Should you wear a face mask while outside during the COVID-19 pandemic? After weeks of conflicting reports from regional and national public health officials at home and abroad, a clearer answer to that question is emerging. Last week Canada Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told the public that wearing a “non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you.”
There are good reasons for that focus on “non-medical:” personal protective equipment is a deeply needed resource for front-line workers right now, and in many places is in short supply. The best protection for non-health-care workers is really just staying at home—but if you have to go to places like the grocery store, a fabric mask is better than no coverage at all.
A number of Canadian companies have started offering their own versions of non-medical face masks that can be shipped to your house, but there are also many ways you can make your own. Whether the prospect of a new DIY project sounds like a lovely way to while the hours or a logistical nightmare (not everyone has a sewing machine lying around, let alone a thread and needle), we’ve got you covered. Here’s five ways to whip up a fabric face mask—at varying skill and material levels.
No-Sew With Fabric
This method requires little more than a square-shaped piece of fabric, two elastic bands (or hair elastics, to avoid chafing), and a couple of minutes of your time. Here’s a quick tutorial from crafting blog Japanese Creations:
Our food content director Irene Ngo used this version for her grocery run last week:
No-Sew with T-Shirt
Got a spare T-shirt lying around? Craft store chain Michael’s has a method for cutting a quick mask out of the side of a shirt, using the seam as the centre of the mask. You don’t even need elastics:
Know how to thread a needle? This version can be whipped up faster with a sewing machine, but it’s also possible to make with a needle and thread, some clothespins or paper clips, and a pair of scissors. Elastic or fabric can be used for the ear loops. The New York Times has an illustrated guide for how to pull this off by hand, or here’s a video tutorial from YouTube:
My aunt-in-law dropped a couple of these versions off at my door for our family. (Thanks, Auntie Ori!)
This double-layered mask, developed by a Hong Kong-based chemist, allows you to use paper towels or coffee filters as an insert to allow for easy changing. Get the pattern here. And here’s a translated video:
In late February, a member of Freesewing, an open-source pattern community, posted a pattern for a similar version of the mask that uses a curved seam to hug your face. Here’s the video tutorial:
Chatelaine art director Stephanie Kim whipped up a bunch of her own:
Some general things to know: be sure to use a breathable material that can be washed regularly without damaging the fabric, as you’ll need to wash it regularly after use. (Cotton works well.) It’s also important to remember to practice good mask hygiene: it won’t be as effective if you keep fiddling with it while out in public, and take care not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth before taking it off if you haven’t already thoroughly washed your hands first—and always wash your hands after handling it.