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Literally TWO MINUTE no-sew easy coronavirus mask from an old hankie (video + step-by-step guide)

Do you have a stack of old, clean cotton hankies? Do you have an old t-shirt you can stand to cut up? If so, you have an INFINITE supply of no-sew homemade masks that are simple to put on and take off!!!

imageHere in Israel, it is literally illegal to go out without wearing a mask.  It doesn’t have to be a super-duper high-tech N95 respirator / filter mask.  Any old shmatta will do.  And that’s where this hankie mask comes in.

Do homemade masks work?

First of all, this mask has absolutely ZERO antiviral or antibacterial properties.  It just stops us from being human together, and helps me feel like part of the zeitgeist.

Seriously, though, wearing a cloth face covering (a term that freely admits that these aren’t really doing all the jobs of masks!) does a number of things (I had to look into this a little, and this NPR article was helpful…):

  • protects other people in case you’re already infectious but don’t know it
  • blocks SOME droplet transmission from others (don’t touch the front!!!)
  • visually cue yourself and others that distancing is taking place

Also – psychologically. 

A mask and gloves are part of the UNIFORM of fighting coronavirus.  And I’m big into uniforms and getting dressed up to play the part.  The people with masks on are signalling that they’re the ones taking the restrictions seriously.  They’re the heroes who have made Israel’s curve look better than some of the other ones out there.


Curve graph courtesy of Alban Tranchard.  Feel free to stop by the site and plug in any countries you like!

(And I have faith that Israel, unlike certain other jurisdictions, which may well include parts of Canada, is testing well and reporting its numbers accurately!)

Homemade masks only work if you do THIS…

But one of the biggest things they’re saying about homemade masks is that they only work if they’re washed after every single use.  So if you’ve only got one, that’s not much help.  If it’s tough to launder and takes forever to dry, ditto.

You want something, ideally, that you can toss in the wash and still have an infinite supply ready to go at the drop of a hat.

All you need to get started is ONE clean hankie, ONE old t-shirt, and a pair of sharp scissors. No sewing, and the strap is reusable!

I watched a whole bunch of no-sew mask videos, but hated the way the cotton t-shirt felt pressed against my face. And it got damp so quickly breathing into it, it just never felt fresh. AND they're a hassle to wash.

Plus, a lot of the easier no-sew masks used elastic bands to hold them on around your ears.  Ugh, in my world, there are few things that feel more horrible than elastic bands tugging your ears off.

Here we all are squinting in 3 different versions of the no-sew mask:


As you can see, none of us were exactly happy.  Every single one of these masks had problems.  So I came home and last night, did some thinking and experimenting…

The perfect no-sew mask

The mask I finally came up with does not tug on your ears.  It’s not too bulky.  It is made of pure breathable woven cotton.

And with multiple layers of cotton hankie, it’s slightly “stiff” enough that it sticks a bit from my mouth so I don’t like I’m suffocating. The woven fabric of the hankie is also cooler and more breathable than knit cotton t-shirt fabric.

Note – according to the NPR article, both Kaiser Permanente and Johns Hopkins recommend 100% woven cotton, since the virus seems to live longer on stretchy acrylic/polyester fibres.

And when you get home from being outside, you can just toss it in the wash and take a fresh hankie next time you need to go out!

(This is very good because yesterday, stepping out into the bright sunlight for the first time in 4 weeks, GZ sneezed into his about 17 times and it was literally FULL of snot by the time we got home.  Ugh.  But no snot got out!!!)

Watch the video and see how easy it is

If there's anything you can't see clearly in the video, just ask!

We did it – and so can you! Here’s the family heading out into the world today, 3 of us wearing homemade masks, and ALL of us making the bracha on fruit trees in bloom in the month of Nissan (if you haven’t yet, it’s not too late!).


We’re only allowed to go in a 500m radius around our house, but both yesterday and today, we managed to kind of stretch it into a nice half-hour walk around the neighbourhood:


Here’s how to make it – in 2 minutes, tops

Don’t let the number of steps here fool you!  Some people like a LOT of directions, others like to figure stuff out for themselves.  If you’re the latter, just watch the video!  I think it’s pretty clear.

I’m sharing this in so much detail because I know how much anxiety this time period is provoking in so many people.  While it’s still legal to go out of the house in most places (including here in Israel, where they have eased restrictions on how far we can go from the house), you or your kids might worry.  I know some of mine are worried.  I would never admit to being worried myself.

In any event, a good, secure mask you don’t have to fiddle with to keep on your face – and that’s at least a little more comfy in the heat and with glasses -- can help with that.

All you need is a  clean hankie (a nice big one!).



Any old T-shirt (even off the bottom)


(this one was previously cut from another mask project I didn’t love as much!)

Cut off the hem and get rid of it.

Then cut off a 1-inch strip from the bottom of the t-shirt.


Don't bother measuring too carefully or cutting too straight – however you cut, it won’t show.

This one-inch strip you’ve just cut out will be the "strap" holding the mask on.


Run your hands up and down the strip, pulling gently, to tighten it up into a “cord.”


Now get a clean hankie.  A nice big one  works best

Fold your hankie in thirds and smooth it out.  (It's less bulky if you can also fold the corners a little.)


This is your Mask + Strap!

Now lay the t-shirt "strap" over the hankie in an upside- down U shape


The "U" part will go on top of your head. The open ends will be tied later on.

Fold both sides in OVER the straps:  Left side to centre, then right side to centre:


Your mask is done!

How to put it on:

Pick up the mask carefully and hold it up to your face, holding strap in place until it’s tied so it doesn't open and fall apart.


As you press it up to your face, tuck in any bits that are sticking out.

Settle it  comfortably on your nose and around your glasses.

Pull the "U" part of the strap over your head.


Tug on one lower strap to snug it up (right or left, it doesn’t matter).

Tug on the other lower strap to snug it up.


Keep tugging until you’re happy with the fit and feel. (don't worry, you can let go soon!)

Now, bring the loose straps around back, cross the two straps so the “U" is under the open ends.  (crossing the straps helps the mask fit better)


(omg, I look completely insane!!!)

Now tie the open straps with a bow (so it’ll be easier to undo when the time comes!).


If anything, MORE insane!

But look at that – we’re LITERALLY done.  And it LITERALLY took under two minutes.  Maybe not the first time, but the second time, yes, it WILL be that fast.

And getting-out-the-door time counts when you haven’t been outside in 4 weeks.


RIGHT??? Surprised smile

omg, I’m a maniac.

Ready to take it off?

Untie the bow, which should be at the top of your head.


Pull the “U” part of the strap up off your head.


(I couldn’t get a clean shot from the video without text in it!)

Now, just open the hankie back up.  Like magic, it’s back to being a hankie again!


Save the strap for next time!  Toss the hankie in the wash!


If this is helpful to you, I’d love to hear how you’re using these masks in your daily lives.  Leave a message in the comments below!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

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