America’s health professionals are facing down coronavirus with a rapidly dwindling supply of protective masks, gowns, and gloves. Given the scarcity, masks are being diverted from traditional retailers like pharmacies and online shops to help workers on the front lines. So what to do when buying one is no longer an option? Spin the wheels of ingenuity and make one yourself.
Initially, experts warned the public away from buying masks, but the thinking has changed. There’s some evidence that wearing a mask when you go out is a good idea — not necessarily to protect yourself, but to protect those around you in case you’re actually asymptomatic, infected, and spreading the virus. And if you do get sick, wearing a mask could help keep members of your household safe.
The Cut asked designer Naomi Mishkin to give us an Instagram tutorial on how to make a mask. Read on for her advice. You can also join Mishkin in the collective effort to distribute homemade masks by sending them to organization Masks4Medicine, which works directly with hospitals.
1. Assemble the Pattern
This is the blueprint of your mask. Once you download and print two copies of the pattern, which you can find here, cut them out. One will serve as the blueprint for the lining of your mask, while the other is for the main fabric part of the mask.
2. Choose Your Material
If you happen to have swaths of unused fabric lying around, now is the time to use them. For the sewing novice, old T-shirts, pants, or scarves you’re willing to cut up and part with will also do the job. Whatever you choose, the fabric should be a mid-weight jersey or cotton and your piece should be larger than 8 by 12 inches. Mishkin recommends using 100 percent cotton as the main fabric and a mid-weight muslin for the lining.
After choosing your fabric, fold it in half and pin (safety pins, push pins, whatever you have around!) the pattern against it. The goal is to cut out two pieces of each the main fabric and lining. Regular scissors are okay, but fabric shears are better.
3. Start the Lining
Now it’s time to start sewing. On each of the two lining pieces, fold 1/4 inch down on the side edges and iron or pin down. Sew a topstitch along the folded side edge. A sewing machine will save time, but we have all the time in the world, so this can absolutely be done by hand.
With the side edges complete, the next step is tackling the center front seam: Layer the lining pieces on top of each other, wrong side to wrong side. Pin the curves to ease sewing the edges together, and sew the 1/4 inch seam.
Once you’re done with the front seam, ease it up by snipping into the edges with your scissors. Be careful not to cut into the stitch!
4. Sew the Main Fabric
The good news: this part is basically identical to sewing the lining. Even better news: this stage only requires stitching the front center seam — sewing the side edges are not necessary. Layer the main fabric pieces on top of each other as previously done with the lining pieces. Pin the curves and sew the 1/4 inch center front seam.
5. Bring It Together
With the lining and main fabric pieces done, it’s time to sew them together. Place the lining piece on top of the main fabric piece, aligning the center front seams and the side edges together. Stick five pins each along the bottom edge and the top edge to pin the two pieces together for a steady hold while you sew. Grab a glass of wine and prepare to sew the pieces together: stitch along the 1/4 inch seam along the top and bottom edges.
The result should be one piece of fabric that finally vaguely resembles a mask.
Turn your “mask” inside out so that the stitches are no longer visible from the outside.
6. Time for Ties
Your fingers are probably fatigued at this point, but that’s nothing a calming dash of aromatic lotion can’t fix. Don’t give up yet because the finish line is in sight: It’s time to add in the “ties”. Most commercial masks will use an elastic cord or band for a more secure hold around the face, but if you’re using household materials, you can also use long strips of any sturdy fabric. For our Instagram demo, Mishkin used two pieces of 3/4 inch wide, 36 inch long fabric as the ties.
To add in the ties, lay your mask main fabric side down, so that the longer piece is visible underneath the shorter lining piece. Fold the sides of the main fabric to tuck just underneath the lining — make sure it’s not completely tucked in to save a slot to insert the ties.
Pin them down, and stitch vertically down the tucked sides to sew it in place. Now you should insert your ties through the slot within the tucked sides. If you’re using fabric ties, adding a safety pin to the end of the tie will help it slide through the slots easier. If using elastic, you’ll want to create a loop instead: simply take one end of the elastic and run it through all of the side slots to create a top and lower band of elastic. Finish it off by either knotting it (for cord), or sewing it for an elastic band. And then give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re done.
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