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How to Make a Fabric Face Mask with Elastic, String Ties or Shoestring Ties

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how to make a fabric facemask

A fabric face mask obviously is not proper personal protective equipment. But, when all around you, health care providers and first line responders are running out of supplies, perhaps it will help a little.

A fabric face mask will not protect you or others from viruses. PLEASE continue to do frequent hand washing, keep your hands off your face, maintain physical distancing of 6′ apart. Do not allow having a covering on your face to give you a false sense of security. All the other measures are more important.

As a retired nurse practitioner with a background in critical care, a cloth face mask or anything over your face will beat nothing if you are accidentally splashed with blood or other bodily fluids. It can be quickly removed and replaced with a clean one. Hopefully supplies will meet the demands soon and these can be tossed in the trash.

This face mask tutorial is just to show you how to make it. It is not saying fabric face mask are effective or anything of the sort. It’s just a stopgap until proper supplies start arriving. I’m making these for the local nursing home where my dad is. The residents there are doing well at this time and we pray they will continue to do so.

Fabric face masks can be worn and tossed in the laundry when soiled. The pattern came from a YouTube video that I watched that the Deaconess Hospital had done. Here’s that link: Deaconess Hospital

The main difference I made to this tutorial was to add a piece of chenille stem so you could crimp the face mask at the top of the nose for a better fit.

Supplies

Cotton Fabric 1 yard of 36″ x 44″ = 12 mask)

1/4″ Elastic (or smaller, just depends on what you can find)

Chenille Stem

Measurements

face mask material

Cut pieces of fabric 6″ x 9″

Cut elastic 7″ (2 pieces of 7″ one for each side)

Chenille Stem 4″

You need two pieces of fabric and two pieces of elastic for each mask.

If you are unable to find elastic, you will need four ties 16″ in length. Make from remaining scraps, bias tape, twill tape etc.

Face Mask with Elastic 

Place fabric, right sides together and stitch starting about halfway on the 9″ side using about a 1/4″ to 3/8″ seam.

3/8" seam

Before you get to the corner, insert a piece of elastic between the fabric.

attach elastic

Continue stitching to the corner, turn and stitch along the 6″ side of the fabric.

Before you get to the corner, grasp the other end of the elastic and position in the corner. Stitch to the corner and turn. Continue stitching around the mask until you reach the other corner.

Attach elastic to that side of the mask in the same manner.

After the second piece of elastic has been attached, continuing stitching to your start point, but leave a space of about 1.5″ to 2″ for turning your face mask.

If you are using ties instead of elastic, secure them in the same manner. It will take four 16″ ties for each mask.

opening to turn face mask

This area will have to be closed, but we can do it later.

You can also make face mask ties using scrap fabric or even shoe strings.

Chenille Stem for Crimping Over the Nose

The next step is to make a casing for the chenille stem.

chenille stem for nose piece

Find the center of the face mask and place a pin, or a mark, about 2″ on either side of the center mark. Make a casing of about 1/4″ about 5.8″ away from edge. Leave the casing open on one end.

face mask casing

 

The casing is at the top of the face mask, in the center. On the back side, take a seam ripper and make a very small slit in the back fabric. Be careful not to go through both pieces of fabric.

Fold the chenille stem down on each end, just a bit. Hopefully it won’t stick out through the casing and stick anyone. This is an experiment! If you are uncomfortable putting the chenille stem in, just leave this step off. This project is all trial and error.

chenille stem

Insert the chenille stem into the casing and close the open end by stitching over it a couple of times. Be careful not to let your needle hit the chenille stem in case it should break the needle.

If this step is too time-consuming, leave it out. Most of the healthcare providers that use a cloth mask, will be using it over their proper PPE to make it re-usable longer.

Tucks or Pleats

Make three tucks, or pleats in the face mask. They should be going in the same direction on each side. I found it simpler to place a pin in the middle of the tuck and then place a pin on either side.

Again, this is not a tutorial on sewing. My pins were placed vertically and I removed as I would get close to them.

tucks or pleats in face mask

 

Starting at the top of the mask on one side, stitch about 1/4″ or 3/8″ from the edge. Stitch all the way around the mask, removing pins as necessary to keep them out of the way.

Take care that the edges of opening that we used for turning (on the lower edge) are tucked to the inside when you stitch in this area.

stitch edges

Once you’ve gone all the way around the mask with the 1/4″ or 3/8″ stitch, do another stitch around the mask right close to the edge. Again, take care that the edges of the open area are tucked inside and you catch that part with the stitch. It’s a good idea to reinforce all stitching.

stitch edges

 

How to Make String Ties

 

Face Mask with String Ties

face mask with cloth ties

The face mask is made the same way as with the elastic one, but just sew in four 16″ ties in the corners. See video on how to fold and make ties from scrap materials. Cloth should be cut 1″ in width and 16″ in length. Four ties to a mask.

 

Face Mask Using Shoe Strings for Ties

shoestrings for face mask

 

Use 36″ flat shoe strings and cut in half. Sew half a shoe string in each corner. Sew using the cut ends and leave the finished ends for tying. Reinforce stitching over shoestring ends.

Shoestring Shortcut

Instead of cutting shoestrings, use a 45″ shoestring. Sew the face mask and turn. Attach one shoestring at the top of the mask with a zig zag stitch and one at the bottom. Make tucks and reinforce stitching over tucks and outer edge.

face mask short cut

 

Finishing

That’s it! You’re all finished. Just clip your strings and give your elastic pieces a test. Test your ties whether using cloth ties or shoestrings.

When I made my first face mask, it felt a bit tight to me. So, the next one I made using a bit more elastic, 8″ I believe instead of 7. This proved to be too big. I also experimented with making the mask 6″ x 10″ and used 7″ elastic. Again, it was too big.

So, after that I quit experimenting and stuck with the 6″ x 9″ and the 7″ elastic. Will it fit everyone, no, it will not. Even as I have made more and tried each one on, they don’t all fit the same….so I figure if someone needs to wear one they will just try one and if it doesn’t fit, try another.

I’m going to use a permanent marker and mark some of them “medium” and a couple more of those experimental ones “large.”

If the face mask is too big for a person, they can always tack up the elastic a bit with a safety pin  It’s hard to make something “generic” when we are all not “generic” size!

If you have a better idea for the nose piece, rather than a chenille stem, please leave us a note. We have several more yards of material to work up. We were able to make ten face mask from a yard of 44″ wide material.

Disclaimer

Again, we’re not saying that fabric face masks will protect the people you are around. We just heard about a need and wanted to help find a solution. If you have any questions, just leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to answer.

Stay safe!

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43 Responses to “How to Make a Fabric Face Mask with Elastic, String Ties or Shoestring Ties”

  1. Susan says:

    For the nose piece I used a 5 inch piece of garden twisty tie.(comes on a spool for securing plants to trellis or support) I made the top seam larger to incorporate the wire twisty, sewing a pocket into the seam allowance encasing it into the seam. Once turned right side out it’s bendable and fits the curve of the nose and cheeks.

  2. Anita S B says:

    I am using 1/4″ ribbon and doing a zig zag stitch down the length of the ribbon to prevent it from being slippery. I am also adding a third piece of cotton that is folded down on one end near the ear, leave it open to insert a square of hepa filter from vacuum cleaner bags. I leave the end of the wire open to the open piece of fabric so they can remove it and sterilize in a microwave for 2 minutes

  3. Lesley says:

    Why does the chenille strip have to come in and out couldn’t you just put in and stitch closed ? Is it not washable ?

  4. Karlene says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! I made it with you! So easy! I’m a beginner and it was easy to follow along! Thanks again!

  5. Ang says:

    I’ve read a recommendation to use different pattern fabric for each side, so that people know which side was used towards mouth.( In case they take it off during the day.)

  6. Becky White says:

    This may be stupid. Is it 7″ total of elastic per mask?

  7. Hannah says:

    I couldn’t find elastic straps anywhere online but luckily found Xpand Laces (xpandlaces.com) which sells elastic shoelaces but it worked well for my facemasks.

  8. Karen says:

    Just watched your video on making face masks. Enjoyed very much. Also noticed your sewing machine. Could you tell me what model it is.

    Thank you

  9. Erin West says:

    fantastic resource. I saw on twitter that adding a layer of cut material from a M-13 air filter will help block the covids. Here’s a link to the thread. https://twitter.com/TheWhitneyBrown/status/1246113615498878976
    Time to dust off my sewing machine and give it a whirl.

  10. Judy says:

    You can use twist ties instead of the chenille. I bend the ends up hopefully to avoid poking. I’ve been using 3 layers of fabric to add an extra barrier

  11. thank you for the tutorial, like always you give great instructions. By the way what kind of sewing machine were you using.

  12. Sharon wehle says:

    Does the type of cotton fabric for face masks make a difference? Stretch or poly cotton, etc.
    also could not find wire but found some plastic covered hanging wire that I’m experimenting with that may be perfect!!

    • TrendyTree says:

      The tutorial I first saw from the Deaconess Hospital System said 100% cotton, so that’s what I’ve been using. It’s not going to protect from the virus, or any virus really because they are so small they can pass through fabric, but it could deter some fluids from splashing in your face or protect others when you sneeze or cough….to some extent)))

  13. Sarah says:

    Instead of making a slit to place your wire, why not place it through the opening you left for turning the piece in the right way?

  14. Andrea says:

    I used 14 gauge aluminum beading wire. It is pliable enough to mold around the nose and cheek bones.

  15. I decided to get creative by using 1/4″ elastic headbands since I counln’t find any elastic. I did find a 6 – pack of 45″ shoe laces & found soft flexible pastic coated garden ties. All of these items were at the Dollar Tree.

    I do have a question. Can the 100% cotton bandanas, like what is found at Walmart, be used to make these masks as well? I have some on hand and wondered if they would serve the same purpose as material I’d purchase at a craft store.

    • TrendyTree says:

      I’ve been using shoelaces from the Dollar Tree also, they work really well. And on the longer ones, I cut them in three pieces and just melt the ends to keep them from unraveling. Bandanas should be fine. Thanks for visiting our blog))

  16. Alysse Ohara says:

    The pipe cleaners I fear will rust after several washing and drying. I found using a jeans zig zag stitch saves time and secures with just once around.

  17. Carol says:

    Do the shoestrings on mask seem to stay secure on back of head?

  18. Trisha says:

    Thank you for your video and I appreciate the comments. I’m making mask as well and I appreciate the tips.

  19. Sandy says:

    Not able to find floral wire or anything else similar. Finally located a box of 200 wire Christmas tree ornament hangers here at home. They straightened easily and are rust proof. Needle-nosed pliers turns the ends into a tiny loop so they don’t poke out through the fabric.
    I zig-zagged over the wires in the seam allowance which held them in place perfectly.

    • TrendyTree says:

      Thank you for sharing!

      • TrendyTree says:

        Yes they may rust for sure. Maybe this will all be past us pretty soon and they can be tossed in the trash. The ones I’ve been making lately, I just left the pipe cleaner out, also reduced the tucks to two. It saves some time and speeds things up. Plus, the nurses will be wearing some of these over then N95 mask.

  20. Brighid Wagner says:

    Thank you for this tutorial. After watching three, this one makes the most sense. Our city has completely sold out of elastic pieces so I’m making them with strings now. I’m making the nose piece out of a doubled pipe cleaner. It works well and doesn’t destroy my needle!

  21. Laura says:

    Instead of the cheneille stem use floral wire. The kind that looks like a bread tie. You can get it in a large roll from Home Depot. It stays flat and bends easily.

  22. Olivia says:

    Thank you for posting this! I am going to make these with an additional panel of a finer weave interface in the middle of the two fabric pieces for more protection.

    • TrendyTree says:

      Thank you for vising my blog. Some of the staff I’m making these for will be wearing them over their N95 mask to help make them last longer. Anything is better than nothing, maybe not for virus protection, but some protection from bodily fluids. It can be removed quickly when splashes occur and replaced with a clean one.

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