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How to make a face mask without using elastic at home

Just a matter of weeks ago, a trip to your local supermarket or a stroll around your neighbourhood were just a few of the many activities that filled our time.

Daily outings which were once part of the fabric of our everyday lives have become trips fuelled by trepidation as life has slowly started to resemble a dystopian parallel universe.

While we’ve got Covid-19 to thank for that, an item that might make your daily outing a touch more bearable is a face mask. Unlike Los Angeles – which has implemented a compulsory mask-wearing policy for anybody who leaves their homes – Britain isn’t under instruction to wear masks, although scientists have urged the public to wear homemade masks when they leave their homes in order to halt the spread of coronavirus.


The method below is the brainchild of Lydia Higginson, who recruited a group of London seamstresses over Easter bank holiday to make face masks for Single Homeless Project, a charity working to prevent homelessness in the capital and to help vulnerable and socially excluded people to transform their lives. The team of women ended up making 500 masks.

One such woman who joined Higginson in her efforts was Susanna Wen, co-founder of sustainable fashion brand Birdsong, who has since made masks for her family in Ipswich, her neighbours and their children.

“I’m really glad to have been able to do my bit while I’ve been feeling pretty useless,” Wen states. “I ran out of elastic pretty quickly, so I’ve been using ribbons or anything else I can get my hands on, It does take some time to make them, but I’ve been enjoying it.”

And luckily for you – while there might well be a worldwide shortage of surgical masks – making your own non-surgical DIY masks without elastic actually couldn’t be easier.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to whip one up using what you already have at home.

What material should you use for a DIY face mask?

Researchers at Cambridge University found that cotton T-shirts and cotton pillowcases are the best at-home materials for making DIY face masks, due to their ability to capture small particles yet remain breathable.

Before choosing precisely which cotton item to use to construct your mask, consider the recent study which found that most effective masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180.

Consider old high-quality pillowcases, heavy cotton t-shirts, or a thick cotton bandana, all of which will work perfectly.

What do you need to make it?

  1. Cotton material of your choice: bandana, handkerchief, or tightly woven cotton fabric about 18″-20″ square.
  2. Two hair ties, rubber bands, or strips of cotton fabric
  3. Tools
  4. Scissors
  5. Fabric glue

To make the fabric ties

If you’re lacking two hair ties or rubber bands, all you’ll need to whip up two fabric ties is fabric glue, some surplus fabric, and some scissors.

  1. Cut 18″ long strips of fabric, 1.75″ wide.
  2. Fold the long sides together (lengthwise or hot-dog style) so that they meet in the middle.
  3. Then fold the strips in half again (lengthwise) to encase the raw edges.
  4. Glue down the strips along the edge to create the ties.

To make the mask

  1. Lay the or piece of fabric flat. Fold the top and bottom inward to meet in the middle. Then, fold the bandana in half again. There will be four layers of fabric.
  2. Use two hair ties, rubber bands or fabric ties to create ear loops. Slip one hair tie over each of the ends. Slide the hair ties a few inches toward the middle of the folded bandana.
  3. Fold the ends of the bandana in to meet in the middle. You want the ends to overlap slightly, so you can tuck one end into the other. This will help keep the ends secure.
  4. Wear the mask with the smooth side out and the ends against your face.

When do you need to wear a mask?

Only wear the mask when you’re in a public place, like a supermarket, where you might be within 6ft of people. So for example, don’t wear it at home or whilst in the car, unless you’re with people outside the people you’re isolating with.

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