As the pandemic progresses, the interesting thing is that countries where mask wearing is part of the normalcy of daily life, infection rates have stayed lower. How is that possible? Everyone wears them perfectly? They're not all wearing n95 masks. Maybe there is some benefit to wearing masks?
Then we started hearing that hospitals, clinics and senior/nursing homes needed donations of masks and were taking home made fabric masks. Community groups sprung up, patterns and tutorials became abundant, and suddenly it has become acceptable to wear a mask. Not so much to protect others if you are sick, but to protect yourself.
Just how much protection? It's hard to know precisely. More on that in a bit.
Rob came to me saying he wanted a mask, with a flap of plastic/vinyl/rubber flap hanging over the mask. He found an exercise band and held it over his top lip, hanging down. He looked freaky and creepy. But it got me thinking. I have PUL--polyurethane laminated cotton frequently used in diaper making. Surely it has some barrier protection. What pattern though?
The most common pattern I saw was the rectangle, pleated, with elastic loops for the ears or long ties. Rob said it had to be snug at the nose. I saw some people were using wire or pipe cleaners along the top. What other pattern options were out there?
I came across the "HK Mask". I appreciated the science behind it and it seemed well designed. I got the pattern pieces printed--but I had to ask someone to do it for me and I forgot to mention you have to check the scale instructions. So they printed too small and I had to use experience to upsize it. I had so many mistakes going through the process of making the mask. Everything that I could sew wrong, I pretty much managed to. In the end, it turned out fine. I decided to make a tutorial since the written instructions are pretty bad. They were obviously translated with a translation program instead of a translator who knows sewing lingo. The video helped a lot though. I also adjusted a few things.
Cut out the pattern piece on the solid dark line. Trace it to make the lining piece, but use the dark dashed line where it varies from the outline--across the top flat part and the centre curved seam. Ignore all the other lines.
Make sure your two pieces are reversed when you put it on the fabric. If you're using a single piece that's folded, you're fine.
If you're trying to use up small pieces of scrap, make sure you flip the pattern piece before cutting. And when you find out you've somehow cut two the same, definitely make sure you flipped the piece compared to the first two. I ended up with three pieces the same, the last of this PUL. Don't know if those are even worth keeping.
Second attempt, I was able to fold my fabric to eliminate the error of the first attempt. The lining was going to be the flannel print, the lilac PUL was for inside.
Sew the long, curved edge. With the PUL, use clips, or pin just within the seam allowance. The seam allowance is 1cm and backstitch at each end to secure the threads.
I think trimming the seam will help with the curve
Fold down the top edge, 1cm. This is now the longest straight edge. If it's not straight (like in the first one I made), you've sewed something wrong. Make the "notches"---just mark their location, you don't need to make actual notches. For wire, use something easily bendable and will hold it's shape. My wire is a bit thick and might rust with washing. But it works.
Sew the top edge down, and when you come to the notch marking, pivot and sew to the edge. Sew back to the original stitching and pivot to keep going across the top.
When you get to the second notch marking, lift the foot and slide your wire into the pocket formed by the hem. Push it all the way to where you sewed the first little perpendicular line, pivot and sew the little pocket closed.
Make sure the wire is out of the way before stitching this little pocket closed! Stitch back to the main line of the hem and stitch to the end of the hem.
Take the liner piece and hem the top and bottom edges the same way, but with no wire on the nose bridge.
I used some cotton lycra to make the ear bands and ties ("tapes"). I cut them to the lengths given, and just eyeballed a width.
I laid it out and it worked out perfectly across the width of my 60" fabric. Until I accidentally cut the two ear pieces apart in the wrong spot--I was stretching it and cut too quickly before it relaxed.
Place the ear elastics/bands at the edges, over top of the right side of the outside mask. Position them so they point to the middle seam. Stitch down each side, close to the edge. You might even want to go over the ear straps twice to reinforce.
Lay the two masks right sides together. Cry when you remember that you had intended for the flannel to be the inside mask. Before I started the actual sewing, I thought it might not be pleasant to have the flannel against my mouth. The plastic side of the PUL is the "wrong" side so that the fabric side is against my mouth. I picked out the top hem, sewed the curve centre seam a bit smaller, and started re-sewing the top hem. Only to realize that it was actually the bottom edge!! I was beyond caring. As long as the inner layer mask is slightly smaller, it should be good.
The head "tapes" confused me. I watched the video and it made sense. I didn't take a picture though. I'm wearing an Aircast on my leg/ankle and it sucks going up and down the stairs. Take one tie, lay it inside of the two layers, right up to the edge seam joining the layers. Use a clip or pin to make sure it stays right at the edge. Sew a channel, from top edge to bottom edge (or the other way around), far enough out from the edge so you don't catch the tie in the stitching. You should be able to pull the tie through (but don't pull it all the way out!). Do this for the other edge too.
Lastly, sew a small rectangle in the bottom hem, about 1.5" long, centered on the centre seam. Again, you can see this in the video. My rectangle was really wonky but it's just to attach the two layers together at the bottom. This allows you to place a tissue or paper towel or real filter between the layers without it falling out.
I don't have it properly adjusted here, it's too high on my nose and messing with my glasses. I immediately felt claustrophobic. There's a pretty decent seal--every time I breathed in, it would come right in to my nose. It also got hot very quickly! I think the flannel is too heavy. Most patterns call for one layer flannel and one layer quilter's cotton or two layers quilter's cotton. This is such a happy pattern for spring though. It might be better outside, rather than my warm sunny kitchen. I don't have a lot of PUL left so I will be doing some two layers quilter's cotton. I do have some of the PUL that's not laminated, it's intended to be sewn between layers of other fabric (I wonder if a heat press would be hot enough to laminate it to a fabric). I'm also wondering if just a section of PUL over the nose/mouth area would be cooler but still protective enough.
It's important to know that these masks can not eliminate the risk of getting infected. Neither can a n95 mask if it's not fitted right or you touch it or your eyes with contaminated hands. It's important to remember all the other precautions--wash your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap, disinfect things you touch, keep your distance from others. Be safe, stay home.
For more info on the filter abilities of these masks, read through all the info at the website I linked to with the pattern.
Updates: I took apart that flannel and PUL mask and made a cotton and PUL mask. It still was hot and suffocating. I think Rob's worked better because the PUL in his was a woven and a bit stiffer.
If you cut and sew everything correctly, the lining piece will be slightly smaller. This gives a good snug fit on the cheeks. I have also adjusted the pattern so it's a bit lower on the cheeks, but both pieces are cut the same size.
I"ve been reading about the use of non-woven interfacing as a filter layer. The important thing with a filter is that it fills up the pocket entirely, or else air will chose the easiest route in--around the filter. made one today and used non-woven interfacing sewn to the wrong side of the liner, after hemming it. I cut the interfacing with the lining pattern piece, then cut 1/2" off the top and bottom because I didn't want to hem it. I realized I should lay it on the liner before I fold over the hems and stitch. Then it's just one trip through the machine.
For the strap, I cut a 1" wide strip across the 60" width of a piece of cotton lycra. I sewed it in like the ties above, but the top ends were actually a loop, with the two ends coming out the bottom of the mask. The fit was good. I don't even know if the ear elastics are needed.
Sixty inches gave me plenty of extra length on the ties, the pattern I followed said 50"-60" but of a non-stretch cord. I might drop down to 50" but it's kind of nice to just use up the whole width of the fabric.