Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Find the answers to the most common questions we've been asked below.
Forms and Resources
Where can I find the patterns and learn what materials I can use?
You can find them on our Sewing Masks page.
Where are the forms for volunteers to fill out?
Here is the volunteer form. You only need to fill it out once, unless you need someone to come pick up your completed masks. If you're able to drop them off at a local drop off location, no need to fill out the form again.
I'm with a healthcare facility that needs masks- what do I do?
If you are able to make a request on behalf of your organization, please fill out the mask request form. One of our coordinators will be in touch within a few days.
I finished a batch of masks, what do I do now?
If you are able to make a drop off yourself: take a look at our drop off locations sheet, and bring it to a touch-free drop off location near you.
If you are unable to make a drop off yourself, fill out the volunteer form to let us know that you have completed masks, and need to schedule a pick up. A county coordinator should be in touch with you within a few days.
I need materials to sew masks. Or, I have fabric, thread or elastic I can donate. How can connect with you?
You can contact us in two ways. You can fill out the volunteer form and let us know you have materials to donate, or need materials to sew. A coordinator should be in touch.
We also have a rolling “materials swap” thread on our Facebook page for members to trade directly.
Note: if you are donating fabric, and you are able to pre-shrink it (wash and dry twice on hot) and iron it, that really speeds up the process. If not, no sweat!
Do these masks protect from COVID-19, or are they effective PPE?
They do not protect from COVID-19, and we'd like to be very clear about that. These masks are not effective or rated PPE. We are filling specific requests from health care facilities, so they are designed primarily for use over clinical/N95 masks to reduce the burn rate and prolong their useful life. They can also be used in public per the federal CDC's guidelines to help reduce transmission to others.
Does the Governor’s Stay Healthy at Home order affect donations?
We believe volunteers dropping off masks to socially distanced, touch-free drop off locations falls within the order’s guidelines. Please continue making drop offs yourself if you are able to do so and comfortable with that. If not, fill out the volunteer form to let us know you have completed masks and need them picked up.
L.L.Bean (or other companies) are making masks, should we stop? We are so thankful that other companies are able to start producing effective PPE. If our healthcare systems needs are met quickly (and we hope they are!) we will begin funneling masks to other community members who need them. So please, #justkeepsewing!
Can I use a fabric other than 100% woven (non-stretch) cotton? Unfortunately, no- not to donate here. These masks need to hold up to heavy laundering and sterilization, other materials are not suitable in this application.
We’ve had a lot of questions about cotton flannel specifically- right now, we’re asking for only quilting cotton.
I am out of elastic. Can I use ribbon, bias tape, shoelaces, hair ties, t-shirt yarn, or other inventive solutions? There is a national elastic shortage right now. If you are out of elastic, please make cotton fabric ties instead. The only pre-made alternative to ties that we can accept is 100% cotton twill tape. We recommend 1/2" width.
Can I serge my ties?
Unfortunately, no. As this crisis stretches on, your masks could need to be laundered / sterilized hundreds of times. We just can't take the risk that they would start to break down. We want all of your hard work to hold up as long as is necessary.
Why don’t you recommend bias tape?
Every time a nurse has to push the mask back in place or readjust the ties, they risk contaminating the rest of their PPE. We don’t want any stretch in our ties.
True bias tape is cut at a 45-degree angle to the grain, which means it is made up of very short threads. This makes it stretch and weakens its ability to withstand repeated laundering and sterilizing. We have also confirmed that polyster melts in hospital laundering.
If you cut and press the shape of bias tape by following the straight grain (or the cross grain) it is then comprised of very long threads that are much stronger and will not stretch.
Can we add ::insert material here:: as a filter? We are trying to sew as many uniform masks as possible so that healthcare workers who wear them know what to expect. So we are asking for simple, two layer cotton masks to be donated in this group. Please don’t sew in a filter.
Do I really need to pre-wash my fabric before sewing? Yes, if you have access to a washer and dryer. Please wash and dry on hot two times before sewing. We’re doing this to pre-shrink the cotton so we can ensure the sizing stays the same. If you sew unwashed fabric, it will shrink once laundered, and may not be the correct size. A note: cotton twill tape does not need to be pre-washed- just the fabric.
Can I still sew if I don’t have access to a washer and dryer? Yes. If you are not able to pre-wash, sew one size larger than you originally intended, and label your finished masks as unwashed. That way we know it will shrink. Our quality control volunteers then package it with smaller size masks for the healthcare facilities.
Can I construct my mask with ties on the side, instead of the top?
As long as all of the raw edges are enclosed, seams and ties/elastic are securely stitched, and you end up with a rectangular pleated mask, feel free to construct it in the way that's easiest for you. We just need make sure they can last through rugged laundering and sterilization, so no raw edges can be exposed.
How are you quality checking our masks?
If you'd like to help our coordinators by checking your masks before dropping them off, here is what they are looking for.
Obvious smells – smoking, pets, mildew?
Hair – pet, person?
Dust – how have the masks been stored after construction?
Stains or non-conforming material – is this new fabric?
Has the material been pre-washed? If not, group it with the next mask size down, because it will shrink during the initial sterilization. We’re asking sewists to include this information on their label in the bag.
Finished product should not be overly wrinkly.
There should be no stray threads.
There should be no frayed or open, unsewn edges.
Elastic or ties should be FIRMLY seated, held in with robust stitching.
Finished product should be uniform – neatly pleated, mostly symmetrical.
Finished height of both small and medium masks should be about 3.5" on average (variability is expected here.)
Finished widths should be approximately 8" wide for smalls and 9" wide for mediums. Again, variability is expected.