Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Experimenting With Mask Patterns

I've never worn a mask before, and when I looked for mask patterns, there were so many choices that I felt information overload. I decided to just make a few different patterns and decide what pattern makes the most sense to me. Here are my results. Note that the masks were made for speed and sturdiness.  I did not focus on prettiness, although I did try to use coordinating fabric whenever possible.

I decided early on not to include a filter of any kind.  There are several reasons for this. First of all, I don't have any. Second, I don't know what works better than anything else. Third, filters that work may not be comfortable to use, especially as we are going into warmer days. People can just use the mask as is, with three layers without a filter. Comfort has to be balanced with protection.  Fourth, I wouldn't want a mystery filter added to my mask, in case it was something that wasn't good for me. We don't know what filters work and what doesn't, and different people have different preferences.

The photo above is the front and back of the masks using this YouTube pattern:  How to sew an easy, no elastic, Face Mask. Fabric ties. Assembly line friendly. The pattern is easy to understand and explains everything thoroughly. I cut the ties from selvage to selvage instead of 36 inches so I wouldn't have to hem the bottoms. I figure people with bigger heads would have an easier time with longer ties.

What I like about this pattern is that it is  it is made from rectangles, which makes them easy to cut. I also like that there is a pocket in the back so the recipient can insert a filter. Another benefit is that since the front and back are separate fabrics, you can use different fabrics so that it is easy to tell the front from the back.

What I am concerned about these masks is that I used a lower quality fabric. It was a sample, and would be good mostly as a way to prolong the life of  N95 and surgical masks. The comments in the pattern say that it should be a little bigger cut at - 6.5 instead of 6 inches in order to be big enough to insert the N95.

This mask is made with single fold binding method.  This helps when you don't have supplies that can be used as ties, but does add quite a bit of time to the process to fold, press and prepare the ties.

The other thing I worry about this mask is that the pocket is made like a pillow. There is an overlap between the two backing fabrics in which to insert the filter. I wonder if virus particles can find their way out if the backing isn't properly closed. I doubt that would happen because there is a big overlap, but it is a possibility.

These masks are adaptations of the pattern. I increased the width so that they could hold a bigger filter.  They were made almost exactly the same way, except that I added a wire to help position the mask on the nose. My nose is wide enough that it isn't necessary, but some people recommend using a wire. I also made the pleated sides finish at 4 inches instead of 3 inches. I kept doing that throughout the rest of these masks, but now I think I would suggest 3 instead of 4 inches.

The drawback of the wire is that the mask cannot be microwaved to quickly disinfecting them. I also used bread ties, and I am not sure if they would be wide enough to work. The good thing about masks with filter pockets is that the recipient can add a wire after the fact if they want them, although I suppose they could also be added to masks without pockets.

I found a roll of braided tape that my mother had given me. I am so happy not to have to make my own ties.  The label does not say what the ties are made from, so these also cannot be microwaved.

This mask uses a different pattern: It is made with two layers of batik fabric with no pocket.  The darts might help position the mask on the nose, and maybe give some space for the recipient to be able to talk. It is also lightweight and maybe would help from being too hot to use for long periods of time.

I switched to quilting fabric for the rest of these masks. The benefit of this mask is that I used batik fabric, which is tightly woven fabric. I don't have a lot of batik fabric and batik fabric is expensive, but it is a sacrifice worth making to protect health workers and people with preexisting health issues.

The drawback of this pattern is that it uses the same fabric for the front and the back. While there are subtle differences (the pleat for example), using two different fabrics would probably be preferable. This pattern has you layer the ties between the fabric inside, sew around, and then turn right side out. This was a little cumbersome to make sure that you don't sew the ties where you don't want them sewn. It wasn't too bad though, since I used a clip to keep them together, and I could just feel the area I was about to sew before sewing.

In this experiment, I decided to try to add a pocket for a filter. I used a high quality cotton fabric for the filter. I figured using a different fabric for the filter pocket would help make the front and back distinguishable.   I made a mistake and wound up with the pocket on the inside. I could have ripped out the seams to fix it, but I decided to make this mask as a three layer mask instead of a two layer one.

These two masks are made with two layers of quality quilting fabric sewn together with a third layer as a filter pocket. What I like about this mask is that the two layers of fabric that are next to each other. This feels like there is less chance for a virus getting through.  The pocket opening is at the top of the mask, which means that the filter isn't as protected as the pillow pocket shown in the first photo. Also since the pocket opening at the top, the ties can be pulled in that direction so that there is less risk of sewing them where they shouldn't be sewn.

In this experiment, I made the pocket above, but tried to cut the ties longer and make a casing instead of  having four individual ties. Make the casing, then pull tighter and sew them down to maintain the pleats. I didn't increase the size of the fabric before I did this, so this mask will work for a child and not an adult. I didn't like this method as much, maybe because my ties are pretty thick.

This is the same photo you saw before. It's the mask made with two layers. I wore this mask on my walk today. I don't meet any people on my walk so it is more of an experiment for comfort.   The mask was easy to put on. It stayed on securely throughout the walk, and I did not feel the need to touch my face to make adjustments.  There was a slight breeze and I could feel some air on my neck, but I think if there was a virus in that air, the mask and the contours of my face would keep it from getting to my nose and mouth. 

The drawback of this mask, and probably all of the masks, based on this experiment is that there was some condensation on my glasses especially when I was looking down. 

There are other mask patterns I can try to see if they help.

Other ideas I have gotten since making these masks, is that you can make a cardboard template to make the pleats and you can press the pleats before sewing. I think both of these things will mask look prettier and might make them a little bit easier to sew.


Kaja said...

The UK hasn't taken to masks in a big way yet, but I guess it's coming at some point so this was an interesting post for me, not least because it hadn't occurred to me that we could use a microwave to disinfect them.

Julierose said...

Oh i agree about using microwave to disinfect them--I have been washing them in boiling hot water and letting them dry overnight...
how long so you microwave them, if I could ask?
~ ~ ~ waving from her to you Julierose

Kyle said...

I finally made a few for family and friends. There are so many patterns and ideas. Thanks for sharing your findings.

Terry said...

I've seen so many mask patterns online, I had no idea what to go with, so thanks for all the info. I'm going to take the easy way out and make a no-sew one for now.

Tanya said...

Thanks for the mask research! I'm going to start making more maybe from batik fabric though it seems a shame to use that beautiful fabric for masks... But what is the worth of fabric to a saved life!

Kate said...

Thanks for a very good review. I thought I was done with the mask making, but the SIT's undergraduate advisor asked if I would make some for his undergrad and grad students for when they start easing restrictions.