Calling All Sewists – Handmade Masks Roundup

How to make a handmade mask - sewing roundup and tips

Today on National Doctor’s Day we want to deliver a heartfelt thanks to each of you and for everyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

In honor of today, we’re gathering resources and ideas for the recent movement to sew and donate masks. When the initial call for handmade masks came from Deaconess Health System in Indiana, we knew it wouldn’t take long for an army of sewists to show up to help.

According to the article, “While fabric masks are not to be used in the care of COVID-19 patients, according to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted. Fabric masks can also be helpful in other areas of patient care as supplies of PPE are depleted.” These uses may include:

  • To use along with other PPE, to extend the life of those items
  • For other fields, including mental health services, dentists, and veterinary clinics
  • To give to patients with respiratory symptoms as they arrive at medical facilities
  • For senior care, nursing homes, and other care facilities

Also, the CDC now recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

So, how can we all help? Here’s a roundup of the best tips and tutorials we’ve seen, so you can get the most out of your sewing.

Fabric, elastic and more shown for making handmade masks

1. Find a Place in Need:

Your first step is to find an organization in need of sewn masks. You can check the website for your local offices, or the request list on the Deaconess site which has over 500 organizations already listed. 

2. Material Suggestions:

Researchers at Cambridge University tested a range of materials, and found the best choices for DIY masks are cotton t-shirts, pillowcases, or other cotton materials. 100% quilting cotton is a great choice because of the tight weave.

The goal is to provide protection and breathability, and be sure you are using good quality fabric for the best protection. This article shares more about the background and science behind the material suggestions. 

*Pro Tip – Pre-wash all your fabric with hot water to prevent any shrinking when it’s washed at the facility.

*Pro Tip – Make the back and the front fabrics different (or mark the inside) so it’s easy to see which side should always face out. 

If you are donating to a latex free facility, make sure you check your elastic or opt for ribbon or strings that can be tied.

3. Tutorials:

Based on community feedback, here are some of the most helpful tutorials that fellow sewists have recommended as well as tips from posts like this one from medical professionals.

*Pro Tip – Use a metal twist tie or something similar at the top of the mask so it can be fitted around the wearer’s nose.

*Pro Tip – Make varying sizes. Male staff may need a little more height (allowing mask to fully cover nose and go below chin) and sewing varying sizes will allow folks to pick the best fit. You can size up or down from any of these sizes to get the ideal fit, but here are general sizes to aim for (these are for the initial fabric pieces before sewing):

  • Child (4-12) – 5″ x 7″
  • Adult Regular – 6-7″ x 9″
  • Adult Large – 8″ x 9-10″

Also, if you are sewing headbands, this great lifehack post from Reddit shows how adding a button can help take pressure off the ears. 

4. Tips for Batch Sewing:

When you’re sewing a lot of something, it makes sense to batch-sew your steps as much as possible. This means you centralize the time you’re spending at your cutting, pinning, stitching and pressing station so that the process is as efficient as it can be.

Batch sewing example, close up

Depending on the type of mask your making, this will look different but in general, try to break the steps down as follows.

  • Break the instructions into main steps and then break those steps into stations based on where you need to be in your space to complete the tasks – cutting, pinning, stitching, pressing and stitching. The steps aren’t all that different from making one complete mask, but doing them in batches means more easy, repeated steps for you, which is ultimately more efficient.
  • Work in batches of 8 to 10 – otherwise the single repeated steps become boring and hard on your hands.
  • When batch stitching, consider chain stitching your pieces. Sew all the right sides at the same time but do not pause to cut threads; simply leave a bit of thread between them as you stitch them and cut them apart later.
  • Take breaks! Batch sewing is efficient, and you’ll often find yourself getting in a rhythm but don’t forget to take breaks and stretch your body to prevent hand (and brain!) fatigue.
  • Feel free to break the steps down further or lump tasks together if that makes more sense for you.
  • Consider asking for helpers if there are easy steps, like pinning or turning, that family members or young assistants can help with.

We are so grateful to be a part of this giving and caring community, and hope you’ll share your tips with us too!

~Sew Daily Team

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