Last Updated on January 31, 2021 by wendigratz
My daughter Jo has been a mask-making machine. She made over 1000 masks and donated them to our local United Way who is distributing them to the clinics and organizations that need them.
I don’t want to get into a debate here – so please don’t send me an email or comment about how you read these aren’t effective. Medical people in my area are asking for them, and right now I’m going to give them anything and everything they ask for.
When I mentioned making and donating masks in my most recent newsletter, I was INUNDATED with emails from patients, nurses, mothers of nurses, hospice workers and more telling me how much these masks are needed and appreciated.
And when production has ramped up and hospitals and clinics are getting all the PPE they need, there will still be a need for masks to help reduce transmission when we all start leaving our homes again. I thought this article laid it out especially well. The short version is – everyone should be wearing masks when they’re in public. My favorite line in the article is, “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.”
In addition to people saying they wish more people were making and donating masks, there were a lot of emails from people asking for the pattern I’m using. Keep reading for the complete tutorial.
This is a no-elastic mask. Everyone is sold out of elastic and I’ve heard from a number of health professionals saying that a behind-the-ears elastic mask is very painful when worn for hours at a time – which is what they’re having to do. I’m also hearing that some places are washing these masks multiple times a day, and the elastic is wearing out quickly under those conditions. So our mask uses fabric ties. One ties up at the crown of the head (it doesn’t seem like it would stay put there, but it really does) and the other ties behind the neck. This size fits any size head.
If you’re keeping a mask for yourself to wear to the grocery store, walking your dog, etc. make sure to remove it properly. Don’t grab it by the front of the mask and toss it on your kitchen table. Remove it by the ties, put it in the laundry, and then wash your hands.
Whew! That’s a lot of preface. Here’s how to make it. Scroll past the video for written instructions with step-by-step photos.
And here are the written instructions.
For each mask you’ll need two 6×9 inch rectangles and two 1 3/4 inch strips. I read several studies that said NOT to add any additional layers to this kind of loosely-fitted mask. Yes – additional layers will increase the filtration, but they make it harder to breathe THROUGH the mask, resulting in more unfiltered air being drawn in around the edges. Use tightly woven cotton – quilting cotton is great. T-shirt fabric also tests very well, but I don’t have any so I haven’t tried that with this pattern. It should work fine, though.
The ties need to be 1 3/4 inches wide and at least 40 inches long. We went with the full width of the fabric – selvedge to selvedge – because that’s 40 – 45 inches wide. Don’t trim off the selvedges. That finished edge means you don’t have to hem, which will save time. 😄
With this method, every 3/4 yard will make 4 masks.
If you prefer to use purchased bias tape – that will save time and stretch your fabric stash. Make sure you get 1/2″ double-fold bias tape. There are TONS of people selling large rolls on Etsy
If you use purchased bias tape, then 1 yard of fabric will make 12 masks.
Press your strips into double-fold bias tape. There’s a video tutorial here showing two different methods for doing that. Jo is using a 25 mm bias tape tool to make hers. That’s the right size for 1 3/4 inch strips of fabric. If you have a different sized tool at home, you can adjust the size of your strips accordingly. Just don’t go too skinny or it will be hard to catch all the mask layers when you sew it in place.
Put the two rectangles of fabric right sides together. (Nurses are recommending using two different fabrics so that if they have to remove the mask and put it back on, they can easily tell which is the outside and which is the inside.) Sew them together along the short sides, using 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Turn the mask right side out and press it flat.
Now it’s time to pleat the sides. You need to put three evenly-spaced pleats in each side of the mask.
If your fabric has a direction to it, make sure the pleats are pointing down.
You can eyeball the position of the pleats, but Jo has been measuring to keep things nice and even.
Measure up one inch from the bottom edge of the mask (turned sideways here). Then fold the rest of the mask down over the end of the ruler, and fold it back up at the half-inch mark.
Hold that fold with a pin and continue up the side of the mask with two more pleats, each starting one inch from the fold of the previous pleat.
Pleat up both sides, then sew those pleats in place by sewing 1/4 inch from the short edges.
Time to add the ties.
Fold the mask in half to find the center. Mark the center top and center bottom with pins. Fold the ties in half to find their centers. Wrap the center of one tie around the raw edge at the center of the top of the mask and pin. Repeat with the second tie and the bottom edge of the mask.
We’re only pinning at the centers to hold the ties in the right place. You can get the bias tape wrapped around the rest of the mask edge when you get to it while sewing.
Now it’s time to sew up those ties.
Start at the end of one tie and sew the folds together as close as you can reasonably get to the edge. When you get close to where it starts to wrap around the edge of the mask, pause, make sure the mask edge is tucked all the way up into the fold of the bias tape, and keep sewing. Continue past the edge of the mask, and on to the other end of the tie.
Repeat for the second tie.
A few more notes. . .
If you have elastic and want to make a mask with behind-the-ear elastic loops, there’s a pattern here.
If you have smaller pieces of fabric and don’t mind taking a little more time, this center-seam pattern might work best for you.
Before you make any masks, you can contact a local organization to see if they’re requesting a particular pattern or materials.
If you’re looking for where to donate your masks, reach out locally first. I found our local United Way by contacting our county health and human services office. United Way has taken it from there, finding out which organizations can use DIY masks and handling distribution to them. There’s probably someone in your county doing the same thing.
If your local hospitals/clinics/hospice care workers/etc. don’t need masks – fantastic! You can still make them for regular people. Maybe your grocery store employees need them, or your friends and neighbors. You’re also welcome to sell masks made with this pattern. In the Czech Republic, a grassroots effort provided ten million masks in just three days.
If you post on social media, please use the hashtags #coverourcaregivers and #masks4all to help spread the word.
Thanks so much!