Updated: Nov 2, 2020
COVID-19 has caused a bit of a stir, to say the least. And even though it feels as though the pandemic is starting to wind down here in the UK (mainly because of government negligence) the risks and consequences of this virus are still very much alive. Shops and restaurants may be starting to open their doors to the public but the pandemic is far from over, so we still need to keep ourselves and our families safe by taking precautions. One of these safety measures might be wearing a face-covering to help prevent spreading the virus through sneezing or coughing, and of course, many people have been doing this. The only problem with the sudden popularity of face-coverings is that unfortunately, most people are choosing to use disposable face masks. According to conservationists, there is a huge risk of COVID-19 sparking a rise in ocean pollution and as we know from Blue Planet 2 (and the uproar following the series) this is an enormous dilemma. French researchers studying this risk were appalled when they came across large volumes of 'COVID waste' such as disposable masks, latex gloves and bottles of hand sanitizer in parts of the Meditteranean sea. It's certainly unsurprising, just take a walk outside and you'll see gloves and masks littered along streets and thrown in bushes.
In comparison to the other consequences of this disease, plastic pollution will most likely seem somewhat trivial to many people. And I couldn't really blame them for thinking so. However, for someone who is constantly worrying about the impacts of pollution on the ocean, the way 'COVID waste' is exacerbating the plastic pollution problem, is deeply concerning. Researchers have warned there could soon be more face masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean if people don't stop using disposable masks.
So, to rid my life of the need for disposable masks and without spending any money I learnt how to make my own reusable mask! It was super easy, even for someone with barely any sewing skills. The great thing about making your own mask is that it's free (I repurposed old bedsheets/pillowcases) and you can make them fit your face perfectly (store-bought ones are always too big for my face). I hope you'll consider making your own reusable face mask and get rid of those nasty disposable ones, once and for all!
What you'll need:
2 rectangle pieces of 100% cotton fabric (25cm x 18cm)
4 strips of 100% cotton fabric (25cm x 4cm)
Sewing machine (or needle & thread)
Safety pin (or a necklace chain)
➤Use 100% cotton fabric with no stretch.
➤Use a fabric with a pattern, it will make it easier to sew straight lines.
➤The measurements of fabric I have given will allow for some leeway on size, keep holding up to your face throughout the process to make sure it fits perfectly.
➤Ironing after each step will help to keep folds crisp and will make the following step much easier.
➤Don't let bad sewing skills stop you! There's no one worse than me at sewing, I can barely sew a straight line but this tutorial is very forgiving!
What to do:
1. Iron out all pieces of fabric so there are no wrinkles/kinks left. Iron the 4 strips in half (lengthways) so it is easier to sew in later steps.
2. Sew the 2 largest rectangle pieces together correct sides together. Leave one short end open so you are able to turn it inside out, so the correct sides of the fabric are then facing outwards. Make sure to sew at least 1cm from the edge so there is a smooth seam. It also helps to cut away any excess fabric from the seams, so the mask isn't bumpy.
3. Once you have the base of the mask, make 3 pleats upwards that are around 1cm in width, and iron them down (this will make more sense in photos below). Once you have the desired folds, you can also sew up the open end by folding in the loose ends and sewing a line across (you'll want to make sure the length allows for the mask to tuck under your chin for a secure fit).
4. To secure the folds, sew a line straight down, making sure the folds stay as straight as possible. Do this on both sides.
5. You're then ready to make the straps. Sew all the way down the folded strip of fabric so the inside of the fabric is facing outwards. Leave both ends open.
6. You'll then need to turn the straps inside out. Most people recommend doing this with a safety pin, but I actually find it easier with a necklace chain. Attach the chain to one end of the strap and thread the rest of the chain through the centre. You should then be able to pull the strap all the way through itself.
7. Once you have all 4 straps and the main part of the mask done you can attach the straps to the mask and tie together so they fit around your ears comfortably. I like to attach the straps by doing a couple forward and backwards stitches.
8. As an optional last step to make your mask look more polished, you can close up the ends of the straps by folding them over and sewing a few hand stitches.
Let us know if you try making this 'plastic-free' DIY by sending us a message or leaving us a comment!