Making masks, because we can! Updated 3/29/2020

I said not long ago that quilting is our super power, and it’s true. We can sew, we have fabric and thread, and we can make masks! Just to be clear, these masks do not provide 100% protection against viruses. But some protection is better than zero protection.

You don’t have to look too far to find medical institutions who will be very happy to have any masks you make. My masks are going to my friend Helen’s family practice. She, the other docs in her practice, and all their staff need masks that can be washed and reused. My first batch will be tested tomorrow.

Here is a link to the site where I found the mask pattern by Jennifer Murphy: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Cloth-Face-Mask/

There is good information on that page and you might want to read some of it. I made Mask 2 which does not have a filter pocket because what, exactly, are we going to put in there to be an extra filter? [It has been suggested that fusible interfacing might be a good filter. I have no idea of this is true or not.] This mask has two layers of woven cotton and should stop 50% of droplets in the air. 50% is better than 0%, right? Helen thinks so.

Here are links to the three mask sizes found on the site above. Again, you should probably go there to read what they have to say.

Regular Size

Large Size (not that much bigger than Regular)

Child Size (I haven’t made this so have no idea how big or little it is)

The instructions with the pattern are fine, but I would have added more details. Here is what I would add:

1. The pattern tells you to wash your fabric before you make masks. Please do that. Cotton fabric shrinks more than you think it will AND there are chemicals in the masks that need to be washed out before someone breathes through it.

If the front and lining are different, it will be easier for the user to tell which is the exposed side.

2. I made templates the way I always do for hand applique. I covered the paper with peel and stick laminating sheets to make them stiff and easier to cut around.

I made the Regular size masks. The large is not a whole lot larger. If you need a much bigger mask you could enlarge the pattern by 5%, etc.

3. Measure your pattern and find the size square or rectangle that it fits on. The Regular pattern fits on a 6 1/2˝ x 6 1/2˝˝ square.

Cut 2 strips 6 1/2˝ wide. Each strip makes 3 fronts or 3 linings. Two strips = 6 masks.

Place your strips right sides together and cut 6 1/2˝ x 6 1/2˝ squares. You will need one pair for the front and one for the lining.

Stack pairs of squares as deep as you can comfortably cut. I cut 4 layers of fabric at once.

4. Place the template over the stacked rectangles. I cut around the template carefully with your rotary cutter. Try not to cut your pattern.

5. Sew cut pairs together along the long curve, for both the front and lining pieces.

6. Press the seam allowances to one side, not open.

7. Place a lining and front right sides together. Sew them together along the top and bottom edges.

8. Clip the deeper inner curves on the top, on either side of the nose peak.

9. Turn the masks right side out and press the seams. I used the pointy tool to reach inside and push the seam into place.

Here’s quick video showing the pressing and how to turn the ties (bottom of this post) right side out:

10. Top stitch 1/8˝ from the pressed seams, top and bottom.

11. You must put a 3-4˝ wire in the nose peak so that the mask fits snugly. I am using 20 gauge electrical wire. It is copper covered with plastic that is easy to shape, washable, and the cut ends are not sharp.

12. To make a casing for the wire, sew from the outside in about 1 3/4˝ from the nose peak and then turn to sew a 1/2˝ casing parallel to the curved outer edge. When I got to the far end I inserted the wire, then turned the mask to sew the casing shut. Be sure to begin and end with knots or back stitching so the seams stay sewn.

13. Press the raw ends on each side of the mask to the inside 1/4˝, and then in another 1/2˝ to make a casing for the ties. Sew the casings.

14. 1/8˝ elastic cord works but if you don’t have it, make your own ties from 1/2˝ x 17˝ strips. You need two for each mask. FYI: if you have a serger, serge strips together to make ties that you don’t have to turn.

Sew the strip right sides together lengthwise. Sew one end closed, place the fold next to your seam guide… I made 3/8˝ tubes.

Once sewn, trim away excess fabric from the seam allowance.

15. If you have one, use a Bow Whip or Turn It All tool to turn the tube right sides out.

16. Cut a piece of heavy wire 15˝ long. Bend it in half and, if you want to be fancy, tape the cut ends together to make a threader.

17. Stick the looped end of the threader through the mask casing. Insert a little bit of one strap through the loop.

Pull the strap through. Repeat for all mask casings.

18. The straps can be tied together behind the head, or…

…loosely tied together to make ear loops. Do not tie the ties too tight and untie them before washing or you will have a forever knot.

The mask might fit better if it is gathered a little bit over the tie.

I am going to set myself a daily goal and churn these out, 10 or 15 at a time, until there are enough. I would make more but there are steps that make my hands hurt. It may be the same for you… the important this is to do what you can if for no other reason that if we all do what we can

PS: This is serious stuff but I when I see the masks together, I think: nose bras. Am I crazy or do you see it too?

Stay healthy and happy sewing.

34 thoughts on “Making masks, because we can! Updated 3/29/2020

  1. Hey Becky, I am making masks too but am adding a layer of fusible interfacing to the inside. It is not too bulky. The interfacing is just sewn in so there is nothing to take in or out as it gets used. Hope all is well with you! Pam

    Sent from my iPad

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    • Hi Pam: How does it breathe through with the interfacing? Have you compared it to without interfacing? Personally, breathing through masks makes me a bit twitchy and two layers of cotton seemed thick to me. But desperate times call for doing uncomfortable things…

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    • A doctor I know suggested using vacuum bags or vacuum filters inside the mask. Especially if they have the HEPA filter. Do remember the mask should be tight on your face. You should see marks on your face after you take it off and don’t touch it after putting it on. And, it’s contaminated after using it once! So wash it or spray it with lysol.

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  2. Very good looking pattern and tutorial. Also, this model looks easier to breath in than others I’ve been looking at. Leave it to Becky! Looking at your photo, the masks look like the right or left sides of bustiers. Yes to nose bra!

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  3. A different pattern for masks . I get Becky emails after she give a talk here in Boise last year. i I think I like the way it has a nose peak and could use ties .

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  4. Becky – U are most amazing to make all those face masks. I am sure they will be much appreciated. I want to make some. Heaven only knows that I have enough fabric to make thousands! My daughter just sent me a picture of her flying right now from Myanmar home to Utah. It has been a perilous journey and I hope that they get here alright. I will know tomorrow night (monday – Mar. 23). This is such a crazy time. Hard to believe what is happening. Good luck making those nose bras!!!

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  5. I commend you for making all these masks. I’m sure the doctors and nurses will appreciate having them. I have heard that these are not the preferred style as they don’t fit tightly around the nose and mouth. I do think ties are better than elastic as elastic could go bad after multiple hot washing and autoclaving.

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    • Yes, I think the ties might be better than elastic in the long run.

      I have not run across the perfect mask pattern yet and until there is real data, if there ever is real data on home made masks, we’ll just have to go with what feels right. The nose wire in this mask does make it fit close to the face. And it certainly felt like I was well covered when I had it on myself. Helen may eventually come back with ideas to make it better and if she does, I’ll let you all know.

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  6. Thanks for another great post. All the styles, videos, etc were a bit overwhelming when coupled with the ever-changing news updates. So appreciate you sifting through and providing clarity . . . as you allways do. May peace and happy stitches be with you!

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  7. Becky! Right on! Finally, we have a quilter going public with helpful info. Thank you! I just have to get wire and get on it. Thanks again, Donna Viitanen Sierra Vista, AZ

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  8. Becky, is there any way you can attach a copy of the pattern to print? Some of us don’t do Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I don’t want to open an account just for a pattern. I hope you understand. Donna Viitanen

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  9. Hi Becky, Am going to make several friends a mask to test the pattern I found on Craft Passion. They have different sizes for kids, woman/teenagers and men.

    Am going to try out cone-shaped coffee filters for the filter insert material and see how it works.

    Donna Viitanen Sierra Vista, AZ

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  10. Bravo on your mask-making efforts!
    They certainly look more bright and cheerful than the mass-produced type!
    God bless you!

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  11. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I don’t have any wire (my whole state is on lockdown) so I’m going to use twist ties. I have some that are heavier gauge wire than the kind used in bread bags.

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  12. I would add one other step…once the tie is threaded through the casing, I’d stitch across the casing in the center to anchor the tie. This will keep the tie from coming out and disappearing in hospital laundry.

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  13. Thank you Becky for your instructions in visual form. I made two masks from a similar pattern but they didn’t use the casing method for the wire around the nose. I will try that method today! Stay healthy and love receiving the emails from you! Blessings

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  14. Hi Becky , I too and two other family members are making masks for University of Chicago hospital, with suggestions from two family members that are nurses there. Our pattern is shaped just like yours. We are taking apart pleated furnace filters. Use the ones where the wire mesh is on top and easy to remove. They want elastic not ties, because ties take too long to put on when in and out of rooms. Also we use two 10 1/2 “ elastic sewn from one edge over to the other, instead of ear loops, because the ear loops get irritating worn all day. And using pipcleaners for wire. When we run out of elastic, we have been using narrow head bands.

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    • No. Once you turn the mask and top stitch the top and bottom, you go back as sew a casing across the nose. I sew the far end, over the nose to the other side of the casing, stop and insert the wire, and then I sew it closed with the wire inside. Then you finish the sides of the mask.

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      • Oh, thanks! I was making a different type of mask and forgot that this one still has the ends open once you turn it. I ran out of non-woven interfacing for the other ones. The nurse/quilt shop owner in WA researched the non woven interfacing as a filter and felt that 2 layers inside was almost as effective as an N-95. The interfacing appears to be as difficult to find as elastic. Glad to have found the info on your site.

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  15. Pingback: On masks and ties… | Piece O Cake Blog

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