Health & Wellbeing

Mask Up: How To Make Your Own Reusable Mask

With face coverings now mandatory in Victoria and UON strongly encouraging students and staff to wear masks, Gemma Ferguson explores reusable masks and how to make them!

In what looks to be the beginning of a second wave of COVID-19 here in Australia, it’s important we do everything we can to protect ourselves and others. Ensuring we keep our distance and wearing a mask are two easy, effective ways to combat the spread. Remaining 1.5m apart isn’t always possible, especially when using public transport or going shopping, so having a mask on hand is a sensible idea.

However, as an environmentally conscious student, I believe disposable masks aren’t always the way to go. A bunch of single-use masks and gloves have been polluting global waterways, and washing up onshore – in fact, some experts in Europe believe we’re running “the risk of having more masks than jellyfish” in the ocean. Plus, constantly buying new packets of disposable masks – a vital resource that continues to rise in price – ends up taking a toll on your wallet (that is, if you can even find a shop where they aren’t sold out!). So it seems reusable masks are the way to go! Continue on to find out how to make your own, and watch the quick TikTok for a visual aid.

What you’ll need

  • Enough fabric for three layers (you can pick up lots of cool material, with all sorts of patterns, from Spotlight – or, if you’re on a budget, you can recycle old clothes!)
  • Sewing materials (a sewing machine is best, but if you only have a needle and thread that’s fine too. Pins are helpful but not essential)
  • Ribbon/elastic (just something to tie the mask up behind your ears/head)
  • Scissors (fabric scissors are best if you have a pair!)
  • A pencil (to mark the fabric before cutting it)
  • A copy of this stencil (and, you can check out Mimi G’s accompanying YouTube video if you’d like more guidance!)

Method

  1. Lay out your fabric face-down, flat (if it’s crinkled, give it a good iron – material which does not crease is much easier to work with) and trace around your full stencil, in two different parts of the material. These pieces will be the outside of your mask, with each of the traced sections making up one side – here, it’s important to ensure the two pieces mirror each other, so after doing your first outline be sure to flip the stencil over before doing the second one.
  2. Cut out the two pieces and lay them on top of each other. The pattern sides should be facing in on each other, and the boarders of both pieces should line up together.
  3. Sew along the curved side, stitching the two pieces together. Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of the sew. When you’re done, flip the fabric right-side-out, and it should look like the outside of a mask!
  4. Next, you’ll be making up the second and third layers of the mask. To do this, you’ll need to fold the vertical flap of the stencil and trace this slightly smaller template four times (again make sure to flip the stencil each time, to ensure the pieces will mirror themselves).
  5. Cut out the four new pieces and line them up on top of each other, again facing inward (the two pieces in the middle of this stack will be the ones against your face, so ensure the material isn’t irritating against your skin).
  6. Sew along the curved side again, as you did with the first layer. Again, be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of the sew.
  7. Now line up all the layers together. The seams of each article might cause bumps in your mask, so just ensure these are trimmed right back and there isn’t excessive fabric outside of the stitching.
  8. Sew along the top and bottom of the mask to fasten all three layers together – again backstitching at the beginning and end. Trim any excess to make it look nice and neat.
  9. Sew the sides shut (backstitching again), so nothing can get in between the layers. There should be a flap of the top layer leftover on both sides.
  10. Fold this flap over and sew it down, with backstitches again at the start and end. Thread your ribbon/elastic through the resulting hole and viola – you’ve created a reusable mask!

There is whole a variety of information out there on the effectiveness of masks, as well at what material should be used. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, “wearing a mask can help protect you and those around you”. And, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer (where face coverings are now mandatory!) recommends masks with three layers of fabric. So I believe a mask made up of three layers of any comfortable, breathable material is ample protection. To ensure total security, pair this mask will good hygiene practices and social/physical distancing.

If you do not have a sewing machine, why not access UON’s Maker Space facilities? They have a sewing machine and other cool, creative gadgets. If you have any concerns about wearing a mask visit the WHO website for help and advice on mask safety.


Feature Image: Alice Kjoller, Yak Media Designer

Editor’s Note: The University of Newcastle ‘strongly’ encourages use of masks – 4 August 2020.

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