For the past two weeks, my time has been occupied with crafting face masks. During the lock-down, we didn’t seem to need them, but now that our province is beginning to open up, more outings require non-surgical face masks. They became top priority when we couldn’t go to our health care appointments or get our hair cut without them.
I did a lot of research and tried various patterns and methods before I settled on a mask design I’m happy with. I thought you might appreciate the distillation of all that effort, so this post is to share my best mask making suggestions.
Face Mask Pattern
I tried the Olson face mask early in my research, and it is the pattern I finally settled on. I especially like the way the filter pocket is constructed. This mask is easy to turn after sewing the lining and face together, and provides the neatest finish of any I tried. I appreciate that the nose grip channel is part of the construction and not a separate piece. The final step of attaching the ear elastics creates a channel that can be made wider or narrower to give a custom fit, which solved one of my biggest worries. As well, the channel can easily be used for ties if the wearer doesn’t have success with elastics.
This printable pattern is a great starting place. https://www.unitypoint.org/filesimages/COVID-19/UnityPointHealth-OlsonMask-Instructions.pdf. A pattern for the same mask in a child’s size to fit a 2-5 year old can be found on this webpage, along with a lot of other helpful information: https://www.sewcanshe.com/blog/simple-step-by-step-tutorial-for-the-olson-mask-pattern
If you want to watch someone construct this mask, Unity Point Hospital’s 18-minute video embedded here is helpful.
Fabric for Face Masks
In the early days of the pandemic, the recommended mask material was woven 100% cotton fabric that you cannot see light through. My first trial mask was made from a high quality cotton sheet, double layered with non-woven iron-on interfacing between the layers. This was definitely overkill. “Can’t breathe!” No one has ever worn it.
Subsequently, I found research that showed cotton knit fabric is also effective as a barrier. There are some issues with making a whole mask out of t-shirt material due to the stretch, but using one layer of woven with one layer of knit solves all the problems and is now my preferred method. As a special treat for Rachel, I lined her mask with silk, also an acceptable fabric but trickier to work with.
I stopped using the non-woven interfacing after the first mask. A mask with a filter pocket can give extra protection in a much better way, in my opinion. You just add a filter if and when you need it.
The information about what to use for filter material continues to evolve, but so far my preference is for coffee filters. Coffee filters are thin, on hand in most households, and have good absorbancy as well as density. Cut a single layer to a size that will cover your mouth and slide it into the filter pocket. Easy.
Mask Nose Grip
A good nose grip is essential, not only for comfort, but to keep glasses from fogging up. At first I was trying to figure out a type of nose grip that could be washed in the mask, but eventually I decided that an easily removable nose grip is a better design.
I tried pipe cleaners, but they are lightweight and feel a little sharp, especially for children. However, if I didn’t have anything else, I would definitely use pipe cleaners bent and twisted to four-ply with the ends tucked in to the centre.
Coffee drinkers could save the bag closures from their vacuum-packed coffee because apparently these are perfect in every way for nose grips.
After a lot of trial and error, I achieved a satisfactory nose grip. This method requires 22 gauge floral wire and electrical tape.
- Cut the wire to 6 inches or a little longer.
- Form small loops at both ends so there are no sharp edges.
- Bend the wire in half and straighten the two sides as much as possible. Try to get the looped ends even.
- Lay the wire on a piece of electrical tape the same length. The wire should take up the centre third of the tape.
- Fold the first long edge to cover the wire and press it firmly in place with your fingers all along the length.
- Fold the second long edge to the first fold and smooth out the grip so it feels flat and secure.
- Trim off any ends or corners of electrical tape if necessary.
The more I researched, the more I found important information I needed to share when I gave folks their masks. To make that easier, I created this card to go into each mask package.
Since our carpets were being cleaned this morning, I had a deadline to clean up my sewing mess. I finished the last requested mask on my list with only ten minutes to spare. Still, what a sense of accomplishment!
If you’re starting on the process of sewing masks, I hope this information will cut down on your research time.
In any case, my friends, stay safe and be in good health!