2.20.2019

Fabric Face Masks | An Easy but Fiddly and Free Project

2.29.2020 UPDATE:  Due to the high volume of traffic to this post recently due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, know that only an N95 rated face mask will prevent the wearer from inhaling viral particles.  Click here to read about the differences between face masks.  If there is no access to an N95 rated face mask and this is your only option, you might want to include the additional steps Craft Passion wrote at the end of her updated blog post showing how to sew a pocket sleeve for a surgical mask or nonwoven material to slide into to give a little bit more filter to the mask..... but again, will not bring it to the protection of an N95.  That is also where you will find the free pattern.  I followed her pattern but used hair bands.... i.e. ponytail holders......as the elastics to fit around the ears.  My steps and mini-tutorial about how I sewed those are below in the body of this post.  I hope and pray all will be safe.  Hugs!!  Lisa

3.18.2020 UPDATE:  Recently So Sew Easy included this Fabric Face Mask post in a Face Mask Sewing Patterns Roundup..... a collective post featuring DIY Face Masks of different shapes and forms.  So if you are looking for something a little different than what I've shared here.... you might want to check out their site too.  Their information is free, just like my information is free and Craft Passion's pattern I used is free.  We have a wonderful selfless sewing community.  Be safe everyone!!  Hugs!!  Lisa

Have you ever considered making a fabric face mask?  Some folks who deal with allergies may feel their only option is the disposable paper mask, but a mask of soft fabric might be something to consider.  My sweet  companion Suzi, below, is sporting a lovely pink fuzzy barrette given to her by her sweet groomer Erin and you will see in a minute how all that connects to face masks.  ;)
Top, Pants
Suzi is a high maintenance border collie mix, who not only needs a special prescription diet, has allergies to most things.... but also needs monthly grooming.  Her grooming is more than just a bath and blow-dry, needing teeth brushing, ear cleaning and anal glands expressed regularly..... a necessity for Suzi that is part of keeping her well and healthy.  So we love Erin, her groomer, who we see every 4 weeks.    I don't share with many folks that I sew my clothes..... which sounds so funny with how active I am about all that here and on IG.... but generally have found that it creates an awkward pause that most nice people just don't know what to say because it is such an anomaly in my area.  So it caught Erin by surprise when I shared a couple of sewing related things on Facebook and she texted me asking if I could make her a couple of fabric face masks because she's allergic to dog dander, and that she'd like to pay me.  Erin is the sweetest, kindest, most generous person of all..... so of course I said 'sure' and that there'd be no payment and could she send me a photo of what she'd like.  In my mind I'm thinking face mask?  Where in the world can I get a pattern for a face mask?!!
Shiny coat, bandana and barrette means Suzi saw Erin this morning
This is the image Erin sent me, below, linking it back to the Etsy shop where it was listed for sale for $17.51 + $13 for shipping from the UK to USA.  Adjustable elastic around the ears, fully covering the nose, mouth and chin.  Those are the features I zeroed in on.  And pattern.... at this point was certain I'd have to figure all that out on my own.
Etsy Listing link 
So imagine my surprise when a simple Google search provided the one and only perfect pattern!  And it was free!!   Craft Passion drafted 3 sizes in their simple pattern and provided step-by-step instructions.  Somehow I printed a little .pdf booklet, but today can only find the instructions on their website.   Anyway.... it is free.  A big Thank You to Craft Passion for providing this great service.
So leave it to me to overthink everything at this point.  *Cue rolling the eyes here!*  Knowing Erin needed these for allergies, I thought about what sort of fabrics would make the best filter.  Bottom left is a cotton gauze to be lined with soft cotton knit, bottom right is 100% linen to be lined with cotton muslin.  Those fabric contents would filter allergens well, right?
Below you can see how they made up.  Cotton knit was not a good lining as it kept collapsing on itself and honestly they were just all blah.  I was so focused on filtering, I wasn't thinking aesthetics.  And these pitiful elastics were just...... pitiful.  Wimpy, too stretchy, too flimsy.... but they were all I had on hand and could find at my local notions dept.
The blahness of the original 2 affected me to the point where a quick look in the stash provided a couple of cute 100% cotton quilting prints that became the 2 masks below, both lined in 100% cotton muslin.  These 4 masks were taken to Erin as a sort of prototype/sample for her to let me know what worked best for her.
She immediately gravitated to the cat fabric and said she loved purple.   After a few days of using, she also said the cottons worked great and were the best because they kept their shape.  She loved that it covered her nose, mouth and chin and that the pattern was perfect.  She also added that they laundered well.  She was a trooper about the disappointing elastics,  but I knew there was definitely room for improvement there.
Knowing I had a good pattern, now I turned to Etsy for cute doggie fabric.  And boy what fun I had!!  As everyone knows, Etsy is a marketplace for independent sellers and I had the great good fortune to land on The Fancy Flutist Finds site when she was selling her stash of doggie fabrics.  Such a super nice seller.  After responding almost immediately to my e-mail asking for reduced shipping charges due to combining fabrics, she asked what I would be making.  When she realized I needed such small pieces, aka scraps really, she included all the doggie scraps she had for free in my package too.  What a nice surprise!!  Isn't the envelope she made for me fun too?!!
These are the larger pieces I purchased.  It was doggie cuteness overload.  I specifically tried to buy the prints that had purple after Erin shared with me that was her favorite color.  Now it was time to sew all the face masks.
The face masks are super easy to sew..... just fiddly and a little more time consuming than one would think.  All are 100% quilting cotton lined with 100% white cotton muslin.  But honestly the biggest headscratcher was what to use for the elastic around the ear.  I purchased a couple of different types of sturdy elastic cording from another Etsy seller and initially thought the problem was solved..... until I realized knotting them was awkward.... actually they would not knot and stay knotted.... and my poor Bernina absolutely could not sew through the rubberized middle of those things.  More time was lost spent on figuring out how to attach those darn elastics until the thought crossed my mind about hair elastics.  Or better known in my world as Ponytail Holders.  :)
These are soft, stretchable and already secured in a circle..... so no awkward tying of knots or adding a cord stop.  Actually one of my originals had cord stops added to the elastics and Erin spoke of how it rubbed her ear and didn't feel good.
These certainly seemed to be the right size for the mask needs and it was fun to match colors to masks.
The way I chose to sew them in is how I've got my machine set up below.  Both sides of the mask are left open, so I simply placed the elastic within the seam allowance and slowly, carefully stitched the seam closed encasing the elastic as I went.
Fiddly but easy!!
All the insides.
Wanting to show the great curved form that covers the nose, mouth and chin.....
All done and ready to be used.
In all I think I made maybe around 10 doggie print face masks.... just forgot to take photos.  It was quite exciting to take all these to Erin as she thought the original 4 were 'it'.  :)
Priceless to see Erin's look on her face as she unfolded each one and tried them all on.  She said the ponytail holder elastics were p-e-r-f-e-c-t.    She even gave Suzi an extra spa day as a sweet thank you.
So never in my wildest imagination would I have thought the sewing skillset I have been working so hard to achieve over all these years would be used in this way.   And I am so VERY grateful for the opportunity those skills provided for this sweet project.

Happy Sewing All!  :)
2.06.2020 EDIT/UPDATE:  With the current worldwide 2019 Novel Coronavirus threat, this page is receiving a lot of attention recently.  Not sure if this pageview uptick is connected to taking precautions against the threat of the virus, but as a full disclaimer I have no idea how much of a germ barrier these masks might be as they were made for my pup's groomer to help her combat inhaling dog dander and fur.

90 comments:

  1. Amazing. Your sewing skills and willingness to experiment and create are boundless! :o}

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  2. Amazing...these are wonderful. So well thought out and a real labour of love. I am sure they will be well appreciated by Erin.

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  3. I love these! Those fabrics are so cute too!

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  4. I have suffered with bronchial asthma since I was 3 months old and am now 73 years old. I do all of the mowing of about 8 acres of land and do not like the masks that are purchased in bulk at the big box stores. These look like the answer but am wondering if the elastic stretches enough to fit comfortably when places behind the ears. Great pattern and fabrics!!

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    1. These were made for my pup's groomer.... and she said yes, they fit great. In fact.... she thought the fit was superior to anything else she'd been using. Hope that helps. Good Luck!! :)

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    2. You might substitute cloth ties at the corners instead of elastics. Shouldn't be too difficult.

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  5. They say it's not going to stop the Corona virus. I am going to make one for a trip overseas. I always seem to get a cold after a long flight so I am willing to try this to see if it will help. Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. I hope it helps and you stay safe. :)

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    2. Actually......new info has recently come out regarding COVID transmission and my very large health care system (I'm a nurse and manage a couple medical practices) are considering going to fabric masks. So, definitely something to consider. I'm looking for patterns so I can make a bunch for my staff, if/when they give the "official" okay.

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    3. A Cambridge study showed two layers of a basic cotton blend t-shirt material stopped 70% of .02 micron sized particles. MASKS WORK! Come on people, start wearing a mask at the grocery store!1

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    4. Another pattern site I visited suggest that four layers of fabric would be an improvement - and yes, acknowledged that the intent is for these to be used by personnel who are not indirect contact with COVID patients, who need the N-95 masks, which are in short supply.

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    5. Two layers of tea/kitchen towel have shown 97% effectiveness at filtering viruses per 2013 Emergency medicine study.

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    6. The Cambridge University study shows that 2 tea towels (dish towels) filters 97% of .02 micron sized particles which is exactly the same as a surgical mask but that is 128% more difficult to breath in than a surgical mask. They do however state that the best filter material is a cotton t-shirt or pillowcase between the breath-ability and the filtration. Those materials in single layers filter 70-75% of 0.02 microns and 78-84% of 1 micron size. Its a great study to read.

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    7. I found N-95 charcoal re-useable washable filters on Amazon. I'm slipping them into the pockets of the masks. Then they can be taken out & washed along with the masks. That way you have more protection. I'm making these for my attendants to wear at our Laundromat.

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    8. Can you provide a link on the N-95 charcoal re-useable washable filter on amazon having trouble finding

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  6. It's better than nothing. I'll be using ac filters rated 1900 inside mine. Won't be much but better than nothing.

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    1. Thanks for the info! I especially liked using the hair ties, so easy ☺️

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  7. I’ll admit the media coverage of coronavirus sent me here - but I had never thought of masks before and that coverage opened an opportunity for my daughter who does our mowing and has allergies. And for my husband who has Myasthenia Gravis - whether or not these masks help stop a virus, at least the masks are a visual reminder of an invisible disease. It may keep someone from passing along a common cold by thinking twice. That could be just enough protection. Thank you. Especially for the hair bands and how to encase them.

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    1. Hope the hair bands work well for you. And I do agree with all you said. :)

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  8. Do they protect well around the nose since there is no metal that can be pinched for closure like on the surgical type?

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    1. I will update this post shortly.... but to answer your question..... Craft Passion who created this free pattern and whose link is at the top of this page has created an updated version to include a sleeve to slide a surgical face mask into and you can secure the mask with that clip. Good Luck and be safe. :)

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    2. The shape of these mask stay on the nose. They are fitted. I put a #40 weight stabilizer for my inside. My friend is wearing hers at the bank.. Said she got light headed so she needs to learn to breath in it and take it down every so often. Since she is at the drive thru she can do that. I wore it to the grocery and it took a little getting use to but I noticed people moving away from me as a precaution. I think it will help more than it won't help. Staying home is the big answer though. God bless everyone!! Be safe!!

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  9. Do you sell these? I work for a vet clinic and these would be perfect!

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  10. I intend making masks to use at home if any of us get a cough or worse. Coronavirus or any other virus can be caught by droplets going into the eyes as well as the nose and mouth so a mask wont help, but, if you have a cough yourself a mask will help stop the transmission of droplets to others....I am going to use four layers of fabric....good luck everybody...

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  11. If they help remind folks not to touch hands to mouth or nose—or even eyes— they will help a lot. I am adding a polyester lining with a tight weave to help with filtering.

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  12. My son n I love working in the woodshop, sanding our projects down but guess what! Corona virus equals no dust masks at the store.

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  13. Planning on making to use on a long flight overseas; they will help keep all of us from rubbing our nose and mouths; thank you!

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  14. I have bought madical facemasks and goggles to put together in case of earthquake to shield the dust from getting in eyes and lungs. I like this idea. Will make some up.

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  15. Thank you for the free pattern, it looks great and it will be better than nothing! Thanks for sharing!

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  16. I zig zag a third of a pipe cleaner to the inside of the mask above the nose. It is washable. I line the masks with a medium weight sew-in interfacing. Thus three layers. Effective for filtering some pollen.

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    1. Great idea!! Be safe! :)

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    2. Brilliant! Thank you!

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    3. Excelente idea 💡

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    4. About to make many for employees and residents at senior living facility where I work. The interfacing idea is awesome. Some sights recommend flannel, but for some with respiratory ailments I believe would be more difficult to breathe through.

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  17. Thanks for the info. I made some for my daughter who had asthma and she mentioned it needed to be tighter around her nose..thank you again

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    1. I found wire that you could encase around the nose area on a package of mini doughnuts that come in a bag, the ones you fold and close. I'll be trying that on my next one.

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    2. GET YOURSELF AN ALUMINUM PAN CUT 1 "X 2 1/2 STRIPS. FOLD THESE STRIPS TO MAKE THE NOSE PIECES.

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    3. How about recycling the metal closures that come on coffee packages? I think one could be sewn in the mask on the top of the nose. Or a piece of fabric could cover it and be stitched around.

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  18. Thank you, who all help! I'm horrified to read that in a hospital, there are only 1/3 of masks for all medical workers who are examining/treating CORONAVIRUS patients. All I can come up with that may help,
    is sewing nurses' masks. Having seen the openness of people here, I'm wondering if there are any other
    craft/sewers who would like to do free masks for whoever they believe would most benefit. Thank you.

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    1. I am here for that specific reason. There are no masks in our ENTIRE county and I worry about myself and my healthcare coworkers and wanted to make up some diy masks. Thank you for this DIY

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    2. My local hospitals have asked for volunteers to sew masks for the health care staff. They will be providing the materials and pattern so I am waiting for that. Hoping it happens sooner than later!!

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    3. Thank you for this, although I've seen where the elastic starts to bother nurses behind the ear so I am putting ties on mine and some with the elastic around the back of the head, and I will be using coffee filters. You all are awesome..Stay safe and God Bless you all

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  19. Same thing here in San diego county
    Also I made them for my niece and her husband who are disease doctors in Tennessee plus for a friend with breathing complications

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  20. I've picked up a furnace filter that has virus filtering capabilities and am going to use it inside my face mask. I picked up a large filter so I can cut many out and replace the insert I make out of the filter. Just make sure it will face the correct direction as noted on the side of the filter frame. Thanks to Craft Passion for the mask pattern. CP has added how to make the mask so a filter/mask can be inserted inside.

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    1. Do you replace the filter frequently or is it sewn into the lining of the mask and as such is washable? I work in a hospital and the scarcity of masks is alarming. I'm hoping if nothing else I can make some for my coworkers in the ER.

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    2. Bev T, have you taken the filter apart yet? I am wondering if the filter material is flexible enough to use in the pocket of the mask. I had the same idea but the filter appears quite rigid And “pleated” and I did not know if it would flatten enough to use. What is your opinion?

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    3. I watched a Utube post where a lady made an entire mask much like you can buy at Home Depot etc. out of a furnace filter. She pressed the pleats with an iron. Flattened them enough.

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    4. The filter will lay flat enough but do not iron. They melt fast, I was ironing mine to flatten out and it melted. I’m sure it can be used for sewing in or better yet the removal ones.

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    5. Are furnace filters safe?

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  21. Thanks for sharing tutorial. Stay safe .

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  22. I’m curious if the ponytail elastics are tight around the ears and therefore uncomfortable? They’re pretty “firm”, for lack of a better word. Not super stretchy. I’m about to make my first masks. Thank you!

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    1. My pup's groomer said they fit great and were superior to anything she'd purchased before. There are a lot of ponytail holder sizes and stretchiness to choose from on the market... so you might want to check back at the photograph of the ones I chose to make for hers. If they are too 'firm'.... you might try a stretchier elastic. Good luck and be safe!!

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    2. I made headbands several years ago using ponytail elastic and one inch ribbons. They were easy to make, Here is the clue to being able to stretch the hairbands for different heads: take two stretchies, loop one inside the other and pull it thru making two ovals attached to each other. Then each side can be sewn into the side seams of the mask.
      After several years the elastic stretches out .

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    3. There are different sizes of ponytail holders, there are the regular size, and a longer one for thicker hair they are quite a bit longer as my daughter uses them.

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  23. I’m here looking for that reason as well. Hoping for a way to help our local medical staff to prepare when the wave hits here. Is there any information out about what would actually be beneficial? And could be used?

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    1. JoAnns in Georgia are giving the materials and pattern for sewers to make mask for those in the medical field. You get the materials for 5 mask at a time. You return those and get another "kit". The store I'm going to is using swimming suit material for the string around the ears. I got the initial kit for the pattern and to find out what they were using. I have plenty of material to make more and I will return the original 5 plus what I can make from what I have. Thank you to everyone for sharing patterns, tutorials and ideas and suggestions. While i was at JoAnns some nurses were in front of me in line and they ask if they could have some of the mask that had already been made and they were told to help themselves that who they were doing it for. Stay safe everyone!

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  24. I sew a bread bag tie across the top of the inside of the mask so I can mold the top to my nose! Just a tip! I live the hair band idea as I'm now out of elastic. Thank you!

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  25. As an insert for the ones I make, I use new white cotton shirts with a HEPA filtration bag for a vacuum cut out 1 size smaller with no seam allowance. It does add a little more protection. Good luck everyone. Keep up the amazing work.

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    1. Can you clarify the insert. If I am understanding you correctly, are you cutting up a HEPA filtering bag from a vacuum sweeper? Then sewing that to the cotton tshirt material? My friends in Spain are cutting up disposable bed pads to insert. This provides a waterproof surface and can be disposed of after wearing/prior to laundering.

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  26. I have a lot of flannel prints. Will that work for the outside?

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  27. Could you not sew a real PPE mask cut to go inside the material one? That way you have the real filtration you need and just take it out to wash?

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    1. I’m a nurse currently volunteering on a COVID isolation unit. Different hospitals nationwide have different regulations now and it is changing every day, but some hospitals are accepting homemade fabric masks for staff to wear over an approved N95. That way, one nurse can wear and reuse one N95 over their whole shift (still not ideal but better protection than fabric alone) and change a fabric “cover” mask between patients (to preserve the N95). I think we’ll see more MacGuyver solutions like this in the next few weeks.

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  28. Has anyone tried a light weight quilt batting inside for extra layer? Just a thought. I’m going to give it a try. I’m making them for my DIL, who is an ER nurse. Thank you Lisa for the pattern and everyone else for the extra ideas. Stay safe!

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    1. My first mask has a layer of wool batting and a layer of synthetic felt for extra precaution. It's a little thick but feels very protective! Am now experimenting with other inserts: dish towel (after reading the Cambridge study), terrycloth, vacuum cleaner bag. I also came up with hair band idea when out of elastic and fabric stores already closed. I use the plastic coated wire that comes with some vegetables to form around the bridge of nose. Wearing it to do errands and set a good example to others.

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  29. Might use a zipper foot for elastic application

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  30. Where can i find your pattern? this is incredible kind to help w/ your knowledge

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  31. Hello Lisa - I have spent most of the day trying to find a good looking pattern/idea for the Face Mask. You got my vote with the 'hair ties'. Brilliant. I was having second thoughts about having to knot the elastic band. I am going to work on it tomorrow. Thank you very much. Stay safe.

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  32. I’ve been searching for info online if using technical outerwear fabric with a Gortex membrane would work for the outerlayer of fabric on mask. It’s sold as a breathable fabric that still breathes and keeps moisture out.

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    1. GoreTex is a "waterproof breathable" in that it allows water vapor to pass, but not water. It is NOT "breathable" such that you can breath through it. The marketing clue is that GoreTex is also "windproof" - meaning that air does NOT easily pass through it. GoreTex is great for mountaineering outerwear; terrible for face masks. If it didn't suffocate you, it would force all the air that gets to your lungs to come in via the gaps AROUND the mask.

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  33. Do you think putting paper coffee filters inside the mask would help provide protection? Make the mask where the filters could be changed out and new ones added during the day.

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  34. Would P.U.L. fabric work for the exterior of the mask? It's waterproof and breathable, often used for a diaper cover.

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    1. PUL fabric is not breathable.

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  35. Be careful about using furnace fiber for your face mask. Some of the furnace filters are made with fiberglass. If the fabric becomes airborne and gets into your lungs it will stick in there much like asbestos.

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  36. interesting versions on filters. What about the spun fabric that is used in the gardens, over a frame to lessen frost damage to new plants in the spring?

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  37. I love this. I got pneumonia last summer and it left me with permanent asthma symptoms. I've had to wear masks and carry an inhaler everywhere I go. If I can go somewhere that is. I too, knkw how to sew. I can do it well but not make my own clothes! I was looking around Pinterest doing my normal routine when face masks popped up. This is perfect! I know there's a shortage and maybe this is a good way to go. Part of me wants to make hundreds and donate them to hospitals but part of me is also thinking that's a bad idea because whay if they don't work all the way? I want to do something for the community if I can't have a job at the moment. What do you guys think?

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    1. They arent as effective as "real" masks but they are much better than nothing. I think their effectiveness is in the 70-85% range. Comsidering the alternatives, I would say make as many as you can!

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  38. You need to be careful with what you use as some of what was mentioned here is not breathable. For any mask to be effective it needs to be snug on your face. Any openings allow the virus to get in. Any good mask is more to stop droplets when you are sick as mentioned in many articles.

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  39. Was wondering if a panty liner could be used as a filter? It would be water proof to stop droplets from entering

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    1. I thought about that but I like the idea of using fabrics that can be washed.

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  40. I love this pattern I have bin seeing mask mine are the pleated flat mask I use an 8x14 piece of cotton and a piece of white woven fabric folder in half it makes 4 layers they work nice can't wait to try this pattern and I love the hair bands you can't buy elastic right now it's sold out everywhere Dollar tree hear I come.

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  41. There is a doctor facebook post who has mask that is made of a hepa vacuum filter as part of the .5 micron filtration needed in covid masks. His wife made it. She shows how in the video. FYI: Coffee filters are 20 micron filtration...Not sufficient for covid masks. Please take the time to check out Deaconess Homemade Masks donations! You can filter your state. Also, some medical people are asking for tieing masks as their ears are so sore... The need is for masks us immense!!

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  42. I've sewn buttons onto my boy's hats, to secure the masks and not tug on his ears. I've also seen patterns where others have done something similar to headbands for girls. I hope that helps everyone. stay safe everyone, and hopefully this summer will be hot enough to burn the virus.

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  43. For an adjustable nose piece to pinch to help seal the mask, the Dollar stores have, in their gardening section, a package of foam-covered wires intended to secure tomato plants to their stakes. There are 15 in the package I bought, and each will make 2 or 3 nose pieces. Cheap and effective...

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  44. I've read from a nurse that the sew on ties are better than elastic since they can be tighten to fit better and wont have to be replaced. Think about having to be washed daily and that wears out the elastic. Elastic will be fine for all of us who dont need to wash the facemask as often. Just noticed a request for ties instead of elastic from a hospital.

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  45. I used quilting fabric for the mask, sew-in interfacing for my liner, and not having any elastic, I found some 1/4” ribbon and used that for ties. It seems to fit and tie on well. I wore it to the grocery store and then to take my mom to the hospital for tests that were necessary (not Covid19) according to her doctor.

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  46. Great idea! I saw an idea to make a small casing over the nose areas with a small button hole for the opening to slide a piece of wire, pipe cleaner, or twist tie into after washing or to replace it.

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  47. Use a popsicle stick to hold the elastic straight. I cut it to fabric size, then cut V on the ends as a notch and it holds the elastic straight!!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave a note.~Lisa