Create an Upcycled Face Mask for Earth Day.
Earth Day (April 22nd 2020), our favorite “holiday”, is right around the corner, so we’re creating content to help you get involved in celebrating the only planet we humans can call our home. With the pandemic in full swing, it’s clear that many typical Earth Day activities like beach clean ups, zero waste cooking classes, eco workshops, environmental events and lectures will be effectively cancelled – at least in person that is. Despite COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, self-quarantines, and social isolations, Earth Day is still on. It’s just going digital. We’ll keep you updated on the latest digital events and happenings that we think are interesting during the lead up to Earth Day.
Today, we thought we’d share this coronavirus relevant activity, that’s Earth Day friendly too. If you go to the grocery store, pharmacy, post office, or any other essential business, the CDC recommends that you wear a face covering to protect yourself and the others around you in case you or someone else has COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms yet or are asymptomatic (don’t have symptoms). These face masks should not be medical masks needed by healthcare professionals (because we’re facing a serious shortage as a nation) but you can either buy a non-medical face mask or make your own at home.
Making your own face mask is a great Earth Day themed activity because you can upcycle your own clothes into face masks for yourself, friends, family, and maybe even essential workers. Mask making is one way to stay busy during these isolated times, and if you have never sewn before (like me), you might even pick up a new skill.
That's why we decided to try to make our own easy Earth Day face masks and to share our experience with all of you who might want to do the same. Let’s do this.
There are a ton of guidelines and patterns out there if you want to create your own mask. There are hand sewn options, machine sewn, simple masks, and more complicated ones with filters and moldable bridges for your nose. There’s even no-sew options for those who don’t have the tools, can’t, or just don’t want to (which is totally fine / understandable too).
For our masks we combined 3 different patterns / instructions:
- Blueprint's pleated, no elastic face mask pattern by Blueprint
- the CDC’s patterns and instructions,
- How to Make a Face Mask for Coronavirus by Time (if you're going to look at just one of these, this one has super simple steps and a video too)
The mask we ultimately created is simple, there's no filter pocket and no adjustable nose bridge. It's a great starter project if you’re learning to sew and definitely works best for non-medical use.
Basic CDC Guidelines.
“Cloth face coverings should—
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape”
Essentially you need two layers of fabric, something to tie the mask to your face, and a high quality pattern to follow.
- A cotton, cotton-poly, or linen tee you don’t wear anymore. Most websites are recommending cotton.
- Our fabric recommendation was made after reading the Washington Post’s article on the efficacy of different materials.
- In other words, it’s best if the fabric you use isn’t super see through (i.e., porous) but you should still be able to easily breathe through it (i.e., don’t suffocate!)
- (2) 36 in pieces of bias tape, if you don’t have ready made bias tape it’s ok - we didn’t have it either, so we’ll show you how to make straps from scratch without bias tape or a bias tape maker.
- You can also use elastic like rubber bands, string, hair ties, etc. as shown in the CDC tutorial
- Fabric scissors or a rotary cutter. I actually used an Exacto knife because it can be hard to cut some fabrics with basic scissors (which is all I have).
- A ruler or soft measuring tape.
- Sewing machine. Just uncovered our old, unused machine in the garage.
Part 1. Cutting out your pieces
- Cut (2) 7.75 in Height x 8.25 in Width rectangles out of your old cotton tee.
- The recommended measurements from Blueprint are 7.5 x 8 inches, but we wanted to give ourselves some extra wiggle room.
- Time recommends 7 x 9 in, CDC recommends 6 x 10 in, so it's really up to you! This is a great opportunity to custom fit your mask – we will be sewing horizontal pleats into the mask, so make sure there is enough height to cover your face after it's been pleated.
- Cut (2) 36 inch pieces of fabric that are each about 2 inches or so wide. Or create strips that are the same width and can be sewn together into 1 long pieces (you'll actually need two of these one for each of the top and bottoms straps).
- I cut 4 pieces of fabric and combined 2 of the pieces for the top strap which was 36 inches long and 2 of the pieces for the bottom strap which was 31 inches long.
Part 2. Sewing the mask body
- Stack your two rectangles with the sides that you want showing on the outside of your mask, hidden on the inside and facing each other.
- Sew a straight stitch ⅜” in from the edge for the (2) 7.5 inch edges and (1) of the 8 inch edges. This will be your inside seam.
- The stitch should be continuous around the perimeter, so don’t remove your mask from the machine and do each side separately.
- Sew part of the way on both sides of the other 8 inch edge, leaving a few inch gap open in the middle.
- From the unsewn gap in the middle, turn the mask inside out and poke out any corners that are rounded inward.
- Fold the top unsewn edge inside like the other edges of the mask and iron and/or pin it into place.
- I straight up used my hair straightener to iron everything into the desired shape.
Part 3. Pleats
- About 1 inch down from the top of your mask, pinch a section and fold it down on top of the mask to form a pleat.
- You can iron it down flat and stick a pin in it or use clips to hold it in place (or flat iron it!).
- Immediately after the 1st pleat, make a 2nd one, and then a 3rd.
- The pleats should slightly overlap on each other.
- Sew a “top stitch” around the perimeter of the mask, closing the top unsewn edge as well as sewing your pleats into place.
- This is another straight stitch sewn about ⅛” away from the edge.
- The stitch should be continuous around the perimeter, so don’t remove your mask from the machine to do each side separately, just turn your mask 90 degrees when you are ⅛” away from the opposite edge from which you started.
Now the main, mask body is complete - just the straps are left! But this was the hardest part for me personally because I didn't have ready made bias tape.
Part 4. Mask straps & finishing up
- Use 36 inch long fabric or sew two pieces together like I did. If sewing together, make sure the pieces are the same width (about 2 inches).
- You can adjust the strap lengths to your needs.
- Fold the fabric in half and use pins to secure before ironing to align the edges to meet. Iron the fold to get a crease to form, then remove the pins. This crease will be your guide for the next step.
- Fold each raw edge to the middle crease line and use pins to secure the folds into place. Use an iron to hold the shape and remove the pins afterward.
- Fold lengthwise in ½ again, encasing the horizontal side of the mask inside. The mask should be positioned directly in the middle of the strap, so that the ties are the same length on both sides of the mask.
- Option to place straps on top of the outside or underneath the backside of the mask as well (instead of encasing the edge of the mask inside).
- You can use more bias tape for the top part of your mask since people’s heads are large in the middle vs at the nape of their neck.
- Top-stitch the open edge of the bias tape close from top to bottom.
So many people are getting involved and sharing their experience online, making it a nice way to connect with your fellow isolators. It’s also a way to do some good if you're feeling extra crafty. Some hospitals are taking donations since they are short on actual medical masks at this time. See which hospitals are in your area, and which masks they need through Covid Mask Crafters. Mask Crafters provides instructions and patterns for the different mask types.
Hope you had fun, learned something new, and upcycled that old college dorm tee they gave you for free your freshman year into a usable face mask for Earth Day!