There’s a lot of info coming at us recently, between the news, social media, school emails (sooo many school emails), and in the sewing world, a big topic has been about how to make a face mask due to the shortages many areas are currently experiencing. I originally signed up to help with the 100 Million Masks project, but amazingly a local company stepped up to take them all on in our area. I want to help how I can (but also only if it’s actually needed, which I’ll share more about below), but have also felt a bit frozen with the decisions of what face mask pattern I should even be using.
With the thought that maybe I wasn’t alone in needing some direction, I decided to choose 5 different face mask patterns to make, each unique from the others, so I could share my thoughts and help you if you find yourself also learning how to make a face mask.
I have to say I had a hard time jumping on the fabric face mask pattern bandwagon. As a dental hygienist in my previous career, I know first hand the importance of infection control and using proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in healthcare settings, and the proper use of masks is obviously a big part of that.
It wasn’t until the shortage of disposable masks came into play at our hospitals here in Seattle, and healthcare professionals began to request sewers to make fabric masks, and I read the CDC’s stance on homemade face masks during times like our current pandemic, that my feelings changed.
In fact, just before typing this post, I heard of yet another local hospital who is recruiting sewers to help make masks due to the current shortage.
The official statement from the CDC follows.
HCP use of homemade masks:
In settings where facemasks 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.
Would I have ever thought we’d be in a situation where a bandana or scarf are a healthcare provider’s best option for personal protection? Certainly not. Even typing it still seems surreal. But here we are, and many of us want to do what we can to help. Fabric masks sewn with a face mask pattern will not protect a person from Covid-19. As the CDC stated, they are okay to be used if it’s a “homemade or nothing” situation, which unfortunately many are in right now.
Do I think everyone who knows how to sew should learn how to make a face mask and start cranking them out by the dozen? No. At this point, many hospitals are giving directions and requests on what they need (and just as important, don’t need), and I strongly recommend you reach out to your local area to see first if there are needs, second, what those needs are, and third, where your efforts can best be directed.
My goal for this post is to help point you in the right direction once you’ve received direction from your local healthcare professionals.
If you’re looking for more reusable product ideas, try our reusable cloth duster tutorial or our washable sweeper pad tutorial. Our homemade laundry detergent recipe is also a great one to keep on hand.
And while you’re at it, you can even use the same scraps to sew some cute matching scrunchies with our free pattern! With that, let’s get to the 5 face mask patterns I’d like to share with you so you can learn how to make a face mask if needed.
Fabric Mask with Knit Ties
Dana from Made Everyday has a talent for keeping projects simple and practical in the best ways, and I knew I needed to make a mask using her knit fabric ties option. Her face mask pattern also includes instructions for using elastic, but as elastic is getting harder and harder to source right now, she came up with a great solution using knit fabric scraps that most of us already have in our sewing spaces. It was quick to sew up and you can be sure that it will fit anyone as the ties can be tied as tight or loose as needed.
Her tutorial (which includes a video as well) is even more fun when you use fabric that Dana herself designed, like this cute kitty print ;). It was also the purrrfect fabric for this Sullivan Dress I made for Lola. For all 5 mask versions, I made sure to use different fabrics for the front and back as is usually recommended.
I loved that Dana provides a one page printable instruction sheet with her tutorial. It helped me keep things straight, especially when I was making 5 different mask types!
Bias Tape Face Mask with Pocket
Kimberly from Sweet Red Poppy is one of the hardest working bloggers I know, and it’s no surprise that when the need came, she worked her behind off to come up with and share not one or two, but three different face mask patterns for others to use. I made two of her styles, and the first was this bias tape face mask with a pocket that a filter can be placed in. In a make-it-work moment, I only had 1/4″ bias tape on hand, so used that for both of her face mask tutorials rather than 1/2″. It gave less wiggle room when sewing, but should work just as well in use.
Kimberly also gives instructions for an optional flexible nose piece using floral wire, which is great for achieving a tighter seal on the mask. And if you are a visual learner, Kim’s your girl. She made videos for each of her surgical mask patterns that are included in her blog posts.
Fitted Fabric Mask
The second Sweet Red Poppy pattern I followed was for this fitted fabric mask. Once again, Kimberly included instructions for adding a flexible nose piece with floral wire, and also included a free printable pattern as the pieces are curved and not rectangular. She also includes instructions for using elastic instead of bias tape, but I chose to do the bias tape as I tried out a different fitted mask pattern with elastic as you’ll see below and wanted to keep each version as unique as possible.
Pleated Face Mask with Elastic Ear Loops
While 4/5 of the patterns and tutorials I used included written instructions, this mask is a video tutorial only from Missouri Star Quilt Co. Like the others, it’s simple to make and about as basic as you can get when learning how to make a fabric face mask. It includes elastic ear loops, and I will note that although I cut the loops at 7″ as instructed, that length was too long when I tried it on myself, so you might want to adjust it depending on who will be using the mask (I’ll note that I have a small head).
For this mask, I used more pretty cotton scraps leftover from a Sullivan Dress. I’ve been hesitating to use it but there couldn’t be a better way!
Contoured Face Mask
This pattern from Craft Passion has been online for years, but the post has recently been updated to include files to cut the pieces with your Cricut Maker or Silhouette machines, which is pretty cool if you are planning to make a bunch at once! It was a fun design to sew up, and I liked how simply the elastic casing was created. The printable pattern comes in 4 different sizes, and it’s worth noting that seam allowances are not included (and you’ll need to add more seam allowance on one edge than the others as described in the instructions). I noticed this after I began cutting my pieces, and would be happy to save any of you from making the same mistake ;).
For this mask, there are options for elastic ear loops or one continuous elastic loop that goes through each side casing, so the elastic loops each wrap around the back of the head and reduce strain on the ears. I made it with the continuous loop.
Another update to the original surgical mask pattern is a filter pocket option, which I didn’t include, but is a great addition to the pattern. Just be sure to scroll down the post and follow those instructions rather than the original.
There you have it! Talk to your local hospitals and health care professionals to determine if there’s a need or shortage of masks in your area, and follow their recommendations to choose which free face mask pattern above will best suit their needs and requests. Good luck!