May 18, 2020

DIY Experiment: Reusable Cloth Mask with Umbrella Fabric

Hi guys, I'm back with a DIY experiment. This time, I tried making a reusable cloth mask with water repellant fabric. However, water repellant fabric is not always breathable so I decided to divide the outer layer with 3 sections with the middle section using cotton for more breathability.

I was inspired by the Gill mask by MDesign Solutions and wanted to maximise the use of a surgical mask. For this experimental mask, air can only pass through the middle section and the filter. Only half of a surgical mask will be used for this mask.

In the first part of my video, I explain how the mask works and share how to make one. At the end of the video, I do a water spray test to see if the filtration works.

  • Umbrella
  • Stretchy cotton shirt
  • Sewing machine

DIY challenge level: 2/5

Download the pattern [click]
PDF size is A4, pattern is true to size.
Pattern includes 1cm seam allowance all around unless otherwise stated.

  1. Choose an old stretchy cotton shirt so its hem can be used as ear straps
  2. Include the stitch row when cutting the straps. The stitches, also called coverstitch can help to maintain the stretch
  3. Measure the length of desired ear strap and add 2cm for seam allowance
  4. Cut open shirt and place patterns A, B & C. Use a chalk to trace the patterns and cut them out
  5. Remove the nylon taffeta fabric by cutting off the threads attached to the umbrella metal frame 
  6. 2 umbrella panels is enough to make the mask if you're using a standard size compact umbrella
  7. Place the wrong sides together.
  8. Place pattern D and cut 4 pieces out. Snip the dart legs or notches so it is easier to match up the dart for sewing. Use a pin to through the dart point and use a chalk or pencil to mark on the wrong sides
  9. Join the darts using ruler and pencil or marker for easy sewing later. Do the same for the other 2 pieces 
  10. Fold the dart in half, with right sides facing together on the inside. Pin in place and sew it down on the wrong side. Do for all 4 pieces
  11. Flip 2 of them, with wrong sides facing up
  12. Match the other 2 pieces to them, with wrong sides facing each other
  13. Pin in place and run a stay stitch along the edges to hold both pieces together. Do the same for the other side
  14. Next, sew up the darts for the other patterns
  15. For pattern B, fold it into half and sew the dart on the wrong side. Do the same for pattern C 
  16. For pattern A, there are 4 darts to be sewn, fold the piece into half. First, sew the top and bottom darts on the wrong side
  17. After they are done, fold it up and sew the side darts on the wrong side
  18. Still working on pattern A, fold 2 times down the top on the wrong side, each fold is 1cm 
  19. Pin in place and run a top stitch across 
  20. For pattern B, flip piece to work on wrong side, fold two times up the bottom, each fold is 1cm. Pin in place and run a top stitch across 
  21. To assemble the outer layer, take pattern C and match both sides to the longer sides of umbrella pieces, sew them down
  22. The seam allowances should fold nicely into the middle portion, you can also use iron with low heat to press them into position
  23. Next, attach the ear straps. Place strap on the right side, 1cm down the top, where the seam allowance ends 
  24. Pin it in place and place the other end at the lower part, make sure to position strap correctly so it won’t come out twisted
  25. Run a stay stitch down and do the same for the other strap
  26. Taking pattern A, match the right side of fabric to the right side of outer layer. 
  27. Turn the pieces upside down. Start by sewing the bottom of the mask. Match the middle darts on the right sides
  28. Make sure to push the seam allowances to the middle before pining it in place
  29. Line the pieces up and run a stitch along the edges, 1cm from edge. 
  30. After that, match pattern B’s middle dart to the outer piece, right sides facing each other. Work on the top first. 
  31. Just like for the bottom, make sure the seam allowances are pushed to the middle before pinning it down
  32. Line the pieces up. Run a stitch along the edges, 1cm from edge.
  33. Clip the seam allowances for top and bottom, make sure not to clip past the stitches
  34. The snips will release the fabric tension so when the right side is turned out, the seams will lay flat
  35. Do under stitch for the top and bottom to keep the inner edges from rolling towards the outside
  36. Working on the top piece, push all the seam allowances towards the top
  37. Run a stitch down on the inner piece, about 2mm from seam line, catching all the seam allowances at the same time. Do the same for the bottom 
  38. The last step is to run a top stitch on the two sides

I also tried the 2 common styles and made some tweaks to improve usability. Please note that I have a smaller face so the regular adult mask size is quite large for me.
The side edges were finished separately to allow filter insert. Instead of sewing the egdes together, fold 2cm in on the wrong side for inner layer and top stitch. Fold 2cm in on the wrong side for outer layer with the ear loops sandwiched at top and bottom. Work on these steps before attaching outer and inner layers together. 

Download the pattern, style #1 [click]
PDF size is A4, pattern is true to size.
Pattern includes 1cm seam allowance all around unless otherwise stated.

For style #2, I feel that it is important to add a twist tie / nose wire to minimise the exposure gap at the nose area. Instead of running a long stitch across the top, leave about 4.5cm in the middle. It acts as a pocket to insert twist tie, twist tie can also be easily removed when mask is sent for washing. Filter pocket tweaks done for above style can be applied for this style as well, add seam allowances to pattern accordingly. 

Download the pattern, style #2 [click]
PDF size is A4, pattern is true to size.
Pattern includes 1cm seam allowance all around unless otherwise stated.

Here are other prototypes that I tried to perfect the shape and size for the experimental mask. 
 Nylon Taffeta from same umbrella
Plastic sheets

Do note that DIY masks may not be as effective as surgical masks against coronavirus (Covid-19). If you're using a filter insert, it may help with the filtration. For the experimental mask, it is still a prototype and the efficacy is not tested in a lab. However, it works like any other cloth mask in preventing wearer's droplets from transmitting outwards. 

I'm taking things a bit slower during this circuit breaker period, I'm spending my spare time baking, cooking, catching up on shows and prepping materials for my students. Even though I can't wait for CB period to end and we can return to normalcy soon, I feel that I'm going to miss this slow life very much. 



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