Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Filter Pocket With Wire Face Mask by Elizabeth Alsobrooks

During the Coronavirus Pandemic we've all heard a lot of information (and misinformation) about face masks.  One fact seems indisputable: medical personnel are in dire need of face masks.  There is such a shortage, nurses are making face guards from pop bottles, and asking citizens who sew to make masks. 

Seniors are at such risk they are on lockdown, not allowing visitors in nursing homes. Living in a senior community that's right next door to another one that is condos rather than single family homes, it's something I have paid a lot of attention to. I have also noted that the virus has spread from those with no symptons who are carriers, and that it is highly, highly contagious and can be spread by sneazing, coughing or even breathing and talking from one person to another, whether contact is commuted via the air through the eyes, nose or mouth, or from touching a surface upon which the virus has settled and then touching your mouth, nose, or rubbing your eyes, etc.  

Now at first they said, and still in some cases still do say that citizens don't need face masks unless they are sick. [Recall that carriers may have no symptoms for up to 2 weeks if at all, so who is sick?] They were trying to keep the t.p. hoarders from siphoning all remaining face masks that could be used by front line responders and medical personnel, and rightly so. However, they are claiming that Korea was able to keep their infection rate down because many citizens were wearing face masks and blocking the virus and preventing themselves from touching their faces. Best defense against that? Wash your hands, right?  Washing hands removes germs. Hand sanitizers only kill some of the germs. Better than nothing when a sink isn't handy, but never as good as a good scrub as soon as you get home. [Fastest spread right now, according to the experts? Gas pumps.]

Since I'm the head of our community's Neighborhood Watch Patrol, and all our patrol volunteers are seniors, I felt I needed to do something. They spend a lot of selfless hours (especially once the snowbirds leave and nearly half our neighborhood is vacant), keeping our community safe, so I felt I needed to do something to keep them safe. I also worried about my hubby who's a senior and works in a service industry job and is still working. Decision made: I don't want to take masks from the medical personnel, but I feel my hubby (who sees clients every day) and patrol folk needed masks when they are so often approached by neighbors who are out exercising and getting some air--and especially when they have to go to the store.

So I went on the search for the perfect, most protective mask I could make at home, knowing even then they wouldn't be N95 professsional masks. There were masks that accordian like the 'real' surgical masks, some that tied with fabric ties or had elastic straps. There were more conelike masks that provided space for the nose without accordian folds. They were also made from a variety of materials from simple cotton to flannel, to interfacing and even bras or maxi pads. Here's an interesting link: https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/homemade-masks-coronavirus-do-they-work-how-to-make-them-20200324.html

After extensive research, several sample trial and error attempts, more research from government sites to medical sites and youtube how-to videos, I came up with the following conclusions. Keep in mind that it's my personal opinion, gleaned from the information of experts and home diy folks. 

I decided to go with the face-contoured cone-shaped pattern. I used cotton (mostly remnents from quilts and other projects I had made) material for the mask. I incorporated a filter slot in the back, and that pocket was lined with non-woven fusible interfacing, which is a fairly good filter itself, similar to the material of medical masks (washable, which is why they are washing/disinfecting and reusing hospital masks). I also, and this seems to be very, very important, add a piece of wire at the top so air can't escape above, at the bridge of the nose, which makes the mask pretty much useless when you consider breathing in contaminants, though it would still block fairly large mucus-laden globules. People have used bag ties, pipe cleaners and many other 'wire' alternatives.  I used florist wire. I tried to keep the ends protected by adding a dab of hot glue to seal the end. Some used duct tape, but I'm not sure if that would wash off or not.  The glue gob could come off in the wash too, I suppose.

So what filter to put in the filter pocket?  It seems most sites that actually did any research on diy masks agreed that vacuum bags are best. Why? Well the ones I had were double-layered and have microbial stopping power. So I sewed the two layers together in the oval shape I needed for the pocket.  This gives my masks 3 layers of cotton, 1 layer of fusible interface, and a 2 layers of microbial filter, so 6 layers of protection in total. Breathable? Yup. And that's important. Flannel, BTW, seemed rather difficult to breath through when double layered, though it's comfy against the face. Personal choices.

I decided that sewing ties takes much longer so played around with the elastic ties and moved from the over the ears, one loop of elastic on each side of the mask to one piece of elastic that loops through each side and behind the head. It takes the same amount of elastic. The behind the head types seem to fit more securely, and make the mask fit the face better, as well as being more comfortable to wear.

So I have made masks for all my neighborhood watch, family members (some who life in Cali and are very high risk), and a few requested by a doctor my husband knows. Now I am going to make some to donate to the front-liners. No matter what you think of the pandemic, these are handy. One of the watch people told me they immediately used it to use bug spray so wanted to make sure they could wash it for reuse! And let's not forget they said we need to prepare for a second wave.... If you want to try some for your family and friends this is the pattern for sewing I used:   https://ithinksew.com/FreePatterns/2781_FACIALMASKWITHFILTERPOCKET_UTB.pdf

And here's the video I watched to learn how, though I alter it a bit, by making the pocket interface layer the size of the pattern, and the other 2 cotton layers about 1/2 inch longer so as the last step I can fold them over and make a casing for the elastic (I use 28" of 1/4" elastic). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlrSNFC4DLs


Diane Burton said...

Very helpful post, Elizabeth. Most stores here along the Michigan lakeshore are out of elastic. A lot of people had the same idea. Whatever works to protect our family, friends, and healthcare workers. Stay safe.

Maureen said...

I am terrible at sewing. It's wonderful that you're able to make something to help protect family and friends. I work remotely, but as an RN, with many friends that are healthcare workers, it is a scary time and it's best to take all precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Nancy Gideon said...

Now you know what you can get me for my upcoming birthday! Good for you, Dr. E, for doing your part to slow the spread!!