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Masks for COVID-19

user-5078920 | Posted in Pattern Discussion on

Hi Threads Community,

I would like to make masks for hospitals and for friends who are vulnerable. Any suggestion on patterns, and more importantly fabrics. I was thinking of 100% cotton upholstery fabric. Is that too thick?



  1. nasturnium | | #1

    Hi Nandini ! kitchen towel are advised here in France on different websites. a pattern is available on the website of the hospital of Grenoble. and the "filter" could be vacuum cleaner filter. this filter must be change each time you wash the mask;
    however, it's said that it's absolutely not a good protection. Don't forget to respect a distance of 1.5m to 2m with other people, to well wash your hands with soap when you come back home and before leaving, to use hydroalcoolic solution when out of home, to use paper handkershif; wish you good work; cheers;

    1. [email protected] | | #35

      Hello Nasturnium,
      Please be careful in using vacuum cleaner bags for filters in facemasks. 3M manufacturer representative stated some filters contain micro glass fibers to strengthen the paper filters. These glass fibers could be inhaled if they came loose from the paper.

  2. User avater
    smcfarland | | #2

    Hi Nandini! Thanks so much for posting about this important topic. I wanted to get a conversation going here. I know many sewers are eager to help in the efforts to sew face masks. I don't want to spread any false or potentially dangerous information, but I know so many want to help.
    Joann's is leading a special effort and offering face mask materials to sewers. More information and a tutorial here: https://www.joann.com/make-to-give-response/?icn=hpzhero&ici=make-to-give-response
    From the American Sewing Guild, Janice Blasko has created a website, WeNeedMasks.org, where she has compiled a lot of information on different mask materials and instructions, plus a growing contact list of regional organizations that could use help from sewers.
    I will keep checking in here to add more information and updates as I gather them. I know the Threads community is smart, compassionate, and ready to respond if possible. I hope we can get conversation and information sharing rolling here.
    Best, Sarah Mc, editor

  3. User avater
    user-5078920 | | #3

    Thank you both for writing and for the details on how we can help.
    My sister in law and her husband are both physicians in the Los Angeles region. And since PPEs are in such short supply, they are grateful for the hand sewn masks to put on top of their PPE masks to make them go longer. That story made my want to cry. Anything we can do to help these heroes is appreciated by them.

  4. ORNurse | | #4

    A good fabric for making masks is any tight woven fabric like that sold for quilting. A good test is to hold the fabric up to a light. If there no spaces between the threads the fabric will work. Upholstery fabric is too thick. There should be at least 3 preferably 4 layers. The layer that goes next to the face could be a knit or flannel for softness. Youtube has numerous versions and patterns.

  5. User avater
    mayo1 | | #5

    Hi Nadine -

    FYI - I am a pediatrician in Canada, married to a family Dr and my brother is head of internal medicine at one of the NYC hospitals - so very much aware of the issues. I have spent the last 3 days researching and developing masks to be used by our HCW when nothing better is available. Currently writing up pattern and instructions along with background data which I will post here if allowed.

    Key points - nothing is as good as N95.
    effective masks have 3 key characteristics - good seal to the face to prevent "spray" and ability to block viral size particles which are less than 1 micron in size - and can be as small as 20 nm. And last but least - you need to be able to breath through them for long periods of time. So what ever you are using, try holding it tightly over your mouth and nose first and see if you can breath through it with minimal effort to start with. If not, choose something else. Also - probably do not want to use anything with strong odors or chemically treated if you are adding a filter as we have no idea re - safety of these materials.

    Single later of tightly woven cotton or polycotton blocked up to 70 % of virus size particles in one study - certainly better than nothing - and is relatively easy to breath through. We are using 2 layers of pleated material - pleats size 3/4 inch, 3/4 inches apart so essentially 3 layers in each layer but pleating makes them easier to breath through. Non-woven materials seem to be better than woven but no studies on typical non-woven fabric readily available to home sewers. We are adding a non-woven fusible interfacing to our fabric prior to pleating. Details to be uploaded as soon as I am done typing them. Good luck

    1. DrewRN1 | | #12

      I have also searched for info re use, effectiveness of non-woven interfacing material, fusible or sewn. I haven’t found anything online. I would be interested in anything you discover. I am experimenting with breathability with various weights, but would like to know more about any benefit. Thanks for your research.

      1. User avater
        mayo1 | | #21

        Still haven't found any technical information on interfacing - but with our experiments we found that using a medium weight non-woven made the masks too hard to breath through. Using a single layer of light weight fusible seemed a good option. I do have a pattern that I have adapted further that makes a shaped mask without any centre front seams - easy to hold on with a single strap. I am now working with material from our hospital - as are many - that I am using for a filter layer. This is the sterilization wrap - company disclaims any responsibility for non-specified use, but it is very similar to the material used in the filter layer of the surgical masks/N95. IF you can get it from the hospital - great - but I have seen sheets for sale on Amazon - which I would be highly suspicious of - both in origin and where they have been - ie discards from hospital???

        Good luck

      2. sara07 | | #31

        There's some data here on the effectiveness and breathability of interfacing ---> https://threadsmonthly.com/best-diy-face-mask-filter-materials/

  6. User avater
    mayo1 | | #6

    Instructions for sewing a reusable cover for N95 masks. Workers are now having to reuse these disposable masks for extended periods of time. However masks become contaminated and also become clogged making it harder to breath through. These covers can be easily put on and removed between patients and since the fabric may potentially block up to 50% of infectious particles, should decrease both the rate of contamination and filter clogging increasing the usable lifespan for these masks. These are designed to fit over the mask so do not interfere with seal leaving the mask to protect the wearer.

    Update - after some feedback - suspect you can use a single layer of heavy knit - or even light polar fleece although may be too warm for any extended wear.

  7. user-7671179 | | #7

    Our Company, SX Industries, is making certified N-95 metal nose stays for masks in the USA. Please email [email protected] for information. Packages of 50, 100 and 250. Bulk pricing available upon request. Ships within 24 hours.

    1. sewastraightline | | #8

      Don’t do this please. Any stock you have should go NOW to healthcare workers.

      1. user-7671179 | | #16

        We do not have masks. We have the metal stays used in the masks.

  8. BethBee | | #9

    SX industries should be banned. disgusting that you are trying to sell stock when the world is desperate for stock and us housewives are trying to help. shame on you. give them to the medical people

    1. user-7671179 | | #17

      Clearly you do not understand. We have a component for the mask.

  9. BethBee | | #10

    I have been googling and it seems like felt could be decent as a filter. i think some thing is better than nothing for the people who need it. i am going to try and make pleated double layer with a pocket to put clean filters in. no elastic, so the masks can be washed a high temperature. Will send a pic when i get it right.

  10. User avater
    smcfarland | | #11

    We heard yesterday, Monday, March 30, from LetsSew.com that they have elastic for face masks in stock.
    They are still shipping and selling elastic for face masks through their web site and expect more to come in this week and next. They are selling the elastic without an upcharge to make it available to the sewing community.

  11. karen__ | | #13

    I was so excited when I read that SX Industries was supplying the metal nose pieces for face masks to home sewers. I am in a group making covers for N95 masks for hospitals in our area and our supply of those pieces has been exhausted and I do not have any for the masks I have made for them. Shame on BethBee and user 7449007 for chastising SX Industries for selling to home sewers instead of saving them for hospitals! I assume the two of them are not helping out, or they would realize why home sewers need those nose pieces. THANK YOU, SX Industries, on behalf of those who are making masks for the hospitals!

    1. BethBee | | #14

      sincere apologies Karen. thought it was masks. but they should also be donating the metal pieces IMHO, and not selling at a time like this. i am a home sewer or i wouldnt be on here. i am in South Africa trying to make masks, ANY masks for the hospital cleaning staff as they also need masks. Our doctors are wearing a mask for a whole day and then again tomorrow. we are in a desperate situation. I dont even think we have any of the other materials to make the hospital safe masks, but i am trying . you know what they say about assume.... dont assume anything unless you know the story.

      1. karen__ | | #18

        BethBee, Thank you for clarifying the “rest of the story”...we both had missing pieces. Thank you for what you are doing in your country...we are all in this together. Blessings, Karen

      2. Shawnad68 | | #24

        Just a friendly remunder reminder. We shouldn't be criticizing a company for selling their products. Not everyone has the deep pockets of Jeff bezos. They need money to keep the doors open and pay employee's. :)

  12. 141Load | | #15

    Hello Fellow Sewers:
    Please see Wazoodle.com ; I have been using fabrics from them for masks. I have family members in medical, and severe auto immune. They also have a Blog on Face Mask fabrics. Even if you use a cotton they have a triple layer fabric called Zorb III, and carry moisture wicking fabrics. They ship everywhere, fabric is by the yard, and wholesale. Many Hospitals have been ordering from them recently. PLEASE GO TO THEIR WEBSITE, AND CLICK TO SIGN THE PETITION TO NOT CLOSE THE FABRIC MILLS, as fabric is made in USA. Also, Filti.com : they will sell filter fabric to mask makers, it is a 3 ply, nano technology. I would like to try it after I use what I have, and save a bit of money; 21 s.f. makes 50-80 masks, and costs 24.99, they offer 107 s.f. 250-400 masks, 89.99, and 215 s.f. 500-800 masks, 169.99 also. THANK YOU ALL, SO VERY MUCH! HAPPY SEWING!

  13. Carla_B | | #19

    Thanks for all the tips. I found a free pattern on-line which had instructions for 2 layers. I decided to add a 3rd layer in between that was cut on the bias (45 degree angle). This helps fill in the "holes" of the other 2 layers. When I held up a finished mask to the light, no light was filtering through.
    Here's a link to the free pattern and instructions I found:

    1. SamBart | | #36

      I have this pattern too. My mum has several ones. We make 2 layers, but we put inside a napkin between them. It is to be changed. I like dark colours, black or navy.

  14. User avater
    Julie_in_Raleigh | | #20


    This one has some data on filtering capability for several different choices of materials.
    I am going to try it.

  15. Nithyachinmaya | | #22

    Hi Nandini. I want to appreciate your efforts in trying to provide masks for those who need it. In unprecedented times like this, we have to show our support for one another. I suggest you try looking up YouTube for more information. We at https://www.chinmayaias.com/ pray for the health of the doctors during this time.

  16. user-7602914 | | #23

    I ran out of elastic and found that using 4 way stretch material cut on the bias works as well. I also was contacted by a small business to make some for their employees. I have them put the cost as a donation to a local food kitchen. This serves as a tax deduction for them and is another way to contribute to help others.

  17. AJpaws572 | | #25

    Has anyone tried, or studied, the effectiveness of using the fabric in a furnace filter as a filter (between the 2 outside cotton layers) in a face mask?

    1. carolfresia | | #26

      I've been reading that it's not a good idea to use filters of unknown materials. Furnace filters may contain fiberglass, which would of course be quite dangerous to breathe through. Others are very dense and may be difficult to breathe through. You will either feel uncomfortable when wearing it, or you'll end up inhaling air from around the edges of the mask, rather than through the mask, and that defeats the purpose of the mask.

      Carol Fresia, Threads Senior Technical Editor

    2. sara07 | | #32

      It was studied recently by particle testing company TSI. They used professional N95 testing equipment. With 2 layers of cotton, they found it filtered 80.85% of particles. However, Filtrete (the manufacturer) doesn't support people using their products in masks. Source: https://threadsmonthly.com/best-diy-face-mask-filter-materials/

  18. ferchu333 | | #27

    the coiv penetraid in the cotton i don t let go out for damage , no problem

  19. Seamstress126 | | #28

    Since Suay developed their pattern and selected materials (including blue shop toweling for the filter) based on their research regarding particle-size filtration, that is the pattern (see attached PDF) that I am using (also available at https://suayla.com).

    I have, however, run out of coffee-bag ties for the nose piece, hence my casting about here and elsewhere looking for suggestions or a source. So thanks to Randy of SX Industries for letting us know that her company has N95 metal nose stays available to us.

  20. upliftmag | | #29

    I think you'll have to choose a fabric that's water resistant. Also, find out more preventive measures here: https://www.upliftmagazine.com/things-that-you-should-know-to-prevent-getting-infected-with-novel-coronavirus-disease-covid-19/

  21. Sue91 | | #30

    Here is a simple way to sew a face mask at home from any fabric: https://sewingtopgear.com/how-to-sew-a-face-mask-at-home/

  22. User avater
    Icare2610 | | #33

    Mask is playing a very important role now this situation because if we are using mask and maintaining social distancing it will be helpful and secure from Covid - 19.


  23. User avater
    Nohutips | | #34


    You can refer to the video below for an overview of how to create a medical mask

    If you like can visite my site : https://nohu.tips

  24. Struggling_Sewer | | #37

    I need help from experienced sewers to figure out a mask pattern. Known as TM2020, mask was developed by a nurse in Texas and is reputed to be as good as N95 if you use a heating/air conditioning filter material called MERV13. (I bought some from Factory Direct Filters).

    The problem is that the instructions seem to be incomplete. For example, the instructions say something about folding up one inch, but you can see in the photos of the cut fabric that something is cut on an angle. (When you use woven cotton plus the filter, I think I can see that they are cut from the same pattern and sewn together). Here's an article that contains the pattern, such as it is.


    And here's an article that shows the completed mask, if that helps. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-05-nurse-didnt-n95-maskhers.html

  25. ramanasriias | | #38

    Hi Nandini,
    Love your effort and you are helping in this pandemic. God will give you strength.
    ias preparation online coaching

  26. User avater
    Skbins1510 | | #39

    Cotton is also great option for mask but make a flexible mask for everyone.

  27. User avater
    Susy16 | | #40

    if you want to work with upholstery, I'd recommend you to check this review first (https://www.craftyhangouts.com/best-upholstery-sewing-machine/)
    Hope it will help you
    It's my blog, so I'll be really happy if you read it :)

  28. User avater
    williamreview | | #41

    I would also like to provide some information when wearing an anti-Covid-19 mask: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

    My blog: https://williamreview.com/

  29. andrea_mammamia | | #42

    These are really helpful!

  30. user-7669417 | | #43

    well! i have made over 40 masks for my son and his fellow lab techs, plus for sister who is a mailcarrier and relatives living and working in covid hot spots. fabric used was a cotton sheet from a hotel chain. this cotton was so dense i had a hard time getting my sewing machine needle through it. so, outside fabric was quilting cotton and inner 2 layers were from the dense cotton. as a nurse i could tell this was a good solution because the mask actually sucked in when i breathed. nice tight seal is what you want.

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