Survival Sewing – Cloth Face Masks and A Paper Towel Substitute

How have you been faring during these strange days?  Locally, our mandate to shelter in place has just been extended into May.  Ever since the mandate began, I’ve been telling myself that now I have absolutely no excuse not to start deep cleaning and getting organized.

But then my neighbor rescued me.

Sewing Face Masks

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She got me into sewing face masks to donate to hospitals from kits and instructions that Joann Fabrics and Crafts was handing out.  The kit I received from Joann was well put together, but still a bit lacking in supplies – possibly because of a growing scarcity in local stores of things like elastic.  But since I already had some supplies at home, I was able to complete the masks. (Note:  At this writing, Amazon still appears to have plenty of elastic cord .)



I found this video to be very helpful. The masks were so simple to make that the hardest part for me was actually sitting still to watch the video.

Then, with my own fabric, I made a few for myself and family.


But the whole time I wondered:  Are these masks even effective?

Do Cloth Masks Even Work?

There has been a dizzying amount of information circulating about whether or not we should wear masks in public, which masks are effective, and which method and fabrics are best for sewing a DIY face mask.

But now the CDC is actually recommending that the public use cloth masks as another measure to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This link will take you to information from the CDC about making, wearing, and caring for, a cloth face mask.

I’m not a medical expert, a mask-making expert, or even a particularly good seamstress.  But today I thought I’d share a few things that I learned while making my masks.


Things to Consider When Making A DIY Cloth Mask


A mask used time and again without being properly cleaned will eventually do more harm than good.  So to me, the best thing about a cloth mask is that it is washable.  I made sure that everything I used in the making of my masks could survive repeated trips through the washing machine.

I wash my mask after every single use. And when making masks for others, I launder the masks before giving them away and only handle them with clean hands.


After wearing my mask once to the grocery store, taking it off in the car, then trying to reapply it at the gas station, I realized that I could not keep track of which side of the mask had been against my face and which side had been facing the big, scary world.  I’d sewn both sides with identical fabric.

So when I made a few more masks for family members, I decided to use contrasting fabrics for the front and back of each mask.

DIY cloth face masks
Mask fronts


DIY cloth face masks
Mask backs

The small mask fits a preschooler who loves cats.  Although I used the same fabric for both sides, the cats are different on each side.

I doubt she’ll be going out much, but if she does she will look stylish.

Which leads me to . . .

Pretty But Still Practical

We’re using words now that we never thought we’d need:  Pandemic; shelter in place; social distancing.  The world has become quite a bit heavier lately, so I like to lighten things up by using pretty fabrics for these masks.

After all, if I’m going to wear a mask in public, I might as well make it a fashion statement – up to a point.

I’m still using practical, washable fabrics and a mask style that is comfortable to wear.  I’m using non-woven washable interfacing between the fabric for an extra layer of protection.

And, no matter how tempting, I’m not embellishing these masks with things like buttons or notions on the theory that sewing on embellishments might create little holes for the virus to get through.

But most importantly, I’m not letting my mask give me a false sense of security.  I’m still mostly staying home.  And when I do go out, I’m still using social distancing, sanitizing, and hand washing to stay safe.


A Paper Towel Substitute

Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference in our daily lives.  When this all started, we had three rolls of paper towels in the house, and there were none left on store shelves.  Since I was constantly sanitizing at home, I was going through a lot of paper towels.

So I decided to cut old cotton kitchen towels into six pieces and quickly hem each piece so the fabric wouldn’t fray.

Now these little cloths sit in a bowl on the kitchen countertop, and I can reach for them instead of paper towels.  Since they’re more durable than paper towels, I’m actually starting to prefer them.

Paper towel substitute


Like paper towels, the cloths are meant for single-use jobs.  Whenever I do laundry, which seems to be pretty frequently during this pandemic, I just throw the soiled cloths into the machine with the rest of the load.

It’s been working well, and I have yet to run out of clean cloths – even though I use them almost constantly.



I hope you are still managing to find beauty where you can in this strange new world.  Stay safe, friends!


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