How to make your own face mask – that’s both fashionable and protective
Face masks are becoming an increasingly frequent sight across the country, with more and more people using them in an effort to protect themselves and others from the spread of Covid-19.
And while medical-grade masks remain hard to get hold of, plenty of fashion brands have started to manufacture trend-led versions that adequately protect the wearer without eating into the critical supply of PPE materials needed for exposed key workers. Most benefit charities too, supporting those left most vulnerable by the coronavirus crisis.
That said, there’s nothing to stop you from making your own, even if you don’t have any sewing skills to speak of. In fact, a face mask is one of the easiest crafting projects there is, and it won’t take long to whip up something that looks good.
Is it safe though? “No home-made mask is as safe as a medically certified mask, but it is better than not wearing one at all,” says British fashion designer Isabel Manns, who is now selling face masks made from surplus fabric (£10, isabelmanns.com) alongside her printed dresses, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the NHS. “My masks have a gap at the back where you can place a piece of filter fabric which will make it more protective,” she adds.
Manns also has a video tutorial on her Instagram Stories for anyone who wants to make their own. With her help, plus a little trial and error on my part, this fool-proof guide contains everything you need to know to make a fashion-friendly face mask…
You will need:
- A piece of fabric that is at least 21.5cm x 40.5cm
- 2 pieces of elastic, each 17.5cm long
- A few pins
- A sewing machine
First, choose your fabric. It can be anything, from an old scarf to a shirt that no longer fits – as long as you can cut a 21.5cm x 40.5cm piece from it. “Cotton is good as it’s easier to sew and wash,” says Manns. “I am using some silk fabrics which are lovely and soft, but it can be a bit slippery to sew if you are not experienced.” Bright prints look spectacular, while others prefer slogans or designer logos (consider repurposing a logo-emblazoned shoe dust bag).
Fold the fabric in half, with the undecorated or reverse of the fabric facing outwards (inside-out, effectively). Use a couple of pins to mark out a 5cm gap in the middle of the side parallel to the fold.
Sew along that open edge, but leave the 5cm gap between the pins unstitched.
Turn your mask the right way out, so that you can see the colourful side of the fabric. Now sew each side of the seam allowance flat – this is the 0.5cm or so of excess fabric created by your seam – it isn’t essential but it will look neater and prevent that seam from fraying.
Turn your mask inside-out again and arrange the fabric so that the filter slot is in the middle and the open seams are at the side.
Now you can pin the ends of your elastic ear hooks into place, with one fixed between the two layers of fabric at the top and bottom corners on the left, and the other mirroring it on the right.
Stitch those two side seams closed, then turn the mask the right way out by pulling the fabric through the filter hole.
Finally you’re ready to make your pleats, which will make the mask more comfortable and flexible to wear. Use three pins on each vertical side to mark four equal sections – this is where your pleats will be.
Then, one by one, create 1cm folds (all facing the same way), and use the pins to fix the pleats in place at either end. Manns suggests ironing to help keep the pleats in place: “It makes it easier to sew,” she says.
Now stitch along those side seams to fix the pleats in place. And that’s it – your mask is ready to use.