It is recommended that the N95 or surgical masks go to the health professionals where they are needed most and that we wear a mask made with non-medical material. I went on YouTube and they have a variety of free patterns. I started making different styles to see what I liked better and wanted to share with you what I found. The goal is to have the mask secure and fit comfortably on your face.
The first one I made was from 100% quilters cotton and a felt piece in the center as the filter. Quilter's cotton is usually best with a thread count of 180 or more. If you don’t know what it is then you can hold the material up and if you can see light coming through then it is not a tight enough weave. It is recommended that you double the material which will filter out more particles but it could make it harder to breathe. I made one for myself that went over my ears and one for my husband that had adjustable elastic in the back of the head.
The next one I made had 3-4 pleats on both sides. It is the easiest one to make but it is not as airtight. You can add a filter to this but that makes the pleats harder to sew. It is better to insert a slit in the back for the filter and then you can throw it away after each use. After each use, you want to wash the mask in hot water. It could also be made with ties or elastic. I tried making one using hair ties that go over the ears and that one was very comfortable for my face shape. When I used elastic, I preferred to make it adjustable. I also liked the pattern where you can leave each side open and insert the filter there.
The other consideration is the nose. I tried using pipe cleaners, floral wire, and also took off the metal part on those old painter’s masks I had around. The elastic had gone bad so I reused the metal piece for the nose on my masks. All three of these gave shape to the nose to help make it airtight.
I tried one by Dr. Ryan Southworth a board-certified emergency medicine physician who recommends using HEPA vacuum cleaner bags.
The company 3M, which also makes N95 masks, says that these cleaner bags contain glass microfibers that will be harmful to the lungs. I called Hoover Vacuum headquarters to see what they would say. The Customer Service said that they don’t recommend using this product for anything other than what it was intended: A vacuum cleaner bag. There is a company EnviroCare Technologies who said they have vacuum cleaner bags that are not made with fiberglass.
For a filter, you want something dense to keep the microns out. A great option would be a non-woven product like non-fusible interfacing, felt or Pellon. A charcoal re-useable washable filter can be used also.
I asked around to see what other people are doing to help with masks. Fiveloaves twofish said they are making a total of 1,500 masks to donate to the community in Coronado and they are completely by donation. They are 100% designer print cotton and elastic with a pocket for adding a filter.
Fiber Artist Marty Chapman is donating masks to caregivers at East County assisted living facilities. She has asked anyone who wants to donate to send it to the fabulous textile museum, Visions Art Museum in Liberty Station.
Next, I talked with Ashley Neil Tipton who is a season 14 winner of “Project Runway.” She is making 1,000 masks with fabric donated by Judipatuti and using felt for the filter. They are donating 70% of them to hospitals, old age homes, and missions. A group of students from local community colleges and adult education classes is forming a group to sew masks to donate where they are needed. If you are interested in helping, email Yolanda Salcido at [email protected]
If you need to leave the house and you don’t have a mask, then the CDC has simple face-covering directions to make on their website. One mask is made with a piece of cotton fabric or part of a T-shirt and the other is a no-sew method with a bandana. They recommend using a coffee filter for this one. Check it out along with all their other recommendation at CDC.gov.
If you would like to share your favorite mask pattern, email me at [email protected]
Due to the coronavirus, most events have been canceled until further notice.
Diana Cavagnaro is an internationally renowned Couture Milliner based in San Diego. Learn more about our Hat Designer, Teacher & Blogger at DianaCavagnaro.com