On Sunday, April 13 a Travis County mandate went into effect requiring everyone to wear masks in public. Whether you sew or not, this blog post covers our favorite masks and patterns at any price, for any face. If you know about basic mask safety, skip ahead to the homemade masks section.
Mask safety dos and don’ts
Do wear a mask when in public, even if you show no symptoms. Homemade masks can prevent the spread of airborne viruses from the mask-wearer. But what about preventing the spread of a virus to the mask-wearer? It depends on many factors including the mask material, mask fit, the wearer’s behavior, and their environment.
Don’t touch your face or mask (or your kid’s face or mask). Sanitize your hands before touching the mask. Practice being present and self-aware: Are you constantly touching stuff and then tugging at your ill-fitting mask? Practice a little zen-acceptance: Your ill-fitting mask probably doesn’t keep you from getting the virus, but it can still help the people around you. Accept that touching your ill-fitting mask facilitates the spread of viruses. Same goes for the kiddos. Can you make a game of offering an alternative to touching their face, and reward that behavior? One extra kiss for every time they want to touch their face but put their hands in their pockets instead!
In August of 2013, a team of researchers at Cambridge University studied the efficacy of homemade face masks for preventing the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses in an Influenza epidemic scenario. The researchers found that a homemade mask was better than no mask. They gathered data on which mask materials and thicknesses were the most effective and most breathable. Their community-level recommendation for which mask material to use was a single layer cotton t-shirt. We shared this study with our friends and asked what material they preferred for their children. They chose a dish towel.
Ready-made masks for adults
In Austin, someone is volunteering to make free masks for their community! They are in need of donated materials to maintain their generous giving. Materials can be dropped on the porch of 2101 Kenwood Ave in Austin.
People are selling inexpensive masks on Nextdoor and Facebook. The going rate seems to be around $10.
DIY masks for any age
So many of our loved ones are sick or overwhelmed right now. For those of us who can, making a washable mask for someone else can be a real good time.
If you’ve ever walked down Congress Ave in downtown Austin, you may have noticed the storefront for Csillawear.com. Our good friend, Csilla, designs and creates their handmade dresses. In the style of a true artisan, she gave me verbal mask-making instructions. If you are experienced with sewing, this memorable sound-byte might be all you need:
1. Make a surgical-style mask (with four pleats) using 7 ¾” squares of auto bodyshop cloths.
2. Add an inch to the sides for men, subtract an inch for kids.
3. Option to add a twist-tie to the nose.
Looking for more in-depth instructions? Here is a tutorial that my former UT design professor, Gloria, shared with me. This pattern was designed by a nurse and can be adapted to include a nose piece and changeable filter.
This last pattern is one I customized for infants and toddlers (prior to learning of the styles above). I don’t have children, but the masks I made miraculously fit my friends’ infants and toddlers. See the PDF pattern and video about using this pattern.
Homemade masks are a great for complying with the Travis County mask mandate that went into effect on Sunday. We’d love to hear what kind of face coverings you’re using. Homemade masks have the benefit of being comfortable, washable, readily available, and effective at lowering community spread of the virus. Our masks will also have the benefit of being fashionable… (Csilla is making our masks for us!) You can read more about efficacy in this Cambridge University study.
People are selling masks on Facebook and Nextdoor. A Nextdoor volunteer in Austin offers masks for free and could use your fabric donations. If you want to make a mask, we offered three patterns: one for experienced sewers, another designed by a medical professional, and a pattern we adapted for infants and toddlers. If you need any help in your quest for a mask or pattern, please send us a message. We’re here to help.