A close-fitting moisture-resistant protective washable mask for use in settings when disposable masks have become unavailable. Designed by Drs Mike and Carolyn Bell based on the evidence available and the ideas of those designers and crafters listed on the this page.
DISCLAIMER We offer no assurance that any mask made to these instructions will offer any guarantee of protection against acquiring Covid-19 or any other infection. They are a strategy of last resort. Properly certified equipment should always be used wherever possible. Use at wearer’s own risk. Pandemics make their own rules.
MATERIALS (must be breathable and comfortable, wire must be strong enough to hold its shape well)
Close woven cotton/polycotton for front and back of mask – prewashed so it doesn’t shrink. 4 pieces 6 inches by 8 inches
Non-woven water-resistant liner with small pore size e.g. Weed control fabric or shopping bag. 2 pieces 6 inches by 8 inches.
9 cm length of garden wire for nose fitting with a material shield e.g. plastic ends or foil wrap.
Thread – strong cotton/polycotton
Ties – shoelaces/ribbon – 36 inches per side to give approx. 18 inches per tie.
A sewing machine – set to a small stitch size to make secure seams.
To make your own pattern trace round a DIY store dust protection mask which fits you well then draw a line 3/8 inch outside that and 6/8 inch at the ear flap.
You can also use a pattern in the public domain: this pattern is very similar although the depth in front of the ear is perhaps too long.
Overview: The mask shape is made up from 2 (one piece plus its mirror image) pieces sewn together in a curve to give a 3D blunt beak shape. You need 2 cotton pieces for the outer layer, 2 cotton pieces for the inner and 2 pieces of the non-woven liner. Basically once you have sewn the pieces together to make the beak shapes you sew the top and bottom of the pieces together, fit in the wire when you topstitch the top seam and turn over the side edges to make a channel to thread through the tie.
Cut out your pieces. Place the lining on top of the outer pieces so that it is sewn together with them i.e. outer and liner is treated as one piece in subsequent steps.
Make the outer and inner ‘beaks’. Place right sides of your pieces together and sew the long curve to join the pieces together. The seam allowance is 3/8 inch for outer and 4/8 for the inner layer of the mask (as it sits inside the outer layer it needs to end up slightly smaller than the front). Clip the curves to make them sit well. You now have two beak shaped pieces to join together.
Join the outer and inner layers together at the top. The pieces are joined with right sides together. Start by pegging (or pinning) at the centre seam then work put from there to the edges pegging as you go. Then tack and machine the seam.
Join the bottom of the mask together. Again right sides together, peg the centre seam first, then the rest, then tack and machine.
Turn the resulting ‘tube’ inside out. This is fiddly but persist! Gently push the mask into shape and gently press, especially at the top and bottom seams.
Fit the wire at the centre of the top seam. Slide the encased wire into the centre of the top seam and tack in place to hold it steady.
Top stitch the top seam moving out to accommodate the wire. This strengthens the structure and holds the wire in place.
Top stitch the bottom seam. Your mask is almost made.
Sew ear sides. Press the sides of the mask and double over like a hem to make a channel for the ties to fit into.
Thread through the ties. You may need to use a skewer to help push it through or attach a small safety pin to ribbon and tease that through the channel.
YOUR MASK IS MADE. Put it on. Tie the top tie above your ears, the lower one at the back of your neck. Check for fit. If it fits well you should see the material around your nose and mouth move in and out as you breathe – breathe quickly to see this clearly as in the video. If you don’t see this check that you have adjusted the nose wire well and look for any gapes. If necessary take a tuck in the material where the gape is to close it.
Obviously if you have made the mask for someone else you should wash it in a hot wash cycle and pack it with washed hands into a sealed bag.
1. Some people use elastic round the ears instead of ties but elastic will not survive hot washes.
2. You can add an extra layer with open sides to take a filter insert. I find the filter does not stay well in place though as it tends to sag down with time.
3. If you have strong bias binding you could use that to both edge the seams and as ties. In that case when joining the ‘beaks’ together put wrong side to wrong side, cover the seam edges with the binding, fitting in the wire at this stage. No need to turn inside out. This will make the mask slightly bigger so if using this method you will not need the seam allowance in the pattern.
CONSTRUCTION SEQUENCE FOR MASK WITH BOUND EDGES
This method uses no pinning or tacking in construction to reduce the number of holes in the material. It also avoids having to turn the mask inside out (tricky) which again is potentially damaging to the material.
WATCH THIS SPACE! – the prototype will be modified as new ideas come in.
A good video to watch is SEWING WITH SARAH SEWING THERAPY but note that she incorporates the non-woven layer as a inserted filter. She has just (March 27) updated to a slightly different design.
Another good source with videos is ex-nurse Cindy Raine of The Fabric Patch, Washington, who explains the choice of materials very well. Please note her clear disclaimer at the beginning of her first video.