We’ve never lived through a global pandemic before, and we’ve never experienced having to protect ourselves from germs at such heightened levels. We might be wearing masks for quite a while now, especially if we’re protecting others from our potential respiratory virus spread.
You can make mask-wearing more comfortable by cutting plastic ear savers with your Cricut.
I have added new design options because some people feel the knobs on the top are too flimsy. (It depends on how sturdy the material is!) Thousands of people are wearing masks all day now, and there is not a one-size-fits-all ear saver.
Head sizes, hairstyles, and hearing aids all affect how the ear saver is used. I suggest making a few and asking which people prefer, if possible.
I’ve read that some hospitals do not allow anything but the button headbands; some don’t allow anything except plastic that can be disinfected. I’ve heard that sometimes ear savers need to be made much longer because the masks at the facility have very short elastic. I’ve read testing sites need thousands of these because they must be thrown away. (You can use the middle of the cut sheet too! Not as pretty, but no one cares.)
Please ask what the needs are if you are making them for a medical facility.
Jolinda said: “Hi. I’m a nurse and someone made these for us. Last night, I used one of these for the first time ever and it was so much help. My ears did not hurt and I didn’t feel much pressure around my head. These are great!”
Our medical workers really need these now. To the “someone” who made them and gave them to Jolinda’s facility – thank you!
I have gotten hundreds of emails thanking me for creating and sharing the design, but really… all I did was click my mouse. 🤷🏼♀️
Thank YOU for creating these for our health workers, our essential workers, friends, and family.
Literally THOUSANDS of people are making these to help others. It’s seriously amazing. People all over the world are helping give just a bit of comfort to those working during this crazy time.
Many crafters are trying to “clean up” an image that’s been used many times. It’s not easy, and it will NOT cut as well. (Candi said when she cut a mat full of the image she “cleaned up,” it took almost 1.5 hours to finish!)
From Jeremy L.:
“Today I made 233 ear savers. As you can see, I even used the negative spaces too. They’re aren’t as “pretty” but they’re functional. This means I will have enough to give to almost all of my coworkers that wear masks their whole shift.”
An update from Jeremy:
“My coworkers are loving these. They are not only helping save them from ear pain and headaches, but also helping keep their mask tighter and in place. I never thought that doing something so simple and something that I viewed as a small thing to help would be so appreciated.”
These SVGs are created with no extra nodes so that they will cut out quickly and smoothly. Corners are round in the hopes that our frontline workers won’t be poked by any sharp angles.
The Medical Mask Ear Saver SVGs are totally free. You are not allowed to sell the file.
I do ask that you don’t sell the mask ear savers either. Let’s focus on helping others! (If you need to, accept small donations to cover the cost of materials.)
If you want to add your own custom design or text to your ear savers, you can learn how by following this tutorial.
Simply enter your email address in the form below to get access to the ear savers and all of my other Free Files, and become part of my email list and newsletter. (You can unsubscribe at any time.)
Why use an ear-saver?
The elastic from a mask rubs on the ears. Now that some people need to wear masks all day, their ears are literally being rubbed raw to the point of bleeding. If a person wears hearing aids, they can’t have the elastic on their ears.
People from all over the world have been telling me things like:
“I never imagined how painful wearing a mask for 14 hours could be.”
“I need this for my daughter who wears hearing aids.”
“I work at a police dispatch center and am looking forward to no more headaches from my mask!”
“Our cheap masks are too big for me, so these help it fit better.”
“I’m sewing masks, but I can’t test the fit for everyone so these really help.”
Can my electronic cutting machine cut ear savers?
Can my Cricut Maker cut ear savers? YES!
Can my Cricut Explore Air cut ear savers? YES!
Can my Cricut Joy cut ear savers? YES! My friend Amy usually cuts jewelry on her Cricut Joy, but was happy to cut a few ear savers and write a detailed tutorial on exactly how to do it with a Cricut Joy!
Can my Silhouette Cameo cut ear savers? YES!! Jen at My Scrap Menagerie has created a tutorial for you. She’s tested materials, pressure settings, and even converted files into .STUDIO3 format for Silhouette Studio Basic users who can’t open SVG files.
However… I have heard some people simply can’t get their plastic to cut. Variables include the type of material, thickness, blade sharpness, etc. This is why I push doing a test cut so hard. You don’t want to waste the whole mat of material!
Lots of designs were originally 3D printed, but not everyone has access to these. Some people prefer the flexibility of thinner plastic instead of the 3D filament. Headbands with buttons, a piece of ribbon with buttons on each end, and knit or crocheted ear-savers also exist.
You can even hand-cut ear savers! Use a milk jug, an ice cream bucket, or stiff plastic placemats.
The major benefit of cutting these is the speed. We can get them onto the ears that need them quickly! Plastic is also easy to disinfect.
Do I need to resize the ear saver SVGs?
Sometimes. They are around 6.3 inches long, which seems to work pretty well.
If you are cutting them on a Cricut Joy, they need to be a little smaller to fit two on the mat. You can download ear savers resized for the Cricut Joy here.
However, if the masks have shorter elastic, the ear saver is going over a ponytail, or is for someone with a larger head, you will need to make it longer.
Please check with the people using the ear saver! One person said they needed to make the ear savers 7 inches long; another liked a version that was 8.5 inches long. They made them longer, but let the medical staff know it was easy to trim them with scissors when needed.
If you are making them for a child, you will need to make them smaller.
Can I add my own logo or text to ear savers?
Yes! I’ve written a tutorial on how to add your own icon or text to ear savers.
HELP!! What pressure setting do I use?
How do I get my blade to cut completely through the material?
I’ve given you a starting point and explained how to test… and test…. and test again until you get it!
Please read the tutorial below. Skip to “Step B – Do a test cut” if you want to get straight to the material and pressure settings! (Hint: The machine will need to go over the design multiple times!)
What materials can I use to make a medical mask ear saver?
- plastic/vinyl placemats (this seems to be the easiest, most reliable, and preferred option)
- plastic folders (some can be a bit thin, but they may be able to be stacked)
- plastic notebook covers or dividers (they vary, but seem to be quite sturdy)
- laminating sheets laminated together (make a sandwich with three)
- cutting boards from Dollar Tree (DO NOT attempt this without the deep cut blade; even then – success is not guaranteed! If you can make it work, it’s a very strong material that lasts.)
Tip from Rachael: “I noticed that some dividers/material have a thin coating that often makes it difficult to punch out the shape. If you cut the divider upside down and use a lighter pressure to cut through that coating first, you can reduce the number of ‘deeper’ cuts. Like you said, though, it depends on the material.”
From Marissa H: “I found that people are using shrinky dink (shrink film sheets) to make these. You cut it with the Cricut and heat it up to shrink, which thickens it into a sturdy plastic part. They can also be molded when warm to give a slight curve for the back of the head. Look up “shrink film sheets” on Amazon, and get the ones that shrink by 50% (some shrink 20% but they wouldn’t be as sturdy). It might be overkill if plastic folders work, but the shrink plastic is comparable to the 3D printed ones and commercial tension release bands.”
Note: You’d have to increase the design to account for the shrinkage, so again… test it!
Jen O. has great instructions for how she made these on her Cricut Explore Air 2.
“I went to Walmart and bought plastic folders for 50 cents each. I may go to the dollar store today and get the plastic mats that are mentioned in the article and that others in the group have referenced.
The size that this SVG is is about 6.3” wide, and I think these will work well for medical masks with thinner elastic. I found they did not work with my homemade mask with thick elastic, so I also made it 1 inch bigger (7.3” wide by 1.4” high) which I think will work better with homemade masks. I am sending some out and will hopefully get feedback.
I will say that if your mat is too dirty these won’t stick, so make sure you clean your mats. Also, after cutting a few cuts, check your blade – it will have gunk on it and should be cleaned. You can use a ball of aluminum foil for this or sometimes I was able to wipe with my fingers (carefully). Also, I ended up changing my blade after I cut around 150 because it just wasn’t cutting as well – but my blade was cutting a lot of cardstock before, so your mileage may vary.
I hope this helps someone and I hope as a group we are able to get these out into the community!”
Jen received feedback that the ear savers made from folders and using the round knobs were breaking. The placemats are preferable, and the design with longer fingers may be better.
Beth C-B uses laminating pouches.
“I stick two lamination pouches together and run them through the laminator to create a thicker solid sheet. I gave them to my cousin and she said they work.”
From Kate Q.D.: “I was thinking what materials I have at home to continue doing the face mask extensions since all craft stores in my area are closed.. then.. ta-da! My radtech intuition gave me the idea! These are old x-ray films just laying around the house. I think this will work well too.
I used the deep cut blade with the “gel sheet” settings. Hope this helps. #beatCOVI19“
How to make ear savers using your Cricut or electronic cutting machine
A – Get the files
1) Sign up for access to the Free Files Folder. You will receive an email with the magic word to download the files.
2) Save the ZIP file to your computer.
3) Open the ZIP file and save the SVG file to your computer.
4) Upload the SVG file to Design Space (for Cricut users) or the software that your electronic cutting machine uses. Insert it into a new project.
5) UnGroup the SVG.
6) Hide or delete any style that you don’t want to cut. We’ll do a test cut of just one or two first before making a full mat of them, so don’t duplicate it yet.
7) Create a small shape to do a test cut on. Use a shape like a star, make it smaller than 1 inch, and set it as a color that you aren’t using in your project.
B – Do a test cut
DO NOT load a full mat of the design and expect it to cut perfectly! Plastic is difficult to cut, and we are all cutting different materials with different blades.
Notes: These instructions are for the Cricut Maker; they are the same for the Cricut Explore Air. Simply set the dial to Custom and follow the instructions. The Cricut Joy can cut ear savers too; the tutorial is here! Jen at My Scrap Menagerie has created a tutorial for Silhouette users.
If you have instructions for another cutting machine, please let me know!
Many users are saying which material setting they used, so I have looked at MANY examples and settings, and the custom settings below are created from them. It’s much easier to adjust your specially-set material than remembering a setting with a different name.
8) Click on Make It, then Continue.
Click Browse All Materials.
9) A new window will pop up.
Click on the green Material Settings link at the bottom left of the window.
10) Scroll to the bottom of the window and click on New Custom Material.
Name your new material ” *Plastic for Ear Saver.”
11) Plastic is hard to cut through!! Depending on the material you are using, here are a few starting points.
Plastic Placemats – Pressure 350, cutting 2x. Use the Fine Point Blade.
Plastic Notebook Dividers/Covers – Pressure 350, cutting 5x. Use the Fine Point Blade.
Plastic Folders – Pressure 320, cutting 2x. Use the Fine Point Blade.
Laminating Sheets – Pressure 320, cutting 2x. Use the Fine Point Blade.
Cutting Mats – Pressure 350, cutting 3x. Use the Deep Cut Blade. (This is the most difficult material to cut. Be prepared to press the C button again to repeat the cut.)
Save your settings, then click on the X in the top right corner to close the window.
12) Now, click on the Browse All Materials link. Your new “*Plastic for Ear Saver” material will be at the top (if you named it with the *.) Select it, and click the star to save it as a favorite material. Click the Done button.
13) Cut out your small star.
Did it cut through?
If YES and it cut cleanly through with barely any mark on the mat, it’s great for now! (You still might need another pass or more pressure for a more complicated design.) Go to step 15.
If YES and it is leaving a deep gash on the mat, it was too much pressure! Go into the material settings and try cutting through just once. (This is why we start with a small shape, so you don’t waste material and ruin mats.)
If NO and it’s almost all of the way through, try it again but choose the “More” Pressure option from the drop-down menu.
If NO and it wasn’t even close to cutting through the plastic, go edit your material settings and have it cut several more times through.
14) Move the star on the preview mat to a different location and cut it again with your adjusted settings. Repeat until you get the pressure right!
C – Cut your test ear saver
15) Cut out the one test ear saver on your mat.
16) When it is finished, don’t unload the mat. Check a corner. Does it seem to pop out easily or is it sticking?
If it is sticking, press the C button to send it through again. It will repeat the whole cut, so if you have the material setting at cutting 3x, the mat will cut again 3x. If you don’t want that, stop it earlier to check it by hitting the pause button. After you’ve discovered the correct number of passes (such as 5x), go back and edit your *Plastic Ear Saver material setting.
If it pops out easily, unload the mat. You have found the correct pressure setting for your material!
17) Try it on with a mask. Is the elastic off your ears? Do you like how it fits? If you have long hair, try it over or under your ponytail or bun. Does it seem too big or small? Do you like the knobs or the hooks? Basically – is it comfortable? If not, resize it or cut off the ends. Try a different design.
If you are making these for a medical facility, cut a batch or two and let them give you feedback before you do 1000.
D – Get cutting!
18) Duplicate your chosen design several times until it fills the mat. Re-arrange it on the preview screen if needed.
19) Tape the plastic to the edges of the cutting mat if needed, but most people don’t need to do this. Often, the green mat works well if it’s clean and sticky.
20) Between each batch of ear savers, remove the blade and stick it into a ball of aluminum foil repeatedly. This removes the plastic shavings that build up and possibly sharpens it. Also, use a scraper to remove small plastic pieces from the mat.
21) Give them away. Donate them. Make fun ones for special people. (If you have to wear a mask all day – YOU are special!!)
Watch this space or your email for more fun designs!
I asked a nurse in NY for any advice for people making these, and she said, “Just keep making them! It’s ridiculous the shortage.”
Wendy C said, “Thanks so much for giving this design away!!! My fellow ultrasound technologist and radiologic technologist will love you forever!!! If you use plastic, you can wipe them with some type of antibacterial wipe. I would reuse them but have more just in case they did get thrown away. The settings you gave were spot on!!!!”
If you have any tips or suggestions for others making these, please share them in the comments below!!
Are you finding that you have a bit more time on your hands these days? Or perhaps you need a project to fill your “crafting is my therapy” time?
Below are a few FREE projects for your cutting machine.
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