Hello sewing friends!
Many readers have reached out to me these past few months asking for information about how to sew face masks to protect their families and communities.
Here are answers to as many of your questions as I can answer, with links to free patterns and tutorials and more in-depth information.
PLEASE NOTE: Experts agree that homemade face masks are not as effective as professional grade N95 masks, but we can make a difference by sewing fabric face masks for ourselves and others in order to let the supply of real N95 masks go to nurses and doctors who face exposure to the virus on a regular basis. Homemade fabric face masks can also be worn over N95 face masks so that they may be used for a longer period of time.
What face mask pattern are YOU using?
I have been making most of my face masks using the free Olson Mask Pattern because it was designed by medical professionals and it was the mask design that my local hospital requested. This face mask has a pocket for an optional filter. You can also use different elastic and tie options (see the question about ties below). This face mask design fits me and my family members well. I reduced the pattern to make smaller children’s sizes and those templates are included in the link above.
After making about 50 masks using this pattern, I made a video tutorial showing my speed method which has gotten so much positive feed back – thank you!
What if I want to sew a pleated style face mask?
If you want to make pleated face masks instead of the curved style shown above, I can show you how to do that too. Here’s a a great pleated style face mask tutorial that also has a filter pocket.
How do I make my face mask fit tightly around the nose?
This is so important. After your face mask is sew, you can sew a 1/2’’ – 5/8’’ channel at the top to hold a pipe cleaner or other wire. Here’s how.
Where do I find the optional filters for inside the face masks?
This is the very next question that I was asked after making fabric face masks for family members who work in the medical profession. There are face mask filters sold on Amazon, but the more I looked at them, the more wary I became because they looked very cheap and questionable.
That’s when I started making DIY face mask filters from a HEPA air filter. I did a lot of research before starting this project to ensure that my filters would be safe to use. I put that research in the post but I still cannot make any safety claims or claims regarding the efficacy of these filters against small pathogens.
Please note: taking apart a HEPA filter to get the fabric from it is painstaking work. That’s why I was so happy to find a source for filter fabric (see the next question).
What about face mask material?
After some delay, companies that make face mask fabric have begun to offer them to home sewists. I ordered some from a company called Filti and then made my own written and video face mask fabric review. My review is not meant to be an endorsement, but simply to show you what I received.
I have been using this face mask material to make disposable filters to go inside fabric face masks. While some claim that the fabric is washable, to me it does not seem like it would be very effective at filtering after being washed.
What is the best fabric for sewing face masks?
Great question! Here are my Fabric Recommendations for Sewing Homemade Face Masks.
Do I have to use the same elastic or tie that the pattern suggests?
No. You have lots of choices for making face mask ties. Read about different options for face mask elastic and ties.
How can I wash fabric face masks?
It’s best to put all items that may have become contaminated in a bag (such as a plastic bag or pillowcase) until they can be washed.
I wrote a tutorial for a mesh wash bag that can be tossed right in the washing machine with face masks or other small items inside in order to prevent the ties from getting tangled up. Make sure you wash your hands after handing items that may be contaminated.
How can I help?
If you have time and materials to make a few extra face masks, there are people who need them.
I would suggest reaching out to your local hospital and health department to see where there is the most need in your community.
Beyond that, I made a list of 20+ Hospitals and Medical Providers who have asked for face masks and other PPE. If you know of other facilities that need face masks, feel free to leave a link in the comments to that post.
Now I just want to say Thank You So Much for all your love and support! This is a very difficult time for all of us.
Over the past month I have found myself daily counting my blessings in an effort to fight off doubt, anxiety, and depression. I am lucky to be staying home in a safe environment with enough food to eat and toilet paper for the present time, but I still find it hard to fall asleep at night and I have strange nightmares after I do. Feelings of powerlessness and uselessness are sometimes overwhelming. You would think that an introvert like me would relish these days but instead I pray more and more earnestly for them to be over. So thank you for your kind words of encouragement and support.
I may not answer each email or comment, but each one is a drop in my bucket of hope!
p.s. After you are vaccinated, you can sew a pretty Vaccination Card Holder Wallet to keep your record in.
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂