DIY Face Masks

Hello All;

We have not been posting regularly for the last year, but we will be prioritizing posting again now.

Numerous workrooms have contacted us to ask questions about making face masks – for medical professionals primarily. (According to CDC Guidelines, if you are not a medical professional or if you are not already infected, social distancing is preferable to wearing a face mask. In any case, it is the medical professionals who really need and still cannot get face masks.)

In making those masks, there are two major considerations so that we produce masks that do NOT do more harm than good:

  1. – The seals everywhere are adjustable and as tight as possible; and
  2. – The fabric used  will stop at least a goodly percentage most of the virus from passing through. The coronavirus is 120NM in diameter.  A NM is one-billionth of a meter. The 95 in the N95 masks means that the fabric prevents 95% of the virus from passing through.

There is a Million Mask project to recruit home sewers to make masks from kits provided by the Provident Health System. Although Providence says the fabric is “not available commercially,” they most likely mean not available retail. 

An epidemiologist with King County Health of Washington State believes that Providence undertook this project because they could not get N95 masks for front line medical workers and because these masks were better than nothing – meaning they had fabric that would stop a majority of the virus from passing through even if the seals were not optimal.

N95 masks – still largely unavailable because they’re sold out. 3M, the producer is doing all they can.

The Million Mask Challenge project by the Providence Health System has blueprints for making fabric facemasks and a video on sewing the kits using the material they mail out.

If you want to receive information on fabric and other sources of materials, please email  or stay tuned as we’ll be writing another post about this topic soon.

If you choose to make these masks or shields, and you can use safe materials, that is preferable, of course – such as using GOTS certified for the fabric and GOLS certified or Oeko-Tex 100 certified foam strips for the foam – but we are dispensing with material safety considerations because of the extremely short timeline we are all under.

Leigh Anne and Patty

1 comment


    5 thoughts on “DIY Face Masks”
    Vincent Sagisi says:
    March 22, 2020 at 9:16 pm
    heya! Vincent here, hope you’re well. I’ve been working with community groups sewing these to get people on the same page. The factory that is hosting our apprenticeship program is also the one making the Providence masks. for the pattern and instructions. They are using an ASTM certified composite/non-woven textile. Home sewists are being advised to use natural cotton, preferably tight weaves or tshirts, based on articles below. There’s speculation that synthetics not designed specifically for filtration can hold contaminants longer. If people in Seattle want to contribute to the effort, this is the one to join: They are engaging in sanitization efforts and making masks for specific orgs/facilities asking for them. We’re trying not to add to the landfill or increase risk by making masks that don’t protect or don’t have a home. Thanks!

    Georgia Deveres says:
    March 22, 2020 at 10:17 pm
    Hello Sisters,

    Long time stitcher, here. Just had a thought: For a quick seal, could double sided kinesiology tape be used in a pinch? Remember how Jennifer Lopez kept her green dress (barely) on? That tape.

    I’m cutting up vacuum cleaner bags and sewing them into tea towel mask-pockets for my son in Brooklyn who works with autistic teens one-on-one. I’m going to send him my skin-tape, too. It seems better than nothing to me for attempting a seal.

    Thanks for the post, – Georgia


    O Ecotextiles says:
    March 22, 2020 at 10:22 pm
    Hi Georgia; I would think the double sided kinesiology tape would work just fine BUT I worry about your choices for the “fabric ” barrier. The fabric needs to be, for the masks, 3 micron rated, and for shields – well – I don’t even understand yet when one would use a shield and when a mask. Masks are for surgical teams – and shields?

    Reba Rodney says:
    March 29, 2020 at 3:40 pm
    Doctors wear surgical mask in surgery to keep their germs off the cut open patient. The non woven material may say it filters to 0.1 mic, but that isn’t effectively true, because surgical masks have gaps on all sides..
    NIOSH N95 rated is used to protect the doctor. CDC recommends a face shields. (covers full face, think splash guard) if a patient shows signs, and/or a local outbreak is suspected. of a highly contagious disease. See CDC site explains all. Also World Health Organization is top authority..

    Home made or simple face mask purpose is to contain a person’s viral shedding. Since 80% are infected without symptoms- we should all wear home made, simple fabric masks, when not staying home/ self quarantine, to prevent ourselves from spreading the virus.

    Only a NIOSH N95 mask will give micron filtration (and should be surrendered to doctors) …Which does not address how majority of people contract the virus. It’s surface to hand to face/mouth/eyes. Avoidance, distance and soap are proven AND safe defenses.

    The filtration function goes beyond a tight fit, which is difficult. (tape would be uncomfortable worn all day.) requires formed mask shape and over the head ties. ALL OTHER MASKS allow air passage around edges. Especially the one in that last video.Add nose forming metal strip. Last function is particle capture, which means N95 masks are designed to be discarded after each patient.
    I caution against any filters. (The entire filter paper would have to be taped all around the edges, over your mouth AND nose), the seal would have to be directly contacting the filter media & face. These items (furnace filters, vac bags) are not designed to be used off label, There are no laws about their conforming to safety standards, Lead content? Or If they are safe to even put against our skin, while the mask gets damp from use. Dollar store items? also not trust worthy.
    I found this (fantastic info) site as I was researching the safety of quilting cottons. Manufacturing of products uses all sorts of bad stuff, we never hear about. The dyes and finishes that are present are not required to be listed on a label.. A lot of Quilters DO NOT WASH their fabric prior to cutting and sewing. Our local sewers don’t realize the problem
    Also for those of you with latex sensitivity ALL elastics (but one; the clear swim type) are made of rubber/latex, and 100% polyester. Besides ear loop designs are the worst. You can’t bleach elastic.
    Also if you use purchased bias binding, it is typically 55%poly and 45 % cotton.
    If I were a doctor ran out of N95 masks, I’d sew a bunch of 100% cotton masks,2 layer with ties (similar to Providence DIY) from sheet /pillowcase material. inner layer of cotton flannel Then I’d change masks after EACH patient; letting them soak in a10% bleach bucket(kinda like the way baby diapers were done before disposables. Then wash t at the end of the day.

    What we home sewers need is: access to the surgical non-woven drape materials. Then we could use our fabric sash for the binding tape ties.
    I will soon publish a video with a hybrid mask. I’ve tried many types, and my hybrid will address them all.
    People have to learn….you don’t have to have a fever, or sneeze or even cough to be spreading the virus. Wear a simple mask when in public, so everyone doesn’t bring your germs to their families at home.

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