As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout California, many people are wondering how they can protect themselves and the people around them while out in public for essential needs.
Earlier this month, the CDC started recommending that everyone wear fabric face masks, not surgical masks or N-95 masks, while in public to prevent the spread of the disease. But because pre-made masks have been in short supply, many have turned to making their own face coverings.
Here’s how to make your own 2 layer, cotton face mask.
1. Get your materials together.
To make your mask, you’ll need the following materials:
- 2 9.5X6.5 inch rectangles of 100% cotton fabric
- 4 18 x 1.25 inch strips of fabric, or 4 18 inch long strips of bias tape
- All-purpose thread
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine
Before you cut your fabric, iron it if you can. This will make it much easier to cut straight, accurate edges.
TIP: You have a few options with how to secure a mask to your face. Fabric ties are harder to make, but they make a mask a bit customizable to the wearer and may be more comfortable than elastic straps. If you want to use elastic straps, cut a 6 inch piece of elastic and sew it in instead of the fabric ties.
With everyone making masks right now, you might need to look for some substitutions. If you’re struggling to find cotton fabric to make these, many sheets and t-shirts will work for making masks if needed. If you decide you want to use bias tape to make your fabric ties, you can either use single fold bias tape, double fold bias tape cut in half, or regular cotton fabric cut into strips.
If you don’t have an iron, a flat iron for hair will work in a pinch to press your mask to make sewing easier. You can also hand sew these masks, but it would take a long time, so if you have a sewing machine, use it.
2. Sew your fabric ties
Sewing fabric ties is tedious, so get it out of the way early.
First, you’ll need to pin your wide strip of fabric into a tie. You’ll need to have the edges folded into the center so that they won’t fray, like so. Do that all down one side, then start removing the pins, folding in the other edge, and folding it in half. Once this is done, you should have a fabric tie with 4 layers of fabric, one edge with one fold and one edge with two, like so:
3. Pin your fabric ties to your fabric rectangles
Take one of your fabric rectangles, and lay it down in front of you with the pattern side up.Take one of the fabric ties you’ve sewn and place it on top of one of the corners of your fabric with the long end of the tie laying in the middle of the fabric. Leave room between it and the top or bottom edge of the fabric to sew your seam without sewing down your tie.
TIP: Once your fabric ties are pinned down, tie the ends in a slip knot. This will help keep them out of your way.
4. Pin other rectangle
Now, get your other rectangle of fabric, and lay it on top of the first one with their patterned sides facing each other. Your fabric ties should be sandwiched in the middle.
Pin around the edges of the fabric to create a little pouch with the ties inside and the unpatterned side of the fabric on the outside. Once this is sewn, you will be turning it right side out, so mark out a 2.5 inch gap in the top or bottom seam to leave open.
TIP: It will be easier in the long run if you unpin the ties as you go and then repin them in between the two pieces instead of just pinned down to the one. It’s fewer moving parts to deal with in the sewing machine.
5. Sew down edge
Sew around the edge of your fabric, making sure you have both pieces in the seam as well as the end of the fabric ties.
Start your seam on one side of that gap you marked, and sew all the way around the mask to the other side of the gap, leaving it open. To turn corners, sew all the way to the end of the side you’re on, make sure the needle is down in the fabric, lift the presser foot and gentle rotate your fabric 180 degrees before continuing to sew.
TIP: Keep an eye on where the ties are, keeping them out of the top and bottom seams and only secured along the side seams, so that you don’t accidentally sew them down to the mask, making it unusable.
6. Turn right side out
Reach inside the opening you created with that gap in the start and end of your seam. Pull the mask inside out through there. You should now have nice seams around all 4 edges, with a fabric tie extending out of each corner.
7. Iron in & pin pleats
It’s time to get your iron out. First, run the iron over the unpleated mask to get it flattened. Then, you’re going to fold down and press 3 pleats with the iron about every inch or so. Ironing the pleats will make your life a lot easier when you try to sew them. These will help your mask snugly contour to the wearer’s face. Once they’re ironed in, pin them down and take it back to your sewing machine.
Iron down each pleat individually, like shown here, then run your ironed over the completed, pleated mask to set them.
8. Sew down pleats, creating stabilizing seam around outside
Now, go back to your sewing machine and sew all around the perimeter of your mask, sewing down the pleats and stabilizing the rest of your stitch. By sewing all around a second time, there will be less pulling on your seams with regular wear and tear.
TIP: At this step, you can either sew over your gap with the edges of the fabric tucked in, closing it, or you can leave it open to create a filter pocket to put some kind of extra material in there to filter the air. More information on what you can use for filters here.
9. It’s ready to wear!
And your mask is now ready to wear! To wear it, tie the top tie around your head toward the crown of your head and the bottom around the spot where your head meets your neck and then stretch the pleats over your nose. You can find instructions on cleaning your mask here.
If you have any questions or confusion as you make your masks, feel free to email Emily Zentner at email@example.com with them.
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