Last Updated on August 20, 2022 by Nancie Waterman
With the CDC recommending that people wear masks to cover their nose and mouth when out in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus infection, many people are sewing masks. This is how I made DIY fabric face masks for my family.
My Changes To Original DIY Fabric Face Mask Directions
I started with these directions from Texas and adapted them to work for me and the supplies I had. My masks are 1” wider. I also cut my fabric 1” taller than the original directions to allow for slightly deeper pleats which I found easier to sew. (The finished height still works out to be about the same as the original.)
I simplified the elastic loop attachment both to make it less complicated to sew and also use a little less elastic. This is similar to the way the elastic is attached on a paper mask I got from my doctor during a visit.
The first two masks I made are straight rectangles like in the original version. (See solid green mask in photo above.) Then I started adding shallow curves to the mask’s top edge to allow a little more room around the eyes. For my version, I use heavy craft wire that can be slid into the top seam so I didn’t need to create the original’s tube at the top for metal pieces.
Materials Needed to Make DIY Fabric Face Masks
1 piece 16” x 8 1/2” cotton fabric + thread
Per original Texas directions: “Tightly woven, high quality, preshrunk cotton material which would withstand heavy, frequent, high temperature laundering with disinfectant use such as chlorine bleach and autoclave conditions (steam under pressure).”
7” x 7” fusible sheer weight interfacing
You can make the mask without interfacing if you don’t have it. I suspect it would be less hot to wear without the interfacing, although the interfacing is supposed to make the mask more effective.
metal for mask’s top edge
I used heavy craft wire cut to a little shorter than the width of the top edge. Per original directions: “1/8” x 6.5” piece of malleable aluminum. Alternatively, you can use a heavy-duty twist tie, larger gauge beading wire or pipe cleaner 6” – 7” long.”
elastic for ear loops
(2) 7″ long pieces of 1/8” to ¼” flat elastic or thin rope elastic cord.
Note: Some people may find that thinner width elastic fits behind their ears better. Wider elastic can fold down the ears on some people, making the mask less comfortable to wear.
Alternative Elastic: Look around the house for pieces of narrow elastic that might work. When I ran out of flat 1/4” elastic, I found I could use the type of really thin elastic cord used to tie packages (as long as it is not covered with a scratchy color coat.) In a pinch, inexpensive elastic hair bands might be used, but you may need longer pieces if the hair band’s elastic is not very stretchy. (To test length when using alternative elastic, attach top end per directions below, try on mask and see how long a piece is needed to comfortably wrap around ear and come back to bottom end.)
If you can’t find elastic at all, see the original Texas directions for how to make fabric ties that tie at the back of the head.
misc. sewing supplies
You will also need pins, a sewing machine and needle, iron and ironing board, ruler and/or measuring tape and scissors. Optional: rotary cutter, rotary mat and ruler.
Directions For DIY Fabric Face Masks
1. Pre-wash and dry fabric. Press fabric with an iron so you are working with smooth fabric. Then cut to 16” x 8.5” rectangle. (A rotary cutter, rotary mat and straight edge makes this especially easy.)
Optional: If you like, you can cut shallow curves the top edge so that it is the full height in the middle 3” for the nose area and then curves down by about 1” on either side. This allows a little more space around the eyes which might be more comfortable for people wearing glasses. It does make adjusting the wire on the finished mask to fit your nose/face just a tiny bit more finicky, but it isn’t a big deal.
2. Fold the mask’s bottom edge up 1/4” to the back side and press with an iron.
3. Fuse the 7” x 7” polyester interfacing to the back side of the mask following interfacing directions. The interfacing should be centered within one half of the width.
(This interfacing will be sandwiched between two layers of cotton fabric in the finished mask.) Note: If you have curved the top edge of the mask, you may find you need to trim the interfacing down just a little bit.
4. Fold right sides together by meeting the short edges together. Stitch around three sides of the mask at about 1/4” from the edge, leaving the bottom pressed up edge unstitched (like when making a pillow.)
5. Turn mask right side out. Press.
6. Stitch around all four sides of the mask about 1/4” from the edges.
7. Slide craft wire into the top seam so that it runs most of the top edge length.
8. Make three pleats across the width of the mask: Measure up from bottom edge to pin first 1/4” deep pleat at 1” up, the second at 3” and the third at 5”. (If you have a grid marked rotary mat, it makes it easy to line them up.) Finished mask height will be about 4 3/4”.
9. Sew the length of each pinned pleated edge over the previous stitching. Stitch carefully so the pleats don’t flip as you sew them. The pleats should be facing down on the front of the finished mask and facing up on the back side.
10. To Add Ear Loops: Place one end of one 7” piece of elastic perpendicular to the right edge about 1/4” down from the top on the back side of the mask. Stitch over the elastic several times to secure it in place. Sew the other end of this elastic piece to the same edge of the mask at about 1/4” up from the bottom also on the back side.
Repeat with the other piece of elastic on the other side of the mask.
11. Press finished mask with iron to neaten up the pleats.
- Remember that fabric masks should be washed between uses. So you may want to make several so you always have one clean and ready to wear.
- These are not as effective as the N95 masks medical people wear so you need to continue to practice social distancing.
- These masks are sized for adults. I suspect that you would need to adjust the size down to make it work for children.
I hope that you find these directions helpful. If you have any tips or alternative suggestions, please feel free to add a comment below.
Good wishes. Stay safe!
PS: If you like birds, you might like my post about “Bird Watching in the Time of Coronavirus & Social Distancing” on my Birdseed & Binoculars blog.