This story has been updated. It was first published on June 10, 2020.
As vaccines continue to roll out, the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread across the country. COVID-19-related hospitalizations have doubled in the past two weeks in the United States alone, and some states have reinstated the requirement for masks for all indoor activities, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. This is in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines which recommend that everyone wear face coverings anywhere social distancing is not possible, even outdoors.
We still have a long way to go to overcome this pandemic, especially when not everyone has access to the vaccine. Children now represent 19% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a vaccine for children under 12. This makes them particularly vulnerable and dependent on other prevention methods such as mask wearing and social distancing, especially as schools begin to reopen in September.
Masks are still an integral part of our lives and are a great way to protect yourself and everyone in your community from COVID-19. Whether it’s for yourself or the little ones in your house, you can easily make your own face masks – no sewing machine is needed.
How to make a mask for children and adults
Recent studies have been able to confirm that fabric masks can reduce the number of droplets that diffuse in the air and that can carry the coronavirus. This is why it is better to wear a cloth mask than not to wear a mask at all.
The CDC recommends these face covers as long as they fit properly, consist of two or more layers of fabric, and do not have valves. But let’s be clear: Masks, no matter how effective, aren’t guaranteed to protect you from COVID-19 if you don’t supplement them with social distancing and good hand hygiene.
[Related: How to wear a face mask for maximum protection]
And good hygiene also extends to sheet masks. Everyone, especially those caring for a sick loved one, should have at least two face covers so they can sterilize one while wearing the other.
Our tutorial is a simple project for people who don’t have a sewing machine, adapted from MakerMask by Helpful Engineering, a global open source COVID-19 project.
- Time: 90 minutes if sewn by hand
- Material cost: less than $ 5
- Difficulty: way
- Needle and thread
- Sewing or safety pins
- Permanent marker
- (Optional) Seam ripper
(Optional) 60 inches of tape, between ½ to 1 inch wide
1. Wash the reusable grocery bag.
- Warning: We specifically recommend a reusable, non-woven polypropylene (NWPP for short) grocery bag, not a disposable plastic bag. It may seem obvious, but you will need to be able to breathe through the mask. Stay away from cooler bags (these usually have foil inside) and waterproof bags lined with plastic.
- To note: If you can, choose the bag with the longest handles you can find. This project will be easier if you can use them as straps for the mask. If the handles are not long enough, we will show you how to make tape straps.
2. Cut the sides of the grocery bag so that the material is flat. Do not cut the handles.
3. Cut the material into two sheets. If your bag has a seam at the bottom, cut it like you did for the side seams. You will end up with two clean sheets of NWPP, each with its own handle.
4. Measure and cut a sheet. Using your ruler, measure the top edge of the bag to find the center. Mark it with your permanent marker. Using this as a starting point, measure back towards each handle 4½ inches and mark again. From each mark measure 9 inches and draw parallel vertical cut lines. Connect the lines at the bottom. You should have a 9 x 9 inch square with a finished (stitched) edge at the top with the handle.
- For child size masks (5 to 12 years old): Using the exact middle of the top edge of your bag as a starting point, measure back to each handle 3½ inches and mark the fabric. From each mark measure 7 inches and draw parallel vertical cut lines. Connect the lines at the bottom. You should have a 7 x 7 inch square with a finished (stitched) edge at the top with the handle.
- To note: If your handle is too far apart to fit inside the square you measured, the easiest solution is to use tape (Step 9).
5. Repeat step 4 on the other sheet of material.
6. Sew the side seams of the mask. Place a sheet with the wrong side (the old inside of the bag) facing up and fold up a half inch of material from the edge opposite the handle. Iron the fold over low heat to secure it. Then sew it a quarter of an inch from the edge. Place the other sheet with the right side (the old outside of the bag) facing up and, like the other sheet, fold it half an inch, iron it and sew it a quarter inch from the edge.
- Warning: Polypropylene is a type of plastic. Using a high heat setting will cause it to melt, ruining your project and, quite possibly, your iron. If there is no “poly” setting, try the lowest (usually silk) and increase it slightly if the crease does not set.
- To note: If you are not using your bag handles, take each of your squares and sew the seams on the two opposite sides as shown.
7. Place the sheets together. Your mask will have two layers of fabric. Place one of the sheets on your countertop with the handle facing left. Place the other top with the handle facing to the right. Pin in place.
- To note: We recommend that the printed side of the sheets face the same direction, so that the back of the mask is a different color than the front. This will help you not to accidentally put the mask on the wrong way, with the contaminated side against your mouth and nose.
8. Make the ties. Fold the handles in half and cut them in the center. Hold the mask centered on your face with the handles protruding from the sides and make sure the handles are long enough to reach the back of your head with at least 4 inches of free space.
9. (Optional) Make straps with tape. If the handles on your bag are not long enough to become straps, or if you are not using the bag handles at all, you will need to make your own head ties. If insufficient handles are still attached to your NWPP sheets, cut them off or use a seam ripper to remove them. Hold the mask in the center of your face and use your tape measure to determine the length of each strap – they should each be long enough to go from the edge of your face to the back of your head with at least four extra inches to attach . Cut the ribbons and pin them where the handles were. Check the fit by putting on your mask. If the length of the ribbons is correct, double your thread and sew the pieces in place on the wrong side of the leaves.
10. Sew the sheets together. Double your thread and sew on all edges.
11. Finish the bottom edge. Like you did in Step 6, make a half-inch crease at the bottom and iron it. Sew it closed a quarter of an inch from the edge.
12. Make the adjustable noseband. Again, fold over half an inch from the top edge and iron it. Twist the pipe cleaners or ties together and cut them to the same width as the mask. Fold their ends to blunt them. Tuck the metal ties inside the fold and pin the fold over them. Then, sew the fold below and to the sides of the ties to hold them in place.
12. Make three folds to crimp the mask for expansion. The pleats should be about 1 ½ inch wide on the outside, half an inch wide on the inside, and parallel to the noseband. If it helps, draw lines on your fabric, fold them, then iron them in place. Sew them in place, sewing both sides a quarter inch from the edge. This time, double your stitch to make sure the fold seam is secure.
- For child size masks (5 to 12 years old): Holds creases about 1 inch wide on the outside and half an inch wide on the inside. Make sure it is not too big by asking the child to try it out. Adjust the pleats if necessary and pin them before setting and sewing.
13. Sterilize your mask. Before using it for the first time, soak your mask in boiling water for 5 minutes. Repeat this step between uses. For other methods, check out our guide on how to disinfect face masks.
It is important to remember that a face mask on its own is not enough. Make sure you never touch the part of the liner that covers your nose and mouth, and when you are done using it, sterilize it, let it dry completely (in the sun if you have access to it) to avoid any bacterial growth. Finally, store the mask in a clean, plastic, resealable container.
This DIY mask is not meant to be donated to a hospital, but kept for yourself, your family, and your community.
The difference between N95 and surgical masks
If you’re wondering about other types of face covers, let’s talk about N95 respirators and surgical masks. N95s are hard masks with a filter that blocks 95% of airborne particles and are tested for every healthcare professional to ensure they create a tight barrier. Like most personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 masks are intended to be discarded after each use.
In contrast, surgical masks are loose coverings of melt-blown pleated fabric: a fine mesh of synthetic polymer fibers that allows the wearer to breathe while blocking tiny particles that could carry the virus. However, they don’t fit as tightly as N95 respirators, so they won’t offer the same protection against the small airborne particles that can carry the coronavirus, which can linger in the air for minutes. at hours.
[Related: Why you shouldn’t ever wear your mask around your neck]
Surgical masks are not meant to protect the wearer from infection, but to protect others by retaining infectious droplets that may come out of your mouth or nose, whether or not you are symptomatic.
No matter what you wear, please follow the instructions of your local authorities and remember that getting the COVID-19 vaccine, social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly and staying at home are always the best ways. to protect yourself and your family from the virus.