I have spent the past week grappling with whether or not to make my own face mask and upgrade from the bandana I’ve been wearing over my mouth and nose when I head out for groceries. The thing is, I don’t sew.
Last night though, my decision was made. Because after much debate — though it still continues — the CDC is finally considering recommending that we all wear masks out of the house during the COVID-10 pandemic. In part because as many of 25% of people infected with the novel Coronavirus don’t show symptoms. Wow.
Wearing a mask provides a little protection for you, but it’s more about helping to protect others, while destigmatizing mask-wearing in our country, so that anyone who’s sick or potentially sick with COVID-19 won’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable to wear a mask.
This is about wearing basic masks, by the way; not N95 masks. (See note below.)
So as a NYC resident who is heading into week four of social distancing, and someone missing the sewing gene — it evidently skips a generation in our family — I am thrilled that Lisa sent me this genius tutorial for making a new-sew face mask.
It comes courtesy of Japanese handkerchief shop @intermode_Kawabe on Instagram, and yields a perfectly serviceable homemade facemark without requiring you to sew even a stitch.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to speak a word of Japanese to follow the video, though I’ve taken the liberty of putting it through Google translate for you and then adding some commentary.
Instructions for a new-sew mask:
1. Start with a 50x50cm (about 19″ square) handkerchief. You can also adjust the fold size if you have a smaller or larger piece of fabric.
2. Fold the handkerchief in four — just fold in half, then in half again. The narrower the final fold, the better. (You can also fold in half, then fold the top and bottom into thirds, then in half again as in the other video from Kawabe.)
3. Slide a ponytail elastic (or rubber band) on each side, about a 2:3:2 ratio but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
4. Fold each end inward toward the center and overlapping a bit to complete. Tuck the excess fabric from one end into the other.
5. Hook the elastics onto your ears, then slide the fabric in the middle up over your nose and pull the bottom down over your chin to adjust to your own face. Done!
DIY Facemask tips and notes:
– They suggest you make the width of the fabric slightly larger than the size of your face when folding — if the width is too small, the elastics will pull on your ears. (Hi, I looked like Baby New Year first time I tried it), and if it’s too wide it will fall off.
– If you don’t have a handkerchief, feel free to use a scrap of cotton fabric, or just cut up an old t-shirt. I find if the fabric is too stretchy though (like a Lycra-cotton blend) you’ll have trouble with it.
– According to Farhad Manjoo’s NY Times editorial about making and wearing our own masks, as long as a your mask covers your nose and mouth comfortably, it’s okay to use whatever pattern you want. Since most of us are not working with vacuum cleaner bags here, he states that “plain cotton T-shirt fabric still provides a useful barrier.” Just make sure your mask is clean.
– If you have a “cute” fabric, and it makes you (and your kid) more likely to wear it, then great. If you don’t, whatever. It’s a face mask.
– Masks are NOT an excuse to avoid social distancing. Do NOT put a mask on your kids then send them out to the playground with friends. Please. Please. I know we’re all going a little stir crazy, but like, let’s be responsible and end this thing sooner?
– I’m not going to get too far into all the do’s-and don’ts (like not touching your face, washing it, and so on) because there’s a lot of info out there already. Needless to say, don’t touch your face after picking up groceries, swiping your card, and all that fun stuff. Take it off when you get home, wash it, and wash your hands.
– When. you walk down the street wearing a mask, you may smile at neighbors (from 6-feet apart of course) and they will not be able to see that you’re smiling and that, for someone like me who smiles at everyone, is super weird. Wave to people instead. Even small social interactions go a long way.
– Do NOT wear an N95 mask if you’re not a medical professional or severely immunocompromised, or everyone will think you are a huge ass. Or worse. If you have some, it’s not too late to deliver them to your local hospital.
– Be kind. Wash your hands. (That’s not about masks. Just something I mention any chance I get.)
This content was originally published here.