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Functional Designer: Armine Ghalachyan, Ph.D.
Español - Spanish Version Consultant: Alberto (Ali) Alvarez, MSOM
Project Manager: Lana V. Ivanitskaya, Ph.D.
Русский - Russian Version Consultant: Sergey Soshnikov, Ph.D.
Office Manager and Press Secretary: Julia Kalusniak
Translator: Susana Navarro Agustí
This document provides mask materials, patterns, and sewing techniques.
We share scientific facts and justify our recommendations in Part 2: Scientific evidence behind DIY face mask materials, patterns, and sewing techniques, https://cutt.ly/EN-MaskScience
This guide is intended for use by the general public, especially homemade mask skeptics and enthusiasts, who are looking for guidance on how to create contemporary masks based on the best available knowledge.
The internet is overflowing with cotton mask designs of the 1918 Spanish Flu era. We can do better. The purpose of this document is to illustrate homemade mask designs that are based on scientific reasoning and facts that have been discovered over the past 102 years of research. This dynamic document is updated daily and you can contribute to its improvement. Please share your creations and feedback. Tweet a picture of your homemade mask using this hashtag:
If you like the mask you created, please consider donating any factory-made masks you have left to doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, first responders, pharmacists, hospital room cleaners or other health providers at high risk of infection. They need new (unused) factory-made masks the most. Read more on how to donate N95 masks.
We sincerely hope that the mask makers will feel empowered to give up any unused N95 or surgical masks to frontline responders to the Covid-19 health emergency. To request mask donations, use hashtag #MyMaskSavesLives and add “US” and a zip code to your Tweet, for example, US48858 to say you are in the United States, in zip code 48858.
If you live outside of the United States, use an ISO 3166 2-alpha code corresponding to the country and your local postal code.
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“Masks are an important signal that it’s not business as usual, as well as an act of solidarity. Pandemics require us to change our behavior — our socialization, hygiene, work and more — collectively. And knowing our fellow citizens are on board is important for all efforts.” Zeynep Tufekci
The first goal is to minimize your personal risk and the risks of others near you. Scientists call it mitigation of droplet spread, which is reduced by covering one’s mouth with a mask. The second goal is to decrease the number of people in your community who fall ill around the same time. Covid-19 often spreads person-to-person in family clusters and in circles of friends or coworkers. If fewer people get sick simultaneously, more people will get good medical care and recover, and there will be fewer overworked health providers.
There is a global shortage of facemasks, which leaves frontline responders vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. These individuals require factory-made masks to protect themselves while on the frontlines. If you make your own mask you are not only protecting yourself and others near you, but health workers may get factory-made masks faster.
If you have unused medical-grade respirator masks (such as the N95 masks), please give them to a local health center that allows mask donations. Pharmacies may need them, too.
No, No and No. A homemade mask does not protect you completely and it is not as good as a N95 mask. However, the evidence available to us today suggests that it may be more protective than wearing no mask. Your homemade mask may work better if you use extra layers and close side gaps. But even if your self-made mask is imperfect, many experts agree that it is likely to be better than no mask.
Wear your mask in public or around other people. If you are carrying the virus and do not know it, the mask will protect people who are close to you. If you are sick and go to a hospital (call before you go), your mask will help keep hospital staff members’ safe and able to provide care. “Studies on the community use of masks by a non-sick person showed they reduced influenza or flu-like illnesses in the community” (source).
Resist a false sense of security when wearing your homemade mask. Minimize risks: stay at home, only go to public places when necessary, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands with soap as soon as you return home.
Recent anecdotal studies suggest that loss of the sense of smell or taste, lasting several days, may be an indicator of a Covid-19 infection. If you experience it, even if healthy otherwise, you may be spreading infection. Wear your mask.
Given the best available facts presented in the REFERENCES section of this document, your washable mask may reduce risk for you and, especially, people around you. It protects health workers and even the environment.
Follow guidance by CDC, US health protection agency:
Here is what we set out to do:
The first step is to make science-based recommendations, which we did here, in this file. The second step is rigorous testing, based on accepted standards. We are not yet at step 2 and are calling for anyone who can help.
WASH YOUR FABRIC IN HOT WATER PRIOR TO SEWING.
Examples of nonwoven materials in your home:
Reusable shopping bags are made of nonwoven material that consists of compressed fibers. This material can be used for the outside and inside of the mask. Wash shopping bags to clean and soften their fabric:
In addition to nonwoven fabric, you will need a nose bridge (the nose piece). At the very top of the picture, there is a metal 5-inch bridge from a surgical mask (Item 3.1). Here are its household alternatives:
A coffee tie makes a comfortable and secure nose bridge. One tie usually makes 2 bridges.
Common household elastic materials, from top to bottom:
The image on the right shows how a bungee cord can also be used as elastic material. When it is cut open it is full of elastic pieces that can be used.
Note - Not all bungee cords are constructed in this way, but thicker bungee cords typically are.
This document is evolving every day. It shows ideas for multiple face masks.
Visit it again to see updated tips and instructions.
A nonwoven purse storage bag is the main material used to construct this facemask, with added underlining material for extra protection. T-shirt jersey, interlock used in many polo shirts, teacloth, tightly-woven cotton fabric such as a pillowcase can be used.
Pattern and cutting alternatives. The pattern provided here can be used to cut the main nonwoven fabric and the underlining, to start sewing. The overall pattern dimensions are 16” x 9.” Place something heavy, such as a book or your phone, on top of the pattern (as shown in the image below) to prevent it from shifting while you cut. Using pins is strongly discouraged as the material should not be punctured, especially in the central part. However, pinning very close to the edges is acceptable. Pleating guidelines should be transferred to your main fabric (nonwoven) after cutting. Marks can be made only at the edges to help with folding the pleats.
Pattern alternative 1 - The pattern can be separated into two pieces, if a 16” length of fabric is not available. Simply cut along the foldline that separates the upper layer and underlayer of the mask--you should end up with a 7.5” x 9” (19.5 x 22.86 cm) piece and an 8.5” x 9” (21.59 x 22.86 cm) piece. In this case, the separated pieces need to be stitched together at the foldline edge. Narrow zigzag stitches at the edge would work.
Pattern alternative 2 - As an alternative and a simpler method, you can cut 16” x 9” fabric pieces (one nonwoven and one underlining) to start sewing your mask.
Step-by-step instructions for Pattern Alternative 2 are provided below. (The steps would be similar for the other alternative and for using the pattern). The instructions are for machine sewing. Hand-stitching can be easily used to substitute the machine stitching.
Step-by-step inInstructions for making Mask 1
Step 1: Cut the fabrics and join the nonwoven and underlining
Note: Instead of stitching on the edges and turning the piece inside out, it’s also possible to simply attach the two panels together on all four edges with a zigzag stitch applied close to the raw edges. A Serger could also be used to seam the four sides, if one is available. This would especially work if you are using heavier fabrics, as the edges will not be too bulky after the facemask construction is complete.
Step 2: Constructing the bottom opening
The bottom edge of the mask is constructed in an envelope style, so that it remains open to allow insertion of additional protective layers or filters as needed.
Step 3: Constructing the nose bridge
A flexible nose piece or bridge is incorporated into the upper fold of the mask, mimicking the construction of medical and other certified masks. The nose bridge allows individuals to push the edge of the mask closer to the nose to improve fit and coverage in that area. Tighter fitting masks help to stop or reduce the leakage of harmful particles to the inside.
A plastic tie, removed from a coffee bag packaging, was used to construct the nose bridge. (Refer to the materials section above for more details). A zipper foot could be used to sew this part, by first placing the plastic nose piece in-between the layers, pushed against the upper fold, and stitching to encase it (see images below). If a zipper foot is not available, a casing, or tunnel, can be created by regular machine-stitching a specific distance away from the upper edge, so the piece can be inserted. The casing size should accommodate the width and length of the tie (for example for a ¼” wide nose piece, 3/8”- 1/2” tunnel should work- stitch this distance away from the edge).
Step 4: Constructing the pleats
Now that the upper nose bridge and the bottom opening is constructed, pleats can be folded and stitched. The pattern provided in the beginning of this section has guidelines for folding and forming the pleats. With the pattern alternative method used here (no pattern use), pleats can simply be formed by adding 2-3 folds in the central area of the facemask.
Make “S” shape folds to form the pleats, touching the edges of the fold (see the image below). Use binder clips to hold the folds together, before stitching. Avoid using pins during the construction process. When necessary, use them only at the edges. Stitch the pleats in place by sewing along both sides of the mask about ½”.
Step 5. Making the ear loops
Narrow elastic (⅛” wide) was used to create the ear loops. In this case, a 6” long elastic piece was used for each side. (Refer to the materials section for elastic options and alternatives). The length will depend on the type and rigidity of the elastic available to you. Experiment to find the best length. To attach, the tip of the elastic was inserted between folded layers at the edge and stitched with zigzag stitches. See images below.
The facemask can also be constructed with elastic loops that encircle the head. This could provide a more secure fit. A wider elastic (¼” or more) should be used for this option. Instead of attaching the loops to the top and bottom of the same edge of the mask, the longer elastic pieces will be attached horizontally. The two tips of one piece will be attached to the top corners of the facemask. The tips of the other piece would be attached to the bottom corners of the mask. The length can also be made adjustable by using specific components found in apparel or accessories. For example, bra straps have components that make the length adjustable.
Step 6. Additional considerations for improving the fit
An additional step can be incorporated into mask design to improve the fit under the chin area. For this purpose, elastic could be stitched on the edges of the bottom opening to make them stretchy and gathered. This will allow the under-chin area of the mask to closely hug the face and eliminate gaps between the face and the mask, leading to improved protection. See the image below.
In this case, a ¼”-wide elastic, two inches shorter than the mask width was used. It was stretched to fit the width, pinned at the edges, and stitched with zigzag stitches. The elastic gathering should not be too excessive as it can create discomfort to the wearer.
IF YOU PLAN TO DONATE A MASK, WASH IT IN HOT WATER AND DRY IT.
Use the warmest appropriate water setting (no fabric softener) and dry items completely, without dryer sheets.
Common Mistakes to Avoid During Construction
The image below shows the construction of pleats. It also shows a mistake that you should avoid — no punctures or seams in the middle of the mask!
Avoid seams or pinning in the central area of the mask. Use pins and stitching at the edges only.
Pinning and stitching introduce unnecessary puncture holes to the fabric structure, which may diminish its effectiveness.
Again, this is an example of what NOT to do. You should have NO needle punctures in the middle part,such a the red pin in the middle!
Instead of pins you can use binder clips to hold materials in place:
Below is the pattern for all layers of this mask. The top section folds to insert a nose bridge.
The measures are in inches, a square of 8.5 x 8.5 inches and an extra ½ inch for folding.
When the mask is done, it looks like this:
The mask shown uses another piece of nonwoven material for the inside layer and has two layers of Pellon fleece in between. This fleece works for younger and middle-aged adults who are not exposed to too much heat. Older adults may not tolerate it and need lighter/fewer layers.
Don’t have Pellon fleece? Here are some household alternatives:
Construction of the nose bridge using a coffee bag tie:
Insert the coffee tie into the gap:
Construction of pleats:
This image shows that the homemade mask is bigger than a factory-made surgical mask. Our wear tests show that a larger mask comfortably and securely wraps around the chin.
Unlike a surgical mask, this mask will have multiple pieces of elastic that do NOT go around your ears.
Attach two ties:
Two under-the-hairline ties are attached on each side at the top of the mask.
UPDATE: Wear tests show that people prefer these ties to be longer. Make each tie 10 inches long.
TIP: The bottom of the mask may be left open to allow insertion of additional non-woven layers or removal of extra layers that interfere with breathing. A good mask is a mask that you can wear consistently around other people, even when walking, rather than a super thick mask that can be tolerated for just a few minutes.
UPDATE: Wear tests show that it is possible to take a 1-hour long brisk walk wearing a 5-layer mask. All layers listed in order, from the outside layer of the mask to the inside layer that touches one’s face:
1: A shopping bag layer, softened by several hot water washes
2: A thin black Pellon interfacing layer, Pellon 915 Cambric
3-4: Two Pellon fleece layers, and
5: A shopping bag next-to-skin layer. A middle aged user found this layer tolerable but a bit stiff. We replaced it with a thin black Pellon interfacing layer (Pellon 915 Cambric) in another mask. The user liked it much more but there is a concern that it will not stay strong after many washes.
Attach the loop. Another piece of elastic is attached to each side to create a loop:
Each end of the elastic loop is stretched and then securely attached to mask sides, starting near the previously attached ties.
UPDATE: Wear tests indicate that the elastic loop, as shown above, needs to be a bit longer than shown. Add extra length and adjust as needed. The addition of hardwear to the elastic strap, such as that from bra straps shown below, may make it adjustable length. This is an untested idea by Armine, we will try it in the near future. If you are making a mask for yourself, it is somewhat easy to figure out the needed loop length. But if you make masks for others, adjustability is much more important.
Stretch the loop elastic as you attach it to mask sides with zig-zag:
Here I’m experimenting with a straight stitch. UPDATE: Zig-zag works much better.
The loop that goes over the top of the head after the two ties are secured under the hairline, forming a cross-cross pattern, closes the side gaps the best. An Emergency Room doctor from Boston commented that it was the preferred design to avoid gaps and blisters behind ears.
Update: Elastic is sold out because many people are making masks. If you have no elastic, use stretchy fabrics. The masks below have straps made out of child's leggings:
T-shirts or leggings that have at least 5% elastane, spandex, or Lycra provide the best mask strap material. Cut them into 1 - 2 inch stripes (2.5 - 5 cm).
The main body of the mask can be constructed using the directions for either Mask #1 or Mask #2, which will instruct you on how to cut the materials, stitch the fabric, construct the nose bridge, and construct the pleats.
The images below show mask design using the patterns and instructions for Mask #1 (two 16” x 9” fabric pieces stitched together at the edges and folded to get four layers). A few modifications were made to the mask design. The nose piece was inserted on the under layer only, before attaching the two fabrics together.
In addition, the nose piece was inserted with a piece of foam underneath it. This makes the area softer and can help it conform better to the nose area.
After constructing the nose bridge, the two fabric layers were stitched together with a zigzag stitch. A narrow elastic (6” x ⅛”) was stitched at the short edges. These would be the bottom opening edges of the mask, after the fabric is folded and the pleats are constructed as shown in Mask 1.
Step 1: Create Casings for the Head Strap
Step 2: Attach the Head Strap Using Windsor Knots
Step 3: Adjust the Head Strap to Improve Mask Fit
The completed mask should look like this:
IF YOU PLAN TO DONATE A MASK, WASH IT IN HOT WATER AND DRY IT PRIOR TO DONATING.
Suppressing the virus spread will take extraordinary cooperation.
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Functional Apparel Designer & Assistant Professor, Washington State University.
Armine designs for human well-being, enhancement, and empowerment. Education: Ph.D. Apparel, Merchandising, and Design, 2018, Iowa State University. M.S. Apparel Product Development and Merchandising Technology, 2011, Central Michigan University. B.S. Finance and Credit, 1999, Yerevan Banking Economic Institute.
Ali is an Industrial Hygienist who has worked for the US Department of Labor OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) for almost 8 years. He is currently setting up his own occupational safety and health consulting firm in Miami.
Lana V. Ivanitskaya, professor, School of Health Sciences at CMU, is an Industrial-Organizational psychologist who specializes in the study of human behavior in health settings. She manages this project on science-based DIY face masks and brings together interdisciplinary experts – an apparel designer, an industrial hygienist, a public health expert, and (soon) scientists who can test materials/designs in labs – to develop advice for the public. She also serves as the liaison between the scientific team and outside experts.
Dr. Soshnikov is a researcher at the Federal Research Institute for Health Organization and Informatics of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. His second affiliation is the Laboratory for the Assessment of Global Health Indicators at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. As a scientist and psychiatrist, he is estimating the Burden of Diseases in collaboration with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Julia is a second-year undergraduate student at Central Michigan University pursuing her B.S. in Public Health Education and Public and Nonprofit Administration. She is a member of the University’s Honors Program. Julia serves as the Office Manager and Press Secretary for this project handling administrative tasks, communications, and outreach.
I completed my studies of Slavic Philology at the University Complutense of Madrid (Spain), where I specialized in Russian language and literature. I studied one year as an Erasmus student at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom). During my studies, I took part in different research projects in the field of Philology related to Old Russian and Church Slavonic languages and texts written in these languages. After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree, I completed a Master’s in Medieval Studies and devoted my research to different aspects of the history and literature of Kievan Rus’ and its relationships with Byzantium. I’m currently working as a teacher of Spanish at Language Life, an online foreign language school.
To learn more about us, see Part 2. Scientific evidence behind DIY face mask materials, patterns, and sewing techniques.
c. 1918 A U.S. Red Cross employee wears a face mask in an attempt to help decrease the spread of influenza.Image: Paul Thompson/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images. Source
We challenge the idea that a 1918-era cotton face mask is the best approach to homemade pandemic mask making in 2020. We call for the use of scientific facts to suggest and test alternatives.
If you are a researcher who can help test homemade mask materials and designs, please contact Armine Ghalachyan. The goal is to compare homemade masks of 2020, that is, masks currently recommended to mask-making volunteers, and evaluate their materials, patterns, and sewing techniques.
Visit Part 2. Scientific evidence behind DIY face mask materials, patterns, and sewing techniques for scientific facts, references and the reasoning we used to justify our selection of mask materials, patterns, and sewing techniques.