Covid-19: French sewing group makes masks for hospital

A sewing group in the south of France has been making washable fabric Covid-19 masks for people working in caring professions including a care home and a hospital.

14 April 2020
By Jane Hanks

Members of a sewing group from the Var are making washable face masks for people working in the caring professions, based on a pattern publicised by the CHU de Grenoble teaching hospital.

It comes as French mayors have been recommending wide use be made of homemade masks.

A professional seamstress, Cécile David, who runs the Les Cousardes group in Montfort-sur-Argens, reached out to members via telephone and social media and received positive responses from several of them.

One member who joined the group recently, Rosie Rowell, told Connexion she had been making over thirty masks a week.

“It is good to be able to do something to help and the demand seems to be there," she said. "I have made mine for the local retirement home and the local grocery shop who asked me to make some for their staff.

"I asked at the nurses’ surgery and the pharmacy, but though they have enough for the present, they took my number in case they need some later.”

She said the group's aims is that each member should try to help carers in their own immediate community.

“I have found people needing them in my village whereas Cecile is concentrating on her own village and Brignoles Hospital because she has a neighbour who works there and can deliver them.

"Cecile has been amazing and has even produced a YouTube video [in French] to show how they are made."

The group say they are not entering into the debate as to whether the masks actually prevent anyone from catching Covid-19, however as their local hospital is more than happy to accept them and they are made from an approved pattern, and more people are asking for them, they feel they are useful.

Sewers could even make them for their own family, for trips to the supermarket, the group suggests.

They say the pattern is not difficult and Ms Rowell has written out the instructions in English (see below).

They can be re-used as they are washable. 

She suggests that Connexion readers might like to take up the idea in their own area, or simply make a mask or two for themselves.

Previous articles

Mayors await information on masks for public

[Subscribers/Paywall] French hospitals ask for homemade masks, but...

French hospital shares homemade mask instructions

Rosie Rowell's mask instructions:


Cotton fabric (tight weave, but scraps are fine) for the outer shell and lining. 

Fine polaire, fleece or flannelette for the inner lining. Elastic to go around the back of the head OR 4 x 30 cm lengths of t-shirt fabric. 

The pattern (see article above, French hospital shares homemade mask instructions). Check the 5 cm guide, and adjust size if it printed a little smaller/larger).


Cut out the pattern allowing extra 1cm all round for the seam allowance (ignore the 2.5cm on one side as indicated, as that was for inserting elastic around the ears, which nurses here say hurts their ears).

Cut out two pieces of the main fabric.

Cut out two pieces of the lining fabric.

Cut out two pieces of the fleece/flannelette.

Sew the two pieces of the main fabric together on the outside curve; RIGHT sides together.

Do the same with the lining fabric, and then the same with the fleece. It helps to iron the seams to one side before continuing.

Then, RIGHT sides together, place the main fabric onto the lining fabric. Put the fleece on top – whichever way round, it does not matter.

It helps to place it so the central seam goes the opposite way to the two other layers, to reduce thickness. 

Pin them together, on the top and bottom only. Note that this is a short-cut, the method in the YouTube video does it in two stages.

Sew the three layers together, just on the top and bottom, leaving sides open. 

Make three little scissor nicks to ease the curved seam on the bottom edge.

Turn inside out, so the fleece is on the inside. 

Iron the seam edges so they lie flat, and turn in the two raw edges and press them flat also, ready to topstitch.

Pin the elastic, or t-shirt ties, in each corner of the two edges. 

Topstitch everything together. Nurses requested not topstitching the curve over the nose or the top half of the central vertical seam, as it was more comfortable.

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