This blog entry assumes a basic knowledge of sewing by machine or by hand.
This design for a mask works with elastic or yarn. I recently searched online at various sites for elastic that would work for homemade masks without success (they were sold out), so I experimented with yarn.
Keep in mind that this design is not as effective as an N95 mask, but it does have a tighter fit than many other cloth masks. I’d read that cotton that is woven with a higher thread count is a better choice than a knit or stretch fabric. I also ran into the idea that using a vacuum cleaner bag would provide still more protection.
If I don’t own a N95 mask, my understanding is that the main reason to wear other kinds of masks that are not N95 quality is to prevent me from spreading germs to others (in the event that I don’t know I’m carrying a disease). This design for a mask meets that need and may also provide the wearer a bit more protection than other masks without a liner made from a vacuum bag.
Finally, this mask is worn over the ears instead of around the back of the head, which is a bit more convenient — especially if you don’t want to mess up your hair.
To start with, cut a rectangle out of an old sheet that is about 8 1/2 x 11 inches. The better quality sheet you have, the higher the thread count. The sheet I used was a 300 thread count. You will note that this example is far from perfect. That is intentional so that you will not feel the need to do this perfectly.
Fold over and sew the short edges.
In order to be able to thread the yarn (or elastic if you have some) through the edges of the mask, it is important to do the following steps in this order.
1) Start in the lower right hand corner and fold it up to make a triangle.
2) Fold up the lower edge about 1/2” to 3/4” in width and pin baste it in place. (You could certainly use needle and thread to baste it in place if you prefer.)
3) Fold up another triangle in the left hand corner and baste that.
4) Sew a line about 1/2” to 5/8” inch from the edges starting with one corner and ending at the other corner. It should look something like this when you are done.
5) Trim off the excess fabric from the corners.
Now rotate the fabric and repeat steps 1-5 on the other side.
You now have a tube or tunnel of fabric around six sides of this rough octagon.
Take a vacuum bag out of its packaging and notice what the outside sides of the filter material looks like. Then cut it open. Cut off a piece that is 5” x 9” and then cut off the corners. If it’s a HEPA filter bag, all the better.
Lay the piece so that the outside surface lays down on the fabric.
Sew it in place. Then if you have a tool for pushing elastic through belt folds attach one end of your yarn or elastic on to the end of the tool. Otherwise you may have to do something like tape the yarn or elastic to a chopstick or bend a piece of wire in half to capture the yarn or elastic. Push your tool through the upper right diagonal side. It may pop out too soon as shown in the next photo. If so, back it up a bit and try again.
Once it’s right, it’ll go into the next fabric tunnel as shown in the next photo.
Keep pushing it through until it comes out the other end of the upper left hand diagonal fabric tunnel.
Pull your tool all the way out of the tunnels and you should now have yarn through the top half of the fabric. Turn the fabric around and repeat on the other side. Once you are done you will then tie an overhand knot around the part of the yarn that just came through the last fabric tunnel. Cut the ends so they are about the same length. The end that had the knot tied around it is the end you can pull on to tighten or release to loosen to make the mask fit your face.
The loops at either side of the mask are placed over your ears with the white side on your face. Tighten it to fit your face.
If you have elastic instead of tying a slip knot, you tie a square knot once you have a feel for how to fit it to your face. It looks something like this when tightened. You may have to zoom in on the photo to see the yarn on the left side of the mask.
I tie a knot at the very tip of the strand of yarn I use for adjusting the fit. This makes it easier for me to find the adjusting strand by touch alone when it’s behind my ear.