Sunday, June 14, 2020

Face mask how-to

Here's how to make the Leif Labs "snoot" face mask.

>Jump to the patterns and pictures if you don't want to read the theory.
>Jump to strap options if I gave you a mask and didn't give you instructions. :)

Note: This is not a filtration mask (respirator). It is designed to slow the velocity of your breath so that any viruses you may have (known or unknown) fall to the ground before they can reach their target (your friends, family & coworkers, that nice clerk at the g-store).


Fit -- I've been seeing a lot of the two-piece-ear-loop masks falling off people's faces or the non-adjustable ear-loops pulling awkwardly on ears. And the pleated masks look like they're right up against your lips on a lot of people or flattening their noses (or their noses are just plain hanging out). I want to be able to lick my lips and stick out my tongue a bit w/o kissing the mask, and breath normally through my nose.

Adjustability -- Because the straps attach to loops of webbing, adjusting the mask is easy. Also, since elastic eventually loses its rebound, it's safe to assume that the mask itself will outlast the elastic (like with most everything we own with elastic). Plus, if you're using white elastic and you get, like, mustard on it, it's easy to swap out.

Sizing -- I'm still working on how to translate real-world face measurements to mask size. I've been having people measure from the bridge of their nose to the tip of their chin. On me, a size large, that's about 6 inches. Jenny is about 4.5 inches, and is the model for the small. I can wear a small but it wants to pop off my face if I open my mouth wide. You should be able to scale the pattern to dial in the fit if neither of the patterns work for you. Try making a paper mask before you cut your fabric. Also, if you'd like to know my patterning process, from a cone to this, let me know and I'll write another post about my ragtag methods of masky pattern designing. :)

The large pattern is big enough to fit over a typical bulb-shaped N95 mask ... in case you need to protect your mask from grime, or if you have N95 guilt. :)

Breathability -- The bulb shape allows for more fabric surface area around the mouth, meaning more potential airflow. The pocket of air in front of the mouth hopefully means that less air is forced through the mask at speed, and may allow for the mask to stay drier longer. (Last time I checked, WHO recommended changing masks when damp.)

This mask won't win any style contests, but hopefully it will stay on your face all day w/o your having to fuss with it too much.


This pattern uses at least two layers of fabric. (You could use just one if you're making a respirator cover -- you'll have to roll or serge the edge. And, of course, you can add more layers to taste.)
For this sew-through, I'm using a 9oz hemp/lyocell (Tencel (rayon)) twill for the outer layer and a 4.6oz hemp summer cloth for the liner. These are from EnviroTextile, in Colorado. []
I also just got some 4.5oz cotton poplin that I'll be trying out for the shell (you can see it in the harness section below).
Since filtration isn't the game here, pick a fabric combo that's comfortable enough to breathe through but is dense enough that you can't, like, blow out a candle through. (I will say, I used a medium denim for one of my masks and it's a little too hard to breathe through while active.)

Flat elastic (1/4–3/8"), shock cord, shoe laces, strips of t-shirt, etc. We'll get to harness configuration at the end, but you'll probably want to get at least 24" of something to start.
The flat elastic I have is 1/4" braided polyester with latex rubber. 135% stretch. I got it from The Elastic Webbing Corp, outside of Chicago. Unfortunately you can only buy a ton of it. []
I also got some 1/4" cotton "break tape" (something to do with dropping parachute cargo). It's fairly coarse so it keeps a knot well and it's cheap (though, again, you have to buy it by the roll). I got mine from the Ribbon Factory, in PA, (they have a bunch of other nice cotton tapes and grosgrain). []

Tape/ribbon for the tie loops and nose-wire pocket. 1/2-3/4" is ideal, but if you have 1" lying around, I'm sure that will be fine, too. I'm using 5/8" mostly. You can try, like, paracord or shoe laces for the loops, too.

Wire. This is optional, but if you wear glasses, you're going to want it to keep your hot wet breath out of your eyes. And I think it makes the mask stick on your face better. I started off with 14ga half-hard copper wire, but that's a little too stiff, so I got some 16ga. You can also use stainless steel safety wire, or pull the wire closure off your coffee bag, or use whatever you have lying around the house. You want something that's stiff enough to keep its shape, but can flex a bit. The wire is removable, so it doesn't necessarily have to be rust proof (just remember to take it out before you wash the mask).

Nose padding (optional). This is a new addition to the design. Adding a bit of cushion to the nose area for improved seal and to avoid chaffing from the wire. I'm using a hemp fleece.

Let's start sewing!

Here's what the pattern looks like. Click the links below for the PDF.
PDF for the large mask.
PDF for the small mask.

Printing notes: The large pattern barely fits on an 8.5x11" page. Unless your printer prints to the very edge, there's gonna be some clipping. You shouldn't have any trouble extrapolating the missing lines. Make sure you're printing in full size -- you're PDF reader might default to "scale to fit." And if you don't have a printer, then, I guess, you could try tracing it off your screen if you can dial in the size ... note the ruler (sorry, I failed to do metric. 3" is about 76mm).

Pattern variations:

Jenny doesn't like to have the mask so close to her eyes, so I've scooped out the top line a bit for her pattern. [I don't have the seam allowance on this pattern, that's why it looks smaller. I want to be able to follow the wavy pencil line around the nose area while sewing.]

Got my pieces cut out. [Lately I've been leaving that trapezoidal piece in the liner to make cutting faster ... I'll trim that off after sewing.]

Tacking down the loops to the outside (right side).

Attach the nose padding to the right side of the liner. [I messed up here and sewed it to the wrong side. Also, been having trouble with the fleece stretching while sewing (you'll see later) ... need to work on this a bit.]

Ready to be turned into 3D shapes.

Sew the vertical (long) seam first, starting at the edge of the horizontal (short) seam.

Sew the horizontal seam. I like to start in the center, on top of the vertical seam, and sew to the sides and then come back to the center. This keeps the material from drifting askew and gives me a second chance to sew a nice curve if I donk up the first one. This is wrong-side out. 1/4" seam allowance.

Not too bad. Now trim along the pencil line.

Now for the shell. Again, wrong-side out, 1/4" seam.

Done. Now, turn the shell right-side out and nest it in the liner.

Like so. Or if you'd like to do the opposite, shell on the outside, that's fine, too. Just make sure you can't see the right side.

This fabric is heavy enough I just line up the seam and go for it. If you're using a lighter fabric or if you want it to line up perfect, pinning is advised.

I sew from the vertical seam around to the last loop. This'll give you enough of a gap to turn it inside out.

Now check and make sure you didn't mess up and have one wrong side and one right side facing out or anything funny. I can't tell you have often I do this when making bike cruisies. :)

Now turn it right-side out. I like to pin the gap and pin the nose webbing in place.

I like to start and finish on one of the lower loops.

Aw, hell! Ran out of thread -- almost made it!

Okay, there's your top-stitching/part-one-of-nose-webbing-pocket done.

When sewing the edge of the nose pocket I like to sew up the edge and then flip it around so the stitches go in the same holes. Looks tidy.

Then I'm like whatever and finish with some back 'n' forth stitching. Leave this end open -- that's where the wire goes in.

Ha! Yeah, that nose padding is not centered! Purely cosmetic. :)

Nose-wire time. I like to deburr the ends with a little file so nothing's sharp and can cut the fabric ... and I just got a cute li'l concave grinder ("mounted point") that I can run in my drill or Dremel. Of course, sandpaper if great, too. 

I make a loop and then cut where it meets the end of the webbing.

Loop your other end and do a little pre-bend to help the loops lie flat. Shove that thing in there and then smash it on your face. I haven't had a problem with the wire poking out after its shaped but if you want the wire to really stay put, push it in past the raw edge of the webbing and then wriggle it back so it rests inside the fold at the end of the webbing. (Kind of like a kite spar fits inside a pocket.)

Hemostats are nice for pulling the ties through.

If you sew your seam a little too wide, you'll have a smaller loop, and getting your ties through can be a real bugger. I like to put a piece a tape on the end and cut it to taper and feed it through that way.

Conversely, if you make your loops too big or you're using a thinner tie, you're going to need a bigger stopper knot. Here's a cute knot video from The Weavers of Eternity:

Which strap configuration is for me? (The tyranny of options)

Whoops, not great contrast in this pic. That's a single elastic piece. This is what I use most often. Only if I'm bending over a lot do I want more strap action.

Elastic up top, loose-ish lace on the bottom. This gives you a little more support and allows you to pop off your elastic strap to take a drink and let the mask hang around your neck so you don't have to put it down or fiddle with it when it's time to put it back on.

Doubling up the elastic on top. Keep that thing on!

Pop it off!

You can use one long piece of elastic, thread it through both loops and tie the loose ends. You might want a stopper knot on the upper loops to keep it from sliding around. This elastic is stretchy enough that you can leave the bottom one tied and still pull it off. This piece is 48" long.

Before I got more flat elastic, I was playing around with webbing harnesses and shock cord (round elastic). This setup is nice if you want the mask to hang loosely against your face (and you really want to look serious).

Ear loops (if that's your thing). My mannequin doesn't have much in the way of ears, but you get the idea.


And the large pattern covering the N95.

Mask-wearing tips -- Wearing a mask all day isn't fun, especially if you're new to mask-wearing. Make sure to drink plenty of water and take fresh-air breaks. Keep in mind that there is a conditioning period and it does get easier (I hope).

Other masks to check out:

Tom always has great sewing tips:
Fit testing masks made from Halyard 600 for respirator use:
Suay LA:

Good luck out there! Happy sewing! 

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