Sample Home-Sewn Mask in Light of COVID-19

(Obligatory statement: This is not a medical grade mask. It is an attempt at making something that will be useful for a trip to the grocery store. Please continue to hand wash, to social distance, and to stay home as much as possible – that’s how we’re really going to slow this thing!)

So, the first prototypes are based on this pattern, over at If you haven’t seen this site, take some time to look! It’s a bit of a sewers toybox.

This is the post that got Drew and I going, with link to the pattern I used:

Parts of mask cut out, laid out on ironing board.
You can see the cut out pieces for a size M on my cutting board along with an early prototype mask that Drew 3-D printed filter fittings for.

I read a LOT about fabric (see previous post). The first prototypes are made of polypropylene bag fabric (those non-woven reusable bags you can buy at the grocery store). It meant using almost no pins – I didn’t want to pierce the non-woven fabric. Part of the point of using it is that it isn’t full of holes.

I used 3 layers of fabric in these masks, making them following the pattern, then modifying as I went along ( if you decide to make these, follow the directions from the site and modify as you see fit).

The first modifications I made were lengthening my stitch, using elastic rather than ribbon, and clipping the curves at their apex before turning. Also, rather than press the seams open, I nested them by pressing them to either side. I didn’t want the seam to be an air leak right at the front of the mask.

Drew has 3-D printed nose fittings so that, once a mask is fitted, the nose piece won’t change shape. One of the big problems with metal or wire pinch fittings is that they don’t keep their shape and people end up fussing with them (read: touching their faces).

I cut a 7″ X 2.5″ rectangle out of the polypropylene, and pressed a small hem along one long edge, then pressed it in half lengthwise. Once that was done I found the middle of the piece (at about the 3.5″ mark) and cut from the folded (hem) edge to the centre fold as shown at left.

Then I pressed under the edges of the slit to make a triangle with the point at the fold. Using hemming foot, this was topstitched in place.

You can see that the topstitching goes a little past the fold – that’s totally okay. It’s really all about reinforcing that edge and making the little bits ironed under to stay under.

I then took this piece and put it on the mask top edge by finding the centre seam and matching the apex of the triangle to the seam. The back fold is on the inside of the mask (it should slip over much like a book cover on to a book).

The front outside of the mask

Then, using a hemming foot, I edge stitched through ALL the layers on the hemmed edge of the nose piece channel (all layers is: the front of the folded-under flap edge, the 3 layers of mask, and the inside, back side of the flap edge).

Then I edge stitched around the perimeter of the WHOLE mask, making sure that I didn’t catch the elastic ties up anywhere.

Can you see the openings at the triangle on the picture above? That’s were we slipped the little nose piece in.

Drew tried on the mask at this point, and it was a little sloppy at the jaw edge, so I put a dart in it to make it fit better (basically a little pinch, stitched in place). I’m having trouble with formatting, but below you can see him wearing it, and the nose fittings he made.

side of mask showing dart between elastics.
Us, with our matching gray hair.

The only other mod I didn’t include so far was that rather than tie the elastics, we put barrel ends on them so that they can be pinched and slid to adjust how tightly the mask fits.

Whew. Thanks for sticking with me this far!
Please make something. Make many things. Share them with friends and family, and with people out there working who will need protection. It’s not perfect – certainly isn’t medical grade and please don’t pretend it is. It is just one of the best improvisations we can make right now.

I’ll post the other style mask tomorrow or Tuesday, if I get a chance. Back to work tomorrow.
Take care, friends.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jane says:

    Thanks to both of you for all you are doing… in this brave new stretching time of all our capacities!
    This morning I realized that cope and hope rhyme… your support to help others cope is a big factor in giving hope…
    Stay well!

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