three washable face masks in different patterns

HOW TO SEW YOUR OWN WASHABLE FACE MASKS

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Update: Please know that I am always committed to providing you with the most updated information available. As a result, I will be revisiting this and other applicable posts often to reflect the latest knowledge. For childsize patterns please read: Easy Sew Washable Masks for Children

Even though I wore face masks on a daily basis in my healthcare profession, I never really thought I might need one at home. Well, except for sanding down a DIY project or enameling in my jewelry shop. And like pretty much everyone else, I could not find any to buy.

So I decided to do what I always do and that is to come up with a way to make my own washable facemasks.

washable face masks alternate pinterest image

Before I proceed, I would like to stress that I am in no way claiming that this type of mask will protect you like an N95 mask. But since those are basically impossible to come by at this time, this may be your only option for home use. As a matter of fact, some hospitals are asking private citizens to sew face masks during this time of shortage. Let’s just hope the supply of N95 masks will be replenished soon! In the meantime, you will have at least a little protection which is better than absolutely nothing, right?

As I mentioned, I worked in the healthcare profession for many years. And during that time I have worn many different types of masks. Fit is as important as filtration. While researching this DIY project, one thing stood out: a mask should have more than one layer, even if it is made from tightly woven fabric.

That is why I concentrated on creating a mask that has three layers, two fabric layers with a removable center layer. From what I was able to gather on information, the recommendation is that the center layer should consist of something that is not woven, like a dense type of batting or even sterile non-woven gauze. Both will work with my design as you will see.

Next was the type of fabric. That was actually relatively easy. Cotton is breathable, comfortable to wear, can be washed in hot water, and is readily available.

And third, I concentrated on creating a pattern that is easy to sew with relative beginner skills. You don’t need to be a seamstress to accomplish this. If you know how to sew a straight line, you are good to go.

If you prefer to purchase my ready-made masks instead, you may do so in my Etsy shop. Shipping within the US is FREE and new patterns are added regularly.

You can find FREE printable instructions including a way to make these masks with ties instead of elastic and lots of other valuable info in the Resource Library. Just sign up here!

diy sign

This post contains affiliate links. You can view the entire affiliate link policy here.

HOW TO SEW YOUR OWN WASHABLE FACE MASKS

Let’s start with what you will need:

Tips: For this purpose I found cotton quilting fabric to be ideal. You can buy it by the yard or in color-coordinated “fat stacks” with each piece of fabric measuring about 21×18 inches. This makes cutting fabric to size super easy.

If you are using patterned fabric stick to a pattern that can be used in any direction. This makes cutting and sewing much easier and faster.

Braided 1/4 inch elastic is already in short supply. If you can’t find any elastic right now, don’t despair! You can make these masks with coordinated cotton ties. You can find instructions to do that in the complete PDF in the FREE Resource Library.

Here are the tools you will need:

  • sewing machine (use a needle suited for heavier fabric)
  • sharp scissors
  • rotary cutter and self-healing mat
  • large quilting ruler
  • iron, ironing board
  • pins

Tips: Having a rotary cutter and self-healing mat is not an absolute must, but if you are planning on making a lot of masks, this is really the only way to go. It makes cutting fast and accurate especially when combined with a quilting ruler.

Instructions

  • Cut the fabric so it measures 16″ x 10″ (approximately 40 cm x 25 cm)
  • Press flat, then fold in half horizontally. It should now be 8″ x 10″ (20 cm x 25 cm)
  • Press the fold and open back up
  • On either side of the pressed fold measure 2″ (5 cm)
  • From the 2″ (5 cm) mark, fold the fabric so it lines up with the pressed center line, repeat with the other side
  • Press folds in place and pin
  • Double Roll and press hems (1/4″ or 0.5 cm) on both ends in place, pin if needed (I have found that it is not really necessary if pressed well).
  • Stitch over centerfolds with a 1/4″ or 0.5 cm seam allowance on both sides to hold in place
  • Stitch hems
  • Press entire piece to set hems
  • Now roll in both sides about 1/2 inch 1.2 cm and press into place
  • Fold each end in towards the middle so they overlap slightly (check the front, the fold should be in the center
  • make sure the pressed seams stay aligned
  • with the opening facing up, place the end of elastic or fabric tie, align and roll so the tie is covered
  • stitch into place (back-stitch to secure) continue stitching until 1″ (2.5 cm) from the other side
  • insert the other end of your elastic or the second fabric tie, roll and secure like the first
  • repeat on the other side

Let’s take a look at the steps!

Begin by measuring and cutting your fabric. I used plain fabric here so you can see and follow each step clearly.

cutting fabric for washable face masks

Fold the cut piece in half horizontally and press the centerfold as a reference mark.

fabric with pressed centerfold for washable face mask

Create about a 1″ – 2.5 cm fold on each side of the centerfold, press and pin in place.

fabric folded with center pleats for washable face mask

Here is what it looks like from the back (wrong side of the fabric):

back side of fabric for face masks

Next press the seam at the end over 1/4″ 0.5 cm

seam pressed in place for washable face mask

Roll over once again and press. Repeat on the other side of the cloth. Stitch in place. I have found that if you press the seams down well, you shouldn’t have to pin.

seam stitched in place for washable face mask
centerfold stitched in place
side hems pressed up
bottom folded over

Before pinning, flip the mask over to make sure the centerfold is actally in the center!

washable face mask pinned and ready to sew
elastic band inserted

Stitch in place and anchor with backstitches. You want them to be very securely in place. Test by pulling.

finished side of washable face mask

Repeat on the other side.

Pat yourself on the back, you just made a washable face mask!

washable face mask with liner options

The finished mask using the measurements above should be 9″ (22 cm) by 4 1/2″ (11.3 cm). You may need to adjust your measurements to fit your needs.

As I mentioned above, this pattern is designed with a center layer in mind. I found that thin cotton batting or 100% cotton heavy t-shirt fabric cut to size works well, as do non-stick sterile pads. If those are in short supply, I have found another perfect solution for liners. Bear with me here: unscented organic cotton panty liners. They are perfect! Cheap, readily available, right size and their adhesive strip allows them to stay put. If you are using them, make sure you do so with the plastic layer facing out towards the front. Change at least daily.

When you need to wash your face mask, remove the center insert and either discard (if you used non-stick sterile pads) or wash the quilt batting pieces in a garment bag for delicates. That keeps them neatly together so you don’t have to root through the washer and dryer to find them again.

Create one or more for each member of your family. I love how pretty they are besides being pretty comfortable. Choose a pretty pattern and inject a little personality into what would otherwise be a pretty boring accessory.

two washable face masks in nature patterns

A couple of notes:

You may notice that some types of elastic can be a little stiff and tight the first few times you wear your mask. It will relax with wear and after washing. If you don’t have elastic on hand, you can use ribbon ties instead. Insert a 16″ (40 cm) long and 1/4″ (.75 cm) wide ribbon in each corner of the mask.

For a more snug fit around the nose and chin, you can add elastic to the inside of the mask along the center edges.

Wash your masks regularly and replace the liner with a clean one daily (see options above).

Pressing with a steam iron will sanitize them additionally after washing and keep them in good shape.

If you decide to give this a try, post a picture of the finished result over in our Facebook group! Not a member yet? It is easy to join and the best way to interact and ask questions.

You might also find these posts helpful:

HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY STAYS HEALTHY THIS WINTER

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR SICK FAMILY

HOW TO MAKE HAND SANITIZER SPRAY (60 % ALCOHOL BY VOLUME)

Happy sewing,

Karin signature line

82 thoughts on “HOW TO SEW YOUR OWN WASHABLE FACE MASKS”

  1. Thank you for your kindness, Karin! I’ll be trying to make some face masks in a day or so… The pattern looks quite straight forward, just what I was looking for!
    Please stay safe & healthy an again, many thanks for the pattern! Maggie C,of SC

    1. Hi Robyn, thank you for letting me know. Make sure you check your spam folder as well. I do see that you signed up, but your account is listed as unconfirmed as of right now. Please be sure to email me if you cannot find your confirmation email in your spam folder and I will resend it.

  2. I got a confirmation email but not a welcome email. Are they separate? I went to thr resource library and it is asking for a password.

    1. Hi Judy,
      You can find the four-page printable version in the Resource Library on Page 2. To enter the password-protected Resource Library, just sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I will e-mail you the password right away.

    1. Hi Linda,
      You need to click on “Resource Library” in the menu bar at the top. That will take you to the library and prompt you to enter the password.

  3. Hi thanks so much for posting. What is the point of the center fold on the front of the mask? I can’t find a photo of what the mask should like like you someone’s face from the front. Thank you!

    1. Hi Caitlin! Great question! The center fold is necessary for proper fit. It allows the wearer to adjust the mask to cover the face from the bottom of the chin to the bridge of the nose. Many of the commercially available masks used in hospitals have folds and pleats. When I designed this pattern, I wanted to make it as simple as possible and incorporating several pleats can be time-consuming and difficult, especially if you are a novice at sewing. To see how a mask should fit, please check out this post by the CDC that explains it.

    1. I don’t see why not. The important thing for the liner is that it is made of non-woven material. Felt should work, even a folded paper towel. I list several options for liners in the post.

      1. Annie L Marion

        You should not use a hepa filter in it. I appreciate the pattern! Much easier than the ones I’ve been trying to make. I love the panty liner idea!

        1. Personally, I would not use a HEPA filter, either, but I wanted to present all of the options. There is actual research about the filtering properties of various materials. That is what I based my suggestions on. I am glad you like the pattern!

          1. Some of them do. It is always wise to carefully research options before you choose to use it!

      2. I used felt for a couple of masks. My daughter works in bakery and is working ft. She wore one and said it was very hot and she found it hard to breath.

        1. It depends very much on the fabric also. Be sure to stick to breathable cotton materials. Felt is often made of wool or synthetic fibers. I can also imagine that a bakery would be a pretty warm environment to begin with, which would make just about any mask hot to wear. I wore standard medical masks in my profession for years and even they are hot and difficult to breathe through.

  4. I have tried getting the printable pattern for the face mask but it just gives me the instructions without the printable pattern? I have tried several times but keep getting another email with the password which I copied and pasted but still no printable pattern? What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Betty, if you copy and paste the password in the Resource Library, you can find the four-page printable instructions on page one of the library. You would only get another confirmation email if you signed up again.

  5. Hi Karin,
    I just finished making a mask using your pattern. Wow…it’s so much better then the previous pattern I had been using. The fit feels so much better and not having to make a bunch of pleats makes it work up faster and no frustration. Thanks so much for designing and sharing your pattern.

    1. Diana, thank you so much! When I began searching for patterns, I found that the pleats were just too cumbersome. I am so happy that you found it to be not only easy to make but also well-fitting. That was the exact goal when I designed this pattern!

  6. Hi I though I’d give your pattern a try. But I’ve come to a halt which I dont get. I’m at the point where you fold the ends to the middle. Mine is really big when they meet in the middle? What have I done wrong! Thanks.

    1. Hi Carole, great question! I didn’t list specific measurements for children, because sizes vary so much. I have made a couple of child-size masks that should fit a child from around 6-10 years old. The length for the material would be 14″ with a width of 8″. You will probably want to shorten the length of the elastic ribbon as well.

  7. This does look simpler than the pattern I’m using. Wondering what is length of elastic? It’s 7” for masks I’ve been making.

  8. Love this pattern and will start making these right away!! But I’m dying to know where you got the bumble bee fabric from!! I’m obsessed! 😍 Hope all is well and you and your family are staying healthy!

    1. Thank you! I love the fabric with the bumblebees as well! I so wish I could get more. I found it in a pack of quilting fabrics at Michaels. I will try to see if I can find it again and send post a link if I do! Stay healthy and safe!

    1. The printable instructions can be found on page one of the Resource Library. You need to click on the Library link in the menu bar and enter the pass word. You can find the password at the bottom of your confirmation email.

  9. Karin , I signed up for your website but I can not view patterns etc. I received a confirmation but no pass word. It appears to me that it happens to others as well. Help. Thank you.

  10. Karin, thank you for posting this. It is a very elegant and simple design. I have worked through a few patterns and had a lot of trouble with sewing through the thick multiple pleats featured elsewhere.. This pattern is very easy to sew.

    I added a nose bridge bar in the top which I find useful for those who wear glasses. It worked in easily with your design. I found your measurements much larger than other masks I have made. Ir makes it pretty comfortable for my husband, but I may try to size it down a little for me. The beauty of your pattern/process is it is so easy to adapt.

    So thank you! This is an excellent, thoughtful design and I am set to make a bunch.!

    1. Sarah, thank you so much for your kind comment! When I first set out to make masks, I found that a lot of the patterns were just too fussy and labor-intensive. And many of them just didn’t seem suited to someone who might not be very good at sewing. That is why I set out to design my own pattern based on my level of sewing experience as well as that of someone who worked in health care for many years and used to wear masks for a living. It is always a challenge to create a pattern that will fit everyone. But as you said, you can make minor adjustments easily and create the right fit for you!

    1. If you make the mask from 100% cotton fabric as is recommended, absolutely! Just be sure to remove the liner and wash it separately.

  11. I lile the simplicity of your pleats in your mask. I had a question though. I want to use a separate fabric for the opposite side so people know which side rests against their face. Would doing the same measurements of fabric but doing half in one print and half in another work out the same?

    1. It should, provided you make the intended front the center panel, which does add a couple of extra steps. Do let me know how it turns out if you decide to try it.

    1. Hi Peggy, the pattern is not sent to you. You can find it in the FREE Resource Library. If you signed up to receive my emails, you should have received the password. I include the password on the bottom of all my emails. Sorry,I cannot post it here. If you didn’t get the confirmation email with the password, please feel free to email me at karin@thewittygrittylife.com and we’ll get you squared away.

  12. I have made a few masks and have found an excellent sub for elastic is pantyhose. You can get TONS of masks out of an old pair of pantyhose. It sews easily and is super comfy on your ears.
    I got the idea when I saw people using hair bands but heard they didn’t fit well. I remembered using pantyhose as hair bands and it worked.

    1. That is a great idea! It is so difficult to find elastic right now. If you can get it at all, the prices have gone through the roof.

    1. Great question! I would definitely go with the ones made from organic cotton. You can find a link for them in the post.

      1. Do you have a date you will be posting your next one!?!? Haha! I’m being impatient as I have someone waiting on me to make one for their toddler!

  13. Thank you for patterns and instructions. I feel it would have been easier to follow with a fabric that had a definite right and wrong side. I had trouble distinguishing which side was which when hemming, just a suggestion.
    As I age brain function gets confused and what I used to find easy, isn’t anymore.
    Most comments seem to have been able to understand, so it id probably just me !

    1. I understand! Unfortunately, the cotton fabric that I recommend for these masks usually doesn’t have a definite right and wrong side.

  14. I am someone who learns better with visual cues rather than written ones. Do you have a video that explains the process?. I’m having a lot of difficulty understanding how to make the center fold/ pleat.
    Thank you

    1. Susan, thank you for your input. I don’t have videos at this time, but I will try to clarify how to create the center pleat. Once the material is cut to the proper size, it is folded in half and pressed so you have a centerline to guide you. Open the fold back up so you have the rectangle in front of you with the center crease horizontal and facing up. Now measure 2″ above and below the center crease. Mark the lines with pins on either side for easy reference. Each of those lines gets folded to meet up with the center and pressed, then pinned in place.
      I hope this makes sense. I appreciate your input as it helps me make improvements. I will try to capture additional images to make this step clearer and post them as soon as possible.

  15. I really like the look and idea of your pattern and need a large size for my husband so thought this would be great! I am an experienced sewer but I’m finding your instructions confusing! I’m feeling dumb because everyone else seems to “get it”. I’ll keep trying using the written instructions and pictures.

  16. So happy to find this pattern. I’ve tried several others, but this is my favorite one by far! It creates a very elegant, “finished” design. I used four 19” ties rather than elastic (because I prefer that method of securing).

    Thank you and wishing you and everyone safety and good health!

    1. Thank you Monica! When I created this pattern, I wanted to make sure it was flexible and adaptable, especially since it seems harder and harder to find elastic. The ties are a great latex-free option!

  17. What do you suggest the measurements should be of the elastic and material for kids size.
    I have 3yr old and 4 1/2 yr grandkids.

  18. Thank you for a streamlined pattern!! I volunteered to make some masks for a business and have had a very hard time getting pleats to look normal–lopsided pleats do NOT appear very professional! 🙂 I just had a quick question. I did not see a picture of the inside of the mask when it is finished (or I didn’t realize that is what I was looking at!). where does the opening end up? Is it right in the center over the mouth? If so, is that not uncomfortable against your face? I just can’t picture how the opening looks. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Jen, the opening is facing toward the face. When you fold the two sides in to form the center pocket, they overlap. It needs to overlap so the filter will stay in place. You can find more pictures how this looks in my post on children’s masks. I also just posted a video in my Facebook group that shows the entire process from beginning to end.

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