Easy, No Sew DIY Filter Mask (with photos)

Hello friends and neighbors. Wherever you are reading this, I hope you are safe and healthy.

There are many YouTube tutorials on how to sew various masks. I made this one for anyone who is like me and doesn’t have a sewing machine. (I tried hand sewing masks too, but I found this was the easiest method for a single-use one). It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a good choice in terms of accessibility AND comfort.

Making your own mask does not increase the shortage of masks for healthcare providers. AND wearing one in public helps protect the wearer from potentially infecting others, considering that many could have Coronavirus but be asymptomatic.

For materials: I used a paper towel and particulate matter filter, but you could take the tips from this tutorial and experiment with other materials on hand: I’ve seen other methods that use cotton t-shirts and coffee filters. (Of course please do your research and make sure any materials you use are safe!) My hope in sharing this post is that you will feel more open to the idea of wearing a mask in public, and feel inspired to try making your own if you can’t get a mask in your country. I’ve written more on this topic at the end.

How to make a disposable, no sew, filter mask

Materials

Materials:

-Washable (durable) paper towel

-Twist tie

-T-shirt yarn

-HEPA air filter (you can still make this without a filter)

-Medical tape

-Pen, scissors, ruler, clips

*Before you begin, disinfect your hands, workspace and tools.

  1. Fold one paper towel sheet down almost in half, leaving about a cm at the bottom, and crease the fold. (My paper towel measured about 24×24 cm or about 10×10 in)

2. Unfold the towel and place a twist tie right under the middle fold. Secure with medical tape. This will form the nose piece so the mask conforms to your face.

3. Cut your filter to size slightly smaller than half the paper towel and place on the bottom half. (If you don’t have easy access to a HEPA or HVAC filter. I’ve seen alternatives like coffee filters and swiffer dry sheets. In Korean the filter commonly used for these DIY masks is a HEPA filter literally translated as “static filter.” I think the point is to add some kind of static or electrical charge to help trap particles. But please do your research and make sure any materials you use are safe.)

4. Fold the top half back down and secure the bottom with medical tape

5. Divide the height of the mask into 1/4 segments and make marks on either side

6. Pinch the bottom quarter marks at either side to make a pleat and fold up to the middle line.

10. Crease the fold and secure either end with clips.

7. Repeat on the top side. (Flip the mask top to bottom and pinch remaining quarter marks to make a pleat and fold up to the middle line again.) Secure with clips.

8. Cut two 30 cm or 1 foot pieces of the t-shirt yarn. I recommend t-shirt or jersey yarn because it’s the most comfortable. Even the most thinnest elastic ear loop hurts your ears after a while.

9. Place one string in the middle at the end of the mask. Fold the end over to cover the string and secure with medical tape.

10. Snip a little of the medical tape up to the folded paper towel so the mask can open up better.

11. Tie the ends of one string into a bow or loose knot. Open the mask up and try it over your face to see how tight to tie the other string.

12. Bend the wire in half as you open the mask up to give it structure.

The end of the video tutorial includes suggestions for other materials you could use.

Some ending thoughts on masks:

As I’ve watched the Coronavirus pandemic unfold across the rest of the world, the issue of masks has preoccupied my mind. It is terrifying and heart breaking that some healthcare workers in some countries don’t have enough Personal Protection Equipment, including masks. But I think there’s been some misinformation spread on mask use to save the short supply for medical workers. There’s also the argument that anything less than a hospital-grade N95 respirator won’t block the virus particles. To which the best response I saw on Twitter was something like: “we’re asking people to wear bullet-proof vests before going into war, and people are saying they won’t wear one because they might get shot in the neck.” Can we agree that something is better than nothing?

This article WHY WE SHOULD ALL WEAR MASKS has a good scientific argument for wearing masks in public (mostly directed at the US and other countries that have discouraged mask use.). And if you’re in a country where mask wearing is not common, this tweet thread includes a story about how the Czech Republic went went from no masks to mass masks in 10 days, thanks to homemade efforts. I really hope this kind of nationwide effort takes root in other countries struggling to flatten the curve, and extinguishes this stigma on mask wearing.

Finally, from a personal standpoint, I’m in Korea right now where people masked up very early on in the outbreak. There are a lot of reasons behind how Korea has flattened the curve (knock wood), but I truly believe masks have played an important role. At the very least, seeing everyone in masks psychologically reinforces the gravity of the situation, and makes you more serious about doing your part. Finally, to the argument that wearing masks makes you complacent about social distancing, I’d say: wear one and test it yourself. See if suddenly you feel the urge to hug strangers and socialize in large groups in the midst of a deadly pandemic because you have a mask on. </sarcasm> Trust me, coming from a city that is usually extremely crowded and a society that doesn’t know the concept of personal space… right now the streets and transit are much emptier than usual, and anyone you do see out in public is masked.

I didn’t mean to end on a dark note; like I said this issue has been preoccupying my mind lately. So I will sign off with the most sincerest wishes that everyone is staying healthy and safe!

9 Comments

  1. You’re so creative. I love your homemade masks. Luckily, which is odd when I think about it, the pollution was bad in Jan, so that prompted us to get masks. Then, when the virus was still viewed as ‘not a big deal’ we managed to get some cloth ones that I’ve been washing and reusing for around the apt bldg.

    But I must say, we’re surprised by how many Thais are NOT wearing masks around the apt. The last time we were out though we saw more masks in public. So, maybe there’s this idea that the virus disappears as you get closer to home.

    Oh, jeez.

    Funny that you mentioned the mask debate, I finally got upset with seeing all the news about not wearing one that I wrote a short note on my FB telling folks to wear them. I was mostly targeting my students. Then a light debate started up with a couple of friends, but then my friend who had lived in Taiwan shared why the US looks at masks diff than Asia (from Time mag) which was enlightening –

    xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Lani! This mask design was born out of a mashup of different ones on YouTube. There are some really creative ones out there, including an origami esque one out of a coffee filter I want to try!

      I didn’t know I felt this passionately about masks until I learned about how they’ve been framed in other countries during this crisis. It’s funny how naturally I’ve adopted wearing a mask after moving to Korea.

      I hope mask wearing becomes more common in Thailand, for your and everyone’s sake! And thanks for the tip about the TIME article. I’ll be sure to look it up. I’ve been compiling resources for my future mask manifesto. 😛

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hahahaha. But to be clear, wearing masks is very common in Thailand. I, too, have worn masks since moving here, but for some reason, when we really need folks to wear it, some are ignoring common sense. GAH!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for this great post!! I’ll read it more closely tomorrow and watch the video (too tired now) but already am impressed by your meticulous illustrated photos. I have a mask but it’s too huge for me! I can’t wear my glasses with it and used my tightly woven scarf for now to cover my face – not ideal of course but better than nothing!! Which is something I totally agree with you on! I’ve also heard that you can use coffee filters – and look forward to see your origamiesque one!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re able to use a scarf at least. The best way is to stay at home as much as possible, but I think it’s best to cover up when you have to be in public. There are a lot of mask tutorials out there, so hopefully people can find one to make with the materials they have! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Family & I were just talking a couple of days ago about how Korea has wonderfully turned around – and we also did wonder if the diligent mask wearing did a lot to help this. And now that you mention it, the psychological and hence behavioural impact of everyone taking this situation more seriously must have had a great impact.

    I am afraid Singapore was not very big on the mask-wearing. We were like the Apocalyptic Freak Family wearing all our various varieties of masks when we were in public. But the government just announced yesterday that they are distributing a reusable make to every Singaporean next week. I guess we will no longer be the odd ones out.

    Thank you for championing the wearing of the mask! Keep safe & sane!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hellow Ju Lyn. I hope you are feeling a lot better now? I did see the news about Singapore and I’m glad the government is able to provide masks to the people. They’re not the be all end all, but I do think there are psychological and behavioral effects of wearing a mask that will also help the fight. Stay safe!

      Like

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