Whether you sew, knit or crochet – or are learning any of these skills these days – you can use those talents to create face masks by using a variety of patterns for face masks. Many of these patterns are available for free, while some are offered at a discounted rate due to the current mask shortage, to encourage non-medical members of the community to reserve surgical and N95 masks for healthcare workers.
Making your own face mask is a great way to keep your hands busy. You can also help out by providing fabric face masks to people who want to wear them to work or while running errands. While these don’t offer the same protection as the manufactured masks provided to front-line health-care workers, they do keep some germs from being transmitted.
A number of options for face mask sewing patterns have been posted online. Here you’ll find a variety of them to try. The level of skill required ranges from the ability to fold a scarf, to a novice sewing skill set to a fully competent knitter or crocheter. You pick which one suits your skill and what materials you have at your fingertips.
Face mask sewing pattern with elastic ear loops
This face mask sewing pattern also features a filter pocket! For each mask, you will need the following materials:
- Fabric pieces cut into rectangles – 16 inches by 8.5 inches
- Two seven-inch pieces of ¼-inch elastic
- OR four 18-inch pieces of seam binding (you can also cut strips of fabric 1.75 by 18 inches and make your own ties, instructions down below)
- Strong cotton thread (or a polyester thread mixed with cotton)
- Straight pins
- Sharp scissors
- A ruler or measuring tape
- Six-inch piece of flexible wire or pipe cleaner (optional for the nose piece). Some people find this addition helpful to hold the face mask in place since it fits more snugly. It also reduces how much their glasses fog up.
Recommended fabrics are tightly woven cottons (bed sheets, denim or T-shirts). Using two layers makes the mask even more effective, although it’s important to keep breathability in mind as you construct it.
For an extra layer of protection, this face mask has a slot where you can insert a filter. It’s just as easy to make as other versions and the slot is inside, so no one will ever notice.
- Fold the right sides of the fabric together so the two shorter sides of the rectangle are together.
- Put one pin each in 2.5 inches from the edge of the fabric. Using a 5/8-inch seam allowance, sew the ends of the seams, leaving a three-inch gap between the pins. (This creates the slot where you will insert a filter, if desired.)
- Move the seam allowance to the middle of the new, smaller rectangle and press it open. You can turn under the raw edges and topstitch them if the fabric frays.
- Pin the ends on one piece of elastic inside the top corner and bottom corner of one side of the mask, with the loop tucked inside between the right side of the fabric. Repeat on the other side.
- Sew the side seams with a 5/8-inch seam allowance. Go over the ties with a quick backstitch to ensure they are held securely in place.
- Turn the mask right side out and press it with an iron. If you are inserting a nose piece, place the wire inside the mask now and push it to the top of the mask. Topstitch around it on all three sides to hold it in place.
- Make three half-inch pleats on each side of the mask – lining them up evenly with the other side, all going the same way – and pin them in place. Sew along the sides of the mask with less than a ¼-inch allowance to hold them in place. Since they are bulky, you may need to remove the pins as you go but hold them in place with your fingers. Also, sew from the top of the mask down, switching the mask from the right of your needle on your sewing machine to the left for half of these seams.
- Check for a snug, comfortable fit and make adjustments if needed.
If you prefer ties to elastic ear loops, pin one tie each to the upper and lower corners for step 4, making sure they won’t get caught in the stitching. Fold the long sides of the fabric strip together with back sides facing so they meet in the center. Then fold them again to encase the raw edges inside and stitch as close to the outer edge as you can. Finish the ends, if necessary.
Each mask takes about 15 minutes to create, once you get into a groove. Once you have it down pat, you can sew them in batches, completing one step for each mask before moving on to the next step, in less than 10 minutes each. Be sure to check the fit of your first mask before committing to an entire batch, and keep the ends of your ties clear as you sew seams, if applicable.
A printable face mask template will help you visualize the process.
Using a filter with your face mask
If you’ve used a pattern with a filter pocket like the one above, you now need the right material to put inside it.
Researchers at Smart Air, a social enterprise that combats air pollution by delivering open-source data, tested 30 different types of materials for their ability to filter out virus particles.
They found these household items work best as filters: coffee filters, canvas, kitchen towels, and paper towels.
Simply cut or fold the material you have and slide it into the pocket in your face mask. The thicker the layers, the harder it may be to breathe, but the more effective the screening. You will have to balance out your comfort with how breathable your combination of materials will be.
Face mask patterns with hair ties and rubber bands
If you are not equipped to sew or don’t feel confident trying, there is a quick way to make a face mask with two hair ties (or two elastic bands) and a bandana. If you don’t have a bandana, you can cut a 20-inch square out of a T-shirt or a bed sheet (or other tightly-knit cotton). Additionally, you can use a shop towel.
- Lay the bandana on a table or flat surface.
- Fold the top and bottom edges to the middle so they meet.
- Repeat the same step with smaller folds to create a long rectangle.
- Wrap one hair tie around each end, keeping them about six inches apart.
- Fold both sides into the middle.
- Loop the hair ties over your ears. Check the fit to ensure your nose and mouth are covered.
You can watch a 45-second tutorial by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams as he demonstrates how to make a face mask with this technique using rubber bands:
Face mask sewing patterns with wool
A face mask knitting pattern offers a great fit and level of comfort, while using fabric liners to shield you from virus-carrying droplets.
Creative knitters at knittingpattern.org have designed patterns for face masks that go all the way around your head (like a fitted headband), loop over your ears, or tie behind your head. You can try their many free face mask patterns download options, as well as a video tutorial, to see which one suits you or your family members best.
These masks also work well since the liner only covers the mouth area, getting more air flow to the rest of your face. Having a row of tighter stitches come across your nose helps to keep the mask in place without fogging up your glasses.
You can incorporate more than one color of yarn and make some fun designs within the front panel. Using variegated wool or adding embellishments also allows you to express more of your personality with these masks.
If you prefer to crochet your mask, that is also an option.
Yarnspiration.com has patterns for crochet face masks using worsted-weight yarn, paired with a fabric lining. Sizes are easy to adapt by adding or deducting half-double crochet stitches based on the size you need. The crochet ties are worked into the edging so there is no fussy joining needed. For a denser mask, you can go down a hook size and increase the number of chains you start with.
Regardless of which option you choose (or if you simply create your own pattern for face masks that can be customized), have fun picking the colours and materials that work best for you. Some people may opt for a neutral colour as they blend into the background. Others may choose to express their love of colour or their outgoing personality with a brighter colour or pattern.
Ultimately, you – or the person receiving your mask – need to be comfortable with how it fits and how it looks. That way, you will wear it more often and protect yourself from viruses.