Information about the different models all highlight the importance of covering the nose, mouth and chin, and to make it as tight as possible around the face (while remaining comfortable). Some have a “nose wire” and in this case it is useful to mold the wire around your nose for a better fit to your face. If the mask does not fit well, it will not be helpful.
The model we propose is an adaptation of the essener, a pattern published by the Fire Brigade from Essen, Germany. After the overwhelming response on social media, both from people wanting to make them and organizations in need, Lisa felt the need to create her own pattern that is just as effective but very easy and fast to sew, made for anyone who has basic knowledge of using a sewing machine. You can see the step by step instructions below, or rock out to the video tutorial above. We have preferred this model over others because it uses strings to tie instead of elastics, which means it can adjust to different head sizes and is more durable, as elastic might stretch easily when washed frequently on high temperatures. Also, elastic strings are harder to make at home because of diverse facial measurements and they can hurt your ears if too tight.
Research shows that cotton is a better fabric than others. According to this study about the best materials/fabrics to use, 100% cotton t-shirt material has been tested to be 50% effective in comparison to other materials. Other resources advise to use heavier non stretch fabrics such as denim. At this point, it is also important to consider that we might have to use what is available to us, but cotton is the most appropriate material (whether stretch or not, as denim is also made from cotton), because it also allows us to breathe while wearing the mask. Polyester or other less breathable fabrics will not work as well, due to the moisture produced with breathing.
We are working with recycled materials and a few new fabrics. Regardless of the origins of the fabric, it is VERY IMPORTANT to wash the fabric at 90°C before you start making the masks, after you finish making it, and after each use (more information about using and caring for them here).
If you are recycling fabric (which we encourage!), please ensure it is clean and in good shape. Worn or dirty fabric will not be protective.
You can also boil the mask in a pot with water for 5 minutes or more if you prefer not to run a high temperature cycle on your washing machine for washing just one mask (or just wash with all your bedsheets if you do!). We have not found conclusive studies about the best way to wash them, so please feel free to reach out if you have reliable, science-based resources about this.
We have made a pattern with an opening at the top between the two layers of fabric so one can put a filter between the fabrics.
Several materials can be used as filters, from specific products to homemade options such as paper towels and coffee filters.
- research shows that a DIY filter can be made from two layers of paper towels and one layer of tissue paper – cut them as big as your mask or they will not be as effective (K. Kwon, HK Masks)
If you are sewing masks for other people, wear a mask yourself, but also tell recipients to wash the mask before using.
- 100% cotton
- bedsheets, pillow covers, are great
- test the fabric: put a double layer against your face, breathe into it and see if you can breathe normally – if it is too thick or the weave is too tight and you cannot breathe well, don’t use it
- Thin bendable wire
- test the material by boiling it with fabric and see if it releases rust, if it does, don’t use it
- coated wire works best, gardening wire or copper
- it has to stay in shape when you bend it
- Tshirt for your tie strings
- doesn’t necessarily have to be 100% cotton, can be a blend
- if you don’t have a tshirt you can also make the tie strings out of the same cotton (make sure to sew in the edges so it doesn’t fray)
- Sewing machine, scissors and iron
- be creative and if you don’t have any of these try to improvise, I’ve seen people sew them by hand. If you want to sew by hand use an embroidery backstitch with embroidery thread
- Pre wash 100% cotton fabric at 90ºC
- fabric may shrink or lose some dye, so it’s good to wash first
- also for your safety in working with the material, especially if it’s second hand
1. cut one rectangle 22cm x 40cm (for a small mask)
- cotton rips along the weave, so you can snip on the edge of the fabric and rip the rest
- for different sizes you can adjust the measurements by 3-5cm all around, play around with what fits your face size the best. If you make one that is too small or too big, give it to someone as a gift.
2. set your iron at cotton temperature with steam
- if you don’t have an iron you can press the cotton with your fingers and use pins
- if you don’t have steam, you can use a spray bottle with water to dampen you fabric
** we’ve marked the fabric with the iron before sewing to make it easier, once you’ve made a few or feel comfortable, you can skip this step
3. fold 0.5cm on both 22cm edges and iron
4. fold again by 1cm and iron
5. turn your rectangle 90 degrees to fold your fabric in half so the ironed edges meet, and crease the fold with the iron
6. fold the remaining sides another 1.5cm and iron
7. open your rectangle, leave the 22cm edges folded and sew them
- sew with a zigzag stitch to prevent fabric from fraying
8. sew along the inside where the fold meets the fabric of your 22cm edges to make a tunnel – do it on both sides
9. fold your rectangle where you creased it and fold the sides
10. sew one side along the inside of your 1.5cm fold to make a tunnel
- this is where your tie string will pass through
- make sure to backstitch a few times at the beginning and at the end of your seam for extra strength
11. cut wire at 15cm
- twist the ends of the wire to the inside into a small spiral, so it doesn’t poke you in the face once it is inside the mask
- coated wire works best, if you are not sure if your wire will rust, test it by boiling it in water with some fabric around it.
12. slide the wire inside of your 1cm tunnel
- this will be the top of your mask
- the opening between the two fabrics is a pocket for your filter
13. sew the last 1.5cm side tunnel
14. cut the bottom of a t-shirt to make a 3cm wide strip
- cut off the hem first, we don’t want to use that
- use chalk to measure and mark before you cut to get a straight cut
15. stretch the t-shirt to get a long tie strip
16. thread the string through your 1.5cm tunnel
- use a a safety pin to help you thread your tie string through the tunnel
- secure the safety pin to the end of your string and turn the opening head around so you are sliding it with the other end of the safety pin, this prevents the safety pin from opening inside of your tunnel
17. thread from bottom to the top, then around from top to bottom
You are done! Repeat all the steps and spread the masks around!