How to make a face-covering with cheap tea towels from Kmart 

Australians are fashioning homemade face-coverings out of Kmart tea towels as demand soars for medical-grade masks amid the second wave of COVID-19.

Amateur seamstresses dusted off their sewing kits after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday announced that masks will become mandatory in public across Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire from 11.59pm Wednesday.

The drastic measure is aimed at curbing the renewed outbreak in Victoria, which recorded 484 new cases on Wednesday morning – its worst daily total ever.

Facebook groups are filled with photos of home-sewn coverings which women have stitched from $1 kitchen cloths, pipe cleaners, elastic and a needle and thread.

‘If you have to wear a mask it may as well look good. Double lined and a pocket for a filter,’ a mother from country Victoria posted on Sunday. 

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A woman wears a homemade face mask sewn from a Kmart tea towel

The DIY coverings (pictured) are made by stitching towel fabric with ribbon and elastic to hook around the ears

Homemade face masks, sewn from $1.50 Kmart tea towels, ribbons and elastic to hook around the ears

Five 'tea towel' face masks which a Melbourne mother stitched for her family

Five ‘tea towel’ face masks which a Melbourne mother stitched for her family

‘Not sure how good the tea towel will be but there are more cows than people where I live!’

The pipe cleaners should run along the top and bottom of the face cover to stop it from caving in, and the elastic should be sewn to either end to hook around the ears. 

One Melbourne woman said she spent her birthday stitching face masks at her kitchen table after learning how to sew on TikTok.

‘Never thought I would see the day…my husband went to Kmart last week and found these tea towels for $1, I watched a TikTok tutorial on how to make a face mask and today I hand sewed it,’ she said.

Another said she had made masks for her family by pinning elastic to $3 Kmart dog bandanas.

Others said they had made masks from ankle socks by cutting the sock in half, snipping along one side, opening the fabric and cutting slits in either to end to hook around the ears – no sewing required. 

A DIY covering fashioned from a $3 Kmart dog bandana

A supply of tea towel masks, made in preparation for Melbourne's mandatory face covering rule which comes into effect at 11.59pm Wednesday

A DIY covering fashioned from a $3 Kmart dog bandana (left) and a supply of tea towel masks (right) made in preparation for Melbourne’s mandatory face covering rule which comes into effect at 11.59pm Wednesday

While some questioned the efficacy of the DIY coverings, which do not have the waterproof coating advised by infectious disease experts, most praised the women for finding a creative solution to an extraordinary requirement. 

‘Please stop with the negative comments, most of us are still working and need to leave our homes to get to and from work, so any sort of covering is good,’ one woman said.

‘I wish knew how to make these masks. Great job.’

Another suggested stitching a piece of a supermarket grocery bag to the outside of the mask as a makeshift waterproof layer.

‘If you change this every four hours and use a Woolies green shopping bag as the outside layer you should be good,’ she said.

How to make your own face mask 

What you need

Two 19.5cm x 19cm pieces of tightly woven cotton 

1/2 metre of thick elastic

Needle and thread

Method 

1. Cut two pieces of elastic each measuring 18cm long. On the outside, pin ends of the elastic to one section of cotton.

2. Pin cotton face cover section together. Stitch outer edges in a 6mm seam, leaving an opening.

3. Turn face cover right side out, then sew the opening. Stitch close to finished edges.

4. To make pleats on the outside fold along solid lines through all thicknesses.

5. Bring folds to broken lines and baste (temporary stitch) 1.3cm from finished edges.

6. On the outside, stitch along the basting. Stitch again about 3mm way from first stitching.

An instructional graphic shows seamstresses how to stitch face masks at home

An instructional graphic shows seamstresses how to stitch face masks at home

Source: Spotlight

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Med-Con, one of Australia’s only surgical-grade mask producers, has expressed concern about Melbourne’s new mandatory mask rule as it struggles to meet skyrocketing demand. 

CEO Steve Csiszar told Business Insider the rule, which applies to Melburnians and residents of the adjacent Mitchell Shire from 11.59pm Wednesday, will put serious strain on its already overstretched supply chain.

‘We’re full at the moment with our production – we’re working 24/7 – and we just physically can’t make any more masks,’ he said on Monday, hours after Mr Andrews announced that masks would be compulsory in public. 

Face masks in regional Victoria are recommended in situations where maintaining 1.5 metres distance is impossible, but are not legally required.

A graph shows Victoria's second wave of COVID-19 cases. The state reported 374 new infections on Wednesday, July 22

A graph shows Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 cases. The state reported 374 new infections on Wednesday, July 22

Melbourne’s mandatory face masks 

Face masks will be compulsory for people over the age of 12 out in public in Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire from 11.59pm Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

A mask or covering must be worn when leaving the house for one of the four allowed activities: study or work (if you are unable to work from home), medical care and care giving, shopping for essentials and daily exercise.

Face masks in regional Victoria are recommended in situations where maintaining 1.5 metres distance is impossible, but are not legally required.

Exemptions to the rule are people with a medical condition exacerbated by wearing a mask and children under 12. Masks are not required for people who work in call centres or customers visiting a bank.

Runners do not need to wear a mask while running, but must wear one immediately before and after exercise.

The penalty for not wearing a face mask in public is a $200 fine.

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Mr Andrews said ‘common sense’ would prevail and people would not be required to wear masks while jogging, running or visiting banks.

Following the announcement, arts and crafts retailer Spotlight released a free downloadable pattern and instructional video showing people how to make fabric masks at home.

Masks can be made from two 19.5cm x 19cm pieces of tightly woven cotton, half a metre of elastic, needle and thread, all available in Spotlight stores Australia-wide. 

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