Sleep In The Dirt

Making Masks: fast & light

Company News

These past few weeks, our team at Big Agnes has been in the same dazed and confused state as the rest of the world, wondering how each day will unfold as we work from home, eager to get back outside. On Monday April 13th, we received a company-wide email calling for all hands on deck. “Want to help make masks??? We NEED your help!”  

Who knew sewing skills would become so clutch in the midst of a pandemic? Of course, our Repair and Warranty team jumped on board – needles blazing, ready to sew. The rest of the handy folks volunteered from across all departments, dusting off their sewing machines to join in on the operation from home. Whatever hands were available were used for all steps of the process, from preparing cut packs with required materials, to collecting and delivering finished masks to our local community through Routt County United Way. 

As a reminder, these are NOT surgical, N95, PPE or other medical grade masks. They have NOT been tested in that capacity as it is a massive undertaking to source proper medical grade supplies with an efficient turnaround. We are producing these masks with materials we had immediate access to and are making them available for general use in public, which is also super important. We believe “every mask matters”. Our goal is to help protect our community, but they aren’t ‘silver bullets’, people still need to wash their hands and take additional recommended precautions. 

Even for public use, the lifespan of a mask isn’t long, so the more washable ones we can put out there, the better. A mask will act as a reminder for people not to touch thier face and highlight the importance of continued social distancing.  Ideally, a mask should catch coughs and particles from the wearer, as well as provide filtration to protect the wearer, BUT they still need to breathe well or your glasses start fogging up and you’d end up cursing us as you squint your way through the grocery store.  

We prototyped several mask templates to produce a tighter design with fewer gaps for more air filtration and the most comfortable fit, because we are the Mother of Comfort after all. Our research confirmed that cotton fabrics were a solid choice, easy to find and easy to sew. We were able to source high quality cotton from our existing suppliers and use up any extra thread, guyline cords and cord lock hardware available from the Repair Warehouse. We couldn’t have been up and running as fast as we were without the help of local businesses – Liftup and Nelson’s Upholstery, that provided the initial supplies we needed to get after our goal as soon as possible. 

Since word got out about our goal to make 10,000 masks and gowns, we’ve received a lot of questions about how to get one and how to make them for your own community. We’re working as fast as we can to crank these out and there is still a BIG need locally, so we’re sticking to our commitment here while we encourage you to try your hand at making one on your own. You don’t need to know much about sewing, you just need a machine and figure out how to thread it. 

Our Repair Techs put this video together to show how to construct the masks, and there’s also a step by step visual below.


Materials Needed: 20” piece of high quality, tight woven cotton fabric, 44” cord or string, plastic cord lock for adjusting mask, and a lighter to burn ends of cord to keep from fraying.
Step 1: Fold fabric in half and sew each long side ~ leave 1 short side open.
Step 2: Turn right side out and fold over rough edges.
Step 3: Make sleeves on both short sides for p-cord to go through.
Step 4: Slip the toggle onto both pieces of p-cord and burn ends to keep from fraying. Decorate the front of your mask if you’re feeling sassy, then put on your face.

Here are few more mask making tips from our team: 

                          • Use a different color fabric for the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ where possible. That way the wearer can prevent themselves from getting contaminated easier. 
                          • Ironing the sides and folding in the corners helps make them look neater and the sewing easier.
                          • Backstitching the ends helps make them stronger if you’re not a pro sewer.
                          • You can string together the final stitches to finish them off, then it’s a cinch to clip threads all at once while binging Netflix.

Here are some really cool facts and information from Nick Holt, our sourcing and research guru at Big Agnes: 

And finally, here are some recommended Netflix series to binge while making masks: 

                          • Tiger King
                          • Godless
                          • Planet Earth
                          • Explained 

We hope this information helps you with your own mask making project, and provides a little more insight on what we’re up to. Feel free to leave any questions or comments for our team below.

Comments (3)

3 responses

  1. Barbara

    Keep up the good work!
    I am proud to be a mom whose son works for such a socially conscious company.

  2. Ingrid Gutzmann

    Thanks for what you are doing! Thanks for sharing the mask design and instructions.

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