In light of the coronavirus pandemic, face masks are in huge demand right now. Millions of masks are needed, and you can help.
When asked to address a nationwide shortage of face masks on Saturday, the White House wasn’t able to say when more health care workers across the country would be provided with more protective masks.
Designer Christian Siriano of “Project Runway” fame has offered to pitch in by lending his resources to produce masks, and crafters are contributing with helpful tutorials and patterns that are useful for both hospital donations and personal use.
If you’ve got a sewing machine, this is one way you may be able to help out. (And if you can’t sew, we have no-sew mask tutorials, as well.)
First, understand that if you’re not sick, you likely don’t need to wear a mask.
In light of the medical profession’s shortage of face masks, it’s our duty to be responsible with these supplies. The World Health Organization urges that if you’re healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you’re taking care of a person suspected of having COVID-19, or if you’re coughing or sneezing. However Neil Fishman, the chief medical officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times that “for individuals working in certain essential industries, where they still have to go out every day, I think wearing a mask makes sense.”
WHO also reminds us that masks are only effective when they’re used in combination with frequent and proper hand-washing. And if you do wear a mask, you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
Below are tutorials for making masks for personal use (first section) and for hospital donation (second section).
How effective are homemade masks?
The ones you see all over the news are surgical face masks, and what doctors, dentists and nurses typically use while treating patients. They’re loose-fitting and relatively thin, so tiny droplets can still seep in through the parts of the mask, and they aren’t necessarily foolproof.
Then, there are respirators, commonly used by construction workers, but also used by doctors seeing patients who potentially have COVID-19. They’re heavy-duty and are form-fitted to the face. According to the CDC, these masks filter out about 95% of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that DIY masks can be made in times of crisis as a last resort and “should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.”
A study of homemade face masks by SmartAirFilters.com found that cotton T-shirts and cotton pillowcases are the best materials for making DIY face masks, based on their ability to capture particles yet remain breathable, and that they perform comparably to surgical-grade masks.
1. Face Masks For Personal Use
If you want to take the extra precaution of wearing a face mask when you’re not sick, the best thing you can do is make a mask for yourself ― don’t buy one and contribute to the shortage.
We’ve gathered some easy tutorials here for loose masks that protect against respiratory droplets. Keep in mind that the edges of the mask should fit snuggly against the skin. Read through the tutorials and choose one that suits your sewing skills and the materials you have available:
Tutorial From Juliana Sohn:
Pattern From State The Label:
Video From FreeSewing.org:
2. Face Masks For Medical Use
If you’re adept at sewing and want to help your local hospitals, you can make big batches of face masks at home. There are specific requirements you must meet in order for them to be acceptable for medical use, so make sure you follow them. Otherwise, your work may be for naught.
While homemade masks can’t technically be medical grade, the CDC finds well-made masks like the ones below to be useful. It’s always best to reach out to your hospital in advance to see if they’re taking donations ― some locations aren’t even allowing donations of personal protective equipment, and others have detailed specifications for the face masks they can receive. Resources such as Masks For Heroes can keep you informed about how to donate.
The following tutorials are for masks that have recently been accepted by hospitals.
Video From Sew It Online:
Note: As many users have noted in the comments on the video above (click here for the pattern), it’s best not to reverse the mask and wear it inside out, as she suggests.
Tutorial From A Crafty Fox:
Additionally, UnityPoint Health in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has shared this face mask pattern.
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