Category Archives: face masks

Face Masks

[photo credit @misseysmithyoga]

Until very recent days, the jury was firmly out on whether face masks, specifically single use dental masks, or home made versions, including wrapping one’s face in a scarf or towel, was any use whatsoever against COVID19. And that wearing them was actually more dangerous as it gives people a false sense of safety. But we have been seeing footage of many people in other pandemic affected countries wearing various versions of face coverings so a bit of research was imperative. Here are five links you might like to read to get familiarised with the various opinions, before deciding what to do.

World Health Organisation

Smart Air Filters (private company)

US National Library of Medicine

Make Masks Save Lives

The Local (Switzerland)

Research shows that we need to use hepa filters (vacuum cleaner bags) and wire or similar to make a bendy shape to fit snugly over the bridge of the nose. Without an idea how to get those materials in an already over stretched postal service, so second-most effective filter is several layers of 100% close woven cotton, of tea towel type fabric or similar. There is a sensible balance to strike between too many layers of dense cotton, so that its hard to breathe, and not enough to filter.

The best way BY FAR to avoid transmission is to stay at home. We do know this by now.  But what about those who have to go to work? Hopefully by the time of writing, the government will have provided all the necessary PPE for front line medical staff. But what about our cleaners, refuse collectors, bus drivers, delivery workers? What provisions are being made for them? My guess is not much or nothing.

So if you want to make these, for friends or family or your postman or anyone you know who must go out for essential work, here are the two patterns I’ve adapted.

Pleated style (with or without elastic) American

Feedback from wearers of these isn’t very positive. They don’t fit well, and elastic around the ears is painful, causing the sewing community to come up with some ingenious solutions, headbands, and tabs of various kinds. If you do try these, make them much wider, based on an 8.5 or 9inch square so they reach right around the face. But I’ve given up on them.

Shaped (with fabric ties)

The mask pictured above is 100% cotton, two layers, with ties, the upper tape ties on top of the head and the lower ties around the back of the neck. People seem to like these a lot better, and I’ve made a range with an inner pocket for an industrial mask liner. But I’m now just making a much simpler two- layer cotton poplin version.

If you can make them yourself and improve on these I’d love to know.


Bear in mind at all times that these will most certainly NOT protect you 100%. The word in some of the research is you might get 60% for 20 minutes, so please follow advice to stay at home. If you MUST go out, do maintain your distance. These masks are merely an added layer of protection against any airborne bugs in droplets from coughs and sneezes and even so they are not ever going to be foolproof. I can’t stress that enough. So:

  • wash your hands before and after wearing your mask.
  • wash after every use: 60 degrees machine wash (with your smalls) or soak in a basin with a drop of detergent and boiling water from the kettle and then rinse.
  • never use fabric conditioner: it adds a sticky film and clogs the fabric. And many people are highly allergic to the stuff.
  • do not touch or rub your eyes: one theory is that wearing a mask may make us more likely to touch our face more often while out in public. Touching supermarket trolleys etc and then your face may very well not be wise.
  • these are definitely NOT medical or industrial grade. And I am not medically trained. Do your own research before deciding whether one of these will be helpful in your lifestyle at the moment.
  • either way, stay indoors, stay distanced and keep safe.

Image from the 1919 influenza epidemic. I love the hats but please tie your mask underneath before putting your hat on top.

Much love, B