Friday, March 20, 2020

Face Mask Tutorial - With Elastic or Straps

Hello everyone. I hope you are all staying in place, and are healthy and busy. A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine said her husband (a dental student) was being rationed to one medical face mask per day. It got me thinking that this coronavirus wasn't going to slow down and was going to deplete the supply chain here just as it has done elsewhere. As things rapidly changed, my ability to care for my family and also help other elderly friends prepare for the self isolation, I wasn't able to get this tutorial up sooner.

The CDC has said "In settings where face masks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face." Please note - I know that these masks are not PPE, but where some are struggling with supplies, I know these are more helpful than bandanas or scarves.

So this is our chance to help. I have posted the basic tutorial first (with elastic - although ties are now most recommended), and have updated it with more info and alternative ways to make the face masks. My hope is that for all of us that can sew, will take the time to sew at least 5 masks to donate to your local hospital, or another medical facility in need. It won't make sense for us all to send masks to one central location as that can easily be overwhelming at a time like this. Nursing homes and midwives and so many others are looking for masks. Even persons that work in hospital kitchens and other places where person hygiene is most important.

Here's what you'll need:

2 pieces of fabric cut 7 1/4"w x 7 1/2" h (yes you can simplify to a 7 1/2" square but please know I based these measurements off of an actual medical mask) To make a kid sized mask - the fabric measurement is 5 1/2"w x 6"h.

Download a copy of the template I have made for the overall piece and the pleats here.


1) I used quilters cotton on the top outer layer, and a tight weave gauze for the inside layer that touches the face. It's not too thin but also not too thick to make it harder to breathe or too hot for the wearer. Two layers of quilters cotton is also great, just use two different colors or prints. By using two different fabrics, the wearer will know which side was outward and which side was touching their face, which keeps them safer! 

2) It is also recommended to use (brand new) t-shirt material that is 100% cotton as the inside lining. (again - I don't recommend using the same quilters cotton print for both sides, as you want to know which side you've potentially touched, and which side is safe to go against the face.)


Please DO NOT USE Vaccum Cleaner bags or other Air Filters as they have not been tested for human breathing filter use in a mask...and I have read elsewhere that antimicrobial fabrics are not the safest option either.

Likewise, Sanitary Napkins should NOT be used. This is dangerous and wholly unnecessary. Sticking to 100% cotton and even cotton t-shirts - is always best. If the medical professional wants a filter, they can simply wear the PPE mask UNDER the homemade mask.


1) Straps sewn into the seams on the corners - should be 14" long each, cut 4. A little longer is ok - better long than short. Ties sewn all the way across the top (as shown with selvage in photo below) should be 37" - 40" in length, cut 2. Straps/ties are preferred by many medical professionals as they can be sanitized properly with high heat washing and drying without breaking down.

2) 2 -  5-7" pieces Elastic - (TIP: The 1/8" flat soft stretch elastic by Dritz truly is the best, but you can use the round cord elastic - tip on that coming later, or a flat clear elastic not shown). Elastic length for kids can be the same as adults but adjust shorter for youngest kids (depending on age and size of child). Elastic is becoming harder to find. 1/8" elastic is the best, and most comfortable on the ears. If it's not available, please sew ties. 


1) Adjustable Nose piece (this nose piece really helps to create a better seal over the wearers face:
1 piece of 1/8"w x 5"l (up to 6") aluminum strip (TIP: this can be found at some hardware stores like ACE but I found mine as a 3/4"w x 12"l piece - as shown above - and cut it down to size with strong metal scissors.

2) You can also use twist ties - twist two together to make a double, and then twist two doubles together - or pipe cleaners - aka chenille sticks.

Here's how:

The first tutorial shows how to sew the mask with elastic, but please read all of the instructions to see how to sew a mask with straps/ties.

Want to make a whole bunch? Mary @Z_Fabrics in Portland Maine is kitting up some mask kits with straps (no elastic needed). We will post more on that soon via @kidgiddy on Instagram.

Step 1: Pin the elastic to the sides of the mask. One on each side. The end of the top elastic shown will go to the right side of the mask, while the bottom elastic will go to the top left side of the mask. I wanted to show the piece flat so it's a bit easier to see.

Step 2: Place the gauze (or lining material) right sides together. The two pink pins will be the start and stop when stitching all around the mask.

Step 3: Before sewing all around the mask, pin the ends of the elastic as mentioned above.

Step 4: Sew all the way around the mask, leaving an opening to turn right side out. Clip the corners and turn right side out and press the edges.

Step 5: Place a metal strip, pipe cleaner, or twist ties up through the opening to the top of the mask. Place is under the seam allowance so you can't see it on the gauze side (this will protect the wearers face while using).

Step 6: Pin just under the metal strip to keep it in place.

Step 7: Add three knife pleats to the mask so when wearing the pleats are facing downward and press with a mini iron and be sure to avoid the pins. Download a copy of the template to easily make your 1/2" knife pleats.

Step 8: Pin the 1/2" knife pleats in place so they don't shift as much while sewing.

Step 9: Sew a top stitch all the way around three sides of the mask, making sure not to sew the top stitch on the metal strip, but rather just underneath it. This will keep the metal strip securely in place.

Don't have elastic or metal strips? That's ok - here are some other variations.

Variation 1: If you don't have elastic, you can use cotton twill strips, binding or bias binding left over from quilts, grosgrain ribbon, or even shoe laces per my hubby. They should be at least 14" long and you'll need 4 strips. Place the raw edge along the side edge and approximately 1/2" below the top edge and 1/2" above bottom edge and pin to sides. Place the gauze on top and like Step 2, and stitch all the way around leaving a small opening for turning right side out. I would recommend sewing with the gauze on bottom to prevent it from stretching.

Here are some of the other things you may have around your space that you can use for ties and straps. It's ok to be creative, so long as it doesn't put the medical professional at risk while wearing.
Variation 2: If you do not have aluminum metal strips, you can use "pipe cleaners" (now called "chenille sticks" cut to 6". Curl the ends and crimp to prevent the metal tips from poking out or poking the wearer. Place inside the mask along the top edge and follow Steps 5 - 9 to finish.
Variation 3: If you have the Bernina Ruffler #86 Foot, you can ruffle the sides instead of pleating. This ruffle was set to 1. That means it was 1 ruffle per stitch. If you own a different machine and ruffler, please check the length on a scrap. The end result should be sides about 3 1/2" long.
Variation 4: We all have selvages and scraps from quilt bindings. Let's use what we have and get creative. Selvages should be cut to 1 3/4"w x 34"l. I cut the ends of my straps with pinking shears instead of tucking them in and making it a perfect finish.

Thanks so much for visiting and I hope to see some of your face masks before you donate them. I am also making some for my family and elderly friends in the hopes that if we or they have to go out, we can have that added protection from the virus. I have asthma as does my daughter, so we are doing all we can to stay safe. If a member of your family gets sick, a little extra protect helps then too. Feel free to share info below and also on Instagram by tagging me @kidgiddy.

Disclosure: I received the mini iron from Oliso but the opinions and comments provided are always my own. Thank you.


Carina said... [Reply]

Thanks so much - I've made 6 tonight, will make many more tomorrow. Stay healthy x

Jenn4653 said... [Reply]

What is the finished size? 4x6?

Pat said... [Reply]

When you use selvedge strips how wide are you cutting them? and do you fold them so there is no raw edge?

Wanda said... [Reply]

that was really great of you to post. I'm going to give it a try. :0)

Ella said... [Reply]

If it's going to be wash and dried (presumably at a very hot temperature, is it safe to put the metal in?

Laurie Fagen said... [Reply]

Thanks for your efforts in this mask. Unfortunately, I found the 5-3/4" elastic to be too short, even tho I made it 6. Second attempt was 8" and much better. It might be helpful for those not as experienced to note HOW FAR the elastic should be from each edge; how far to sew all the way around (1/4"?) and without downloading the knife pleats, where to start the first, second and third one. thanks!

Kid Giddy said... [Reply]


Hi Jen, The finished size is approx 7" wide by 3 3/4" high.

Kid Giddy said... [Reply]


Hi Pat - the selvages strips can be what you have on hand - anywhere from 1" wide to 1 3/4" wide. I do tuck in the raw edge and leave out the selvage edge (or tuck under to make smaller).

Kid Giddy said... [Reply]

@Laurie Fagen

Hi Laurie - thanks for the feedback. My measurements are based off of an actual medical mask and using 1/8" width elastic. If you use a wider width elastic, it will likely be stiffer and therefore need to be longer. The 1/8" is very stretchy. Everyone should adjust their lengths according to needs.

Kid Giddy said... [Reply]


The aluminum shouldn't heat up too much to the point of burning. It won't conduct the heat that well. The metal piece is optional. Thanks!

Unknown said... [Reply]

I am having trouble with the elastic breaking....I have 1 inch that I am cutting to 1/4 inch...could this be stressing the elastic? I sew it between the layers as you have but with a zig zag stitch to hold but it breaks when I pull the mask over the ears....any suggestions

Hélène Cardinal said... [Reply]

Thank you so much ...first one done! Very easy!