women grocery shopping with face mask

Using Silk for Face Masks – Is it Appropriate and Effective?

During this COVID-19 pandemic, if you are not able to social distance properly – at least 6 feet or 2 metres – you should be wearing a face mask.

In my view, everyone should wear a face mask when they go out in public.

Therefore, I need a face mask and my husband needs a face mask.

In fact, we both should have more than 1 face mask so that we are not wearing them without washing them in between uses.

Even though there are many places you can now buy face masks, as a sewer with a plethora of fabric in my sewing stash, I knew that I was going to be making our masks.

Women Grocery shopping for Fruit wearing a cotton face mask
Wearing a mask in public – where social distancing is very difficult – is mandatory in some areas and recommended in most others.

If you are going to wear a face mask – which you should – why not make it yourself…and why not make it a good one!

What to make the face masks from?

The most common and obvious fabric from which to make our face masks was cotton.

Cotton is an obvious choice for various reasons.

Cotton is a natural fiber and hence, it is breathable. Cotton comes in various weights but can be easily found in a light-medium weight suitable for making a face mask. Even though most denim is made from cotton, most of it will be too heavy for a face mask. It will most likely also be too dense and therefore, making it not easy to breathe through.

Cotton is also very accessible – especially in my sewing closet.

Recycling Tip:

If you do not have any cotton fabric, you probably have a solution right at home…no need to go out and buy a piece of cotton fabric.

Take an old cotton t-shirt or cotton bed sheet, cut it up and make a face mask from that.

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Natural Fabrics Other than Cotton

While I certainly have enough cotton fabric to make several masks, I was also wondering about using other types of fabric.

There are many other types of natural, breathable fabrics – such as silk and linen.

Now you may be asking, “Who makes face masks from silk or linen?”. Silk and linen are more on the high-end of the fabric scale – especially in terms of cost.

However, in my head, I was considering them as I happen to have many remnants and scraps of both silk and linen from various sewing projects throughout the years.

Linen versus Silk

While both linen and silk are made with completely natural fibers – silk from silk fibers and linen from flax fibers – it is probably more obvious that linen would not be well suited to making a face mask.

The texture of the linen fibers is generally thicker than a silk fiber. The linen fabric itself is also most often a much looser weave.

This is a classic example of a linen fabric – in a flax neutral color – what most people probably think of when they think of linen.

This leads me to believe that linen would not be the best fabric to use for a protective face mask. After all, it is supposed to block the particles from entering or exiting the face mask.

Now this is not scientific…this is just my observation based on my knowledge of fabrics.

Having said that, because I am not a scientist and I was not certain about my observation, it was time to do some real research.

Let’s get scientific!

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The Science of Face Mask Materials

My suspicions were that cotton or silk material would be appropriate for a non-medical grade face mask.

But, as I mentioned, the silk part was just a suspicion.

So, let’s get to the research.

On of the first and seemingly good article was from Medical News Today.

It claims that cotton is a good material to make a non-medical mask. They also mention other good fabric combinations which perform well.

These include tightly woven cotton plus natural silk or flannel, and cotton quilting fabric which has a cotton-polyester batting incorporated. The latter is the double layer cotton fabric which has a batting already sew in – the type that you may make items such as placemats, tableclothes, Christmas stockings, etc.

What they also claim is that face masks made with combinations involving a fabric with a tight weave, such as cotton, and one that can hold a static charge, such as silk, are likely effective because they provide a double barrier: mechanical and electrostatic.

My ah-ha moment! Yes! Using silk as part of a face mask is a good thing.

Another point outside of the most effective face mask materials to use is the idea that the face mask should fit quite snugly.

Making a face mask which is fitted is slightly more complicated than making a non-fitting one. However, it can be done.

I will attempt to make both types of face masks – a fitted face mask and a rectangular face mask with pleats.

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Silk Face Masks

Now that I know that silk is not only an appropriate natural fabric to use to make a face mask, but that it is actually an even more effective fabric – when paired with a cotton layer – I will definitely be using my silk fabric scraps to make the inside lining of my face masks.

Who doesn’t love the feel of silk on your face?

Ocean Blue Silk Charmeuse Fabric
When you think of intimate wear, you may think of silk in part due to its touch and feel. It is oh, so soft. Why not make this silk charmeuse the lining to your face mask. You face may feel like it is not wearing anything.

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Where to get Silk

To get some silk fabric for your face mask project, you can easily buy a piece of silk fabric. It can be found just about everywhere, including your favorite fabric store.

Dupioni silk would be a great type of silk to use as it has all the qualities of silk – natural, breathable, and very soft on the skin. It is also surprisingly affordable and very easy to sew.

You could buy 1/2 yard of Dupioni silk for about $15 – 1/4 yard for less than $10. Even 1/4 yard will be enough to make several masks – so the cost of a Dupioni silk face mask lining is minimal.

Dupioni silk has a slubby, nubby texture and may appear to be rough. Even though it appears to be somewhat rough, it is not and I would be happy to have it against my face as a lining for my Covid-19 face mask.

Shop Dupioni silks here

This compares to silk charmeuse or silk chiffon which hold the appropriate silk properties but are more difficult to sew with. They are so soft and ‘silky’ that they are slippery and as I often say, they have a mind of their own.

For experienced sewers, feel free to use silk charmeuse or chiffon. You won’t regret the feeling on your face.

The cost of a piece of silk charmeuse, about $15 for 1/2 yard, will be comparable to that of Dupioni silk – both a very small cost for the piece of mind and comfort of a silk lined face mask.

Shop Silk Charmeuse here

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Remnants or Silk Scraps

For any sewers out there, you may already have some extra silk scraps in your sewing stash. If you have no other dedicated project for them, this may be the time to use them up.

Remember, it takes very little silk to make a silk lined face mask.

Recycled Silk

Maybe you have an old blouse, skirt or skirt which no longer fits or is an older style? You can use the silk fabric to make a face mask.

I have an older silk blouse which no longer fits me. I was going to make a throw pillow cover but, now I intend to use it for a lining for my silk and cotton face mask.

As an example, with one blouse, I can probably easily make 2 linings for face masks.

The only word of caution for recycling your old silk garments is to ensure the integrity of the silk. Be sure the silk does not have any holes in it or is not worn out. This will denigrate the integrity of the face mask.

The other option to finding some silk to recycle is to go to your local thrift store – maybe kind of hard right – and find a silk garment – blouse, jacket, skirt or top. You can probably get it for less than $5 and you will have all the silk you need for at least 1 face mask.

thrift store shopping for silk items
If your local thrift store is open, check them out for some 100% silk clothing…just remember to wear your non-silk face mask while shopping.

Recycle, reuse, upcycle and stay safe! That is all good!

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Make your Silk Face Mask

Now that I am feel very confident and comfortable making some face masks with silk, I am on the case.

Based on the scientific recommendation, I will be making some masks with a cotton outer layer and a silk face lining.

I will keep you posted as to how they turn out…and how comfortable they are.

I am guessing they may just be the most luxurious face masks out there!

Shop for Silk Fabrics here.

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