Dots, flowers, animals, and plain colors are the different designs that we can see today in some masks being used to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Indeed, those personal masks made at home are coming back, in part due to the shortages of stock in pharmacies and distributors. Before they were used in the past in the late XIX and early XX centuries, mostly during the Spanish flu in 1918.

After seeing the shortage of surgical masks in pharmacies the idea of producing a self-made barrier mask was quickly adopted by many at home. Basically, those who have a sewing machine and found themselves without any apparent protection to avoid the coronavirus were able to find and develop “do-it-yourself” masks.

This quick response and production escalated through millions, leading to the development of some sort of standard. The main worry was to sew something that will actually prevent people from catching the virus, simple and fast. In France, this popular call gave birth to the AFNOR recommendations to sew your own mask, providing a guideline to select suggested designs and tested approved fabrics. Today we can find this information for free in their official site and with additional guidelines, like combinations of fabrics and patterns between the different adopted proposals. Just in France, the guiding specs have been downloaded more than 1 million times and they can be downloaded in different languages.

Blog maks

Additionally, with the urgency of finding a consistent solution to adopt in our daily life, we have seen a large number of cotton “do-it-yourself” masks on the Internet, different shops, collaborations groups, and most overwhelming from individual people who want to help their peers and sew some masks for their local neighbors. It is also clear now that, surgical masks, respiratory protection masks, are to be reserved for the most vulnerable populations at risk, first responders, virus carriers, and health personnel dealing with the current situation.

In a certain way, this is also the “zero-waste” way to go by using reusable fabrics and leaving aside a massive amount of material and waste generated by industrial mask manufacturing. Alternative barrier masks can and should be washed regularly after use, it will also help you save some money, and keep the planet out of additional waste.

Before I leave you, here’s some practical advice for your alternative mask:
• Use your mask for no more than 4 consecutive hours if in need, carry some additional masks with you.
• Wash your mask at 60ºC for at least 30 minutes (of course you can wash other stuff with your masks, we don’t want to waste some precious water just in masks).
• If you wish, you can iron your mask in addition to washing (sole ironing is not enough).
• Get yourself some nice fabrics with the design that you like the most, as long as it is 100% cotton.

Have a nice sew,


Photo by Bára Buri on Unsplash