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.
Cotton Fabric 1 yard of 36″ x 44″ = 12 mask)
1/4″ Elastic (or smaller, just depends on what you can find)
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.
Before you get to the corner, insert a piece of elastic between the fabric.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to Make String Ties
Face Mask with String 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
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.
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.
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.
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.