Do you have a sewing machine? If yes, great! If no, you can still sew a face mask by hand. Sure it takes time, but it can be enjoyable and relaxing. Here’s how you can make a face mask with 2 sides and 3 layers from items you may already have in your home.
Notes: This face mask is not of medical grade and not intended for on-the-job first responders. This post supports general health guidance to wear a face cover while in public but offers no professional advice. It was last updated on December 30, 2020. For more information, see “Disclosures and Disclaimers.”
Materials, Supplies, and Tools
- 3 layers of cotton fabric (2 shirts and 1 sheet)
- A face mask template, scissors, cardboard, and a pen
- A needle and thread (doubled-threaded and double-knotted at the end; prepared at least 7 times)
- 2 hair ties or elastic bands
- Optional: a twisty tie or nose wire
I used old shirts that no longer fit me and were a bit faded or stained and a sheet that I had used to make a light box. I also used elastic bands and a nose wire from a surgical face mask that I wore and washed in a wash bag with bleach & hot water. However, information on the safety of this practice to minimize waste has been lacking. It has been recommended to reserve surgical face masks for first responders and if surgical face masks are used, not to reuse them as surgical face masks.
Cutting the Fabric
I used a cutting mat, a ruler, and a rotary cutter to cut the fabrics into rectangles and a lint roller to clean/pick up leftover bits of fabric.
Search online for a mask template that is the shape of the one above and the appropriate size for your face. Print on paper and cut out. Trace on cardboard and cut out.
Trace on the fabrics and cut out the pieces.
Choose 2 colors to make 2 sides for your mask. Here, I chose blue and white. You should have a total of 6 pieces: 2 shirt pieces of one color, 2 shirt pieces of another color, and 2 sheet pieces.
Layer the pieces so that the pen marks will be on the inside and 1 sheet piece is on top of 2 shirt pieces. Here, the pen marks are visible, 1 sheet piece is on top of 2 blue shirt pieces, and 1 sheet piece is on top of 2 white shirt pieces. It helps to pin the layers in place.
Sew along the curve. To hand-sew, I used a back stitch-type method and then tied off at the end.
Open up the sewed pieces and place 1 side on top of the other so that the thread will be on the inside. Here, the thread is visible and the blue side is on top of the white side. When you turn this over, the thread should be visible on the other side.
Sew the 2 sides together along the top and bottom but leave the right and left ends open.
Sew the nose wire to the mask. Here, I folded the nose wire and mask in half. Then, I hand-sewed, using a whip stitch-type method and tying off at the end. (Note: Be careful not to sew the halves together.)
Carefully turn the mask correct side out and gently poke out the fabric, using a knitting needle or similar object. Adjust the nose wire so that it is as high up as it can go. You may want to try on your unfinished mask and look in the mirror before proceeding to the next steps.
Fold in the ends. It helps to iron them down so that they stay folded in. At the corners, insert the tips of the elastic bands and sew them in. (I folded my ends in about 1/2 inch and inserted my elastic bands about 1/2 to 1 inch.) Sew the right and left ends closed. To hand-sew, I used a whip stitch-type method, but a ladder stitch-type one will conceal the thread better.
Storing & Washing
Make more masks by repeating the steps above. To minimize damage, store them in a wash bag after use. When several have been collected, zip up and wash the bag in the washing machine and dryer. Avoid overfilling.