Apparel · DIY & Tutorials

DIY & Tutorial: That Darn Face Mask

”Oh great. Another one.”

This was actually my thought as I started this post. Yes, I am aware that when I’m through with this, I will have contributed to the other hundreds millions of posts about face masks and all their glory. However, since this blog is mainly about my “Quest through Quarantine”, I can’t ignore the fact that making masks took up a huge chunk of my sewing time during the past few months.

I feel a little bah & humbug blogging about this topic too because of the fact that when I set out to make masks myself, I had to search through hundreds millions of blog post/video tutorials about how to make them—to my liking, that is.

You see, —and I can bet that you feel a bit of the same way too— I became very picky about my face masks as I started making them. On the topic of masks and their fit/style, I think we can all agree that it is very subjective. What I like in a style of mask may not be what you like. After extensive (and exhaustive) research and sewing up different variations and prototypes, I think I am finally happy with the styles that I and my family seem to be happy with. And hopefully, if you were like me, your tiresome quest in finding a good tutorial for a DIY face mask ends here in this post.

***Disclaimer***

Just like all the rest of these kind of posts, I guess I better do the same and cover the bases. As most of us are already aware, the debate is out as to whether or not face masks in general actually do work in keeping you (somewhat) protected against the spread of germs. I think we are mostly aware that, no, cloth masks are not on par with N95’s. Got it. Noted. Is it absolutely necessary to wear one at all then??

Umm, I dunno! I am not a doctor, or a scientist, or disease control expert. I honestly don’t think anyone really knows anyway because there are just too many conflicting opinions about this whole mess. Don’t quote me as being professional on this topic because I’m not one. I take whatever safety precautions I feel is necessary for myself and my loved ones as best as only I know how, and that’s all I can do.

The truth is, you will either accept the idea that masks are necessary, or you will not. You will choose to wear one, or you will not. If you do want to wear them, great. If you don’t, great. I’m not going to unleash any emotional reactions, unveil any secret mind judgment (<—don’t act like you don’t do this too), or spew any political rhetoric at you because in the end, you will choose to do what you want to and I can’t make everyone happy.

I choose to wear a mask because let’s face it, I am, in general, a law abider, and honestly, I just feel safer doing so. That’s all. Do I like wearing a mask? Heck no! Do I want to keep living in fear of this virus? Of course not! But until then, if I feel that it will help in some small way to keep myself, my loved ones, and others around me safe, then ok. I’ll wear one.

So by choosing to follow my “advice” on this post about mask making and mask wearing in general, you do so at your own risk, and I cannot be responsible for any harm/wrongdoing conflicted upon you or anyone else you tell to follow what I’ve said here, and so forth, etc. (please refer to my disclaimer page for the “Formal” notes about any and all subject matter I post from here on out. Thanks!)

You get it. Now onto the masks!

One of the styles I happen to like is the Fitted Face Mask by Craft Passion:

What I like about this mask:

  • It fits snug around the contours of your face
  • tutorial includes easy-to-follow pattern for different sizes
  • includes a filter pocket and nose wire insert pocket
  • can be interchanged with ties or elastic
  • Ties make it convenient for hands-free transportation of mask when not in use (when I wasn’t using the mask, I easily untied it and the neck loop helped keep the mask in place around my neck, as well as made it easily accessible if I needed to put it on again)

What I don’t like about this mask:

  • Snug fit can make it harder to breathe than other types of masks
  • Using ties can be cumbersome/inconvenient/time-consuming/difficult for younger children to tie themselves
  • I found that using elastic around the ears with this style can compromise the snug fit of the mask slightly. If elastic is preferred with this type, I would suggest using one long piece of elastic that will fit the mask in a similar way that the ties would, as opposed to placing the elastic around the ends, for going around the ears only.
  • this specific mask can take longer to prep/sew than other masks
  • the sizing of these masks seemed to run on the smaller side for me, personally. I would consider sewing one size larger than your usual for these masks.
  • This is totally a personal, (and somewhat vain, haha) reason, but for us gals who like to have our hair did when we go out, this tie mask really messes with our do’s! So unless you truly don’t mind bun/ponytail hair all day, every day, the ties on this mask can put a real damper on your beach waves (arrgh).

Unfortunately, I didn’t document myself making this particular mask, so I do not have a personal tutorial to show you. However, I cannot stress enough how this Craft Passion tutorial is one of the best that I’ve researched. The directions and Youtube video tutorial was very simple and straightforward for me to follow, and I was able to easily make this mask the first time around.

The second mask my family and I frequently use is the Pleated Face Mask.

I actually did photo document myself making this mask, so I will post a tutorial on how to make this one down below (Yay!)

What I like about this mask:

  • Easy for beginners to sew
  • easily adjustable for smaller/larger sizing
  • quick sew
  • comfortable
  • I seem to breathe a little easier as opposed to fitted mask version
  • elastic around the ears works well with this mask, but you can also substitute ties easily enough
  • nice for when you want your beachy-waves hair to slay (refer to “hair did” comment above)

What I don’t like about this mask:

  • Fit is not as snug and form fitting to the face as the fitted mask due to mask not having a nose wire pocket (My fault, actually. I just didn’t put one in this time)
  • elastic around ears gets uncomfortable after a while. (There are lots of great fixes for this btw, including my use of nylon headbands for ties instead of elastic. Refer to tutorial below)

This particular mask design I’m sharing is actually a mash-up of different instructions that I’ve gathered while researching other mask-making tutorials. I just kept finding things I didn’t like/understand about the others, so I kinda took some tips from here and there, and finally made a pleated mask that I’m happy with. But in all honesty, it’s really no different than a lot of the other ones you or I see all around the internet. After a while, they all seem the same to me, so whatever pattern you choose to go with, awesome!

Step one: Gather your materials

You will need:

  • 100% cotton fabric (deemed “best” for homemade mask making due to breathability and tight, closely woven thread weave)
  • all-purpose thread
  • pins or sewing clips
  • nylon headbands (made for babies), or elastic
  • fabric-safe marking pen or chalk
  • sharp fabric scissors
  • ruler
  • sewing machine
  • iron & ironing board
  • *Optional: cutting mat and rotary cutter

Step 2: Cut fabric and nylon/or elastic ties

To make one mask, you need 2 pieces of fabric of your choosing. To start, if you haven’t already, I would iron out my fabric before cutting. Feel free to use scissors or a rotary cutter to get your fabric ready. I used a rotary cutter, so I could get a nice, clean, straight cut of fabric. Here is a breakdown of the sizes I used to make masks. As I said, I took a lot of info from many different tutorials, and came up with what I think are pretty good sizes. I did reference my brother and his family here, because I was making masks for them, hence the reason why I don’t have every kind of size available for this post. But I do think the size M-L will work for most adults, teens, and even youth. *Remember to cut 2 pieces of fabric per mask!

  • L-XL: 9×8 in. (finished mask will measure approx: 8×4 in.)
  • M-L: 9×7 in. (finished mask will measure approx: 8×3.5 in)
  • S: 7×6 in. (finished mask will measure approx: 6×3 in.)

(*I use approximately 1/2 in. seam allowance for each mask)

Now cut your nylon headband into strips that will fit around your ears. The reasons for choosing nylon over elastic is mainly because it is waaay more comfortable to wear for long periods of time than elastic. It is important to note that nylon stretches a lot easier than elastic, therefore you can afford to cut a shorter length, making a little go a long way. However, nylon does tend to be less stable than elastic, so you may have to replace it more often. It’s a trade off, sure. But I’d rather be comfortable, IMO.

I actually learned this neat tip on using nylon headbands from watching Sarah Yoang’s YouTube video on making a pleated mask. She has a great tutorial over all, but I admit that I was left a little bewildered during the sewing process because she didn’t mention anything about seam allowances, which for me, not being quite an advanced sewer yet, I needed to know them to ensure proper sizing for the finished masks. But anyway, her tutorial was one that I kept going back to when researching. Here is what she did for the ear strips, and I though it was genius:

  • Take one headband and cut through to get one long strip of nylon.
  • Fold that long piece in half and cut again through the loop. Now you have two strips.
  • Take one of the 2 strips. See how the end of the strip folds itself into two rolls (see pic 1). Take that strip and roll it gently between your fingers so that each side of the rolls are more or less even. (see pic 2.)
  • Take your scissors and position the blades in between the two rolls of the strip and carefully cut through the middle of the rolls (see pic 3).
  • If done correctly, you should now have made 2 strips from that one strip. Repeat the process for the other strip. At the end you should have made 4 little strips from 1 headband (see pic 4).

**Each nylon strip measures about 4 in. in length unstretched. I found this to provide each size of this finished mask an adequate amount of “ear stretch” while still feeling quite comfortable (not too tight, not too loose). With elastic, the size of stretch it gives will differ with the size of the mask. I can’t say for sure which size of elastic to use for each mask, but I will say that from reading other tutorials, and from making different types of masks with elastic ear loops, 7 in. long seemed almost universal. It all depends on your sizing and comfort level so go with your instinct.

Step 3: Finish the seams of the top sides of both your fabric pieces (the longer sides, where the opening for placing a filter will be)

Okay, you don’t really have to do this step if you don’t want to. But I highly recommend you don’t skip this step. The reason why I do it is because the top of the mask will have an opening so you can place a filter in between the mask for extra protection, and with repeated use and washing, over time the seam of that opening will fray something fierce! This may cause tearing, and render your mask unusable. Finishing any raw seam on your sewing projects lends to a more professional look, as well as provide longevity and stabilization to your fabric piece because it stops the raw edge from fraying. So if you are a lucky owner of a serger, go ahead and serge away both top edges of the fabric pieces. If you are not so lucky to have a serger (Me! Waah!), have no fear. You can mimic this step using a zigzag stitch, or overlock stitch if it is available to you on your sewing machine.

My Brother sewing machine is extra helpful because it not only has an overlock stitch programmed into it, but it came with the handy dandy presser foot that goes with it to ensure i have a perfect finished edge. I don’t know how well you can see how it looks on my machine in the picture, but it has a place at the edge that I can easily line my fabric up to, and the machine virtually does the rest. You can see in the pics above how the finished edge looks like. those stitches will do a great job in keeping that open edge from fraying once the mask is done.

**Note: You are finishing the top seam of both pieces of fabric SEPARATELY. Do NOT stitch them together! You still need two separate finished pieces of fabric at this point)

Step 4: Attach the ear strips

Ok…These next steps may have you questioning your workmanship, or better yet, questioning MY workmanship…(I did warn you that I sometimes take unusual methods to sewing in my welcome post) but I assure you, it’s all going to come out ok, I promise. You’ll see.

So now you need to attach the two nylon strips to each edge of one of the pieces of fabric. Making sure the fabric is facing long side up and down/short sides left and right, & front side of the fabric facing UP (aka, the “pretty” side facing you), attach one side of a nylon strip to a top corner, about 1/4 in. from the top. pin it in place.

Sew the strip to the fabric using a straight stitch up and down the short length of the nylon. don’t forget to backstitch! I usually just go back and forth a couple times to ensure it really sticks. Go back and pin the other side of the strip to the bottom corner of the same side, again moving up about 1/4 in. from the bottom this time. Sew into place. (This is the part when you’re probably scratching your head in confusion because now one of the sides of the fabric is all wonky and curled (see pic 2). Well, now you need to do the exact same thing to the other side with the other strip. When that is done, it should resemble something like pic 3.

All I can tell you at this point is do not freak out! It will all come together, don’t you worry!

Step 5: Assemble and sew the main mask pieces together

Now that you have the strips sewn on, take the other piece of finished fabric and place it FACE DOWN (aka, the ugly side facing you) with the finished edge on top. Take your fabric marker or chalk and mark a 3 in. opening from the center. use your ruler or cutting mat for measuring. this will serve as the opening for placing a filter inside of the finished mask.

Take the marked piece of fabric and lay it front face DOWN on top of the piece with the strips sewn on. (make sure the finished edges of both pieces are on the top). You’re gonna pin it all up now.

Start pinning on one side and go all along the perimeter, making sure to match up sides and corners. (Again, pinning the sides, will leave you feeling all unsettled because of all the “bunching.” Just keep pulling on the sides and pin them so that all the edges and corners meet. As you sew around the perimeter, the edges will straighten themselves out.

*You may want to hold the elastic in place away from the edge as far as possible to prevent from sewing through it as you sew the edges of the mask together. I did this easily by pulling the nylon away from the edge from the inside of the mask and pinning it in place on the outside. This is how your mask should look at this point with all the pins in:

Notice I didn’t pin the 3 in. opening at the top. You won’t be sewing that part, remember?

Now you need to sew all around the perimeter of the mask to enclose it. I used a 1/2 in. seam allowance, but you can customize it to your liking, as long as you remember that doing so will change the dimensions of the mask a little bit. You will need to start at the edge of the top opening and pivot around the corners, stopping at the other end of the opening.

I’m bummed because I had a nice little video to help you beginner sewers understand what it means to “pivot” around corners, but for some reason I couldn’t upload it. So I made this rather…raw…illustration of what you will need to do to sew all around the perimeter and around the corners in one long straight stitch.

  1. Starting at the point labeled “start”, start sewing a straight stitch. (Remember your backstitch and 1/2 in. seam allowance!) Keep sewing until you reach approx. 1/2 in to the edge (this requires a little bit of guessing and estimating).
  2. Once you get to that 1/2 in. mark, making sure your needle is still down, lift your presser foot up and PIVOT (saying it out loud like Ross on Friends really helps the process! 🤣) the piece of fabric down towards your left until you get to the next side that you will sew. Your needle must be kept down in order to keep your fabric from shifting. Make sure you are meeting the 1/2 in. seam allowance line again. If not, pivot the fabric back again and keep making one stitch at a time, and pivot again to the next side until you get there.
  3. Resume sewing the next line in the same manner until you get to the next corner. Repeat the same pivot process until you get to the “stop” area. Finish the stitch with a backstitch.

I know this is probably hard to see, but here is how your mask should be looking after sewing around the perimeter. I snipped off the corner edges so that when you turn the mask right-side-out, you get nice, sharp corners with less bulk. If everything is nice and stitched closed, then you can go ahead and reach in through the opening and turn the mask right side out.

Step 6. Creating the Pleats

Your mask turned right-side-out should look something like this. You should have an opening at the top for the filter (check out those finished seams!), and your nylon ear strips should move freely and not be attached to anything but the corners of your mask.

Now it’s time to make the pleats! Again, learned this neat trick from Sarah Yoang’s mask tutorial. This is a great tip if you are unsure how far apart to pleat your mask, or if you just don’t know how or where to begin pleating at all:

  1. Go to your ironing board and give the mask a good run through with the iron, making sure to fully let out all the corners and flatten out the inner seams.
1

2. Now, with the mask laying down and the filter pocket on top, take the bottom and fold it upwards, in half. Iron on the fold.

2

3. Unfold the half, and take the bottom again and fold it upwards, this time meeting the fold with the crease line you made in the previous step. Iron on the new fold.

3

4. Now take the top of the mask and fold it down to meet that same crease from step 2. Iron the fold.

4

5. When you open up the mask again, you should have three sharp creases.

5

6. Turn the mask over, this time with the filter opening facing downwards.

6

7. You now have three “peaks” that you will pinch together to make 3 pleats.Starting with the bottom peak, pinch the edges about 1/4 in. with your fingers.

7

8. Make a downwards fold. Iron to hold the 1st pleat down.

9. Repeat the “pinch-and fold” with the second pleat. As you are folding, you should feel the top edge of the first pleat you made. Use this as a guide for how big to make the second pleat by meeting that second pleat to the edge of the first pleat. Iron to hold the second pleat down.

9

for Steps 10 & 11, it’s the same pinch and fold technique to make the third pleat.

10
11

12. Your finished pleats should look just like this.

12

Step 7: Top Stitch the edges

We’re in the home stretch! Now that you created your pleats, it’s time to top-stitch the ends. Go back to your machine and, if it helps you to keep the pleats folded and in place, go ahead and pin them down like I did.

For the final touch, top stitch the two edges at 1/2 in. to lock in the pleats.

Aaaaand, YOU’RE DONE! Yaaay! Congratulations on completing your homemade mask.

P.S. You know you are wearing your mask correctly if the filter pocket is facing UP and the pleats are facing DOWNWARD. Wear responsibly.

I hope you had fun sewing with me, and most of all, I hope you found success in making something homemade, all on your own! Woot! Now go on and stock up on some essentials. (But also, save me some. Don’t hoard. Thanks!)

High five,

Gilly

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