The wearing of face masks became mandatory in many public spaces across the world, to help prevent the coronavirus spreading. As a result, face masks are in huge demand right now, all over the world, and there’s a shortage of surgical masks, that need to be prioritized for medical professionals. Here are the best free sewing patterns for making your own face masks at home.
Wearing face masks can prevent further spread of coronavirus
Even during a lockdown, people still need to leave their homes sometimes for buying food, medicines and other emergency supplies.
DIY face masks made from cotton fabric seem to be a good option and certainly much better than going barefaced.
The CDC’s updated guidelines advise that Americans wear face masks in public, to limit the spread of COVID-19. Recent studies show that asymptomatic people – individuals who are infected without feeling ill or displaying any symptoms – can transmit the virus to others in their proximity, by speaking, coughing and sneezing.
Below you will find awesome resources – free patterns and tutorials – for how to make masks for your family, friends, and community.
Does a homemade face mask really protect you?
The fabric masks are not a substitute for N95 masks, but they still provide some protection against Covid-19, if you use them in combination with social distancing and proper hand hygiene.
Fabric face masks may give a false sense of security, as some officials warned – they only help reduce the potential exposure to the virus to some extent.
A 2013 study suggests that while a homemade mask should be considered as a last resort to prevent transmission of infections via the droplet route, it would be better than no protection. The study published on Research Gate examined face masks made from cotton t-shirts as an alternative to commercial face masks and evaluated their capacity to block bacterial and viral aerosols.
Both surgical and DIY masks significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers – and that’s exactly what we needed to hear.
Similarly, in a 2008 study, the experts concluded that the use of any type of general mask (be it personal respirators, surgical masks or homemade masks) is likely to limit the infection risk on a population level.
According to CDC, fabric face masks should:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Fabric masks should be washed regularly, depending on the frequency of use. Machine-washing is enough to clean and sterilize your cloth face mask.
You should not touch or adjust your face mask while wearing it. And never touch the outside of the mask – that area could be contaminated. A recent laboratory study found that the virus that causes COVID-19 could survive on a face mask for up to seven days.
To remove the mask, only touch the ear loops or the ties – remember, the front of the mask is possibly contaminated. Wash your hands immediately after removing it.
The best materials for making DIY face masks
The best fabric for homemade masks is a closely woven, high-thread-count 100% cotton fabric, so bed sheet material seems to be the obvious candidate.
In times like these, making DIY face masks is a great way to upcycle your old bedsheets and pillowcases.
Some other good options for making your own cloth masks are denim, percale, poplin, and sateen.
It’s recommended to avoid knits, as they create holes in the fabric when they stretch and therefore might not provide an effective protection against diseases transmitted by airborne droplets.
Here’s my plan.
I’m not going to buy surgical masks and take them away from the healthcare workers who need them the most.
If I need to leave my home for a good reason, I’m going to wear a face mask. Yes, a cloth mask, a homemade one. And I’ll try my best to convince others to do the same.
The new coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets and can persist in air for hours. So this is actually common sense – using any mask is more protective than not using a mask.
So, I started sewing fabric face masks.
First, for me and my family. And for my friends. And then I’m going to make some more, just in case. I hope that the health care personnel will receive proper protective equipment and they won’t ever need to resort to cloth masks. This sounds like wishful thinking, I know.
For my masks, I used three different patterns that appealed to me.
The green mask is made from the See Kate Sew pattern, the navy-blue one from Made Everyday, and the red mask from Sweet Red Poppy.
For this project, I used tightly woven bedsheet cotton fabric, and fabric ties, instead of elastic. The elastic can get uncomfortable behind the ears, with prolonged wear.
All of these face masks are easy sewing projects and have a good fit. I had to adjust the curve of the Sweet Red Poppy mask to fit my face, but I was pleased with the result. This pattern takes just a few pieces of fabric and very little time to complete. The mask is kind of lightweight – but I like that – and is easy to wear.
It’s completely different from the See Kate Sew mask – that one is composed of three cotton layers and has a sturdy feel to it. I have a feeling that you may find this mask uncomfortable to wear during summer days, as it can get hot under the mask. But three or four layers offer better protection than two layers – an important point made in a study published in The New York Times.
The Made Everyday pattern provides a simple, good, and reliable face mask.
I don’t have any favorites, not yet. That’s because I haven’t worn any of them enough.
What can you use as a middle layer filter for your DIY face mask?
Many people use as a middle layer filter for their face masks materials like kitchen paper towels, kleenex, coffee filters, and even inserts of vacuum cleaner bags.
Also, this meltblown, non-woven cloth is the material that is used in professional masks and seems a pretty good choice.
Here are more than 10 free sewing patterns and tutorials for making your own face masks with size options for kids, teens and adults.
The free Olson Mask PDF pattern, designed by medical professionals to be used when surgical and N95 masks are not available – download here
Tutorial for the Olson mask pattern and pattern templates to make child sized face masks from Sew Can She
Fabric face mask pattern with ties or elastic from Made Everyday (adult and child size)
Face mask with filter pocket and no elastic from See Kate Sew
Fitted fabric mask with bias tape or elastic and a flexible nose wire from Sweet Red Poppy (sizes included – toddler, child, teen, adult)
Versatile face mask pattern and tutorial from The Crafty Quilter (one size only)
Fabric mask pattern for a nurse, by a nurse – from Instructables
Free facial mask with filter pocket pattern from I Think Sew (sizes included S – XL)
Free face mask pattern & tutorial from Craft Passion (4 sizes included: men, women/teenager, kid 7-12, kid 3-6)
Face mask – free pattern from Sarah Maker (adult and child size)
Face mask sewing pattern and tutorial from Button Counter (adult size)
Free face mask sewing tutorial with hair ties from Fat Quarter Shop (size options – child, adult S, M, L)
Reusable DIY cloth mask with disposable middle layer filter from DIY Mask (5 sizes included)
Free face mask pattern from The Stitching Scientist
Free face mask pattern with a nose insert and elastic loops for ears from Age Berry
Some hospitals and facilities are now accepting donations of fabric face masks. Please call first to ask if your local medical providers accept them and whether the pattern meets their guidelines. These cloth masks are not as effective as the surgical masks, so it’s best to call before you start sewing, to check their requirements.
The statement below, regarding fabric face masks, comes from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.
Let’s not panic and let’s not forget we are all in this together.