by MIKE CHAIKEN
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rack up casualties, the Centers of Disease Control last week recommended Americans wear face coverings when out in public.
However, the CDC has urged citizens not to use N-95 masks so this personal protective equipment may be directed to health professionals.
But the CDC said simple cloth face coverings can slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
In its alert about face coverings, the CDC said they should “fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face; be secured with ties or ear loops; include multiple layers of fabric; allow for breathing without restriction; be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.”
If you can’t find a face mask to buy, several Connecticut fashion experts offered guidance on making one yourself.
When making your own mask, Amethyst Design and Style’s Jessica Proulx – a Waterbury native who lives in Cape Coral, Fla. – said you’ll need several things:
— Paper pattern piece (Found here)
— Sewing machine
Two pieces of fabric (for the cover and lining of the mask)
— Elastic for around the head, approximately 1/4″ wide x 25″ long. (You can substitute elastic with any kind of ribbon or taping, just add a couple extra inches in length to accommodate because that fabric won’t stretch.)
— Safety pin
— Pen/pencil to trace pattern
Proulx, a Wilby High School graduate, offered the following instructions:
Trace the patterns, one for the cover and another for the lining, onto a folded-over piece of fabric. Cut the fabric for each. You should have two pieces for both the cover and two for the lining.
Pin the pieces of each layer together, living them up along the curved section.
Iron the different layers.
Stitch outer and inner sections of pieces together.
At the edges of the mask, fold over the fabric to create a tunnel for the straps and stitch shut.
Slip the elastic through the tunnels and knot the ends together for a snug fit around your head.
“I start by cutting 7″x9″ pieces of fabric,” said Hannah Vitarelli, a fashion stylist from Waterbury who has been making and selling masks since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “The best fabric to use is something tightly woven like quilting fabric, but if you cannot find that, try using an old shirt that’s 100% cotton.”
In Vitarelli’s case, she uses about three pieces of layered fabric per mask and pins them together.
“Start with what will be the middle piece of fabric, on the bottom and then front and back of the mask on top of that, right sides facing each other,” Vitarelli said. “Start at one corner and remember to back stitch to lock in the thread.”
Like Proulx, Vitarelli said you should use soft elastic around the ears. But she also suggested using hair ties, parts of a “stretchy shirt,” or the inside of a bungee cord if you don’t have elastic. Extra fabric also will do so you can make more of a surgical-style mask with ties to strap it on your head.
“As I’m sewing around the sides of the mask, I sew in my elastic and back stitch to secure it,” Vitarelli said. “Make sure to leave an opening on one side so you can flip the mask to the correct side.”
“Once it is all sewn and flipped, I insert a piece of floral wire or pipe cleaner into the opening and to the top of the mask so the nose is adjustable,” Vitarelli said. “Holding it in place with one hand, I sew along the outside of the mask, leaving about a one-inch seam allowance.”
“At the sides of the mask, you can create pleats by folding the fabric upwards to accommodate different face sizes,” Proulx said.
“Cut your threads and voila,” Vitarelli said.
MAKING A MASK FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Karen Santos, a fashion designer out of Hartford, offered a face mask solution that will require the person who needs the mask to be on hand. It also requires a more in-depth knowledge of sewing.
For her masks, which are modeled after N95 masks, Santos shaped the masks on the faces of her children and grandchildren.
Although cotton has been recommended for masks, Santos said it’s not necessary. She has been using fabrics left over from her fashion work. This has allowed her masks to look more decorative than utilitarian.
“This pandemic has everyone stressed, sad and depressed, so why not put in happiness, cuteness and fun into my mask?” Santos said.
For her masks, Santos said she cuts four pieces, two for the inside and two for the outside. She likes to have printed fabrics on both sides, so the user can flip them over and have a different look.
Santos then sews the pieces for the cover together, and then she sews the lining pieces together. And then, she attaches the cover and lining together. She then sews an elastic band on the sides and irons the result flat.
IF YOU CAN’T SEW
Not everyone has a sewing machine on hand or is adept at using one, so Vitarelli offered a solution to address those people who need a mask.
“You can still make a protective face mask out of a square piece of fabric, such as a scarf or bandanna,” Vitarelli said. “Lay it flat and fold it over a few times. Once it is folded, take two hair ties and put the fabric through them. Fold the fabric over the ties and adjust it to your face for a (do-it-yourself) no-sew mask.”
If you have some basic sewing skills such as the ability to replace a button, Astrid Unwalla, the founder of lingerie and loungewear brand Nudwear out of New York City, offered a simple hack using an old bra as the foundation for a mask.