DIY

How to Make Your Own Fabric Face Mask

Reader Contribution by Danielle Pientka and Diydanielle.Com
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Photo by Danielle Pientka

While many people are donating handmade masks to local hospitals and doctor’s offices, make yourself a mask first. Although most states are in lock down, most of us are still making occasional trips to pick up animal feed and groceries. Wearing a mask offers some protection for yourself and others; it’s also a reminder: Do not touch your face!

Before I get a barrage of comments about how homemade masks aren’t proven to be effective, you’re correct. They’re not as effective as an N95. If you’re working face-to-face with someone with COVID-19 and they’re coughing phlegm on you, these are not the best option. 

But let’s leave the N95 masks to the doctors and nurses who are face to face with this epidemic. We can quickly and easily sew masks for everyone in our family to reduce our risk of catching or spreading this horrible virus.

Photo by Unsplash/Vera Davidova 

I’ve made masks for my kids, my husband, myself, and I mailed some to my mom. While I don’t plan for my sons to leave the house, I made these for them in case of an emergency. You never know when you might need to bring your child to a doctor so it’s good to have a few on hand if necessary. 

If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can still sew these by hand, use a bandanna, or just cut three layers of cotton to tie around your nose and mouth before you leave home. If you don’t have cotton fabric, get creative! You can use a few layers of T-shirt material. You can upcycle some old sheets or an old shirt. You probably have something in your house that will work.

DIY Medical Face Mask

What You Need:

  • Three layers of cotton fabric
  • Bias tape: Learn how to make bias tape.
  • Scissors or a rotary cutter/cutting mat/quilting ruler (these are the dream team for fast cutting)
  • A sewing machine or a needle and thread for hand sewing

Preparation: Make sure to prewash your fabric on HOT so it will shrink in advance. Otherwise it will shrink and do icky things after you wear and wash it once. 

Step 1: Cut your fabric. You want three cuts for each mask

  • Large 6×9
  • Medium 6×8
  • Small 5×7.5 (this is good for kids)

Fabric cut for masks + extra scraps. Photo by Danielle Pientka

Pro Tip: Save the little scraps leftover and make a custom Easter basket, or just a regular DIY braided storage bin. These are one of my favorite things to hand sew. 

You’ll also want to cut (2) 30” pieces of bias tape for the adult large masks. Your bias tape for the small and medium masks will need to be slightly shorter, but the best way to determine length is to use a soft tape measure to determine how much is needed to tie around the neck and back of the person’s head.

Step 2: Take two layers of fabric and face them right sides up on your sewing table. Place the third layer right sides down.

Step 3: Sew them along the long edges only.

When I started sewing these, I was sewing all the way around, leaving a small area to turn and topstitch. The problem is that this makes the mask thicker for when you add pleats. Photo by Danielle Pientka

Step 4: Turn right sides out. Press. 

Photo by Danielle Pientka

Fold your rectangle down once. Press.

Fold it again below this point, press. You should pin these pleats in place.

Photo by Danielle Pientka

Step 5: Sew the pleats down by sewing a straight stitch as close to the edge of the short sides as possible. Do this to both sides. I like to backstitch over the fold for additional security in holding each pleat.

You’ll also top stitch along the top and bottom of your mask if you prefer. 

Photo by Danielle Pientka

Step 6: Sew on bias tape along the short edges. Hopefully it will hide the stitching you added to hold down your pleats (this is an aesthetics issue, not a practical one). 

Here’s a tutorial on how to sew on bias tape; I sewed it on incorrectly for years before learning how to do it right.

For the large mask, I used (2) 30” pieces of bias tape, folded the bias tape in half, and held onto the half point. The half point was pinned at the TOP corner of my mask. This will mean that the bias tape end that goes around your head is longer than the bias tape end that goes around your neck. 

Your bias tape needs to be long enough so the person can tie it behind their head and around their neck. You may have seen nurses wearing masks with elastic around their ears, but the ties allow for a better fit. The elastic can also be irritating around the ears. Of course, everyone has different preferences and most of us aren’t wearing these all day like a nurse or doctor. 

I sewed the bias tape alllll the way up the ties, although you could probably save time by just sewing it along the sides of the masks. 

Photo by Danielle Pientka

We keep all of our masks in a basket by the front door. When I get home from a necessary outing, I undo the ties, making sure not to touch the front of the mask. I place the mask in the washing machine. If you prefer, you could alternatively steam these to kill germs after each use instead of doing a wash. 

Mask fit. The pleats allow for the mask to shape around your face. Your mask should go under your chin and over your nose. It should not get in your eyes.

Making your mask now? 

If I can get the time — something I’m short on these days with three kids at home full time, a garden to start, baby ducklings and chicks, and my husband working extra hours —I want to make a mask tree. Then I can leave masks for other people to take and use. But we shall see! I’m trying not to overdo it right now because it’s been a tough few months (weeks? days? How long has it been?). Stay safe everyone!  


Danielle Pientkais a stay-at-home mom to three boys and a blogger atDIYDanielle.com. When she’s not chasing children, goats, or ducks, she’s gardening, reading, sewing, or brainstorming her next DIY project. She is the author of How to Sew Cloth Diapers, as well as a few other sewing books. Her husband and she developed a sewing phone app,Sew Organized, available for iOS and Android devices. Connect with Danielle on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and read all of her Mother Earth News posts here.


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