Why Have Bias Tape Ties On Your Fabric Mask?

by Colleen Hannon

I have a rainbow of bias tape hanging in my sewing room. I make it in big batches so I don't have to stop all the time when I'm sewing.  This is the fifth or sixth time I've filled this rack with the different colors since this started.

The "official" patterns hospitals have been requesting sewists use when they're making masks to donate prefer that you use fabric or bias tape ties that go around the head to tie them on. (see Johns Hopkins instructions, for example)

But why?  There are several reasons.

  • The biggest is that if the mask is made of 100% cotton fabric with 100% cotton fabric ties it can be sterilized using the same techniques they use for all the rest of the fabric PPE. 
  • It also reduces wear and tear on the staff's ears. Ties behind the ear, whatever they're made of, pull and abrade and of you're wearing them for long periods it can be painful or cause skin wounds. People have been making headbands and straps to take the strain, but with ties it's avoided without extra hardware. 
  • It adjusts to your face pretty much automatically when you put it on. A pleated mask pattern with fabric ties is the most is the most versatile in terms of fitting various face shapes.

Are those factors something you need to take into account?  Maybe you're not running your masks through an autoclave, but you have your own criteria. For civilians, ties have more good and bad points.

  • Durability is a factor. I have been running a durability test with one of my masks since the first week of April. It has bias tape all around, and bias tape ties. It's been through the laundry over 70 times now and it still fits well. 
  • My other tester has elastic ear loops and it just hasn't held up the same (especially the really thin stuff you find on some masks). Elastic also couldn't compare with it for fit until I got some of those silicon beads that make it adjustable.  I'm testing that now.  We'll see how it holds up over time. 
  • If you're in a position where you need to take your mask on and off a lot, ear loops complicate matters. With ties you can just hang it off your neck.  With ear loops, a lanyard or a mask keeper are really helpful to keep it clean and keep it from spreading what it's caught all over.

The biggest bad point for ties is needing to tie them behind your head. If someone has mobility or dexterity challenges in their hands and arms it can be a dealbreaker. I'm experimenting with using the toggles that come on the ends of jacket drawstrings with them.

The way you wear your hair can also complicate matters. I often end up pulling my hair out of the knots when it's loose, or having to work around a ponytail can be interesting as well.

The whole of this is everyone needs to make the choice based on their needs. With this new surge, I'll be making more masks to donate and those will have the bias tape fabric ties. 

For the masks we offer here at Stuffington's we have elastic ear loops, elastic loops around the back of the head, and ties.  Let us know when you order what you'd like and we'd be glad to accommodate you.