Wearing Face Masks Could Prevent 33,000 Deaths, Health Experts Say

if 95% of society chose to wear masks, tens of thousands of lives could be saved

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said that if enough Americans wore masks, we could stop 33,000 COVID-19 deaths. This differs from its projected rate of 180,000 COVID-19 deaths by October if masks don’t become part of our daily routine. If you’re making a mask, consider these tips.

Close up of woman sewing face mask
The CDC website states that “simple cloth face coverings can be made at home and may help prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Photo by TextureWorld / Shutterstock

According to one projection model at the University of Washington, the chance to save tens of thousands of lives is staring us in the face—literally. “In its first projections comparing different actions to control COVID-19 transmission, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington is forecasting nearly 180,000 in the United States will die by October 1. The forecast shows 179,106 deaths (with a range of 159,497 to 213,715). Those numbers drop to 146,047 (with a range of 140,849 to 153,438), if at least 95% of people wear masks in public.”

Options for effective facial masks depend on the size and shape of your face—especially if you have a beard. Many people are making masks at home. If you’re one of them, there are some tips and tricks to dealing with the curves and corners that will play a part in sewing a mask.

Grading a Seam

Part of the difficulty of sewing a curve is making it look just right. This is where the skill of grading a seam comes into play.

“I like to grade seams with pinking shears and part of the reason is that because pinking shears make a zigzag on the fabric, it more or less blurs the line so that when you press it you don’t get a sharp impression coming through your fabric at all,” said Gail Yellen, independent pattern designer and author.

“One of the things that you should know about grading seams is that you always want to grade the seam of the facing narrower than that of the garment itself [because] the edge of the garment fabric is what’s going to show through. When you’re grading your seams, you don’t want to grade both of them together; you want to grade them at different widths, and the narrower one is always going to be your facing seam allowance.”

Princess Seams

“Another type of curve is convex-to-concave curves, and an example of that is a princess seam, and a lot of times people are really nervous about sewing princess seams but they’re really not that hard,” Yellen said.

A so-called “princess seam” is similar to the popular sewing concept of “darts,” in that they help a garment be fitted by using shaped seams, according to an article on Sewing.org. The difference is that the princess seam is “the combined waist and bust darts, with the curved line smoothed between, and seam allowances added to the new edges on each pattern piece,” the article also states. However, this technique isn’t limited to tops for men and women; it can be applied elsewhere.

One technique she used for keeping the fabric nice and loose on a princess seam is to make small clips near the edge of a piece of fabric that are perpendicular to that edge, using scissors. This will allow the fabric to relax and not stretch. She also said that princess seams allow the person doing the sewing to do a lot of fitting when it comes to the fabric, which is certainly handy for anyone making a face mask.

By following sewing tips carefully, the home sewer can construct a face mask that’s snug, effective, and attractive. It could also save lives.

Gail Yellen contributed to this article. Yellen is an independent pattern designer, author, and an active member of the American Sewing Guild.