The CDC now recommends wearing a fabric mask when you go in public. 

By Emily VanSchmus and Kim Hutchison
April 09, 2020
Read step by step instructions after the video.

Project Joy is a weekly column about the projects we’re doing at home that bring us a little piece of happiness.

The new Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines recommend that anyone going out in public wear a cloth mask. Over the last few days, our staff has been busy making masks for ourselves and our family members, and we’re sharing the easiest ways we’ve found to create the cloth coverings. You can make a no-sew mask from materials you have at home (think bandanas, hair ties, and socks), but if you already know how to sew, it’s easy to stitch up a fabric mask. 

It’s a good idea to practice social distancing as much as possible, but there are a few times when going to the store or running an essential errand is unavoidable. We talked to Tania Elliott, M.D., an immunologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City to learn about how the masks can protect you if you need to go in public. “Cloth masks serve as a protective barrier against droplets (like mucous) if someone coughs or sneezes on you,” she says.

Elliott also walked us through the difference between these homemade masks and medical-grade N95 masks, and explained why N95 masks really aren’t necessary for the average person picking up groceries. “While the main mode of transmission is droplets, small amounts of the virus can be aerosolized for a short period of time,” she says. “Healthcare workers are on the front lines closely interacting with known COVID-19 positive patients. Therefore the N95 masks need to be reserved for people most likely to come into contact with the residual aerosolized virus.”

So while a cloth mask can help protect you from a fellow shopper who sneezes at the grocery store, a medical professional working in an area with a lot of COVID-19 patients require something more heavy-duty. If you have any clean, unused professional-grade masks leftover from a home renovation or DIY projects (preferably still in the original packing), contact your local hospital to find out how you can donate them to a medical worker. Then grab your fabric stash and use our easy instructions to make your own mask. 

As of April 3, 2020, the CDC is recommending that everyone should wear a cloth face-covering in public settings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Visit cdc.gov for further information about this development and learn more about the CDC's no-sew face mask tutorial here.

  • Working time 20 mins
  • Difficulty Kind of Easy
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What you need

Tools
Materials
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How to do it

Step 1

Prepare and cut fabric

Before you start, wash and dry all fabrics you plan to use and be sure your workspace is clean. For each mask, you’ll cut three pieces of clean fabric: One 10 x 7.5-inch rectangle and two 5 x 7-inch rectangles. Press a ½-inch fold on one long edge side of each of the 5x7 fabric pieces. Stitch along each edge using a presser foot as a guide.

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Step 2

Stack pieces and sew

Lay the large fabric rectangle down flat, so the longest edge is toward you. Then stack one of the smaller rectangles on top of the large one (right sides together), so that the raw edges align; pin. Stack the other small rectangle so that its unsewn edge lines up with the opposite edge of the large piece; pin. The sewn edges will overlap in the middle. Sew the pinned edges using a presser foot as a guide. Then open and press seams.

Step 3

Secure pipe cleaner

Fold the smaller sections in so that the wrong sides of the fabric are touching, then press. Secure a 5 inch section of pipe cleaner between the layers (centered at the top), then carefully secure by sewing it in place. This will be the top edge of the mask; the pipe cleaner will help secure the mask against your nose and cheeks.

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Step 4

Add pleats

Pleat the edges of the fabric into three even sections, then pin and press with an iron on both sides. Sew along the overlapped center pocket pleated edges.

Fold the remaining outer edge sections in ½ inch, then press and repeat on the other side; this will create the channel for fishing the elastic loops through in the next step. Stitch to secure these edges.

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Step 5

Add elastic

To add ear loops to your mask, cut two 12-inch pieces of elastic (you could also use pieces of a stretchy sock or old T-shirt). Use a safety pin secured to one end of each elastic piece and use the safety pin to push the elastic through the channel you created in the last step. Repeat on the other side, then line up the ends of the elastic and knot. To wear the mask, loop the elastic over your ears and adjust the location of the knot to create the appropriate fit. The CDC recommends a mask that fits securely against the top of your face (adjusting the pipe cleaner can help with this too). 

Step 6

Add coffee filter

While the finished cloth mask will help keep you safe in public, you can add an additional layer of protection. The CDC recommends using clean, dry coffee filters in your homemade masks as an extra barrier between your mouth and potential airborne droplets. To add one to this mask, fold a coffee filter in half and crease the folded line so it lays flat (the folded filter will be in a half-circle shape). Then, use your fingers to open one of the pockets that the pleats have created, and slide the filter in. 

Comments (5)

How difficult was this project?
Anonymous
January 18, 2021
Anonymous
May 12, 2020
Difficulty: Kind of Hard
I have plenty of material and sewing experience, but no pipe cleaners. No twist ties or thin wire either.
Anonymous
April 29, 2020
Difficulty: Kind of Easy
Your written directions aren't very good. I had to keep watching the video to figure it out. Include the seam sizes please!
Anonymous
April 10, 2020
Difficulty: Very Hard
Something is wrong with your dimensions. The instructions cannot be followed with the dimensions given.
Anonymous
April 10, 2020
Difficulty: Very Hard
Something is wrong with your dimensions. The instructions cannot be followed if you cut your pieces as directed.
Anonymous
April 10, 2020
Difficulty: Very Hard
Something is wrong with your dimensions. The instructions cannot be followed if you cut your pieces as directed.

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