If you have poked around this blog before, you might have noticed a few sewing tutorials. It has been awhile since I have posted one, but today I wanted to share a tutorial for something that many people are sewing right now – face masks.
Sewing face masks, let alone writing a tutorial about how to sew a face mask, is not something I ever dreamed that I would be doing. However, in the times we are currently living in, they are a necessity for so many. From new information I read last night about how Covid-19 can be spread, face masks are about become a necessity for all of us.
Due to the fact that our schools are going to be closed for the remainder of the school year, I am going to be teaching from home, and my children will be completing e-learning assignments at home. This has given me some unexpected time to sew.
Last week, my little girl and I decided to start sewing face masks for local healthcare workers and other essential employees because of that extra time and our desire to do something to help others.
We have stitched up 81 masks so far, and we have plans to make even more.
Using fabric remnants and elastic we already had, we were able to make all 81 masks for no out of pocket cost. I have been cutting up wider elastic I had in my stash which means I will probably have to buy some supplies soon.
I used the pattern from The Turban Project. However, I found that a few things weren’t clear in their directions. This led me to make this tutorial which will hopefully clear up a few things for anyone trying to make masks with that pattern.
Today I am going to show you how to sew a face mask from simple rectangles of fabric and some elastic.
To make a fabric mask you will need the following supplies.
- Cotton Fabric (9 inches by 6 inches)
- Flannel Fabric* (9 inches by 6 inches)
- 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch Elastic** (6 1/2 inches in length)
- Rotary Cutter or Scissors
- Cutting Mat
- Sewing Machine
*If you don’t have any flannel fabric, you can use a second piece of cotton fabric and line the mask with interfacing. I will share more about that toward the end of this post.
**If you are having trouble finding elastic that is the correct width, you can cut wider elastic and make it thinner. I recommend stretching it after cutting it width wise. There may be some stray pieces of elastic which you will need to be cut off. I will also share a couple of elastic alternatives toward the end of this post.
Instructions for Sewing a Face Mask
Step 1: Cut a piece of cotton fabric and a piece of flannel fabric to a size of 9 inches wide by 6 inches high. Make sure the design of the fabric is placed so horizontally before cutting. All of the fabrics I used didn’t have a direction to them, so it didn’t matter which way I cut the fabric.
Step 2: Cut 2 pieces of 1/8 or 1/4 inch elastic to a length of 6 1/2 inches.
Step 3: Place the two pieces of fabric right sides together. (You will notice I didn’t do that in the picture below because I wanted the flowers of the flannel to be on the inside of the mask and not visible.)
Step 4: Pull back one side of the top fabric at a time in order to place the elastic.
The original pattern calls for putting the elastic in as you sew, but I liked pinning it in place first better which is what you will see below.
Step 5: Place one end of a piece of elastic about 1/4 inch from the top of one short side of the cotton fabric.
Step 6: While holding the elastic in place, place the top fabric on top of the elastic and pin all three layers together.
Step 7: Pull the elastic so that the other end of it is about 1/4 inch from the bottom of the same side as steps 5 and 6.
Step 8: Like in step 6, place the top fabric on top of the elastic and pin all three layers together.
Step 9: Repeat steps 5-8 on the opposite short side.
Step 10. Pin the fabric together in a few other places on each side.
Step 11: Leave a 2 – 2 1/2 inch opening on one long side of the rectangle. This is for turning the mask right side out. (Notice way I pinned the top of the rectangle in the picture above.)
Step 12: Sew the mask using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Backstitch at the beginning and the end of your sewing. Be sure to leave a 2 – 2 1/2 inch opening for turning.
Step 13: As you are sewing, you will have to stop at each corner. When you get about 1/4 inch from the end of the fabric, stop, lift up the presser foot, and turn the fabric 90 degrees.
Step 14: As you sew over the elastic, backstitch and sew over it again to secure it in place.
Step 15: Stop sewing when you get to your last pin so that you leave a 2 – 2 1/2 inch opening. Backstitch at the end of your seam.
Step 16: Clip the fabric at the corners. Be sure to not clip too close to the stitches.
This is an optional step, but it is something I always do when sewing a pillow or something with right angles.
Step 17: Turn the mask right side out through the opening you left in step 15.
Step 18: Iron the mask. Be sure the edges of the opening are turned inside. You don’t want any raw edges showing.
You will notice that the next pictures show a different mask. I had to switch because, as you can sort of see from the picture above, the cushioned quilter’s ironing mat I have is stained. It looked even worse in some of the other pictures I took. So, I took some new pictures with a different mask I was sewing.
Step 19: Here is where it gets slightly tricky. You are going to make some “tucks” in the fabric.
As you make the “tucks”, place a pin straight down into your ironing board to hold the tuck in place. You need to do this to both sides at the same time. I think some people might be doing one side and then the other, but I have found that this way is a lot easier.
Basically, you are going to make some small folds in the fabric, all facing the same way, in order to get your mask to be about 2 1/2 – 3 inches in width.
Step 20: Iron (steam setting or spritz water on the fabric) the middle of the mask. Take out the pins and press the edges in place.
Step 21: Pin the tucks in place again only this time pin them horizontally and not to the ironing board.
The picture above should give you a better idea of what the tucks should look like. Mine are definitely not perfect because I didn’t measure them. You can use a ruler to help you if you want.
Step 22: Topstitch around the entire mask two times. Backstitch at the beginning and the end.
I tried to sew close to the edge with about a 1/8 inch seam allowance for my topstitching.
You should now have a face mask. If any of the above steps weren’t clear, please let me know.
How to Make Ties If You Don’t Have Elastic
Elastic has been hard to come by for many people who are sewing masks. I tested out the sewing method I explained above with ties.
I used double fold bias tape that I already had, but you could make ties out of fabric or even ribbon.
You will need 4 ties that are 16 inches long.
If you are using bias tape or fabric, fold one end of the fabric to the inside about 1/8 inch and iron it in place. This will ensure that there isn’t a raw edge that will ravel.
Stitch close to the edge along the opening of the bias tape so that the fabric stays closed. You can see what I mean in the picture above. Be sure to stitch along the edge you folded over. The raw edge of the ties will be what you sew to the mask like the elastic was sewn in the steps above.
Pin the ties in place with one tie in each corner of the short sides. I pinned the rest of the ties into the center to avoid sewing over them.
Pin all of the layers together leaving a 2 – 2 1/2 inch opening.
Everything else about the sewing process is as same as above.
How to Use a T-shirt Instead of Elastic
I cut up an old T-shirt that was 95% cotton and 5% spandex. I made strips that were one inch wide. I then tested the stretchiness of the strips in relation to a piece of elastic that was the same length.
I made the strips about 5 inches long because there was more stretch than the elastic I had been using. When the T-shirt strips are stretched, the fabric should curl into itself.
Use the T-shirt strips just like elastic. It is important to make sure that the T-shirt has spandex in it, that strips curl when stretched, and to check the stretchiness compared to elastic to determine how long to cut the strips.
Using Interfacing and Two Pieces of Cotton Fabric
If you don’t have any flannel fabric, you can use two pieces of cotton fabric and add interfacing to give an extra layer of protection. Fusible or sew-in interfacing will work.
Make sure you iron fusible interfacing to the wrong side of one of the pieces of cotton fabric. The interfacing will be hidden between the two cotton fabrics.
If you use non-fusible interfacing, you can baste the interfacing to the back of one piece of cotton fabric.
To baste the interfacing, you would use a long stitch length and sew close to the edge of the fabric and interfacing. This will ensure that the basting stitches don’t show when you sew the two cotton fabrics together.
I used a fusible interfacing in the picture above. Most of the masks I have sewn have been made with a piece of cotton and a piece of flannel fabric. However, I will be switching to interfacing since I am about out of flannel fabric.
Here is one of the masks I made. This mask was made with some fold-over elastic that was specifically for lingerie (I had bought it by accident quite a while ago.). It was smaller and thinner than normal fold-over elastic, so it worked well. I do not recommend using regular fold-over elastic to make face masks.
It really is hard to believe we are living in a time when face masks are necessary, but sewing them is something those of us with sewing machines can make to help those in our communities.
If you have any questions about my instructions for how to sew a face mask, please let me know in the comments. I am happy to help. Also, I am hoping to update this post with a video tutorial soon.