Saturday, March 21, 2020

I want to help but I am confused....

Hello, friends, it's been a minute.

I haven't done a lick of sewing since I made the velvet pants, which is atrocious, but things have been kinda busy.

I have purchased some patterns and fabric, lol, which is what you do when you can't seem to get to the sewing machines, right?  Of course, right.  Two pieces are en route to me even as I type.  I may actually get some sewing time...eventually.

But here's what has suddenly popped up in my social media world.  It appears that there are MULTIPLE medical communities asking the public to make face masks.  I started looking at links last night and wandered down that rabbit hole until a ridiculous hour in the AM.   Because,  I thought, here's a community service I could easily do, without risking bringing a bad germ home to My Sweet Babboo, who, for reasons unknown, is particularly susceptible to respiratory infections.

Unfortunately, the information out there is crazy divergent.  The patterns range from 'eyeball the pleats in this rectangle' (Deaconness Hospital Evansville, IN ) to 'Sew these six pieces together and leave a pocket for a .3 micron filter' (Unity Point Health, Cedar Rapids, IA  - Video Here) Fabric recommendations range from knits ( Peggy Sagers -- and she lined hers with leather?  Wouldn't that, like, be really hard to breathe through? Kinda messed with her credibility there...) to tightly woven Cotton (Deaconness and Unity Point both recommended cotton).  A friend shared a post from a Facebook Page (Sew Loved ) that organized a big mask-making event in the South Bend, IN area that emphasized that cotton was NOT acceptable and used surgical sheeting for their material.   Fit standards vary widely, too; most, but not all, include some kind of flexible insertion (Unity Point used Wikki Stix!  Bread ties and flattened paperclips are also recommended)  to snug the mask to the bridge of the nose.  Unity Point also recommeds using double-sided medical tape to secure the mask to the face, in addition to the elastic ear pieces (they used hair ties, which I thought was clever), but, well, I have a sensitivity to adhesives and could easily blister up my face if I tried that.  Then, here's another pleated version, which I liked better than the Deaconness one as it 1) allows for the insertion of a filter (it looked to me like the demonstrator just used folded up kleenex for a filter but I really couldn't tell) and 2) will allow for replacement of the elastic after the hot water breaks it down. 

One source...that I didn't mark...emphasized the necessity to handle the masks correctly.  They must be put on and removed by the ear straps/ties/whatever, and the front of the mask...the bit that actually covers the nose and mouth...should not be touched at any time.  They should go straight into a detergent solution (one source recommended 'spraying lightly with hydrogen peroxide') and washed with hot water and dried on high heat.

I checked with The Princess, who works in Marketing at our local hospital, and she said they were not looking for donations from the public yet, but it may be coming.  So I printed the patterns for Peggy's mask, the Olson Mask and will play around with a pleated mask , which is basically just a rectangle or two; depending on whether you're using the one or two piece version.  If my cotton fabric remnants that I have about are an acceptable fabric, well, this looks to be something I could actually do.

Anyone else looking at sewing masks?  What have you found out about design/fabrics?


  1. I had been thinking about all those things too and this is where I ended up:
    The first thing I think it depends on is what hospital or medical provider is getting the masks and how you are going to get them to the recipient. (mail across country? drop off at the door?)
    Some places are really hard up already and will take just about anything better than a scarf or bandanna, other places are thinking about how they will use and reuse masks (limited supply N95 for COVID patients and cloth ones for "general use"). others are sending out kits with specific instructions and some or all of the materials for assembly. One hospital near me is not asking for masks yet but has been assembling a list of willing volunteers in anticipation.
    I am taking all of the information and setting aside materials that might be appropriate awaiting future (as in the next week or two) guidance
    Things are changing fast

  2. I'm doing the same-- I've seen a lot of post and downloaded pattern instructions from Peggy Sagers; I reviewed the Deaconness video, and others. I noticed today that Joann Fabric has a post with video; and you can drop off your mask at any Joann Fabric store and they will send to the hospitals or medical facilities in need.
    Things are changing fast....

  3. Equally confused, but ready to help. While I have a stash to draw from - none of the material would qualify for the N95 standard. Meanwhile - I read, ponder and get ready to spring into action if needed.

  4. Please know that fabric masks do not protect from the virus. The virus is much smaller than the "holes" between the fabric weave. Research has shown that they often make the problem worse because they become moist from your breath so the virus can reproduce faster and they contribute to people touching their faces more often.
    The hospital in California that was providing kits included medical grade material.
    Fabric masks are useful to protect yourself from allergens. A grain of pollen in GIGANTIC compared to the size of the coronavirus.
    If a cloth mask is worn, it must be immediately disposed of as biological hazardous waste.
    God bless. Stay safe. Wash your hands.

    1. I have seen that, which is one reason why I'm confused, lol. But other hospitals (such as Deaconness in Evansville, IN) are actually requesting masks made of woven cotton. So...go figure???

    2. while fabric masks do less than the correct sorts of protective gear, they are in fact better than nothing. There are hospitals currently that have had personnel reduced to using scarves or bandannas. It depends on where you are. Also in a number of places the home sewn masks will be used for people arriving at the hospital, as cloth masks do help considerably for keeping peoples sneezes etc contained, and that allows the limited number of actual masks to be reserved for the medical personnel

  5. So I played around with a couple of the designs on the sites yesterday. One version recommended nonwoven interfacing to improve efficiency. Tried for both pieces of the mask and it made it really stiff. I think for just the front side would be fine, but how do you mark 'front'? Quilting cotton is what we need but it does not take long with layers to become stiff. Nonwoven interfacing.....a knit?....that would make it more flexible. Karen in Illinois

    1. I don't know if it matters which side you use as front; the interfacing would still be between the layers regardless of which side it was originally attached to. I do know that if you use a cloth mask you need to be consistent about which side you wear to the outside, but if you use different fabrics for either side it should be easy for the person to remember which way they put it on. The darted versions are clear as to which side is worn next to the face.

  6. Kadiddlehopper is a pediatrician and had a blog post about making them for adults and teens. Idk, I’ll help if the call goes out in our area.

    It’s been a crazy few weeks here!

    1. I saw her post a while back; she had some good links.

  7. I saw many of the same patterns as you and was just as confused ( Peggy what are you thinking?). It got worse when my future daughter in law, who works in a local hospital, asked me to make her some masks, My anxiety skyrocketed, about what pattern/style to choose. For home sewn masks, the article she sent me said, cotton t shirting was best, followed by cotton woven fabric. I am currently waiting for her to get off work and come by to pick up the masks I made. I hope they meet her needs.

    1. Cotton T shirting....and I saw one video that said 'absolutely no knits! it must be tightly woven fabric!'

      SO CONFUSING....

  8. I'm always behind reading through my Feedly list, came across your post this evening. So you may have seen these already, but here goes:

    Aha, found it - the article about best materials to use for face masks, here:

    They reference a couple of other sources of info, did testing - looks to have been reasonably stringent, repeated testing with different sized particles - and do indeed recommend 100% cotton tshirt or the anti-microbial pillowcase as fabric sources, in part because the more effective materials/combinations are hard to breathe through - and people will wear the masks longer if they are more comfortable. I know that when I've used a mask during home improvement projects, the thing that really bothers me is feeling like it is hard to breathe. In the tests, a double layer of tea towel fabric was much more effective...and very hard to breathe through.

    I also found a pattern developed by a nurse. She has had some of the same confusion about the usefulness of the homemade masks, and includes a couple of research references along with the note to be informed as best you can before deciding to make masks. Her pattern is A.B. Mask, found here
    The pattern is designed to work similar to a surgical mask with pleats, and also large enough to be used over a N95 mask. (I have read that some hospitals are requesting the homemade masks to use over the N95s to extend the useful life of those masks.) She is recommending 100% tightly woven cotton fabric (using fat quarters). and using some of the fabric to make binding and ties. I've seen conflicting opinions about elastic versus ties...however the elastic is pretty much out of stock and may not be super durable through the sanitizing process.

    From SW Virginia - at present, still no 'confirmed' cases nearby but we are already under social distancing, all schools closed for the rest of this school year, and as of 11:59 p.m. last night many businesses (close personal contact - hairdressers, dentists, opticians, non-emergency medical care, and similar) ordered to suspend operations until 11:59 p.m. April 23. Unsettling!

    Stay safe, and well!

    --Jean Marie