Top Tips From
Our Team of Sewers
All our sewing friends are keen to make the most effective mask possible. Our group was set up using a pattern developed and approved by St Josephs Hospital in Denver. Since then some sewing friends have developed some variations which you may find suit you and your style. The Centres for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), along with our regular sewists have suggested we always follow some basic principles:
Use Cotton or polycotton (two layers)
Make straps for tying as oppose to using elastic
Make space for the nose bridges
Make room for a filter (should the wearer choose to use one)
Q. Which pattern should I use?
A. The original pattern and video explaining the instructions can be found here:
There are now two patterns on our website, the second uses a fold as oppose to cutting two pieces. Use whichever pattern you prefer the second is explained here by our memeber Melissa:
Q. What material should I use?
A. High thread count cotton or poly-cotton. Two layers of suitable fabric will prevent light getting through easily (e.g. if you were to hold up to sun) and you will not be able to blow a match out though the fabric. Note that very thick fabric is not suitable either, as the breath will bypass the mask with air travelling around the outside edges when in use.
In addition, fabric will need to be able to withstand washing at 60 degrees.
Q. Can I make with a different pattern?
A. Feedback from individuals wearing masks is that they do not like straps that go behind the ears, as over long periods of time these cause the back of the ears to become sore – even causing the skin to break, so any pattern should not have elastic running this way. Elastic running around the back of the head may pose a choking risk if the mask is pulled by a confused or aggressive client/patient or caught on something, so is also not desirable. Our goal is that all masks have a filter pocket so that this can be used in future if required and a nose bridge pocket as nose bridges mean that the mask fits better.
Ultimately though, we want people to have some way of covering their faces, so if you have already made masks to a different pattern then we will aim to find a group in the community that can use these masks. For example, delivery drivers who only wear masks for short periods will not mind elastic behind the ears.
Q. Which way do the pleats face?
A. They should fold over and face downwards, the idea is that if they face down, there is less chance of gravity making anything settle in the creases.
Q. Should I hem the side of the mask before putting on the bias binding?
A. No. Any hem will make the side of the mask bulkier and more difficult to sew. If you are concerned your material will unravel, you can reduce the likelihood by sewing the first side of the binding with a zig zag stitch. This will be covered by the final stitching and still look smart.
Q. How big should the masks be once finished?
A. Width about 7.5 inches, height once opened out 7.5-8 inches, sides of mask once pleated 3.5-4 inches, ties 16 inches from side of mask to end (see comment below under “What is the minimum length for the ties?”). We think there is a certain amount of tolerance, if they are not exact don't worry - as long as the mask comes at least around the curve of your cheek bone and from nose to under chin once pleats pulled out that is adequate coverage.
Q. I cannot get hold of binding; can I make my own?
A. Yes, strips 4cm wide work really well – see another online video from Melissa for short cut to making it easily.
Q. Does binding need to be cut on the bias?
A. No – straight binding is fine, much quicker and means there are not joins in the binding (which can make it more difficult to stitch). In addition, some bias binding can be a bit too stretchy. Binding is cut on the bias so that it will conform to curved edges better, as the ties are straight this is not an issue. If your preference is to work with bias binding, this is also completely fine!
Q. What is the minimum length for the ties?
A. If you want to make materials go further, it is not the end of the world to have slightly shorter ties at the bottom of the mask (you can get away with the ties that go around the neck being 14 inches) as long as you keep the ones at the top at least 16 inches (from the top edge of the mask to the end)
Q. How should I finish the ties?
A. Ensure that there is some backstitching at the end of the tie to prevent it unravelling. It may be easier to make the tie a little longer to begin with so that you can either turn the end, or cut away the unstitched waste (particularly if your feed dogs do not like to grab the very end of the material). Cutting the ends on the diagonal with the sharp point on the stitched side may also reduce the risk of unravelling.
Q. Do you have any suggestions to speed up the process?
A. Yes! Making the masks in batches is quicker, and sewing before cutting to width for all hems and nose bridges. This means starting with a long piece of fabric 17 inches wide, hemming first, then ironing and sewing multiple nose bridges before pleating and cutting to width. Some people prefer to cut to width before pleating – ultimately personal preference (video to come soon!)
Q. What is a nose bridge and what do I do with them?
A. A nose bridge is a thin reusable stainless steel strip, approx. 0.5cm x 8.5cm which slides into the nose bridge pocket. This is bent by the wearer to ensure the top of the mask conforms well to the nose when wearing. Nose bridges are sent to people making masks and we ask that you send these out with the masks, but DO NOT fit them to the pockets. The instructions explain to the user how to fit the nose bridge and also that they must be removed before washing to prevent any risk of them getting stuck in the washing machine.
Q. Should I be putting in a filter?
A. No. We are not supplying filters, but by ensuring the mask has a filter pocket, users can convert to using filters if they wish to.
Q. How should I package my masks?
A. Part of our ethos is to be sustainable and green – from using recycled materials to reducing the carbon footprint of transporting masks. We recommend using some scrap material to make a small cloth bag to wrap the finished masks in before posting rather than using plastic. Packages of masks should include nosebridges and instructions.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help with either of these items, or check the website cornwallclothmasks.co.uk
Q. I don’t have a sewing machine, can I help?
A. Yes! cutting the fabric and binding takes time, so if you have some scissors and a tape measure or ruler you can support the sewers by preparing the material for sewing.