How to make a face mask?

Let’s make this clear: masks, no matter how effective, are not guaranteed to protect you from COVID-19.

Tools

  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Clothing iron
  • Sewing or safety pins
  • Permanent marker
  • (Optional) Seam ripper

Stats

Time: 90 minutes if sewn by hand

Estimated materials cost: less than $5

Difficulty: medium

Materials

(Optional) 60 inches of ribbon, between ½ and 1 inch wide

Instructions

You most likely have everything you need to make one of this at home.

  1. Wash the reusable grocery bag.
  • Caution:We specifically recommend a reusable grocery bag made of non-woven polypropylene (NWPP for short), not a disposable plastic one. It may sound obvious, but you’ll need to be able to breathe through the mask. Stay away from insulated bags (these usually have some foil material on the inside) or waterproof bags lined with plastic, too.
  • Note:If you can, choose the bag with the longest handles you can find. This project will be easier if you can use them as straps for the mask. If the handles aren’t long enough, we’ll explain how to make straps out of ribbon.
  1. Cut the sides off the grocery bag so the material lays flat. Don’t cut off the handles.
  2. Cut the material into two sheets.If your bag has a seam at the bottom, cut it like you did the side seams. You’ll get two clean sheets of NWPP, each with its own handle.
  1. Measure and cut one sheet.Using your ruler, measure the edge with the handle to find the center. Mark it with your permanent marker. Using that as a starting point, measure back toward the handles 4 ½ inches and mark again. From each mark, measure down 9 inches and draw parallel vertical cutting lines. Connect the lines at the bottom. You should have a 9-by-9-inch square with a finished (sewn) edge at the top with the handle.
  • Note:If your handle is spaced too widely to fit inside the square you measured, the simplest solution is to skip over Step 8 and use ribbon instead (Step 9).
  1. Repeat Step 4 on the other sheet of material.
  2. Fold over the edge opposite from each handle.Place one sheet with the wrong side (the bag’s former interior) up, and fold half an inch of material in from that edge. Iron the fold on low heat to set it. Then, sew it a quarter inch from the edge. Place the other sheet with the right side (the bag’s former exterior) up, and like the other sheet, fold it in a half-inch, iron it, and sew it a quarter-inch in from the edge.

Pin the fabric sheets together. It’ll make sewing them together that much easier

  • Caution: Polypropylene is a type of plastic. Using a high heat setting will melt it, ruining your project and, most likely, your iron. If there’s no “poly” setting, try the lowest one (usually silk) and increase it slightly if the fold doesn’t set.
  • Set each fold with an iron, but be aware of using it at the right temperature. Alden Wicker
  • Place the sheets together.Your mask will have two layers of fabric. Place one of the sheets on your work surface with the handle facing to the left. Place the other one on top of it with the handle facing to the right. Pin in place.Note:We recommend that the printed side of the sheets face the same direction, so the back of the mask is a different color than the front. Davies says this will help ensure you don’t accidentally put the mask on the wrong way, with the contaminated side against your mouth and nose.
  1. Make the head ties.Fold the handles in half and cut them at the center. Hold the mask centered over your face with the handles coming out of the sides, and make sure the handles are long enough to reach the back of your head with at least 4 inches to spare.
  2. (Optional) Make straps out of ribbon.If the handles of your bag are not long enough to become straps, you’ll need to make your own. Cut the handles off your NWPP sheets or use a seam ripper to take them out. Hold the mask in the center of your face and use your measuring tape to figure out the length of each strap—they should each be long enough to go from the edge of your face to the back of your head and comfortably tie behind it. Cut the ribbons and pin them where the handles used to be. Check the fit by putting your mask on. If the length of the ribbons is right, double your thread and sew the pieces into place on the wrong side of the sheets.
  3. Sew the sheets together.Double your thread and sew around all the edges.
  4. Finish the bottom edge.Like you did in Step 6, make a half-inch fold at the bottom and iron it. Sew it closed a quarter-inch from the edge.
  5. Make the adjustable noseband. Again, fold half an inch of the top edge over and iron it. Twist the pipe cleaners or twist ties together and cut them to the same width as the mask. Fold in their ends to blunt them. Tuck the metal ties inside the fold and pin the fold over them. Then, sew the fold below and on the sides of the ties to hold them in place.

Those twist ties you accumulate every time you buy a loaf of bread can make the perfect noseband

  1. Make three folds to pleat the mask for expansion. Pleats should be approximately 1 ½ inches wide on the outside, a half-inch wide on the inside, and be parallel to the nose band. If it helps, mark lines on your fabric, fold them, and then iron them in place. Stitch these in place by sewing both sides a quarter-inch in from the edge. This time, double back your stitch to make sure the pleat seam is strong.

Make three folds on your mask and set them with an iron. Alden Wicker

  1. Sterilize your mask.Before using it for the first time, submerge your mask in boiling water for 10 minutes. Repeat this step between uses.

It’s important to remember a face mask by itself is not enough. Make sure you also wear glasses or goggles to protect your eyes, and never touch the part that covers your mouth. When you’re done using it, sterilize it, let it dry completely (in the sun if you have access) to stave off any bacteria growth, and then store the mask in a clean, plastic, resealable container.

This DIY mask is not meant to be donated to a hospital, but kept for yourself, your family, and your community. In a time of mask shortages, it’s a “better than nothing” precaution if you need to move through a crowded or public space, or take care of someone who is sick. Please follow instructions from your local authorities and remember that social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly, and staying home are still the best ways to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19.

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