DIY

Handmade Masks

So I need to start this post with a heavy disclaimer…. these masks are not for the prevention of COVID-19. They’re more of a last resort. I am horrified by the lack of personal protective equipment for medical professionals. Absolutely horrified. I started to see different cities posting on Facebook and social media for a “call” for handmade masks. I didn’t jump at first for a few reasons: 1) I am just getting back into sewing and didn’t know if I was even capable of it and 2) it didn’t seem like there was a need locally.

Then our town’s Facebook group announced that there was a need and a collection had started. One of my issues with perfectionism is that it leads to paralysis– I’d rather not attempt than attempt and fail. I waited a few days and then just decided to go for it. Of course, I ran into an issue straight away with my sewing machine. It took me a while of going through the manual and Youtube videos to switch it back over from the embroidery set up I had last used… and then the stitches were messed up still. Guys. It triggered a huge breakdown for me. I’m not proud. But then one of my followers of Instagram, literally, walked me through troubleshooting and she got me back up on my feet. I was having an issue with tension and I couldn’t figure it out! I don’t know if she knows how grateful I was but it meant so much to me. (She said I could share her handle– if you’re starting to do this yourself, she can answer any questions you have over DM.)

I took a break to walk the dogs so I could come back to the machine with a clear head and…. VICTORY!

I wanted to share on here the patterns and instructions I used but first a few thoughts:

1. Again these are “last resort” and “better than nothing” masks. A lot of hospitals are running short on supplies so they’re using handmade masks for people less at risk (and saving the real guys for those most at risk) and some are even using the handmade masks to protect the masks they’re having to reuse.

2. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL HOSPITAL (or whatever organization is collecting) FOR REQUIREMENTS. I did a lot of digging around to find patterns and watch instructions online and one thing became very evident: every hospital wants something different. It would be a shame to make your masks only to have them rejected because they’re not what they need/want. Before you begin, do your research.

3. If you can’t sew but have random materials laying around (elastic, fabric, a sewing machine you inherited but have never used) try reaching out to your local Facebook group and see if they can be put to good use.

4. Don’t forget to prewash your fabric.

5. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and instructions. I was really trying to not buy anything new and just work with what I had which required a little bit of creativity to make the patterns work.

The straps! It took me forever to fold, iron, and sew them… but they look so cute!

HERE IS WHAT I DID:

I used the pattern from Lingua Franca (size medium) and watched the video instruction from Sweet Red Poppy for instructions. Because I didn’t have ribbon or elastic, I had to make my own straps using this tutorial, though I made the straps longer. (I had gotten a tip that some people prefer straps or ribbons– the elastic can hurt their ears after an extended period of time– and that they should be long enough to tie a bow.) This was the most time consuming part for me and I know, I know bias tape and a bias tape maker would have been easier but I was really working with what I had. Having ribbon would also make this even easier– the actual pinning and sewing of the masks took me four minutes (I timed it).

I had previously purchased a bunch of cotton fabric for another project that I never got around to, so I diverted the material to this new mission.

This really boosted my confidence (once I got the help for my machine!) and I really got into the process. It felt so good to get lost in a project and to have something super physical to show for it at the end. It wasn’t what I ever envisioned sewing while I learned and practiced, but here we are. I have felt so helpless just sitting at home (even though staying home is doing good!) and I’m happy I was able to help even if it was in a super tiny way.

I even have Meesh making masks down in Florida. They’re a few days behind us in fight and I told her it was only a matter of time before they were asking for masks too. And then, sure enough, 24 hours later her friend who is a nurse, said they were looking for handmade masks.

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19 Comments

April

Just read something you might find helpful regarding the masks. It should be obvious in some manner which side goes against the face so that the wearer will consistently know they are wearing the same side against their face each time. A different fabric, stitch, whatever. Hope this helps and great job!

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Andrea

As someone who struggles with similar issues I have to say—bravo! This is a great time for people to come together to contribute in whatever way they are able! 🙏🏽🙌🏽

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Olivia

These are amazing. Thank you for doing what you can and inspiring others to help too!

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Cynthia

Carly thank you for helping!

This is so embarrassing that we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and are having to resort to fabric masks for our doctors, nurses, and administrators.

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Dana Mannarino

Such a great way to give back! The lack of protection for healthcare workers is DEVASTATING. Two of my best friends are nurses and last week they were asked to go check COVID patients in…without a mask on. How INSANE?!

Dana | The Champagne Edit 

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Joy

Thank you so much for bringing attention to this issue – it’s like we are telling healthcare workers to run into a burning building with no protective equipment, stay there for 12 hours… oh and then when you come out, you might catch everyone you love on fire. If you are willing to make masks, PLEASE make the one devised by the Florida anesthesiologist linked by Annalise above. It has been fit tested and should actually block virus particles. The PDF is free online. Your local hospital should be able to direct you to material. Cloth masks don’t work unfortunately and may actually increase risk of being infected.

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Cynthia

You are right- they are only 44% effective. The actual recommended N95 masks are 97% effective.

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A Girl, A Style

Oh Carly, this is just the most wonderful thing. Thank you so much for sharing. I’d been thinking of getting a sewing machine for a while and now I wish I’d gotten back into it earlier (I’d be very afraid for this to be the first thing I sew in 15 years). But thank you so much for the reminder that we can all be doing little things to help (both now and always).

Briony xx

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Carla Brandt

Do you have a subscription button where I can put my email address to subscribe to your daily/weekly postings?

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Kate

I am coming so late to this post, but I’ve been making masks for a few weeks and am still struggling with the straps. I’m faster at ironing them (though I would kill for some bias tape), but my sewing machine has trouble starting out with the first few stitches on the narrow strap piece. Do you have any tricks for this or is it maybe just my machine? I’m currently starting the stitching in the middle of the strap so it can feed properly, then angling over to do a topstitch near the edge.

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Carly

I’ve made several masks using this pattern and have begun to use nylon hair ties for the ear loops. They are more stretchy and far more comfortable than elastic loops and much less time-consuming than sewing straps! See photos here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B_tZK8HDsx1/

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