How to Sew a Face Mask with Fabric Ties (video)

DIY Face Mask with Ties

I am using high quality 100% cotton for these. There is so many ideas and opinions spinning around about what fabric is best so I encourage you to do some research. Some have recommended bed sheets or mens dress shirts, so there are other options out there if you don’t have this type of fabric.

What can you use for face mask filters?

There have been lots of great ideas like, swiffer cloths, blue shop towels, furnace filters, applying interfacing and HEPA vacuum bags. I have not tested all of these, but the main thing you want to make sure of is that it is still breathable. We want to use safe products that we can breathe through. After all, these are not mean to filter out the virus, they are meant to keep our germs to ourselves and keep us from touching our faces.

Many makers have asked for a pattern to sew homemade surgical masks for hospitals and their communities. The DIY pattern in this post will teach you to make a cloth pleated face mask with elastic ear loops or fabric ties.

The fabric face mask can be made with an interior pocket in which you can insert additional filter material.

If you can’t find or don’t want to use elastic ear loops, there are additional instructions for making and using fabric ties. You can make fabric ties from cotton fabric, t-shirt material, or use ready-made bias binding.

Is there a need for Fabric Face Masks?

Currently, the supply of surgical masks is at a critical all-time low throughout the entire nation.

Orders for the standard disposable masks used in hospitals are back-ordered, and there is a high demand for protective equipment for health care workers.

According to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted.

Due to these concerns, many hospitals across the country have requested homemade surgical masks as an emergency stopgap measure.

An Important Distinction

Homemade face masks are not as effective as the N95 filtration mask recommended by the CDC, and are not a substitute for proper PPE.

Rather, they are meant:

  1. To respond to the hospitals’ requests for emergency backup masks.
  2. To help community members “slow the spread” in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Sources for further reading: Cambridge StudyNatureOcc. Env MedAnnals Occ Hygiene)

Homemade Face Masks are a Last Resort

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has explained that in times of crisis, homemade masks are acceptable as a last resort. On the CDC website, Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks, they explain that while homemade masks are not a substitute for PPE, they can be used in settings where facemasks are not available.

The Best Fabric to Use to Make A Face Mask

Researchers at Cambridge University tested the effectiveness of a wide range of household materials for use in homemade masks. They measured how well the household materials could capture and filter small particles.

Test data shows that the best choices for DIY fabric masks are cotton t-shirts, pillowcases, or other cotton materials. Using a double layer of material for your DIY mask adds a small increase in filtration effectiveness.

Other research has found that most effective masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, and had a thicker and tighter weave.

This pattern has 2 layers of fabric, and an internal pocket in which you can add additional layers of disposable filtration material if desired.

Troubleshooting the Pattern

What if you can’t find elastic?

I’ve heard from many people that are having a hard time finding elastic. If you can’t find elastic to make the ear loops, you can make a mask with fabric ties instead. You can use ready-made 1/4″ twill tapedouble-fold bias tape, or cut long strips of the same tightly woven cotton fabric you are using for the rest of the mask.

To make bias binding fabric ties: Cut 18″ long strips of fabric, 1.75″ wide. Fold the long sides together (lengthwise or hot-dog style) so that they meet in the middle. Then fold the strips in half again (lengthwise) to encase the raw edges. Stitch down the strips along the edge to create the ties.

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