Social work senior Alex Zamores said that before this week, she wasn’t very concerned with wearing a face mask. She’d go about her days conforming to social distancing guidelines, but it wasn’t until hearing about the CDC’s updated face mask policies that she began covering her face in public.
As of April 3, the CDC now recommends that individuals wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Zamores suggested to her roommate Alex Sanchez, who she described as the more crafty of the two, that he should consider making masks at home. After watching a few YouTube tutorials, Sanchez did just that.
The criminal justice alumnus said his mother taught him how to sew at a young age, and that creative background helped him learn how to create face masks quickly. Making masks for himself and his roommates was the natural choice.
“It’s kind of difficult to come across masks and gloves these days,” he said. “So I figured the best alternative was to try and make [my] own.”
After quickly re-teaching himself how to hand sew, he said he used whatever he had on hand to create the masks while still conforming to the CDC’s face covering guidelines.
According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should fit snugly but comfortable against the side of the face and be secured with ties or ear loops but still allow breathing without restriction. They should include multiple layers of fabric and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to their shape. More face covering guidelines can be found here.
Sanchez said he repurposed old clothing to create the masks, which he made with three layers. An old apron became the first and outer layer, and he used a flannel shirt for the middle layer. For the inside layer, the one that’s actually in contact with your face, it’s recommended to use a comfortable material because you’ll be wearing it a lot. Sanchez used the mesh from athletic wear. For the straps, he used apron strings, lanyards and the elastic strap from a journal.
Sanchez said he thought about buying materials at the store but decided that would defeat the purpose of wearing face masks in public. He already had everything he needed.
Since he doesn’t have his sewing machine at their apartment, he said he sewed his and his roommates’ masks by hand with a needle and thread and measured it against their faces to ensure a secure fit.
For now, he said he plans to only make masks for his roommates and might send some to his family in the mail.
Experiential learning librarian Milaun Murry said it’s important for everyone to learn how to make some form of face covering. In Thursday’s segment of UTA Libraries’ virtual event Quick Crafts, she demonstrated how to create face masks without any necessary sewing. The video tutorial can be found here.
In the tutorial, Murry outlines how to make a face mask in under ten minutes. It doesn’t take long, and it’s a skill anyone can learn. She said even her four-year-old son made his own mask, with help using scissors.
Murry highly recommended using 100% cotton material with a tightly-woven weave such as polo shirts. Not all cotton has a tight weave, but it’s important to get one that will protect you from the air but also allow you to breathe.
At minimum, you have to use two layers, Murry said. Some people install filters in their masks, but she said that’s a subject she might touch back on if the CDC updates their policies on filtered face coverings. For now, the CDC hasn’t recommended a filter.
Homemade face masks do not offer the same protection as official gear, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the use of makeshift masks as a last resort.
However, it’s important to clean face coverings regularly. According to the CDC, they should be routinely washed in a machine depending on the frequency of use. Murry said she’s made three masks for herself and two for her son so far, and they wash them on high heat between each use.
“Once we go out and we come back, that mask is pretty much done for the day,” she said. “It’s off to the washer, off to the dryer, and we don’t use it again before it’s gone through that process.”
While using a face covering, people should remember not to touch its exterior, Murry said. That defeats the entire purpose because then you’re holding on to all those germs you’re trying to avoid. There’s really no telling what you’ll come into contact with even at a grocery store.
This week, Zamores said she’s seen a notable increase in people wearing face masks at grocery stores, which she said made her feel a sense of community. Still, many don’t wear anything to cover their face.
Zamores said protecting herself with a face mask provides her with a foreign sense of comfort.
“This is like our new normal,” she said. “And I don’t think any of us are used to it, and so it’s still strange.”