Maybe you’ve made a mask or two and after wearing them, you’re just not that big a fan. After all, they heat up after you have them on for even a short time. Not to mention, they make it a little hard to breathe and they slip around. And if only your glasses would stop fogging up, maybe you could get through a shopping trip without losing your patience.
Like most universal items, masks have been initially designed as a one-size-fits-all solution. Although customizable patterns and sizing are starting to pop up, you may need face mask adapters and face mask ear protection to stay the course. Rather than ditch the mask and risk breathing in germ microbes, check out these hacks to make your mask stay where you want and not get on your nerves.
Face mask adapters to keep your glasses from fogging up
Most face mask patterns have a strip of fabric that goes across your nose, which is a natural spot for it to go, but the wrong fit can direct warm air up your face and into your lenses. As a result, you cannot see, in addition to the already aggravating adjustment of having a masked face.
First of all, the more breathable the fabric you use, the less likely you are to face this problem. Cottons – such as bedsheets and button-down shirts – allow air to pass through the weave of the fabric. While this does call to mind a reasonable concern about virus microbes getting through, if you use a double layer, it will offer additional protection from the transmission of germs. Thicker weaves – like t-shirts – make it harder to get proper airflow, so assess the pros and cons as you choose your mask-making material.
The easiest hack for fogged-up glasses is to build a wire ‘bridge’ into your mask’s top strip. Before you stitch the strip in place, cut a six-inch piece of flexible wire or a pipe cleaner. Place it into the top fold of the fabric and sew around it to hold it in place. The person wearing the mask can now bend it to fit their face better. However, when they wash the mask, they must ensure it is dried thoroughly so the wire doesn’t rust.
Doctors facing critical cases in hospitals are among those experiencing the most discomfort with face masks, due to their long shifts. To get around this conundrum, some ER doctors have continued with the usual masks, but have replaced their typical eyeglasses with eye goggles. While not all ophthalmologists are open during the pandemic, many will fit you in ‘emergency’ cases like this one. It is a professional solution for those who really need clear vision during long, life-saving shifts.
Face mask adapters for a better fit around your nose
Glasses or no glasses, it’s safest to have a close fit over your nose. For comfort, you want the mask to sit across the bony part of your nose, rather than the area with more soft tissue.
The easiest way to add an extra bit of support to hold your face mask in place is a piece of paper surgical tape. Simply tear off a two-inch strip and stick it over the bridge of your nose, covering half skin and half mask. Due to its design, it will keep in place even when you sweat, but can be removed painlessly when you are done. This advice comes from Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, a doctor who designed masks for her whole family. (See more of her tips at the end of this article.)
Some people find that a lighter wire recommended earlier – such as a pipe cleaner – cuts into their faces after wearing their masks for an extended time, so designers are now using more durable materials.
The Fabric Patch in Washington State has worked with a team to create 167,000 masks this year already. In its round-up of lessons learned, they share insights on a few options. For a base pattern, they recommend that you can use the one created by Craft Passion. It has a curve that brings the mask higher up over your nose and makes it easier to fit the contours of your face, especially making it snug around the nose and under the chin. After making your first one, try it on and adapt the slope of the curves; if you feel it rises up on part of your face or doesn’t offer even coverage all around, add or diminish part of the basic mask piece and create your own template for your next creation.
Aluminum foil pans (yes, you read that right)
Pieces of aluminum-foil pans also provide a creative bent to your mask’s fit. Flimsy dollar-store pans don’t offer the quality you need, so splurge on the $3 versions. Take a three-inch length of foil and cut it into two-inch widths. From there, fold into three layers so it is even stronger.
Some sewing machines are not strong enough to stitch through the foil, so you may have to sew a little pouch inside the mask to hold the metal in place. It doesn’t matter what scrap of fabric you use, since no one will ever see it.
Add darts instead
If you want to forego the wire option completely, veteran stitchers can add darts to the top and bottom of the center of the mask to curve it more. The Fabric Patch crew recommends against this step, unless you are accustomed to adapting patterns. Adding darts can make the seam bulkier, so you will have to balance between fit and skill level.
Additional options for wire-based adapters
The Fabric Patch also used seven-inch coffee closers, cut in half, which was handy, given the adhesive strip that holds it into place while sewing. They also tried light metal barrettes, which can be bent into the right shape to fit your face. You want to sew around these items to keep them in place, rather than stitching through them, since they will break your needles.
Other sites, such as Dr. Lai’s, recommend using two pieces of speaker wire, with duct tape to enclose the sharp ends.
If all you have to work with is light wire, you can always wrap narrow wire in a soft piece of fabric, like a light fleece, to cushion the bridge of your nose from wear and tear. You can also twist three or four wires together so they will hold their position more securely in tandem or simply fold the ends in on themselves so they don’t poke straight out.
Face mask adapters for ear protection
One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear is how elastic straps pull on your ears. After a while, even the slightest tension will feel like they are digging in deeper and deeper. Some creative people have designed some great workarounds for this very problem:
Headbands with buttons
For starters, you can add buttons to a headband and attach the straps around those instead. It’s a quick fix for those who already use headbands to hold their hair back away from their faces.
The video in this post by Ellie and Mac Patterns shows how to make a headband from one piece of stretch material, including where to place the buttons. It comes in two styles – one with a twist and one without, depending on which version suits your taste and your choice in fabric.
Crocheted ear savers
For those who like to crochet, there is a great pattern to add an adapter with a yarn and a pair of buttons. This is less bulky than a headband and offers the same relief.
Another video, this time by Bella Coco, shows the series of steps, using single, double and triple crochet chains to create the four-inch wool creation that stretches across the back of your head. Once you attach your mask to the buttons, it will pull the so-called Ear Saver to the length needed to hold your mask in place (the same way the band of a wool hat fits your head).
If you want to buy a plastic version with different size options instead, Etsy has several versions from $1.40 each to a pack of five for $7.
Elastic ties that go over your head
Among the lessons shared by the folks at the Fabric Patch comes a completely different approach. They replaced fabric ties and elastic ear loops with a hybrid of the two forms of attachments.
Nurses who use their mask say they prefer long elastic loops that go all the way around their heads, in the same placement as the fabric ties. It holds the masks comfortably where they need it to be, but don’t slip and don’t need to be retied during their shifts.
Simply use Lycra strips or longer pieces of elastic, based on measurements of the head of the person who will be wearing it. Lengths of 15 inches apiece are a good starting point.
Face mask adapters for men with beards
If you have a beard or have just started to grow one during lockdown, you want to make sure your face is covered despite your facial hair.
Dr. Lai wanted to protect her husband, who wears a long beard. She designed a mask that is longer than the usual model and whose bottom ties go under the beard. Simply double the length of your pattern and make the bottom ties shorter.
Adapting to each person’s comfort and physical features is just part of the creative journey. We are all learning as we go and hope these tips are helpful as you find the right mask and adjustments that work for you.