Now that the surgical face mask is an elusive item in Singapore due to fears over COVID-19 outbreak, many have highlighted to us that we should be sewing cloth face masks instead. Aside from the debate on whether we should wear a mask, I was also quite skeptical of the efficacy of cloth face masks due to its porousness. However, I decided to try sewing one after reading a research article that suggests that having a cloth mask might be better than having no mask, especially if one is vulnerable to the virus. Oh well, there is also another article circulating around in which a Taiwanese doctor suggests improvising the cloth mask with an “air filter” made of non-woven material such as dried-up baby wipes.
[updated on 16/02/2020: Verdict is out! Kitchen towels can be used as the “air filter” too! Just watched Channel News Asia’s report on what HK scientists are advocating as an effective alternative to surgical mask. Read full article here.]
So if you are keen to try making one, here’s the step-by-step pictorial guide on how to sew it!
What you’ll need: Cotton fabric cut according to the following dimensions. (Kid’s Mask Dimensions is 16.5cm by 43cm instead.) Avoid loose-weave cotton (cotton gauze) as they may be more porous. Regular quilting cotton/cotton lawn works well and is comfortable enough.
Step 1: Fold in raw edges along the short edges and sew using a 0.5cm seam allowance.
Step 2: Mark out the folding lines on the wrong side of fabric by following the guide [update 16/02/2020: Kid’s Size added!]
Step 3: Fold to form the pleats
Step 4: With right sides together, fold along the top and bottom folding lines
Step 5: Prepare the side tabs by folding wrong sides together lengthwise. Mark out the respective mid-points and sandwich tabs within the folded mask, with raw edges aligned.
Step 6: Time to sew! If you wish to add a flexi-wire piece to your mask, follow the sewing lines below. Use a 1cm seam allowance. If you are not adding the wire, just sew 2 separate lines along the 2 short edges. Serge or zigzag stitch along the raw edges (exclude the wire slot) to prevent fraying. [Optional: insert wire]
Final step: Add elastic band
Ok, actual last step is to add in your “air filter” as recommended by the Taiwanese doctor!
Have fun making one and remember to wash it daily and practise good hygiene!! Replace wire and elastic band when needed!