The Mask MakersChristine Van Wyk
We’re calling for volunteers to make masks to reduce COVID-19 transmission in high risk areas.
You can join us in serving our city by sewing masks to be distributed for free in communities where people are not able to purchase personal protective equipment.
The Western Cape Department of Health has stated the need for cloth masks to reduce transmission of COVID-19. With the current and forecasted case load of patients, all medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) must be prioritised for use by health care workers. The general public has been urged to use cloth face masks as an additional measure to hand washing, social distancing and the stipulated hygiene practices. Read more on the science and policy behind cloth masks here.
The big idea around this project is to enable volunteers to be making cloth face masks to be distributed (for free) within communities that are facing a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
The burden of COVID-19 will be most felt by those in under-resourced areas. There are so many who live in crowded communities and dwellings, who can only use public transport, who cannot realistically afford hand sanitisers, who have to share toilets and taps, for whom social distancing, as advocated by our health department, is simply unrealistic and unsustainable. We cannot change decades of inequality and the structure of the city right now. The idea of this project is to give men, women and children who find themselves in these situations additional resources and information to reduce the transmission of the virus.
To be clear, these masks are for non-medical staff, and will be accompanied by official WCDOH information about usage and cleaning, in multiple languages. Watch this video to see how the Czech Republic mobilised people to make millions of masks
- If you have fabric at home and you can print our pattern, we encourage you to get going (please take note of the strict guidelines below)
If you require materials (elastic, printed pattern and fabric), you notify us via the sign up form, and we’ll be in touch to arrange delivery
- Once you have 20 masks completed, we will come and collect them from you. Click here to arrange collection of completed 4 layer masks.
- In house quality control checks the structural integrity of the products
- We package masks in plastic with clear instructions for care and use
- Masks are distributed
Keen to become a mask maker?
In churches across our city are trained men and women who have sewing machines, skills and the time to be able to make cloth face masks. Through our existing relational networks and connections, the church can collectively and sacrificially serve and bless many. There are many people who want to help but are not able to procure materials and distribute masks to those who need them.
This is where Common Good fits in. We have the relevant permissions to procure and distribute the right materials, collect the finished masks and distribute them within communities who need them most. As the connector, we ensure the masks made in your household reach another household who needs them.
A final thought…
Making and distributing cloth masks will not eradicate COVID-19, but it will put a tool in the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this kind of protective barrier. We believe it will contribute to slowing the spread and to keeping medical-grade supplies in the hands of those who need them most.
We are following the WC DOH’s instructions which are laid out in this article. What follows is a summary:
- We are insisting that the outer layers of masks are made from close-weave cotton like denim, calico or upholstery cotton fabric that can be easily washed.
- The outer layers should be two different colours or patterns – if possible – to distinguish between inside and outside of the cloth mask.
- There should be a minimum of two inner layers made from ordinary cotton typically used for linen.
- DO NOT USE STRETCHY MATERIAL WITH A LOOSE WEAVE such as T-shirt material. These offer no protection at all.
4 layers in total is the minimum, namely 1 layer closest to the face, 2 inner layers (fusing) and then the outermost layer that is visible when the mask is worn.
The pattern provided is for a 3 layered mask with pleats and interfacing. Please use 2 pieces of fusing instead of one as indicated, that way it will have 4 layers in total and meet the WC DOH specs. The video tutorial is here and the pattern is here.
We’ve opted to replace the ties on this mask with elastic. This is solely to make the mask production go quicker.
To replace the ties with the elastic,
– The top elastic gets pinned to the two top ‘tie’ placement markings on the pattern.
– The bottom elastic gets pinned to the two bottom ‘tie’ placement markings on the pattern.
– The length should be 30 cm (with 1-2cm sewn inside)
We suggest you make and finish one to get familiar with the process and then fit it on your head and face. We’ll be ironing and disinfecting prior to distribution.
If you are going to distribute masks yourself it is a non-negotiable that you do so with clear user instructions in at least 2 languages. You can print those in English, Afrikaans or isiXhosa. If you are going to hand them to us for distribution, then we will add the instructions for use. It is vital to follow all the guidelines outlined by the WC DOH in their article here. We cannot risk the distribution of goods that could aid the spread of the virus.
If you do not have a sewing machine, we’ve included 2 options that do not require a sewing machine. These are NOT recommended for distribution- they are only for you to make for yourself.
- If you cannot get your hands on a mask or sewing materials; this is a no sew mask, no pattern required- just an A4 page
- If you do not have a sewing machine but you can hand sew; this is a hand sewn, rectangle mask with no pleats.
We cannot stress this enough, misuse of these masks is rife – care and use instructions are below; please strictly adhere to them!
How to use a cloth mask properly
There are strict but simple guidelines for using a cloth mask safely.
- Only use a mask that has been washed and ironed
- Place the mask with the correct side facing your nose and mouth and covering both well
- Tie the strings behind your head, or if you are using elastic bands, make sure these are tight to ensure a good fit
- Once you have put on the mask, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE again until you take it off
- When you take it off, undo the ties and carefully fold the mask inside out. Hold it by the strings/elastic and place the mask in a container preserved for washing the cloth mask.
- Wash hands thoroughly and dry them before doing anything else.
You should have at least two cloth masks per person so you will be able to wash one and have a clean one ready for use.
To maintain your mask:
- Wash it in soap and hot water
- Rinse thoroughly and dry
- Iron the mask – this is the best means of disinfection!