Our world has changed drastically in the past couple of months with the sudden outbreak of Coronavirus which has made us do things that we didn’t usually do. One of these things include wearing face masks whenever we leave the house, whether it be to buy cartons of milk from our local grocer, to going to the nearest sushi train restaurant for a Thursday night dinner take-away. Wearing a face mask before leaving the house has become almost intuitive for most people. This has increased demands for face masks, and has put immense amounts of pressure on companies that produce these masks. With an increasing demand for masks, comes a shortage in production which is probably the reason why you will see the mask section at your local store absolutely empty.
Now, in such a case you must be wondering, “How am I supposed to feel safe in public if I can’t find face masks at my local stores?” Well, guess what...we can make these face masks at home! During self-isolation we have tried various activities to kill time, from 15 minute morning yoga, dyeing our hair crazy colours, to secretly practicing TikTok dance moves...you name it, we have tried everything. So, it is about time that we pull out our Grandma’s sewing machines and cool rejected fabrics abandoned in our storages to make some cloth masks at home. According to the Lecturer of International Health at UNSW, Dr Abrar Chungtai, the purpose of cloth face masks is to help prevent the spread of infections and partially protect us from infectious particles in the environment. Wearing cloth masks help us protect people around us which is exactly what we need to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
1. How to get started with your DIY face mask project at home?
During the Term 1 break, some members of the UNSW Engineering Faculty and Women In Engineering Society (WIESoc) gathered at university for a mask prototype workshop. During this workshop, a number of creative mask prototypes were designed, constructed and tested. It was a fun event where we spent our day coming up with cool face mask ideas that were both, aesthetically appealing and functional.
When making masks at home, it is important to first choose the fabrics you will be working with. You can go as crazy as you like with patterns and prints – we encourage you to bring out your inner fashionista!
This is then followed by creating a face mask template on paper, which will later be used to cut out patterns of your chosen fabrics.
Then comes the hardest part of actually sewing pieces of fabric together to make a wearable face mask. It is most definitely not as easy as it looks, but it’s not that we are running out of time during self-isolation…right?
Furthermore, there are various online resources that can help you get started with your DIY face mask prototyping endeavours. The links given below can help you out with making paper templates, cutting out fabric patterns and sewing pieces of fabric together to make a wearable face mask.
- Tamara’s Joy: How To Sew A Face Mask With Filter Pocket https://tamarasjoy.com/how-to-sew-a-face-mask/
- STATE: Face Mask Patterns https://www.statethelabel.com/pages/masks
2. Important tips and recommendations from mask prototype workshop
Some tips from the workshop in terms of the construction of the mask include:
- Use three layers for maximum protection from infectious particles in the environment and to protect others.
- Make the outer layer of the mask as waterproof as possible by using water phobic fabrics such as Nylon.
- Use high-thread count fabrics for mask construction, but at the same time ensure that you can still breathe properly once you wear the mask.
- It is also recommended to use cotton for the inner layer of the face mask to provide comfort to the individual wearing the mask.
3. Testing your DIY face mask
Once you have made your face mask, you can also test the effectiveness of your design. This can be done by simply passing about 10-15 mL of water through a surgical cloth mask and recording the time taken for water to fully penetrate through the mask. You can then do the same with your DIY cloth mask. If the time taken is almost the same, then congratulations, your mask is all set and ready to go!
4. Stay positive and make masks with others
We all know that social distancing is not easy at the moment. So why not set up a video chat with friends and family to practice prototyping face masks together. It will be a nice little activity to do with friends and family, and will also help you feel relaxed whilst doing something highly productive and fun!
Official UNSW policy on wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19
UNSW acknowledges and respects any person’s right to wear a mask if they so choose.
Currently, Australian government guidelines do not recommend general face mask use unless people are unwell. However, there are some other circumstances where you may wish to consider the use of a non-medical mask:
- when visiting busy crowded areas such as large events or rallies, grocery stores, shopping centres, or when using public transport
- when visiting or working in confined, closed spaces e.g. labs, media rooms
For these circumstances, non-medical masks such as cloth masks should be considered. (The use of medical masks should be reserved for health care workers only).
The use of face masks should only be considered as complementary to, not a replacement for, established preventive measures, i.e. physical distancing, good respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth. If you do develop any symptoms, even mild ones, self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test.