make your own: face mask.

March 25, 2020
fabric face mask | reading my tea leaves

a fabric face mask by holler & squall

A blogger offering a make-your-own-face-mask tutorial during a pandemic sounds like some kind of morbid April Fool’s joke. Imagine: One of the wealthiest countries in the world lacks face masks enough for medical professionals and so DIY mavens the country over start sewing their own and delivering them to hospitals in need. But here we are, with a PPE shortage of epic proportions and volunteers sewing masks from home. The reality is so shocking it sounds like a joke made in poor taste.

A homemade fabric face mask isn’t as effective as the medical-grade N95 respirator masks needed to protect folks working on the front-lines of the coronavirus pandemic, but they can serve as a stopgap measure. In some cases, medical staff have been using them as layers to help extend the life of disposable medical-grade masks. In other cases, fabric masks are being used by medical professionals working in less high-risk scenarios to conserve the limited supply of respirator masks for staff working directly with covid-19 patients.

If you’re not a medical professional and you have a personal supply of N95 respirator masks, the consensus is clear that medical-grade masks should be reserved for the medical professionals who need them. You can find a place to donate them here. If you’re able to sew masks yourself, you can join an existing effort to get those masks to folks in need.

fabric face mask pattern | reading my tea leaves

a fabric face mask pattern from STATE

Patterns and places to donate:

+ If you have masks to give or if you’re a medical professional who needs masks yourself, #GetUsPPE is a good place to start. DonatePPE is another site connecting hospitals and healthcare professionals with their local communities.

+ If you have materials to donate, Mask Force is collecting materials and organizing volunteers.

+ Adrienne and the team at STATE have been sewing masks from home and they shared a free mask pattern (bottom image) for anyone else who might be able to join them.

+ Folks at Elizabeth Suzann are also working on making masks remotely. If you can’t sew yourself, you can leave a donation through their site to help cover costs of labor and materials.

+ In New York, my friend Gillette of Holler & Squall has been sewing masks (top image) for the past several days. She’s had luck with two different patterns: a simple rectangular mask with pleats and a slightly more complex fitted face mask that more closely resembles the N95 masks.

+ My friend Alexa Wilding shared news today of a joint effort between NYU and Jane Herships to produce face shields. To date they’ve made 132 shields and NYU has requested 200 more. They’re collecting donations for materials through Venmo, directly to @janeherships.

Other things:

+ National PPE Coalition

+ Masks4Medicine

If you have additional resources or patterns of your own to share in the comments, please do.

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17 Comments

  • Reply elisabeth March 25, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Hey Erin – Elisabeth from Tattly tattoos here – We’ve chatted a few times in the past. I’m now volunteering for http://www.Donateppe.org that matches up donors to specific hospitals in their areas. https://maskforce.org/ is another great resource with a huge facebook group for those interested. Thank you for this awesome post – will definitely share!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 25, 2020 at 3:41 pm

      oh, fantastic. thanks so much, elisabeth!adding these both to the post now!

  • Reply Linda Zimmerman March 25, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    This is the face mask pattern I am using to make masks for the New Reach homeless shelter in New Haven. It’s a great pattern. If you don’t have elastic, ( a bit difficult to get at this point) a bias strip of fabric can be made and sewn onto each corner. The mask will then be tied onto your head in two places to keep it secure.

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  • Reply SEM March 25, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    I found this update helpful too: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/2899622001

  • Reply Elizabeth March 25, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Hi, I’m a little confused about the idea of DIY masks. My understanding was that anything other than the N95 masks would not protect against Covid 19. Has that changed?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 25, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      Addressed this in the post above!

      “A homemade fabric face mask isn’t as effective as the medical-grade N95 respirator masks needed to protect folks working on the front-lines of the coronavirus pandemic, but they can serve as a stopgap measure. In some cases, medical staff have been using them as layers to help extend the life of disposable medical-grade masks. In other cases, fabric masks are being used by medical professionals working in less high-risk scenarios to conserve the limited supply of respirator masks for staff working directly with covid-19 patients.”

      • Reply Elizabeth March 25, 2020 at 5:21 pm

        Thank you! I guess that’s a reminder that when I try to do too many things at once (including reading blog posts) I likely don’t do any of them very well! Off to be more mindful…

  • Reply Kellyn March 25, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Dana at Made Everyday (https://www.madeeveryday.com/) also has a pattern up and some helpful tips like:

    1. Using two different fabrics so it’s easy to remember which side faces out and in
    2. Using t-shirt ‘yarn’ for the straps. Apparently around the ears is pretty uncomfortable when wearing for long stretches, people are having a hard time buy elastic, and the t-shirt ties will hold up better in industrial/high temp wash and drying.
    3. Including a pocket so that a filter can be inserted (I just bought a 20x30x1 (19.7 x 29.7) Filtrete Ultimate Allergen Reduction 1900 Filter by 3M. No one really knows (why???I don’t know. I feel like this should be an easy thing to answer) if this is good or not, but this one filters small particulates and it doesn’t contain fiberglass (do not use a HEPA filter!)
    4. Insert a pipe cleaner at the top in the hem so it can better fit around the nose. I’ve been dismantling my daughter’s jewelry from daycare to do this. I might start using two pieces because one doesn’t seem strong enough.

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  • Reply Melissa Hoffman March 25, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you so much! As a labor and delivery nurse I have been on the hunt for some cloth masks that we can use on a daily basis at the hospital as an added lay of protection for our new babies and moms. I’m hoping we will have some donated soon. I know the shortage is going to greatly affect our hospital. I have a 16 months who was born 2 months premature and I just hope everyday I can remain healthy for him and my patients. Thank you for raising awareness.

  • Reply Zoe March 25, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Erin! Like you, I’m horrified we live in the richest country in the world and somehow can’t get PPE for healthcare workers. I’m an ICU nurse in DC and the PPE rationing is already underway. It’s a fight every time we need to get masks and face shields and this terrifies staff and compromises patient care. Thank you for your post, and for pointing out these can be used by everyday people to free up PPE for those who need it. I don’t even know what to say anymore about both the ongoing pandemic or the ongoing crisis of leadership. Every day it feels like it couldn’t get worse and then it does (though the idea we would sacrifice grandma and grandpa for the stock market feels like it could be the most depraved thing we’ve heard from the other side? But on the other hand it is only Wednesday…)

    As always thank you for your thoughtful words.

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    • Reply Whitney March 26, 2020 at 2:41 pm

      Not to be that person, but we don’t live in the richest country in the world, and not by a long shot. The richest country in the world is Qatar at a per capita GNI $116,799. The United States falls 12th – at $55,351 GNI per capita. Of course, expecting basic things like PPE and basic health care access shouldn’t be something that only the rich ought to be able to rely on.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 26, 2020 at 5:16 pm

        I think that specifics aside, Zoe’s point (and mine) is not at all that only the wealthy should be able to rely on healthcare, but to demonstrate that it wasn’t for a want of money or resources that the United States is so woefully unprepared for this pandemic.

        2
  • Reply despina March 26, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Hi Everyone,
    I have made a couple of DIY masks for friends and family using organic cotton muslin face cloths and medical gauze roll I had lying around in my medicine cabinet. 4 layers, washable and breathable and comfortable enough so as not to fiddle with it too much.
    Post and pic on my linkedin profile
    https://www.linkedin.com/posts/dmoralidou_diymasks-covid19-stayalert-activity-6647539631485181952-5yRK
    Good luck and stay safe

    1
  • Reply Kelsey Ross March 26, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Hi Erin!
    Thank you for sharing this! Our little production house in your hometown of Brooklyn is taking a break from sewing our dresses to make face masks as well! We are so proud! Lauren Gabrielson Design (@laurengabrielson) if any of your readers would like to support!
    Also, we’re making your wine crate drawers today! The kids are EXCITED!

  • Reply Claire March 26, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Thank you, Erin! This article from the NYTimes resonated deeply with me today. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/coronavirus-doctors-hoarding.html

    1
  • Reply Desiree March 30, 2020 at 5:44 am

    Hi Erin, Thank you so, so much for posting this. I’m a longtime reader and fan (love your book!) and I’ve been working with the team at GetUsPPE.org pretty much around the clock for the last ten days. I’ve been speaking to ER and ICU doctors everyday and they are so, so grateful for the support. Even though homemade masks can’t prevent the spread of covid-19 as effectively as N95s, knowing that so many Americans are supporting them means so much when they are on a long shift trying to care for patients without the necessary equipment.
    If anyone has access to a 3D printer or other technology, getusppe.org/maker has designs for face shields and other items that have been vetted by our medical team.
    I’m so behind on following my favourite blogs but I came to your site for a break before diving back into this work and it’s really cheered me up to see this. Please let me know if you’d like any more information on how you and your readers can help.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE March 30, 2020 at 9:27 am

      Thanks so much for your work! Would be very happy to have more information! Feel free to leave a note here or shoot an email: erin@readingmytealeaves.com!

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