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DIY: How to make a cloth mask to help keep everyone safe

Making masks with sewing machine photo
      Photo: Aija Suuta / AFSC

One of the many lessons of this pandemic is interdependence. What’s best for our neighbor is best for us as well—our health is bound together. Given that research tells us that many people are walking around with COVID-19 but lack any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, and many states and municipalities have made this a requirement. By wearing a mask, we’re protecting each other from anything we might transmit—and further helping to stop the spread of the virus.  

These recommendations and requirements have left people scrambling, however, as commercially made masks can be hard to find and should be used by health care workers and other first responders workers anyway. Since our government disbanded the global pandemic office and prioritizes war spending over dollars for public health, it's important that we all do what we can to protect our communities. If you're a DIY crafter, a quilter, or someone with a little time on your hands—this is your moment to step up and make some simple masks for yourself and your community. 


There is no one specific homemade mask that is recommended, but your mask should fit snugly from the bridge of your nose to under your chin.  

Here are some resources for you to get started:

Choose a pattern that fits your skills and materials you have on hand:

Choose effective materials:

Keep it clean:

  • Make sure you follow good safety practices if you plan to make masks for others.  
  • Wash your mask after each use, and wash your hands after you remove it. It’s good to have at least two masks per person for this reason.

This weekend I got out the sewing machine and made some of these for my family, some neighborhood mutual aid workers, and even a social worker who stopped me in the grocery store asking where she could get a mask because she is still seeing clients. I happily dropped off a couple for her last night, knowing that she will now be able to keep herself and her clients safer.  

About the Author

Mary Zerkel is coordinator of AFSC's Communities Against Islamophobia Project and has worked at AFSC for over 20 years. In addition, Mary is co-founder of the art collective Lucky Pierre, which works on political and social issues in a variety of forms. 

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