In an ideal world, no one would need to wear a protective mask at all. In a less-than-ideal world, only health care workers would require them, and masks that meet all of the CDC requirements would be provided in great stacks, allowing doctors, nurses, and hospital staff to safely do their jobs.
In a slightly worse but still aspirational world, medical-grade masks would be readily accessible to everyone, and no one would need to be making them at home — for themselves, for the people they love, for the essential workers keeping us all safe.
We are not currently living in any of these worlds.
There has been a great deal of confusion about mask guidelines since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but current direction from the CDC indicates that everyone should be wearing a facial covering in certain public settings.
While homemade masks are not as protective as N95s nor surgical masks, evidence suggests they are better than going without, and even better than a simple bandana, and you can make your own, even if you don’t have a sewing machine. As a result, people around the world are making masks for themselves and others.
Vox put out a call to see your masks and hear your stories about how they came to be. You sent us dozens of photos representing hundr of masks, along with powerful stories of people trying to help their family, friends, neighbors, and strangers in this uncertain time.
From military personnel who learned to sew for this very purpose, to long-time crafters who used their supplies to sew personal protective equipment for hospital staff, to friends who made masks without being asked, these stories paint a picture of people working together to keep one another safe.
These submissions have been edited and condensed.
I used material already in my home to minimize risk, I’m a crafty person so I had loads to work with. I found a pattern that was washable, had a pocket for a filter or to cover a surgical mask, and could have wire over the nose.
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My friend made the mask for me. Her and her sister have been making a lot of masks at home, and posted on Facebook that did they were willing to give them away to people.
My friend dropped it off in my mailbox and she has the same one I do.
This mask is made of a pair of baseball pants on the outside and a dress shirt on the inside. I miss baseball so much, so this is my homage to America’s pastime.
This mask has a removable HEPA filter in between. I went with around-the-head elastic to avoid the over-ears style.
I also sewed masks for my daughter and other family members.
I am currently Active Duty Air Force, a medic, and working on our base’s Covid-19 response team performing screenings, testing, and training in case we need to stand up a contingency field hospital to support overflow from our local hospital.
This got me thinking: how can I help? My dad bought me a sewing machine in a leap of good faith, I asked my neighbor to show me how to use it, and I taught myself how to sew by watching four YouTube videos on how to make these cloth face coverings.
I was determined to make them reversible (conservative color on one side and fun on the other) in hopes individuals would then want to wear them even outside of uniform.
I have since made over 117 masks and counting. I supplied them to my entire medical unit, some units who asked for help in another state, and working on my neighborhood and anyone with at-risk family members.
What I believe to be the most amazing out of all of this is how many people insisted on donating to help cost of supplies. Because of that, I began a pay-it-forward process; I let each person I make a cover for know who paid it forward to them.
That has sparked an incredible amount of generosity and most importantly hope in everyone I’ve made a covering for so far. It inspires me to continue!
I’m a crafter so I used fabric, pipe cleaners, and elastics that I already had at home and I made it using my sewing machine. I used patterns that I found on a Vox article and YouTube tutorials from doctors and nurses.
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I folded my Khadi handkerchief into a narrow strip and put on some rubber bands.
(Khadi is a hand-woven natural fiber cloth, mainly containing cotton.) It has three layers of thickness making the virus hard to pass through.
Here I am modeling one! So far we’ve delivered over 400.
A friend made it.
I didn’t even have to ask for one, he just made me one.
I am not in the photo I added, but my daughter is. All of the masks in this photo were made by me.
I have made 150 of these masks. 120 went to Ascension Via Christi in Wichita, Kansas.
I sent masks for every nurse, CNA, housekeeper, custodial staff, etc. I used a pattern that NPR shared.
The masks are 100 percent cotton with a layer of Pellon in the middle. A candle cannot be blown out when someone is wearing the masks.
My husband is an emergency doctor.
I scavenged some of his old scrubs to make pleated masks, following a pattern I found online and modified to include a filter pocket. The scrubs material isn’t very thick, so these require a filter (blue shop towels) to be of any use, but they are comfortable and breathable and look sort of official because they’re scrub green.
I am not crafty, and I can barely use my sewing machine (see photo of crooked mask). But sewing these goddamn things has become my rage (i.
I rarely leave the house, so it’s not like I need all of these.
I’m afraid to wear it in public because I worry that being masked will make me (even more likely to become) a hate crime target.
The couple of times I’ve worn one out, despite the current guidance, no one else was wearing one. My reluctance to be seen in one means sewing all of these masks makes even less sense.
It was a lot of trial and error, I used my family to test out different shapes and sizes.
We learned my dad has insanely small ears!
It’s already a big transition from traditional school to online school, and the addition of making masks is tough to balance. As a senior in high school, I needed something I could control, after my entire year was stripped away.
I started with four for my cousin, whose wife is a nurse on the front line around Detroit — she has coworkers and a boss who have the virus, and still goes in with so much courage, and yet she can’t hold her children when she comes home. It made me so proud of them.
Then I had quite a few people I know reach out, even a former student, who placed an order of 40 for her company to send to a Food Kitchen in Aurora, Illinois. I ended up doing around 75 so far.
It really helped me find my contribution and explain these things to my son — I want him to start to understand how to handle serious situations, find a way to help, connect, and problem solve in hard times.
I took donations.
I didn’t want to charge, I know a lot of people lost even more income than I did/will be. I’m so glad I did it, even though it was a crazy week.
We bought Kirby vacuum bags — HEPA qualified — and followed the instructions from Dr.
Ryan Southworth’s YouTube tutorial. Important to know that I sewed a small bendable strip to fold onto your nose to keep it secure.
As a crafter/quilter, I realized I had the materials on hand, so I got to work.
I was lucky to have funky fabric on hand, so each mask had a little style, but I’ll admit it made me sad to sew to mini masks for my nephew and a coworkers daughter. My heart broke a little that kiddos will remember this and have to learn to protect themselves all the more.
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