I don’t actually need a coronavirus mask right now. I’m sheltering in place, working from home and feeding my family as if I’m on a one-woman episode of “Chopped.” I yank a mystery item out of the back of the freezer and turn it into dinner.
But I want masks to help protect me, my husband and my 76-year-old mother (who lives with us) from COVID-19 when we go outside.
So I decided to make our own coronavirus masks — no sewing involved.
The first few efforts were flops. I tried a bandanna, but we couldn’t really breathe through it. I also tried an old silky scarf but I felt awful about cutting it up. And as we discovered, we needed to make that version uncomfortably tight to keep it from sliding down our faces.
Both could work in an emergency, but they weren’t practical solutions to the problem at hand: what we could reasonably wear on the rare occasions that we needed to go out. And by rare occasions, I mean going to the pharmacy at Ralph’s to pick up my mother’s blood-pressure medication. Or that CVS run I still need to make for some hair dye to touch up my roots.
Before I show you the super easy steps for a sock mask, I know it won’t win any fashion awards. It most certainly is not better than the N95 masks sought after by doctors and first responders. And I know it’s probably not going to save us if we are surrounded by COVID-19 patients who all decide to simultaneously cough and sneeze on us. But something is better than nothing. And this sock mask will keep us from getting death stares for showing up without one at my local supermarket, where more shoppers than not seem to be wearing them. (Starting Friday in L.A., you’re required to wear a mask, bandanna or another type of covering over your mouth and nose at essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies.)
By the way, the best thing I found out wearing my DIY face mask: It stopped me from touching my face so much. Here’s how to do it.
Choose a long sock to sacrifice. You need something with some length because it needs to stretch, the long way, across your face. You need something that will feel comfortable on your skin. And you need a breathable fabric. So maybe not a scratchy, heavy wool sock. For me, a cotton-y dress sock or gym sock worked best. This might be a great use for a pair of old stretched-out socks that won’t stay up but are still taking up space in the sock drawer.
Cut two strips — about 3/4 of an inch to an inch wide — off the open end. These will become your ear straps. The strips might fray. Who cares.
Cut open the body of the sock, lengthwise, along the back seam, so you cut through the heel. Lay it open on your work surface. I know we’re not supposed to care about looks, but I laid out the sock with the outside facing down. Why? So it will look nicer with the outside of the sock facing out when you are finished.
Slide on the ear straps, one on each end. Aim for about 2-3 inches from the end. You can adjust as needed.
Now, fold the ends of the sock toward the middle. While holding those flaps in place, put the mask on, using the loops to secure it around your ears.
Here’s where you may need to make an adjustment. You want it snug enough that it stays on, but not so tight that the loops pop off your ears. If you like the way it fits, you might want to use safety pins to keep the flaps in place — or to keep your ear straps from getting lost.
Now that you know the basics, you can improvise using other items in your home such as a soft old T-shirt and some hair bands. Here’s my mom modeling hers. I’m not doing any modeling until I hit up CVS.