⅓ yard/meter of tightly woven cotton fabric, at least 44 inches/110 cm wide or 1 fat quarter yard of quilting fabric
⅓ yard/meter of medium weight interfacing, 20 inches/50 cm wide (in US, Pellon 950F ShirTailor if available; in EU/UK, Vlieseline Fusible H250) or polypropylene tearaway stabilizer, if available. If no interfacing is available, you can just cut an extra outer layer from your cotton fabric.
20 inches/50 cm of narrow elastic, 1/8th inch/.5 cm, or ¼ inch/1 cm. 2-3 mm round elastic may also be used, or fabric tubes for ties, if needed
Pattern (TO BE ADDED — print at 100% scale, print to card stock if you have it)
Sharp scissors and/or rotary cutter and cutting surface
Iron and heat-safe surface
Thread, needle, sewing machine
Twist tie/wire tie, preferably unused, or a 3 inch/10cm piece of lightweight, non-rusting wire (optional)
Bodkin or safety pin or a knitting needle & painter’s tape
1. Wash the cotton fabrics with hot water and detergent. Do not use fabric softener. If possible, dry in a tumble dryer at highest heat setting. If a dryer is not available, iron the fabric dry on the highest setting possible. When the fabric is dry, iron it flat, then fold it in half the short way. Press this fold. Open it up, bring the ends to the newly made press line, and press the folds at either end.
2. Cut out your pattern, using paper scissors or a craft knife.
3. Place the pattern pieces on the fabric, orienting the grain arrows to be parallel with either the cut edges or the pressing lines. It is okay to cut the curved mask on the cross grain or the straight grain. Trace, cut.
4. Do not press the interfacing, but fold it so you can cut two mirroring copies of the front of the mask.
5. Align the cut interfacing on the front mask pieces, making sure the nose and chin curves match. The chin curve is more pronounced than the nose curve. If using a fusible interfacing, make sure the rough, glue side is towards the WRONG side of the outer cotton fabric. Cover this pair with a scrap of fabric or a press cloth, and press the warm iron down on the paired pieces for 30 seconds. Ensure adhesion, or press again until the interfacing is glued to the outer fabric.
6. Pair the outer pieces of the interfaced mask with the center curve aligned, and nose curve matching nose curve. Stitch with a sewing machine ⅜”/1 cm seam allowance. Press the seam open.
7. Take the middle sized lining piece and fold a ⅜”/1 cm hem on the wider, straight side, towards the wrong side of the fabric. Stitch.
8. Repeat for the smallest lining piece.
9. Lay the smallest lining piece on the work surface with the turned side down. Lay the middle sized piece on top so the hems overlap. Pin together or baste, with the pin on the *right* side of the work.
10. Lay the right side of the largest lining piece on the smaller pieces, aligning the nose and chin curves. Stitch the curved edge together, with a ⅜”/1 cm seam allowance. Press the seam open.
11. Pin the outer fabric piece to the lining piece, right sides together, matching the seam line and the nose and chin curves. Stitch the top (nose) with a ⅜”/1 cm seam allowance. Repeat for lower edge (chin).
12. Place the center of the wire tie on the upper, nose edge seam allowance. Switch your machine to a wide zigzag and sew over the twist tie, in the seam allowance.
13. Turn the mask right side out and press.
14. Return your machine to straight stitch. Top stitch the upper and lower edges, about ½ cm from the edge. Set aside.
15. Lay the casings wrong side up. Fold one short end 1 cm to the back, then the other. Compare to the open edges of the mask and adjust the folds as needed. Press.
16. Fold the casing in half the long way and press.
17. Pin the casing to mask, right side of casing to lining fabric. Stitch together with a scant 1 cm/ ⅜” seam allowance. Wrap the casing around the raw edge, finger press the raw edge under, and sew. Repeat on the other end. DON’T sew over the open ends! This is like wrapping bias tape around a raw edge, just not cut on the bias.
18. Thread 10 inches/25 cm of elastic into your bodkin, or run a safety pin through it, or tape it to the end of a knitting needle. Push the elastic through the casing, then knot the ends together, as close to the ends as you can. Turn the elastic until you bury the knot inside the casing. Repeat for the other side.
19. These are sized to take a PM2.5 insert. If you have one, now is the time to put it inside. You’ll wiggle it through the open slot on the lining; Your goal is to get it inside, as flat and straight as possible.
If you don’t have PM2.5 inserts, you can make an insert for extra filtration. This mask, as is, likely filters 60-75% of aerosolized particles, depending on fabric. An insert made of 2-3 layers of polypropylene stabilizer (used for machine embroidery) or 1-2 layers of heavy duty interfacing, such as Pellon 926 extra-firm (used in purse making) or 2-3 layers of S-13 Vlieseline Heavy Duty interlining will provide some extra filtration, though at expense of ease of breathing. The best mask is the one you will wear, so if it’s too hard to breathe, remove the insert. You can also consider cotton quilt batting, or when it becomes available, two layers of electrostatic polypropylene woven fabric. (That’s the exterior of PM2.5 inserts, and it’s in short supply right now.)
To make an insert, cut multiple copies of the Insert pattern, stack, and zig-zag the edges together. If it’s too thick to breathe comfortably, either skip the insert or make a thinner one. Mark your insert as NOT A PM2.5. That way you won’t rely on it for serious particulate or toxic filtering.
Multiple layer masks:
Some hospitals are asking for 4 layer masks. To make a 4 layer, cut 3 pairs of outer fabric pattern, and one set of lining fabric. Stitch all three pairs of outer fabric together on the curved seam. Lay the 3 outer pieces together, all edges matching, all right side up. Zigzag the edges together, using a 4 mm stitch width, and having the right side of the stitch just at the edge of the piece. Proceed as if the 3 layer piece is one piece.
Flat, pleated mask, no insert
2 8 inch x 11 inch (20 cm x 28 cm) rectangles of fabric
1 8 inch x 11 inch (20 cm x 28 cm) piece of fusible interfacing
2 3 inch by 6 inch (7.5 cm x 15 cm) rectangles of fabric
20 inches/ 50 cm of narrow elastic
Sewing machine, scissors, iron and board, bodkin, marking tool (marker, chalk, pencil)
1. Align the interfacing on the wrong side of one of the rectangles of fabric (It doesn’t matter which). Press the interfacing onto fabric, using a press cloth as needed. Ensure adhesion without melting the interfacing. If you do melt it, toss that piece of fabric and cut another one.
2. Fold both large rectangles the long way, wrong sides together, align the cut edges, and press. Fold them open.
3. Measure 1 inch /2.5 cm above the fold line and make a tick mark on both sides of the rectangle. Repeat below the fold line. Measure 2 inch and 2 inches above the ticks you just made and make another two ticks on both sides of the rectangle. Repeat below the fold. You should now have 5 tick marks on each side of the rectangle.
4. Turn one rectangle over so the right side of the fabric is up, and make a box pleat, using the 5 tick marks. Bring the line the top ticks makes to the fold line and press. Bring the line the bottom ticks make to the fold line and press. Baste the pleat in place. To baste, you need a threaded hand needle, with thread that contrasts well. Don’t put a knot in the end. Make a few big stitches through the pleats so they stay in place. Don’t knot either end of thread. (You could pin this on the right side, but there will be poking. Basting is less bloody.)
5. Repeat with the other rectangle.
6. Place the two large rectangles right sides together, matching their pleats and edges. Sew both long sides together, using a machine stitch and ⅜”/1 cm seam allowance. Press.
7. Turn this tube right side out. Pull it so the pleats lay straight and press again, paying attention to the sewn edges.
8. Top stitch the two sewn edges, about ½ cm from the edge.
9. Lay the small rectangles wrong side up against the raw ends and fold the extra down to make clean, folded edges. Fold the small rectangles in half and press. Open the center fold, but not the end folds. Stitch across all four folded ends.
10. Lay one small rectangle on one raw end of the larger one, aligning the folded edges and one raw edge. Sew through all the layers with a scant 1 cm seam allowance. Repeat for the other end.
11. Wrap the free edge of the small rectangle around the back and press under 1 cm towards the wrong side. Press, and stitch.
12. Thread 10 inches of elastic on a bodkin, or tape one end to a knitting needle or skewer, and pull the elastic through the casing you just made with the small rectangle. Knot the ends and pull the elastic until the knot is buried inside the mask. Repeat on the other side.
13. You’re done! You have a mask.
If your hospital is asking for 4 layer masks, cut 4 of the large rectangles and sew them together at the edges in pairs, right side to wrong side, and right side to wrong side. Then treat each pair of rectangles like one piece of fabric. (Also, congratulations — this is the technique called flat-lining, and if you can do it with a rectangle, you can do it with anything.)
Hospitals will probably prefer natural or white fabric, just because they will be bleaching them if they’re used inside the hospital. You can use US muslin/UK calico for all parts, if you have it. If not, the next best bet is quilting cotton or percale sheeting.
Try to avoid using synthetic fabrics other than interfacing. They’re harder to clean (think stinky gym clothes) and they’re warmer to wear. They will also melt if subjected to high temperatures, such as those produced by an autoclave or industrial laundry. Since interfacing is fully inside the mask, it will be fine.
You can use polyester thread.
You can recycle tee shirts into masks, both the curved and the flat. Make sure there are no holes in the fabric. You will be using the body and back of the tee, not the sleeves or neckline. Do your best to cut the lining running vertically (from neck to hem) and the outer layer running horizontally (side seam to side seam). Jersey stretches, and a stretchy mask is one that will sag, but jersey stretches differently vertically versus horizontally. If you’re recycling tee shirts, you probably don’t have interfacing at hand, but if you do — even if it’s super light — the interfacing will stabilize and prevent that stretch.
The first mask you make will take forever. Or at least, it will seem like it takes hours. But once you know how it goes together, they’ll take 10 minutes for the flat mask and 20 for the curved.
Mark the nose and chin curves on every piece. They are different, but they’re close enough to easily mix up. Crayola marker washes out. Frixon ink disappears with heat (and reappears with cold). Colored chalk — not dry pastel — washes out.