Monday, March 23, 2020

Make-A-List Monday - Or Make-A-Facemask!

Hi, all!

How are you surviving coronacation?  It should feel like we have more time, but there are so many things to be done - for many of you, home schooling has become a regular part of your day!  My regular weekly list has fallen by the wayside, but I am definitely staying busy.  Last week I worked on quilts from orphan blocks, but just as I prepared to start another one, I received a message from a member of our church.  He is a pediatrician, and was asking if I or the quilt ministry members could make face masks for him.  I checked with him about specifics and started making them.  Then an RN from our church saw the Facebook posts and asked if I could make him some.  A USPS worker and a phlebotomist and a dietician...  So many people feel the need to help, and I have also fielded a lot of calls and emails about patterns and tips.  So - - - I thought I would post it here today!

First of all, let me be the first to say that these masks are not the preferred method of avoiding contagion.  They are definitely not a perfect substitute for the N95 masks normally used.  But if I am requested by a medical professional to make masks for him/her, I am going to.  

These masks also have the great ability to eat through scraps, which makes it a win/win!!  So without further ado, here's my little tutorial.


Facemasks are quick and easy to make, and as I said before, use up scraps! Use 100% cotton fabrics with a tight weave.  Fabrics should be pre-washed so that they can be washed by the user without shrinkage.  For an adult mask you need two pieces of fabric cut 9"x6", and for the child's those pieces are 7.5" x 5".

I saw recommendations that the linings of the masks be made of a different print/color/fabric from the outside, so that the wearer could know which side was facing the patient (and thus the germs) if it was taken off.  I chose to cut up a large flannel sheet to make all the linings on mine.  You will also need two seven inch pieces of 1/8" braided elastic or elastic cording.  (We'll talk about possible substitutions for hard-to-find elastic later.)

Pin the elastic to the corners of your lining material.  This makes it much easier to sew the pieces together!  

Now lay your outer material on top of the backing, face down, line up the corners, and start stitching a 1/4" seam around the outside of the pieces.  Begin near the center of the bottom of the mask, pivoting at the corners, and ending about 1.5"-2" from where you started...

leaving a hole to turn the mask right side out.  

Press the mask, taking care to work the seams all the way out to the edges, and pressing the edges of the opening in evenly on both sides.  Put a pin in to hold the turning opening together.

Now make the pleats on the sides, taking care that you have the folds go the same way on each side of the mask.  It may take a couple of tries, but you will get the hang of how to space them and soon it will be easy!

Now topstitch all around the mask, starting where you pinned the turning opening.  On the top and bottom of the mask, you will stitch very close to the edge - you can see I am stitching about 1/8" away from the edge...

...and then, when you pivot at the corner, stitch about 1/4" from the edge on the pleated ends, taking care to keep the pleats in place both on top and on bottom.   When you get back to where you started, stitch all the way around again for strength.  This is a good time to say a quick prayer for the person who will be using the mask!

And voila!  You have completed a face mask!  Here you can see the  outside of the mask...

...and here the inside.  After you learn the tricks, you can whip these out pretty quickly.  I haven't timed it, but I'm guessing I can make one in about ten minutes.  

And they're pretty darn cute, too!  As one nurse told me, there's no reason they can't be pretty!

Now for some tips!  First of all, if you have extra 10" squares lying around, you can cut one adult mask front or two child's mask fronts from one square.  I cut a huge stack of both sizes before starting, so I could just sit and sew without having to cut new ones every time I finished a mask.  I also cut up all the elastic I had into 7" pieces and put them in a basket by my sewing machine so I could get to them easily.

Now, about elastic.  Since it appears that a LOT of people are making masks across the US, narrow elastic is sold out everywhere I looked.  I have seen people suggest using narrow elastic headbands as a replacement. These can be obtained at places like Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target - you will find them in the hair care aisle.  I have also heard of people using the large narrow wrapped pony tail holders, which aren't as long as the pieces of elastic mentioned in the pattern, but they are making the fabric pieces wider to compensate for the shortness.  I think I may use this solution for my child masks.  My daughter picked up some pony tail holders for me today and I will give them a whirl in my smaller masks.

If you can't find elastic, you can put ties on your mask.  Construct the fabric part of the mask the same, simply eliminating the elastic on each side.  Turn and press.  Now take two strips of fabric, 1 3/4" x 34", and make binding from them.  If you have pinking shears or a pinking rotary blade, cut the strips using that.  If the edges are pinked, you can simply fold it in half lengthwise and press it.  Matching the centers of the strip and the mask, pin one across the top of the mask.  Starting at the end of the strip, stitch down the strip all the way to the end, using a smaller stitch length and backstitching at each end.  Repeat for the bottom of the mask.  

Kate Spain's face masks, made with her gorgeous batiks!
The pattern tutorial I shared above is based on this one, and there is a video tutorial on the instruction page if you are more of a visual learner.  Kate Spain also showed some masks she was making, which are a little bit more complicated and time-consuming, but should be a good alternative particularly if you have plenty of fabric but not any elastic.  She is using this tutorial.

I have seen that local Joann's stores are collecting masks, and I saw one post that said that their Joann's was providing kits with all materials to make the masks and bringing them out to the curb.  You might want to check with your local store to see if this is being done in your area!

Good luck and sew on!!




  1. Thank you for your tutorial. We're all at home so I think I may get my kids involved in helping make these masks to donate to places that may need them. It's a scary time, but I think that being able to do something to help, makes us feel less helpless. Take Care xx

  2. Everyone helping out will make a big difference in their community! Thank you!

  3. Thanks for your great tutorial...I will be cutting for mine today...hugs, Julierose

  4. Great post! I quickly got over my fear of making the face masks and learned that they were easy to make. I used elastic for the first two batches I made for family members. A third family member requested ties. OH MY! I had an aha moment and remembered that I had bias tape makers in my never used "gadgets" box and pulled one out and it made the perfect ties. I'll be mailing those off to our niece in Florida today.

  5. Quite a departure from your usual community sewing, Sarah! Thanks for giving us a look at how you made the masks requested by local medical professionals. They are sure to appreciate your service in these trying times!

  6. I'm so glad to see your tutorial, and to hear that many quilters are making masks. Since I'm out of the country, I can't ship anything right now and so I'm going to concentrate my sewing efforts on finishing quilts. Thank you to all the mask makers!!

  7. Great tutorial, Sarah. One of our local hospitals ordered 500 from a person in Birmingham. No, it's not ideal but it's something to help. Thanks!

  8. Thanks so much for the tutorial! What a great use of our supplies and time! I had seen that JoAnn's was encouraging the making of masks. I know I have some elastic around here. . . Thanks again for all you do! Hard times bring out the best in folks!

  9. Great article Lot's of information to Read...Great Man Keep Posting and update to People..Thanks

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