The women of the Refugee Artisan Initiative have been making masks to donate to health care workers and teaching others to do the same.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing a face mask in public to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. If you’d like to sew your own mask at home, Refugee Artisan Initiative sewing project coordinator Isabella Lee offers the following advice:



  • Start with a 7″ x 16″ piece of tightly woven fabric.
  • Fold in 3/8″ along a short end and sew.
  • Repeat on the other side.



  • Fold the fabric in half, right sides facing each other.
  • Sew about 1 1/2″ from each side.
  • Fold the top over about 1″.



  • Tuck one end of an 8″ piece of elastic into a corner and sew.
  • Tuck the length of the elastic inside, and repeat on the other corner.
  • Repeat on the other side. Trim excess elastic.



  • Turn the mask inside out. Pleat and pin the mask. Make sure the completed mask is between 4″ and 4 1/4″ from top to bottom.



  • Stitch close to the edge to secure the pleats and elastic in place.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • You have the option of placing a filter into the mask’s pocket.


Seattle refugee artisans pivot to handcrafting masks and face shields to fight coronavirus

There is little research to indicate exactly what kind of homemade mask works best, or how well, and no consensus among experts about the optimal design. But medical professionals do have some advice on basic principles to keep in mind when making your own mask, including how to ensure good coverage and fit, choosing the right material, and making sure to include multiple layers and a pocket for an additional filter (as Lee’s design has).

If you’re using a cloth mask, wash it frequently and hang it in the sun to dry if possible, advises Raina MacIntyre, an epidemiologist and doctor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who has done extensive research on the usefulness of masks. Each person in your household should have several masks so you always have one to wear when others are in the wash.

Also, make sure you’re wearing your mask correctly, including being careful when you put it on and take it off. Follow these guidelines so you don’t inadvertently increase the risk of infecting yourself or others.

Information from The Washington Post, The Sacramento Bee and the Philadelphia Inquirer is included in this report.