How to Make DIY Face Masks for Coronavirus

feature image contributed by Sam Manzella

We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Words most of us never thought about before are suddenly crowding our brains: novel coronavirus, droplet, community spread, containment, drive-through testing, social distancing, curbside pickup, masks. Even at the best of times during a public health crisis, new information is immense and best practices can change quickly, leading to confusion and panic. In the United States, we are not exactly experiencing the best of times during a public health crisis, and finding clear, direct information about how we should be proceeding during this scary and destabilizing time has not been easy.

The latest confusing issue? Masks. For a deep dive reported piece on what’s been going on with masks, read Ed Young’s Everyone Thinks They’re Right About Masks for The Atlantic. Basically, the people of the United States were told not to wear face masks, with a clear campaign endorsed by The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that civilians should avoid buying masks and leave them for medical professionals. But with continued community spread and the acceptance that humans with zero symptoms can carry and pass on the virus for up to 14 days, the CDC has changed its recommendation and now says everyone should wear a mask when leaving home. One major important thing to note: a mask is simply an extra defense for when you have to go outside – it should not make you feel as though you are free to stop practicing social distancing. Also, when making masks at home, not all fabrics are created equally – here are some guidelines from scientists about which fabrics work best for DIY face masks.

Hoarding medical masks is still obviously a no (you as a civilian don’t need an N95 mask and you absolutely should donate any of those you may stored in your house to hospitals where the staff on the frontlines really need them!), and in many places it’s impossible to find any kind of mask to purchase at all. Lucky for us, queers have been crafty since the dawn of time, so this should not deter us. As soon as the mask conversation shifted, no fewer than ten queers on my Instagram feed started showing off their skills by creating their own DIY face masks. I have faith in us.

Here are some of my favorite tutorials for making DIY face masks. If you’ve found other ones you like please drop the link in the comment section, and if you or another queer you love are selling handmade face masks on Etsy (or elsewhere), let us know so those of us who would rather let someone else make a mask for us can support you!

How to Make DIY Face Masks for Coronavirus

1. No-Sew T-Shirt & Bandana Mask Tutorial from the CDC

2. More No-Sew Options compiled by HuffPost

3. Easy Sew T-Shirt Mask from MasksNow.org

4. Serious Sewing Option from CraftPassion

5. Another Serious Sewing Option from MakerMask

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer and photographer currently based in New York. She really misses Portland. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 332 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. I have made the Craftpassion mask by hand since I don’t have a sewing machine in my confinement location, and it took about 4 hours to finish.

    I’m a relatively experienced seamstress but the instructions are so detailed that I believe it’s doable even if you’re a beginner at sewing, as long as you know some basic stitches and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS…

  2. Thank you! Also a reminder that you need to keep your mask clean, put it on/take it off correctly, and don’t touch it while it’s on, etc. Many of the linked articles cover that issue, but I wanted to mention it as people use them incorrectly all the time because it’s new and weird and unfamiliar and we are still learning how. But we can learn this new skill and save lives.

  3. Good luck to all making these!

    And please remember: the fabric quality and type is important for filtration, but also breathability. If you cannot breathe properly, you are far more inclined to not wear it, not wear it properly or frequently touch it.

    If you touch a mask, humid by breathing on it, it becomes an excellent place for germs to stick. This is not a good thing.

    You need to put it on with clean hands. With hospital style masks make sure it covers nose and mouth with little air coming out around it. Not sure what the best option is with homemade masks. For masculine people: facial hair can decrease effectivity of masks, due to them not fitting properly.

    I wear glasses, and normal surgical masks tend to leak a bit for me at the nose and fog up my glasses. Most comfortable option I found was to stick the top to my face with a piece of plaster.

    Do not touch the mask, until you take it off! And desinfect/wash the mask after each use.

    I’ve seen pics of people wearing gloves, but still touching their faces. This is not helpful. The gloves add to a false sense of security. If you wear gloves, you still need to not touch your face, and wash your hands after taking the gloves off.

    • Hi there! Thanks for sharing this information. One thing that can help you to use language that is, I think, as inclusive as you mean for it to be: when you’re talking about things like body hair, consider being as specific as possible (“people who have facial hair”) rather than equating body parts/features with masculinity or femininity. There are plenty of people who have facial hair who don’t necessarily identify as masculine for many many different reasons.

  4. I have a couple N95 from (archival) work but because of systemic sexism they do not fit my little face and trimming them to fit they lose their effectiveness 🙃

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/182B7l9WuuAid3RbSEXbGHtj5Ly4N5UE3/view

    Here’s another sewing one to
    add to the pile

    But also somewhere in that link round up should be a how to properly clean cloth masks

    Like get water to 165F/73C minimum and sit the mask in that water till it cools and then just wash it with the rest of your clothes.
    What ever you do don’t just pop the cloth mask by itself in the microwave and try to “nuke” the germ, that’s how you get a kitchen fire.
    Don’t set your kitchen on fire.

  5. I’ve been preparing most of my adult life for this moment! I didn’t realize it but I’ve just been waiting for someone to need me sew up something lifesaving using ONLY THE MATERIALS IN MY STASH. The very impressive stash that I have been building for like 3 decades.

    I’ve done a deep dive into the world of mask patterns and donating masks. So far I’ve made 2 for myself and 6 to donate. And I’m gearing up to make a lot more to donate, now that I have a better sense of what pattern works best for me.

    There are two basic styles of mask patterns requiring sewing – fitted masks like the CraftPassion pattern and pleated masks like the MakerMask pattern.

    I like wearing the fitted masks a tiny bit better but I far prefer making the pleated masks – they’re much faster to make, require fewer pieces and no blasted curved seams. It really depends on what kind of sewing you like to do and how many you want to make.

    For beginner and intermediate sewers, I’d start with a pleated pattern. Here are my top two in terms of simplicity.

    https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/2020/04/04/coronavirus-face-mask-tips-how-make-fabric-instructions/2945209001/

    https://www.nytimes.com/article/how-to-make-face-mask-coronavirus.html

    If you want to find places to donate homemade masks or connect with groups making and donating masks here’s https://masks4humanity.org/

    I used it find a FB group in my metro area that’s coordinating mask donations to local groups. Besides the coordination, the group has given me a lot useful info and tricks.

    Supplies – https://www.voguefabricsstore.com/mask-supplies.html (I worked here in the 90s – it’s a local, family run business that treats their employees pretty well and they still seem to have a lot of materials in stock that are hard to find other places)

    • Ah, thank you! I can’t even sew a button on right and I‘ve really been hitting a wall in regards to what I want and what I can do.
      I really,really hope that nerdy masks made from nerdy t shirts are going to become „a thing“.

  6. I’ve sacrificed a t-shirt and a bandanna to a couple no sew varieties but have not been able to figure out a way to keep my glasses from fogging to the point that I can’t see where I’m going.. so far I just end up adjusting my mask and glasses constantly until I realize I’m defeating the entire purpose and taking it off. Now is not the time to switch to contacts.. how do I make this work with glasses?? I did a bit of googling but none of the articles I’ve found have really been helpful..

  7. I’m having trouble adapting the designs I’ve seen to not have to go over my ears, since I wear glasses and hearing aids. It’s also tricky to try to pin a scarf up to my hair because I have an undercut and it’s too short in the back to hold a bobby pin. What do?

    • I’m not sure if you can sew, but most of the options I’ve seen should be able to stay on with tied strings. The last link above has an option with 4 strings. The CDC link also has one, from a t-shirt.

      If you add a string, like a shoelace, at all 4 points, you can tie the top 2 and bottom 2 together.

      When I was in med school I used to tie the top ones straight back and the bottom ones higher, over my hair, usually in a bun. That way they would stay on the best, for me. Not sure if this works with shorter hair.

      Good luck!

    • If you’re able to sew one, the craftpassion page gives a number of options for behind head designs, either elastic or tied depending what you have and what you like.
      I would say it’s definitely worth reading the whole page, including comments, there’s lots of good advice there.
      Going to have a try myself tomorrow. Slightly challenging because I have a broken leg and can’t work out how to get out the sewing machine, so I might have to do it by hand.

  8. I do not own a single bandanna. Apparently that makes me both a bad queer and a bad outdoors person. But it’s making me stressed about this mask situation so if anyone can point me towards buying bandannas or masks from people i want to give money to that’d be cool.

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