Masks: Keeping germs to yourself in Nevada County |

Masks: Keeping germs to yourself in Nevada County

Tom Durkin
Staff Writer
Paulette Sand-Gilbert, a theatrical costume designer and teacher, uses her 30 years of professional experience to create custom-fitted medical masks that fit snugly and comfortably. While longer than most, her instructional videos are thorough and include tips and tricks of the trade.
Submitted to The Union

Mask-making resources

Pleated Mask with Ties, Nose Wire & Vertical Filter Pocket by Paulette Gilbert: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Make a bandana mask in 30 seconds.

To see a sampling of local instructional videos, visit Masked Warriors.

To become a volunteer mask-maker, join Facebook group Nevada County Masks for COVID-19.

Someone could be a COVID-19 vector (disease carrier) and not know it.

That person might not die of COVID-19 or even get all that sick, but they could be a walking death sentence for somebody else, especially for older people and those with compromised health.

That’s why people are asked to wear masks.

The kinds of masks the government encourages people to wear really aren’t all that much protection from the novel coronavirus.

The purpose of masks is to mostly contain the moist droplets and aerosols (microscopic particles like COVID-19) people breathe into the air, especially when sneezing, coughing or singing.


While authorities recommend sewed masks, experts agree any mask is better than none.

Two no-sewing-required masks can be made from a simple bandana.

Fold a bandana from one corner to its diagonal opposite. Tie the resultant triangle around your neck and pull the bandana up to cover your nose and mouth like a bandit from an old-time Western.

A CDC-recommended bandana mask is made by folding a bandana in half, starting from the bottom. Optional: tear a No. 2 cone coffee filter in half and place the narrow end up in the middle top of the mask. Fold the bandana from the bottom again, covering the filter.

Loop a hair band (like those used for pony tails) or large rubber band around each of the two rectangular ends. Fold the ends toward the middle. Pull the hair ties or rubber bands out. Bring the mask to your face and loop the elastic bands around your ears. Adjust for fit.

Bandana masks work best on children and smaller adults. Some larger people might find the masks aren’t big enough or pull too much on the ears.


There are dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of how-to videos on how to make masks with a sewing machine. They range from simple, pleated masks to more face-fitting masks with a pocket for replaceable filters.

Three Nevada County seamstresses have created videos of varying difficulty. Although people are using and experimenting with many different fabrics, the medical consensus is to use preshrunk, tightly-woven, 100% cotton fabric.

Nana Lietz has lost count. She estimates she’s made between 400 and 500 basic masks since January. She was already making masks for Shriners Hospitals for Children when the pandemic hit.

Lietz likes to help beginning sewers get started. Her video demonstrates an “easy-to-sew, five-minute mask” although she concedes it takes longer at first. “I’ve been talking people through over the phone,” she said.

Elizabeth Raiche has created a similar instructional video. She advises using flannel for the inside of the mask. She also suggests placing an unbleached, No. 2 cone coffee filter inside the mask when putting it on.

For the more advanced sewers, professional costume designer Paulette Gilbert teaches how to make custom-fitted masks with a filter pocket for everyone from children to large adults.

Gilbert’s videos are somewhat longer. She goes into more detail, not only explaining how to sew a mask, but why to sew it the way she advises.

“I’m going upstream” on some of the conventional thinking on mask design, she admitted. Nevertheless, her design decisions are based on recommendations and requests from her little sister and another relative who are health care workers.

Although she shows how to make masks with elastic headbands, Gilbert recommends fabric ties for a more custom fit. Her relatives have told her masks with ear loops are uncomfortable for all-day use.

Gilbert demonstrates how to bend and embed part of a plastic-coated paper clip in the nose bridge of the mask. The wire can be used to ensure a tighter fit to the nose without the wire poking through the fabric or into the wearer’s nose.

While some similar masks place the filter pocket seam directly across the nose, Gilbert offsets the seam for comfort. She goes further upstream by recommending a vertical filter pocket instead of the more conventional horizontal one.


Form must follow function, but function can be achieved in many ways.

A casual search of the internet will reveal all kinds of masks, including those made out of intimate apparel or repurposed materials. With varying degrees of efficacy, masks have been produced out of jock straps, thongs and bras.

For many people, masks are a fashion statement and sometimes a protest. Styles range from basic black to paisley prints to tie dye to Rolling Stone lips to animal faces.

All fun aside, masks have a serious purpose and hygiene is essential. If you’ve been out in the world, don’t touch the front of your mask, Raiche advised.

“You have to assume it’s contaminated,” she explained. Remove the mask by the ear loops or head bands and drop it in the washing machine as soon as you get home.

Then wash your hands.

Tom Durkin is a staff writer for The Union.

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