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From doll masks to human masks in 5 days!

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Stuff happens fast!

I started last week thinking "Wow, there's a lot of bad mask instructions online for people wanting to sew masks. Maybe I can help by getting some good info out there to counter the bad."

I started this week with my latest batch of (human) masks for my local hospital.
So, how did I get here? Well... there was the doll masks, obviously. There were a lot of well meaning people making essentially cosplay mask tutorials that I knew would be ineffective from my own experience using PPE.  I thought I could do a fun free pattern/tutorial to get some good info out there. 

In my current job, I'm quite good at designing form-fitting patterns (obviously!) but in my previous job I was very good at research. So combining my past and present, I skipped all the helpful-but-bad youtube videos and went straight for the science articles. That's why my doll pattern ends with a lot of links on research to the best kinds of fabric to use, etc.  The kind of hard science people should look at!

I finished that up and put it out for free on Wednesday, sending it to family and friends as well as you all.
By Thursday, HOSPITALS all over the country started asking for home made masks to cover shortages. Masks went from 'maybe a good idea to know about' to 'national shortage' overnight.

On Friday, through the folks I'd sent my mask tutorial to, I was asked to help out people at our local hospital as they are already running out/rationing and most of the staff has to go without masks of any kind. Not donating directly to the hospital (yet) but the hospital doesn't tell the staff they *can't* use cloth masks, so for now they're being passed around like contraband.
Just think about how messed up that is for a minute before moving on. 

Work table reconfigured for mask making
(Reconfigured for mask-making)

So that's what I'm doing now. I had plans to do a lot of doll stuff to keep spirits up among adults and kids stuck indoors, and I still do--I'm just going to be making that priority #2 instead of priority #1.

If you're curious why the design is different from the doll pattern, it's because my original design was perfect fit to each face masks which don't work in a mass production setting. I'm using a tweaked version of THIS pattern because it's a multi-face surgeon style mask WITH a nose clip AND a filter pocket.

I have made some adjustments to streamline the making of it, but the main difference is the kind of tie used on the doll pattern was more comfortable and better at adjustable sizing than elastic ear loops.

For fabric, I'm using my fold-out guest bed's sheets because according to This new research bedding and T-shirts are recommended for best filtration/comfort.  Bedding stood out to me as the best choice because high thread count sheets (like 600+) sheets are excellent, tightly-woven cotton, which take cleaning methods that destroy other fabrics (boiling, bleaching--the kinds of thing you'd do to sterilize, btw) and stay soft and strong.  Certainly better than anything I could buy at a craft store!

The filters are the tough part.  Per the above article, most of the good filters are really hard to breathe through, so I looked for an alternative.  After some more research, CSR sterilization wraps seemed like a good choice: they're melt-blown fabric made for similar sterilization purposes by the same method as surgeon masks, just not pleated up into mask form.  To check, I chatted with an ICU person who confirmed that CSR sterilization wraps are made from the same stuff as surgeon masks.

Even better, CSR wraps also provide really useful moisture barrier that cloth masks are lacking, which was noted as a drawback to cloth masks in a few of the studies I read. 

So why not just make masks out of CSR wraps?

Couple good reasons: it takes me around 30-45 minutes to make a mask, which only makes sense if it's reusable (CSR wraps are not). Also, a lot of fabric is wasted in the folding/pleating/loop attachment.  In normal circumstances, that's fine, but every square inch is precious right now. 

Therefore, I bought a box of wraps and will be cutting them into smaller squares that will be used as disposable filters.  This allows for the same amount of wraps to be used in roughly 3x as many masks and no wasted time!

Again, this is my personal MacGuyvering experience. I have no idea how well this will work compared to the proper protective equipment our medical people SHOULD have, but I do know it will work better than what they are currently getting.
If you are also currently in the process of trying to make masks to make up for the SHAMEFUL lack of protective gear they have, I hope sharing my experience is useful.


If you're interested in putting your sewing skills to good use, here are some of the DIY mask networks that have already sprung up: