As efforts continue all over the world to put a limit to the spread of COVID-19, government officials have started noticing a critical shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, namely protective gowns, gloves and face masks. For this reason, more caregivers at health network platforms have started instructing their general audience to learn how to sew a face mask.
If you believe you are about to run out of, or have run out of, manufactured face masks, you can always refer to this post for expert-approved instructions on how to sew face masks. However, before we can move onto the step-by-step process of doing so, we’ll list out whatever supplies you will be needing for the task. Here they are:
What You’ll Need to Sew a Face Mask
- A needle and thread (you may also use a sewing machine if you have one)
- A pair of scissors
- Clips or pins to hold the fabric in place (paper clips and safety pins will also do the job)
- At least a 20 x 20 inch cut-out of 100% cotton fabrics (for example from a flat tea towel)
- 4 strips of cotton fabric cut-outs for your ties, approximately ¾ inches wide and 18 inches long
- 4 clean and flat shoelaces
- 2 flat sewing elastics (¼ inch wide) which are about 7 inches long each
1. Gather Your Materials
While choosing the fabric for your face mask, we would advise you to choose wisely. Once you’ve picked a fabric, go ahead and wash it using the warmest setting of your washing machine and then dry it using high heat.
Ideally, tea towels are a better choice than linens or T-shirts. At least that is what Stanford’s Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab recommends based on the effectiveness of warding off external contaminants in the air around us.
Now, with this fabric all dried up, you should fold it in half and measure it for your cut-out. Next, use your scissor to cut out a rectangle measuring 9.5” x 6.5” to create 2 identical pieces of cloth. This will act as the base of your mask and you can fold and sew each piece of cloth to make a thicker border of your mask.
Next, you will be required to cut 4 strands from the same fabric (or a shoelace) to make your fabric ties or the ties you will use to fasten your mask to your head. These strands should measure 18 inches long and about ¾ inches wide. With that done, you can use the same fold-and-sew sewing pattern to make it more durable and easy to use.
Fold each of these fabrics once (lengthwise) and then tuck any rough edge you can find inside the fold. Next, sew in straight lines along its middle so as to prevent your fabric ties from having any frayed edges.
2. Add the Ties
Now take hold of one of the fabric’s layers and start pinning down the folded ends of fabric ties, facing outside and on all 4 corners. While doing so, make sure that each of the 4 ties points toward the center of the fabric before you can move on.
Some people also choose to use sewing elastic instead of fabric ties, however, you should note that these elastics cannot be bleached. In other words, these ties will make your face mask difficult to clean. In addition to this, any individual who has a latex allergy may be affected by this mask.
However, if you’re going through with sewing elastics, make sure they, too, line up to meet at the center of the fabric, once they have been sewed in.
3. Putting It All Together
Now you will have to take the second layer of the fabric to line up with the first before sewing them together. Make sure that the ‘right’ side of the fabric is facing upright and that you aren’t placing the fabric ties outside the sandwiching layers.
Once the fabric ties are sandwiched between the two cotton layers, you can now pin them down and start stitching them together. Make sure you sew at about ¼ inches above the edges of the mask, and keep removing pins as you sew past them. Now, continue to stitch all the way back to your starting point and try to leave about 1 ½ inches of space after each ‘stab and pull’.
4. Making Staggered Pleats
Now with your mask nearly completed, it is time for you to make those ‘folds’ each face mask seems to come designed with. To do so, turn your face mask so you face where your mouth and nose go, with the fabric ties (or elastics) sticking out – quite like 4 thin legs of a table.
While in this position, try to make staggered horizontal pleats on your mask, as you used to do to make a paper fan in school, or at home. Doing this allows the mask to easily conform to the wearer’s face. After doing this, you can use a couple of pins or clips to secure the pleats in place.
5. Finishing Up
With your pins still holding the pleats in place, stitch around the entire perimeter of the mask as you did in Step 3. Make sure this line of thread is about ¼ inches away from the previous line. Also, be careful while sewing over the pleats in the fabric, because these areas may have gotten a little thick.
With your second round of stitching complete, you can now flip over your handiwork and give yourself a little pat on your back. Not everyone gets it right on their first go.
Our Final Thoughts
Even though you have learned how to sew a face mask at home, you should make sure you keep manufacturing new pairs and not re-using the old ones for more than the advised time period. Also, as per the most recent WHO guidelines, it is advisable to pull the mask away from your face when you need to take it off, instead of pulling it down onto your chin and neck.