Do you want to make a face mask but don’t know how?  Rest assured that you’re in the right place so keep reading…

Most people will be faced with two issues.  Pretty much all of the tutorials and how-to videos on face masks start with the premise that you have a sewing machine!  Granted, 50 years ago, most homes had one…but today?  My guess is fewer than 1 in 10 people have one.  If you live in a city, where space is at a premium, I’ll bet the number is closer to 1 out of 100. Remember, I’m not talking about that decorative relic with the foot treadle and retro vibe from Grandma.  I’m talking about a working sewing machine.  One with needles, bobbins and a power cord that you can find.

Which leads us to the second issue.  Is it even possible to make a face mask somewhat fashionable?  I’m not talking designer, luxury-goods level, just something that expresses our individuality, while providing a basic level of protection.

It’s with these two premises in mind, that I decided to pen this post.

Yes, you can make a fashionable, hand sewn face mask. First, you’ll need to decide what fabric to use.  Think out of the box.  Anything goes.  Do you have a t-shirt that has seen better days?  What about a scarf that you haven’t been able to donate, even though it’s full of pulls and has some holes?  You’ll need a piece that’s about 15″ x 10″ when all is said and sewn.

I’ve been making quite a few out of bedding (sheets and pillow cases) and donating them to the elderly in my community as well as to the National Guard through this website which matches “sewers” to people and places that need masks.  I figure it’s a simple way of using my skill to help others.

Back to the task at hand…Here are the simple steps to making fashionable and hand sewn face masks:

  1. Make the pattern
  2. Mark and Cut the Pieces
  3. Sew the Face Mask Fabric
  4. Iron Open the Seams
  5. Pleat the Face Mask
  6. Sew the Sides
  7. Insert Nose Guard and Ribbons

So Let’s Get Started

1.Make the Pattern

You’ll need to make 2 pattern pieces.  I used a file folder with a heavier paper weight since I planned on reusing the pattern.  You can use gift wrapping paper, newspaper or just tape together two sheets of printer paper.

The first pattern piece that you need to make is a rectangle that measures 15″ x 7.5″.

The next pattern piece is an Isosceles Trapezoid meaning the top is longer than the bottom while the left and right sides are the same length.  Make this pattern piece with a length of 3.5″ along the top and 3.25″ at the bottom. The height on the left and the right sides is 2.5″. Just look at the picture if you don’t remember your Geometry.

The last piece is a small rectangle measuring 1.75″ x 0.75″ and is simply something that I use to mark how far to sew.  You don’t really need this piece but it can be a helpful guide.

2.Mark & Cut the Fabric

You’ll want to place the pattern pieces on the t-shirt, scarf or other fabric that you’ve selected.  Ideally pin the pieces in place so that you can trace the pattern.  Chalk works wonders to mark the pattern on the fabric; pen is an option if you make small light marks.  Pencil is a last resort because the graphite can be harder to remove.  Of course, I used pencil throughout this process but learn from my mistakes!

Trace one large rectangle and 2 trapezoids. Remove the patterns before you cut the 3 pieces.  I mention this because it’s highly probably that you’ll cut part of the pattern off, which might be a problem the next time around. Once you’ve finish cutting, you should have 3 pieces of fabric:

  • 1 rectangle
  • 2 trapezoids
cutting fabric for face masks

3. Sew the Fabric

Now, it’s time to put needle to thread!  Use a back stitch.  Not sure what this is?  Check out this tutorial.  It’s a strong hand stitch that is compared to what a sewing machine can produce. When sewing I recommend drawing a dotted line so you have a guide and end up with a straight line. It might take a tad longer but most of us have TONS of time right now.

Take the rectangle and fold it so it makes a square approximately 7.5″ x 7.5″.  Pin the top edge on the left and the right sides.  You’ll want to sew 3/4″ down from the top edge. Sew a line that is between 1.5″ to 1.75″ long.  Repeat on the other side.  You’ll now have the pocket where you can eventually insert a paper coffee filter or a tissue.

sewing face masks

4. Iron the Fabric

Test the iron on a piece of fabric to make sure you have the correct setting.  You’ll want the iron hot enough to create a crease but not so hot that it scorches the fabric.  Think of the I Love Lucy episode when Ricky burns the shirts and tries to convince everyone that it’s a new style of applique.

When you’re ironing at this point, the fabric is still inside out.  Look at the picture below to see how to iron open the seam that you just created. Then, turn the piece right side out.  Align the fabric piece so that the seam is about 3/4″ from the top and the opening is facing you. Iron the entire piece.  An iron with light steam can ensure a delightful crease.  Yes, I really wrote “delightful crease.”

iron open a seam
iron open a seam

5. Pleat the Face Mask

At this point, make sure the iron is off to the side.  Once you finish step 4 above then flip the fabric over so that the opening is facing down. You need 8-10 pins to pleat the face mask.  Safety pins will working if you don’t have sewing pins.  Pin the top right and left sides to hold the piece in place.  Pinch the fabric about 1″ down and move it up to create the first pleat.  Pin the left side and pin the right side as you go along.  You might even want to iron the pleat to ensure that it stays in place. Repeat this step 2 more times.

You’ll end up with 3 pleats and should have a finished piece that measures 7.5″ long and about 2″ on either side. I speak from experience when I mention that the left side should be about the same size as the right side so it doesn’t look lopsided.

If the facemask is too wide, then you won’t have enough material to cover the edge using the trapezoid fabric that you cut earlier.  If that happens, you can a) cut a larger trapezoid piece of fabric or b) adjust the pleats.

I’ve discovered that pleating directly on an ironing board with pins is the easiest way, but when all else fails, pins on a cushion will hold the fabric in place until you can iron it.

pleat fabric
woman pleating fabric
pleated face mask

6. Sew the Sides

With the pins still in the fabric, hold the pleated fabric vertically in front of you, with the front of the mask facing towards you.  Remember that the back is the side with the opening which right now should be facing away from you.  Take one of the trapezoid pieces of fabric and place it right side down on the mask with the 3.5″ longer side at the top.  Fold the excess fabric around the left side and pin.  Repeat this on the right side.

Now you’re ready to sew a line 1/2″ from the edge of the pleated fabric.  You might want to draw a line to ensure it’s straight when you finish sewing. Repeat this entire step on the other end of the face mask.

The next part is a bit confusing, so keep referring to the pictures below in the second row.  Flip open the trapezoid pieces which are now sewn to the mask and turn the entire piece over.  You should be looking at the back of the piece with the opening. Starting on one side.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the left side or the right one. Fold over the raw ends of the trapezoid fabric. Iron them down.  Now fold the top down, so the edge butts up against the pleated part.  Iron! Fold the top over once more so now the edge aligns with the seam on the other side.  Pin in place.  Now you’re ready to sew the edge down using a small stitch, catching the multiple levels of fabric as you sew. Folding the raw edges helps prevent fraying and minimizes how much sewing you need to do.

Repeat this on the other side.

woman sewing
woman sewing
woman sewing
folding face mask pattern
silk face mask

7. Finishing Touches

Since elastic is in such short supply, I’ve worked with ribbon.  Use a paper clip or a safety pin to help insert the ribbon through the sides.

You can use a twist tie to create a nose guard so the face mask bends and conforms to your nose when worn.  Insert the twist tie through the opeing in the back.  Secure it to the top using a pin and then use a blanket stitch or a whip stitch to sew the piece in place.  Make sure to sew below the twist tie to prevent it from moving over time.

insert ribbon into face mask
sewing face mask
hand sewing face masks

Happy Sewing?