How to Sew a Cloth Face Mask

Hi you guys! Today I’m going to show you how to sew a cloth face mask to protect yourself and others from spreading COVID-19. I’ve been a proponent of mask wearing for years, often wearing one during cold and flu season, or if I was ill and had to go out. It shows that you care about the well being of others, and has been used to great effect in other countries for years. Also, my family has to be extra careful of respiratory illness as two of my children have asthmatic reactions when they get sick.

How to Sew a Cloth Face Mask

Since standard medical masks are hard to find right now, the CDC is recommending that everyone wear cloth face masks. I learned the proper way to make these from a former NICU nurse, and several people in my community banded together to make these for local nursing homes and hospitals to extend the lifespan of their personal protective equipment. I’m showing you how to make these masks using hair ties instead of elastic, as finding elastic is very difficult right now. However, you can always substitute elastic if you have some handy.

Check out my DIY Scrunchies sewing project, and sew even more useful things today!

I’ll be showing how to make a pattern that should fit just about anyone, but you can always enlarge or shrink the pattern if you are making it for a guy with a bigger face or a young child. And yes! Children can and should wear masks. My kids have been taught from the age of two to wear masks when they had to go to the doctor’s during cold and flu season, and you’ll find that most kids are willing to learn to wear masks when they realize how important they are to protect them and other people. Plus, looking like a ninja is always cool!

Let’s get started!

How to Sew a Cloth Face Mask

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  • Tightly woven 100% cotton fabric. I use high quality quilter’s cotton for all of my projects, so I always have extra on hand. I use white for the lining and a cute pattern for the outside.
  • Hair ties or 1/4 or 1/8 inch elastic. 
  • Paper for pattern making (I use printer paper)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine

Make sure to pre-wash your fabric in hot water and dry it on hot to pre-shrink the fabric. This way it won’t shrink more when you wash the finished mask for the first time. Iron your fabric if it’s super wrinkly. Also keep in mind that your mask is likely to wrinkle quite a bit when you wash it, because that’s the nature of cotton fabric. You can always iron your masks if it bothers you at all.

Let’s make our pattern. Start by measuring and then cutting out a 6 x 11 in rectangle. I always like to mark my patterns with the name and the size to make it easier to find later. Set your pattern onto you fabric. You can either pin the pattern on the fabric and cut it out, or draw about the pattern with a pencil and then cut it out. You’ll need two layers of fabric, one for the lining and one for the outside.

Now take your two pieces of fabric and place one on top of the other, right sides together. Pin around the edges, using your pins to mark a 2 inch section in one of the long sides. Don’t sew this section, as this is there we’ll turn it right side out. Starting at one of those pins, sew all the way around your mask with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Stop when you get to the other pin. Use your scissors to clip the corners close to the stitches.

Turn it right side out, and then fold the unsewn edges in and pin them closed. On the short sides of your mask, you’re going to make three tucks. Try and make them the same size, and make sure that the tucks on the other side are pointing the same direction. Pin the tucks in place.

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How to Sew a Cloth Face Mask

Now you’re going to sew all the way around your mask with a 1/8 inch seam allowance, catching all the tucks and closing that open section. I’ve experimented with many ways to add the hair tie, and after many broken sewing needles I’ve found this to be the easiest way. Slide the hair tie onto one end of the mask, and fold the end of the mask over the tie.

Sew the end of the mask down along the stitches that are already there, encapsulating the hair tie. Make sure not to sew through the tie or you may break a sewing machine needle like I did!

Now just do the same thing on the other side.

How to Sew a Cloth Face Mask

And you’re all done! This mask fits snugly and securely, covering your mouth and nose. Pleas make sure to always wear your mask correctly over your mouth AND nose. If your mask slips off your nose, it doesn’t fit well enough and I recommend making it tighter or trying a different style. I’ve never had slipping issues with these masks, which is why I prefer them over some other styles.

And here’s the inside! I always use plain fabric on the inside so I never risk putting the mask back on the wrong way. Now go and make a bunch! I recommend washing your mask after every wear, so if you’re going out or working daily, make sure you make enough for the whole week! I hope you all enjoyed learning how to sew a cloth face mask. There are many different variations out there, but remember that the best mask is the one you make sure to wear! Also, consider a super silly fabric! I often get compliments on my favorite mask, which is covered with pink flamingos!

Be sure to check out these 3Ws – Wear Wash & Watch Printable Posters. They are great visuals to remember these three things as we stay strong and help others stay healthy too.

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About the author

I'm a wife and mom of 3 kids, a blogger, beauty vlogger, graphic designer, and jill of all trades.

View all articles by Joanna Brooks

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