I sewed a sloppy coronavirus mask — so you don’t have to

Community Apr 09, 2020 by Jennifer O'Meara DurhamRegion.com

DURHAM — Turns out there’s a difference between crafty and COVID-19 crafty.

I should start by saying I can knit but I don’t really know how to sew. I can mend a ripped T-shirt or a teddy bear’s ear but I have never made clothing. I have no idea how to use a sewing machine.

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) is becoming scarce and needs to be saved for front-line health-care workers. Officials are reconsidering their position on the use of fabric face masks. I wanted to make one for our weekly grocery shopping trips.

Like so many do-it-yourself projects, the plan seemed simple enough, but the final result fell far short of perfect.

Here I share with readers every step of my mistake-strewn process — so you don’t have to make the same errors.   

Step 1. Find a simple-looking pattern online. Make sure it doesn’t occur to you that it only looks simple because you have no idea how to read a sewing pattern.

Step 2. Assemble your materials — fabric, thread and elastic. Looking at the little pile amassed, you may feel a small wave of panic about how on earth you’re going to assemble these items in a way that will keep someone safe. Now push that feeling aside, you’ve got work to do.

Step 3. Iron, measure and cut the fabric (9 X 6 inches). Put the pretty sides of two pieces of cotton fabric facing together.

Step 4. Start sewing the rectangles together in the centre of the bottom edge. Why? I have no idea, but we’re following directions because this is important. When you get to the corners, sew in the elastic cord. Wreck two needles before you realize you are probably supposed to sew through flat elastic and around cord elastic. Leave a two-inch gap not sewed on the final side.

Step 5. Turn the material inside out so the pretty side of the fabric is now facing out. Realize that you’ve sewn the elastics inside the rectangle of fabric. Mutter some curses while you decide how to proceed. Slice through the stitches on two corners, then use tweezers to get the elastic cord on the outside of the fabric where it should be. Reconnect the elastic so it can work as ear loops.

Step 6. The directions say sew three tucks on each side of the mask. Go online to figure out that pin tucks are little folds sewn into the fabric. Use straight pins to secure three folds on each of the short sides of the mask. Trying to keep all three folds going the same direction will be infuriating. You will consider grabbing another straight pin to slide through the centre of the mask to hold the folds … then it occurs to you that holes in the middle of the mask will likely make it less effective. Grab an iron instead — one of the strangest parts of the pandemic so far is that I’m ironing.

Step 7. Sew around the edge of the mask twice. Try it on. It doesn’t fit as snugly as you’d hoped. There are some gaps, especially around the cheeks and chin. It fits your husband better, but still not as well as you’d like.

Time to get some advice.

Stephanie Skopyk, clinic lead and nurse practitioner for the Canadian Mental Health Association Durham, explained via email that a person wearing a homemade mask is less likely to expose others to illness they are unknowingly carrying. Homemade masks are not as reliable for preventing the transmission of a virus to the wearer, but they do offer a small reduction in the number of pathogens and germs that get close to their nose and mouth from others — which is primarily how COVID-19 is spread.

“As a health-care provider for the past 20 years in Ontario, I had never worn a homemade face mask until this past weekend — when I wore one to go do my groceries,” she added. “So people can view these kinds of efforts as contributing to contain the spread of COVID-19, in addition to consistent handwashing and physical distancing.”

Skopyk recommended a face mask pattern from the CDC website, www.cdc.gov. It looks simple enough (clearly I have learned nothing) and I vow to try again.

Here’s what I’ll try differently next time:

1. A checked or grid pattern on the fabric to make measuring easier.

2. Save sewing the short sides of the rectangle for last, to get the elastics in the right place the first time.

3. Making a loop of fabric to slide the elastic through, trying the mask on and making adjustments as I go, then sewing the fabric to the elastic cord so it fits better.

4. If I’m feeling overconfident, I might get my 8-year-old daughter to teach me how to use her sewing machine to speed the process up. Hand sewing is for suckers.

I sewed a sloppy coronavirus mask — so you don’t have to

Mistakes were made, here’s what one This Week reporter learned

Community Apr 09, 2020 by Jennifer O'Meara DurhamRegion.com

DURHAM — Turns out there’s a difference between crafty and COVID-19 crafty.

I should start by saying I can knit but I don’t really know how to sew. I can mend a ripped T-shirt or a teddy bear’s ear but I have never made clothing. I have no idea how to use a sewing machine.

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) is becoming scarce and needs to be saved for front-line health-care workers. Officials are reconsidering their position on the use of fabric face masks. I wanted to make one for our weekly grocery shopping trips.

Like so many do-it-yourself projects, the plan seemed simple enough, but the final result fell far short of perfect.

Related Content

Here I share with readers every step of my mistake-strewn process — so you don’t have to make the same errors.   

Step 1. Find a simple-looking pattern online. Make sure it doesn’t occur to you that it only looks simple because you have no idea how to read a sewing pattern.

Step 2. Assemble your materials — fabric, thread and elastic. Looking at the little pile amassed, you may feel a small wave of panic about how on earth you’re going to assemble these items in a way that will keep someone safe. Now push that feeling aside, you’ve got work to do.

Step 3. Iron, measure and cut the fabric (9 X 6 inches). Put the pretty sides of two pieces of cotton fabric facing together.

Step 4. Start sewing the rectangles together in the centre of the bottom edge. Why? I have no idea, but we’re following directions because this is important. When you get to the corners, sew in the elastic cord. Wreck two needles before you realize you are probably supposed to sew through flat elastic and around cord elastic. Leave a two-inch gap not sewed on the final side.

Step 5. Turn the material inside out so the pretty side of the fabric is now facing out. Realize that you’ve sewn the elastics inside the rectangle of fabric. Mutter some curses while you decide how to proceed. Slice through the stitches on two corners, then use tweezers to get the elastic cord on the outside of the fabric where it should be. Reconnect the elastic so it can work as ear loops.

Step 6. The directions say sew three tucks on each side of the mask. Go online to figure out that pin tucks are little folds sewn into the fabric. Use straight pins to secure three folds on each of the short sides of the mask. Trying to keep all three folds going the same direction will be infuriating. You will consider grabbing another straight pin to slide through the centre of the mask to hold the folds … then it occurs to you that holes in the middle of the mask will likely make it less effective. Grab an iron instead — one of the strangest parts of the pandemic so far is that I’m ironing.

Step 7. Sew around the edge of the mask twice. Try it on. It doesn’t fit as snugly as you’d hoped. There are some gaps, especially around the cheeks and chin. It fits your husband better, but still not as well as you’d like.

Time to get some advice.

Stephanie Skopyk, clinic lead and nurse practitioner for the Canadian Mental Health Association Durham, explained via email that a person wearing a homemade mask is less likely to expose others to illness they are unknowingly carrying. Homemade masks are not as reliable for preventing the transmission of a virus to the wearer, but they do offer a small reduction in the number of pathogens and germs that get close to their nose and mouth from others — which is primarily how COVID-19 is spread.

“As a health-care provider for the past 20 years in Ontario, I had never worn a homemade face mask until this past weekend — when I wore one to go do my groceries,” she added. “So people can view these kinds of efforts as contributing to contain the spread of COVID-19, in addition to consistent handwashing and physical distancing.”

Skopyk recommended a face mask pattern from the CDC website, www.cdc.gov. It looks simple enough (clearly I have learned nothing) and I vow to try again.

Here’s what I’ll try differently next time:

1. A checked or grid pattern on the fabric to make measuring easier.

2. Save sewing the short sides of the rectangle for last, to get the elastics in the right place the first time.

3. Making a loop of fabric to slide the elastic through, trying the mask on and making adjustments as I go, then sewing the fabric to the elastic cord so it fits better.

4. If I’m feeling overconfident, I might get my 8-year-old daughter to teach me how to use her sewing machine to speed the process up. Hand sewing is for suckers.

I sewed a sloppy coronavirus mask — so you don’t have to

Mistakes were made, here’s what one This Week reporter learned

Community Apr 09, 2020 by Jennifer O'Meara DurhamRegion.com

DURHAM — Turns out there’s a difference between crafty and COVID-19 crafty.

I should start by saying I can knit but I don’t really know how to sew. I can mend a ripped T-shirt or a teddy bear’s ear but I have never made clothing. I have no idea how to use a sewing machine.

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) is becoming scarce and needs to be saved for front-line health-care workers. Officials are reconsidering their position on the use of fabric face masks. I wanted to make one for our weekly grocery shopping trips.

Like so many do-it-yourself projects, the plan seemed simple enough, but the final result fell far short of perfect.

Related Content

Here I share with readers every step of my mistake-strewn process — so you don’t have to make the same errors.   

Step 1. Find a simple-looking pattern online. Make sure it doesn’t occur to you that it only looks simple because you have no idea how to read a sewing pattern.

Step 2. Assemble your materials — fabric, thread and elastic. Looking at the little pile amassed, you may feel a small wave of panic about how on earth you’re going to assemble these items in a way that will keep someone safe. Now push that feeling aside, you’ve got work to do.

Step 3. Iron, measure and cut the fabric (9 X 6 inches). Put the pretty sides of two pieces of cotton fabric facing together.

Step 4. Start sewing the rectangles together in the centre of the bottom edge. Why? I have no idea, but we’re following directions because this is important. When you get to the corners, sew in the elastic cord. Wreck two needles before you realize you are probably supposed to sew through flat elastic and around cord elastic. Leave a two-inch gap not sewed on the final side.

Step 5. Turn the material inside out so the pretty side of the fabric is now facing out. Realize that you’ve sewn the elastics inside the rectangle of fabric. Mutter some curses while you decide how to proceed. Slice through the stitches on two corners, then use tweezers to get the elastic cord on the outside of the fabric where it should be. Reconnect the elastic so it can work as ear loops.

Step 6. The directions say sew three tucks on each side of the mask. Go online to figure out that pin tucks are little folds sewn into the fabric. Use straight pins to secure three folds on each of the short sides of the mask. Trying to keep all three folds going the same direction will be infuriating. You will consider grabbing another straight pin to slide through the centre of the mask to hold the folds … then it occurs to you that holes in the middle of the mask will likely make it less effective. Grab an iron instead — one of the strangest parts of the pandemic so far is that I’m ironing.

Step 7. Sew around the edge of the mask twice. Try it on. It doesn’t fit as snugly as you’d hoped. There are some gaps, especially around the cheeks and chin. It fits your husband better, but still not as well as you’d like.

Time to get some advice.

Stephanie Skopyk, clinic lead and nurse practitioner for the Canadian Mental Health Association Durham, explained via email that a person wearing a homemade mask is less likely to expose others to illness they are unknowingly carrying. Homemade masks are not as reliable for preventing the transmission of a virus to the wearer, but they do offer a small reduction in the number of pathogens and germs that get close to their nose and mouth from others — which is primarily how COVID-19 is spread.

“As a health-care provider for the past 20 years in Ontario, I had never worn a homemade face mask until this past weekend — when I wore one to go do my groceries,” she added. “So people can view these kinds of efforts as contributing to contain the spread of COVID-19, in addition to consistent handwashing and physical distancing.”

Skopyk recommended a face mask pattern from the CDC website, www.cdc.gov. It looks simple enough (clearly I have learned nothing) and I vow to try again.

Here’s what I’ll try differently next time:

1. A checked or grid pattern on the fabric to make measuring easier.

2. Save sewing the short sides of the rectangle for last, to get the elastics in the right place the first time.

3. Making a loop of fabric to slide the elastic through, trying the mask on and making adjustments as I go, then sewing the fabric to the elastic cord so it fits better.

4. If I’m feeling overconfident, I might get my 8-year-old daughter to teach me how to use her sewing machine to speed the process up. Hand sewing is for suckers.