Friday, 10 April 2020

Fabricating Face Masks

I finally gave in last Saturday and made a face mask. I cleared a workspace, set up the sewing machine, got out all my sewing tools and rummaged in one of my chests of fabrics. Patterns for face masks in several designs are all over the internet and I chose one that involved economical rectangular pieces and simple straight sewing. The fabric is tablecloth material on the outside and bed sheet or curtain lining on the inside. The mask has got a pocket for a filter, but I don't really know what to use as a filter. I'm going to trial a layer of outdoor furniture cover fabric slipped in to the pocket.

Wearing a homemade mask in the Covid-19 lockdown.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

The sewing machine clunked and chuntered a bit. It probably needs oil, and maybe even a service. It didn't cope well with how thick the mask gets once you pleat it. But it coped, as did I.

I felt like the end of the world was coming and I was a prepper though. But the pharmacy doesn't have any masks, and even if they did I would rather they went to medical staff who will wear them properly and not waste them. The advice now is to wear a mask if possible if you are in public, so I can do my civic duty.

The finished mask is surprisingly comfortable and doesn't seem like it will slip while on, so that's good. I'd like to be able to wear it without touching it so that it isn't a complete waste of time. I've now made Simon one too, although he is less likely to be in a position where he should wear it.

I wore it to the supermarket on Tuesday. About half the shoppers were wearing masks (and all the staff). Only a few had donned home made masks. One was an old man in a simple elasticated arrangement made from a piece of flannellette sheet. Another was a young woman in a very smart and neatly constructed shaped mask in navy floral. Mine was by far the most colourful and the most obviously homemade.

Meanwhile, this notice has appeared on a garage door near us.
Homemade poster on a garage door thanking key workers during the Covid-19 lockdown.  Indre et Loire, France. Photographed by Susan Walter. Tour the Loire Valley with a classic car and a private guide.

It says 'Thank you to all those who work for us!' at the top. Then the caption on the illustration is 'Please take care! Thank you.' All around the illustration, clockwise from top right, it lists the different types of workers -- tradesmen, farmers, teachers, carers, the armed forces, police, shopkeepers, delivery staff, post office staff (and at the bottom, 'and anyone we overlooked').


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Colin and Elizabeth said...

Isn't it against the law to cover your face in France??? Stick em up and give us your money!!!
Great job Susan, ours made by Elizabeth aren't as colourful.

Susan said...

There are sensible exemptions -- for medical and professional reasons.

melinda said...

do you wash your mask after each use? I would think you'd have to

Susan said...


Didee said...

I’ve read that HEPA vacuum bags are excellent for use as filters in home made masks and that whatever filter you use should be sandwiched between layers of fabric and then discarded after each use.
Also be careful not to use anything made with fiberglass or other substance that could be inhaled or that might get saturated with moisture.
Stay safe!

Didee said...

Also, in order to make an effective seal, pieces of bendable pipe cleaner can be inserted at the top of the mask so it can be clamped to the face over the bridge of the nose.

Susan said...

This just wouldn't work sufficiently well to stop the virus getting in (or out to a certain extent). Virus level medical masks must make you impervious to horrible substances (that's how they test the fit, by exposing you to a bitter substance in the air and if you can taste it your mask isn't on properly. Masks vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and not all medical masks fit all medical personnel. It's a bit of a nightmare I hear.)

Susan said...

I've read the suggestion for HEPA vacuum cleaner bags, but we don't have any. I've decided that coffee filters are probably the most practical filter. Easy and cheap if you are going to discard (which as you point out, you must). It hadn't occurred to me that anyone would think of using fibreglass! Anything you use is going to get saturated, and that's the problem with these masks -- the fabric gets damp very quickly. These masks are not to protect the wearer, but to protect those around them. If anything, these masks make mingling with non mask wearers more dangerous, because of the enhanced capilliary effect once the mask is wet. Because they are not and cannot be sealed there isn't much point in having a filter (except that my observation is that the coffee filter wicks away moisture and renderst the mask a bit more comfortable in practice).

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