe.



    That is great to know!
    Now need to see if they still make the stuff that is not 'iron on' or fusible as that has some sort of adhesive on one surface?

    I have not used any in many years but I remember it was sold by the yard and in different weights and should be washable.
     
    r ranson
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    Beth Wilder wrote:
    Someone in my local fiber arts guild said, "I've just learned that the filtration membrane in a surgical mask is meltblown polypropylene. Better known to BFAGsters as nonwoven fabric interfacing! A layer of this in your diy surgical masks might be a good idea!" What do you-all think? That in between a couple layers of cotton? It should help hold the mask's shape away from the face, too. This Instructable is the pattern folks around here have started to use, I believe.



    Sounds neat?  Can it be washed at hot temperatures?  Or would it be single-use like a regular mask?
     
    Carla Burke
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    I posted this somewhere, a few days ago, now I can't find it, so here it is, again - for a few more mask options:

    https://so-sew-easy.com/face-mask-sewing-patterns/?utm_source=So+Sew+Easy+Newsletter&utm_campaign=0797d1bc05-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_181615727c-0797d1bc05-118742017
     
     
    Flora Eerschay
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    I sometimes use a bandana when I'm not planning to be close to people, but I still want to stop the cold air, or smog, and not to accumulate any bacteria or viruses on the surface of it, I spread a drop of essential oil on the inside layer. Tea tree and eucalyptus are believed to have some antiviral properties.
     
    Michael Cox
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    The most valuable use for these is likely to be in the home - someone infected wears it to catch droplets when coughing. Trouble is it needs to be swapped out really frequently to remain effective. Like at least once per hour.  So you a household probably needs 20+ of these to be washed on rotation.

    They are definitely better than nothing, so better get sewing!
     
    r ranson
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    If we make some extra, is there any specific place to send them?  

    I know a few front line workers that need them, but I understand some US hospitals are putting the call out for people to make cotton masks to help protect the people who help us.
     
    Carla Burke
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    A little hope, (an exerpt from my email,  this morning)on the horizon:
    20200323_104826.jpg
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    gift
     
    6 Ways To Keep Chickens - pdf download
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