How to Sew a Protective Face Mask with Fabric

Our current global pandemic has created a shortage of medical masks. This free pattern with video explains how to sew a protective face mask with fabric. suzyquilts.com #facemaskpattern #sewfacemask

With every day of quarantine that drags on, I get more and more emails and messages from fellow sewers and crafters asking me for a protective face mask sewing pattern. Nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals have requested these handmade fabric masks because of a shortage of medical grade PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

Why don’t these professionals have enough professional gear, you ask? Overseas factories shutting down, civilians buying out supplies, global needs surging – there are multiple reasons, but it can all be boiled down to one – coronavirus.

You’re probably thinking that a handmade cloth mask won’t offer the same protection as genuine hospital equipment. And you’re right! For those on the frontlines working with the virus, these masks will be placed over certified PPE so that the small quantities of PPE left in hospitals can be stretched for multiple uses. In other situations, though, professionals will only have these cloth face masks to help protect them from catching and passing on the virus.

Just yesterday (April 3) the U.S. federal government recommended that we should all wear protective face masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus.

Does this situation sound ideal? No. We can all agree that nothing about 2020 has felt normal or ideal. But will we band together and make the best of the situation? You bet. We are makers, creators, and helpers at our core. So let’s do this!

Our current global pandemic has created a shortage of medical masks. This free pattern with video explains how to sew a protective face mask with fabric. suzyquilts.com #facemaskpattern #sewfacemask
Our current global pandemic has created a shortage of medical masks. This free pattern with video explains how to sew a protective face mask with fabric. suzyquilts.com #facemaskpattern #sewfacemask

How to Sew a Protective Face Mask

One talented and quick-thinking maker, Holly DeGroot, owner of Michigan-based fabric store, Bijou Lovely, has created a huge ripple effect through a project she started just a couple weeks ago called 1 Million Masks. On the site you will find a free protective face mask sewing pattern.

Below is Holly, mask-free, and her beautiful store.

Our current global pandemic has created a shortage of medical masks. This free pattern with video explains how to sew a protective face mask with fabric. suzyquilts.com #facemaskpattern #sewfacemask
Our current global pandemic has created a shortage of medical masks. This free pattern with video explains how to sew a protective face mask with fabric. suzyquilts.com #facemaskpattern #sewfacemask

Are you sitting at home with the kids and a video would be more entertaining for the group? Holly read your mind. She filmed a video tutorial just for you! Thanks, Holly! 

Fabric Face Mask Supplies

Ready to make a face mask? Great! I have one tip to pass along. Use a high quality woven quilting cotton. New research finds that some fabrics are better than others at filtering out viral particles.

A recent study by Dr. Scott Segal in partnership with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine found that the best face masks were constructed with two layers of quilting cotton (I'm not making this up! The research says "quilting" cotton.)

High quality woven quilting cotton is perfect, but don't use knit fabric because the holes between the loops that make up knits are larger than the spaces between threads in a woven fabric. So, were you thinking about tearing up an old T-shirt and whipping up face masks for the family? Don't. Stick with your quilting stash instead.

Materials to sew two protective face masks...

  • 1 Fat Quarter (18" x 21") of Quilting Cotton
  • 1/4" Flat Elastic (28" length) OR 2 1/2 yd. Cotton Twine/Twill Tape/Ribbon/etc...
  • Polyester Thread

Get OR Give a Fabric Face Mask Kit

If you're new to quilting and have yet to build up a fabric stash, Holly is currently selling face mask kits! You can buy one to have shipped to your house or choose the "Pay It Forward" option to buy a kit for someone else to make the masks.

Our current global pandemic has created a shortage of medical masks. This free pattern with video explains how to sew a protective face mask with fabric. suzyquilts.com #facemaskpattern #sewfacemask

Where to Donate Protective Fabric Face Masks

Your local hospitals are the best place for your sewn face masks. To find a contact person or drop-off location, do a quick internet search with your city and the phrase "donate face masks."

I just Googled "donate face masks Chicago" and got a lot of great options. If you know the name of your local hospital, go to their website. Chances are there will be a call to action on the homepage which will lead you to the drop-off location and/or a mailing address.

Are You Sewing Masks?

Tell us your mask-making stories! We want to hear about what you're making and how you're helping your community. Share in the comments!

83 thoughts on “How to Sew a Protective Face Mask with Fabric

  1. Rebecca Rivera says:

    My daughter is a Paramedic who is on the front line. I made 10 masks for her and her work partners. They were snatched up in less than 3 minutes. I was talking to my NP and she said that they were desperate for the masks. I made her 10, then my best friend just asked me to make her a mask. I have been a very busy sewing bee.

  2. Miriam Ayala says:

    I’ve felt to make mask for my family and friends and I am in the process of finishing quite a few of them. My boys and there families are all across the east coast so in the mail they will go!

  3. Linda says:

    I made a box full of masks and gave them to Buffalo Medical Group In Orchard Park, NY. It was only 20, I ran out of elastic and ribbon. Trying to find more, but stores are out. I been shopping on line, but no luck.

    • Kathleen says:

      Me too Linda, I am making as many masks as I can but have run out of elastic. Cannot buy any from shops as they are all closed ( classified as non essential) looking on Amazon website, most are posting from China (you must be kidding me) so that’s a no no. Are people wanting masks with bias binding ties?

    • Martha says:

      Use two shoelaces. For people who wear the masks for long periods of time the elastic can be bothersome behind the ears if it’s too tight or too loose. Two 45” shoelaces cut in half makes one mask. I’m also using lightweight fusible interfacing g on one piece of fabric. It’s no woven to make the mask less porous.

    • Casey Sue says:

      Fabric ties will double the time it takes to make the masks but it is truly worth it because cotton fabric ties will autoclave/sterilize nicely (high heat may damage latex elastics). Additionally, latex elastics can create allergic sensitivity. The fabric ties are what we have always had …. The best reason, of course, is that fabric ties will match the mask and they will NEVER run out of quilting fabric. Just make two WOF ties and do a double fold, similar to bias binding. Yea!!

  4. Patty says:

    Thanks for a great resource, Suzy. I have resisted making masks up to now, but with the new CDC recommendations I’ll be joining in.

  5. Paige Riggins says:

    I’m a nurse and lactation consultant at our area hospital.
    I’ve made 12 masks so far.
    We only had 1 surgical mask per nurse.
    So I started sewing!
    I’ve had so many complements from the way the masks fit to the beautiful (“quilting”) fabric – Our sweet nurses on the floor have a running list – making them as fast as I can.
    Thankfully we’ve had some retired nurses making masks as well !! So very thankful for them.
    We’re hoping to provide our nurses with 2-3 masks each.
    So thankful for everyone who is donating their time and energy and fabric to help cover our healthcare providers!!
    God bless you all.
    Grace and peace!

  6. Joanne McMahon says:

    I’m making masks Day & Night! There the ones with the fabric ties and it takes ne almost 2 hours per mask with the cutting, sewing, pressing needed but everyone wants them-I’m filling an order of 125 right now! 😷😉😃

  7. Nancy Young says:

    Suzy: Thanks so much for this pattern. I think lots of quilters are sewing masks. All that fabric and a machine…..how could you not! As usual, you always provide easy and clear instructions. You are my go-to girl for all things quilty! Thanks!!!

  8. Carol Gonzales says:

    I am a partially retired hospice nurse who answers emergency phone calls at night.
    Some of the nurses are beong issued one mask a shift.
    I sent a dozen from Florida to California yesterday so the night on call nurse for one could change masks between patients.
    I have an order for 40 more today. After almost 50 yrs of nursing I never thought there would be such a shortage that I would be sewing them.

  9. Carol says:

    I cannot get the pdf to print completely. Any suggestions? I’ve tried to copy and paste, but that doesn’t work either. I notice that both pages are marked “page 1”.

      • Mary Barson says:

        Hi!
        I need 6 but I can’t find quilters cotton. I live in a rural area and everything is closed or out of stock. I don’t sew or have a machine. Torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders. Waiting for this nightmare to be over to go to surgeon. But, I thought I would give it a shot since my husband and I are extremely high risk. Do you sell quilters cotton? Would a small sewing machine be sufficient to make these? I am very worried about us getting this virus. We have 4 little special needs dogs, and if anything happens to us, nobody in my family will take them and they need expensive medications twice a day. So, I need to do everything I can to stay healthy for our babies. Any advice would help. Thankyou for all everyone is doing in this time of crisis.

        • Allison S says:

          Hi Mary,
          I already made some masks and would love to send some to you and your husband so you don’t have to worry about sourcing supplies. Just let me know if you’re interested and I can ship them out this week!

        • Elke Scharmer says:

          You don´t need quilters cotton. I sew with old cotton bedsheets or bedding. Maybe you have an old shirt or handkerchief? Everything is better than nothing.
          Stay safe and healthy!
          Greetings from Germany
          Elke

  10. Debbie says:

    Yesterday I cut 250 6” x 9” pieces of fabric For a local group that is making kits and distributing them to medical , emergency responders first , then nursing homes and such. Today I will make some for my family and friends.

  11. Beth says:

    This is a simple pattern, but I have seen requests that the masks be made of two different fabrics so they know which one is to be against the face if they take it off and have to put it back on. If you are going to use a single fabric, consider using a different color thread in the bobbin or some other way to let them know which side is which.

  12. Dawn says:

    Looks great and fairly easy but I don’t know how she closed up the 2 inch gap after turning it inside out, she skipped that part and went on to the pleats.

    • Donna DeLoach says:

      As she sewed a seam all around the mask, the opening was encased in the seam – therefore closing that gap. Hope that help clarify your question.

  13. Joy says:

    As a nurse I’ve been making masks. Sources recommend DIY masks not be made of solids, ciel blues, or colors that resemble medical masks. As quilters we all have great stashes of fun and beautiful fabrics so it shouldn’t be an issue. Just wanted to pass it along!

  14. Barbara says:

    I was thinking that it was about time for me to clean out all the bits and pieces of fabric and notions I have been saving for decades. Now I’m glad I didn’t do it!

  15. Kathie says:

    Hi there – what have you heard about prewashing fabric and/or effectively washing finished masks after they’re been worn?

    • Barb N says:

      Our local community wants us to prewash the fabric, construct masks only with sanitized hands and work area, and then wash the finished masks in HOT water, dry them with hot temps, place in zip lock bags, and then they are ready for delivery where upon they will be washed again before donations to senior centers and medical are facilities, etc. If you are making for donation to family or friends, I imagine it’s up to you. But it doesn’t hurt to prewash and wash, since none of knows if we are infected at the time of making the masks.

  16. Patricia Brewer says:

    What a challenge we sewers have but thankful l’m able to help out a little. I’ve made 60+ masks mostly for two of our local hospitals and a couple friends. Elastic is hard to find but there again, the Lord is good as so many friends have donated their elastic stash.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    My 13 year old daughter and I sewed 35 masks for the employees at our local Kroger. My 20 year old son works there. I wrote a thank you note, taped it to the box, and sent it with him to work. He had permission from managers to leave in the break room for anyone who wanted one. He said everyone was very grateful and they were snatched up in minutes. Warms my heart to do something to help, no matter how small.

  18. Beverly Leddon says:

    I started by making masks for my husband and I. Then I thought about my eldest sister that lives on the other side of the state and sent her masks, wipes, rubber gloves and a few other trinkets. Then I thought of some neighbors and it grew from there. I sent out an email to our Sunday school members and a few others to see if anyone needed a mask. The requests started coming in. There were offers to buy them and I said no way, that would defeat the purpose of trying to do my part. I suppose some people may be making money, but in a time such as this we should be helping our fellow men & women, especially those on the front lines dealing with this virus at their own risk. I will keep making them until I run out of elastic.

  19. Mary says:

    I’ve been busy working full time from home and now I have my kids back from college, so lots more cooking, laundry, etc. But I have made masks for my niece and the rest of her nursing crew. Today I started making them for family given the new guidelines. I have been using cloth to make straps to tie on rather than elastic. I’ve heard that is more comfortable for those who must wear these all day. Blessings to all of you who are cranking these out by the dozen!

  20. cara says:

    Seems it won’t. A great image of Rosie the mask-maker on Kerri Russell’s FB page. We’re on it up here. Namastay-at-home & sew, friends!

  21. Shannon says:

    Would this size work for small children, or should I just size it down by an inch all around maybe? Not that I have my children going out, like, ever, but part of me is now *actually* maybe considering it, just in case they need them for some reason 😩

  22. Peggy says:

    You can try shock cord from https://www.rwrope.com. They are in New Bedford, MA and they ship!! You will need to experiment with this 1/8″ stretch cord. I have made over a hundred masks for kidney dialysis patients and silll making more. Everyone stay safe,

  23. Pam Hull says:

    I own a small quilt shop in Monument, Colorado. I started making kits and selling for cost. My landlord found out and made a donation to cover the cost to make kits for 1000 masks. We’ve handed them out to sewists in our community and we are now 1000 masks richer!! How generous is that? People are amazing.

  24. Paula says:

    I’ve made just shy of 500 masks and have plans to make more. The majority of them are going to the director of nursing at a local nursing home as they have no masks to keep their medical staff safe. Another large bunch went to my daughter’s friend who is a cardiac nurse at a local hospital. And now that it is recommended for all to wear them, I’ve had request from friends and family.
    Please don’t mistake this for bragging. When I answered the plea from that director of nursing, I had no idea that it would evolve into what it has. When I started out, I thought I’d be making a few masks to help out. But their need for more is just so great, that I just can’t stop. I’m sure many out there know exactly what I mean.

  25. Catherine Lohwater says:

    I saw somewhere that if you are out of elastic, you can use 1″ strips of a tee shirt. You cut the strips then pull and they roll into a round strip. They stretch and are comfortable. You can use them for around the ears or for long ties. They don’t fray.

  26. Tanya says:

    Just cut out my fabric. Forgot should I have washed the material before hand so when I sew it it won’t shrink in the wash ?? Thank you again

  27. Elisabeth DeMoo says:

    I have been holding a Sew-A-Thon on mask making. About two weeks ago I was asked to make masks for the patients at a hospital in NM. They sent me a tutorial and asked me to spread the word. I put together some prizes for those that are making masks for others. Every other day, on instagram, I am picking a winner and showing off the new prize. It’s called #goodkarmasewathon . I have a few days left. Masks for Heroes (www.masksforheroes.com) is a great site that gives you locations that want sewn masks. You can mail them.

  28. Anna says:

    Thanks for this information. I don’t have quilting fabric (and I’m not a quilter), but I do have an old quilt. Could I actually use that? Including the batting (is that the word?) inside? Thanks!

  29. Kim says:

    Can you please post how to hand sew these and show an image/measurements for the pattern. I barely know how to sew on a button but want to make several. Like our health care professionals and a lot of young people, my kids barely make above minimum wage and are working overtime in food service and utilities to help others. They are have no time, but if I can order some quilting material and fumble through to make a few masks to send them it would help tremendously. Thank you all, there are so many talented people here!

  30. Mikayla says:

    I am gonna make masks this weekend, I am just wondering how comfortable these masks are with that last stitch in the middle of the top and bottom of the mask. It makes a pleat for the nose and chin. Is it comfortable with that “ear” on the inside of the mask?

    • Beth says:

      I’ve made several styles including this one. This one was the one preferred by my son’s. girlfriend. They are lightweight and I doubt the dart would bother anyone, but there is no reason the dart couldn’t be turned to the outside if anyone found it irritating.

      Also, thank you to Suzy and Bijou Lovely — I bought some of the kits and everything was packaged and shipped efficiently, but nicely. I appreciate both. I also appreciate the pricing options. It’s a little thing that is so appropriate now. Also, I know it was luck of the draw, but I loved the fabrics too.
      I would have picked them myself. In fact, I looked at two of them and thought about ordering them separately. I’ve already referred another mask maker and may be back for more.

  31. Rachel Ochoa says:

    FYI. This shop just posted the following note on their face mask kits you mentioned being able to purchase to ship to your house.
    ***Please note that this is not a product that will be shipped to you. This is a donation toward our mission to make as many masks as we can for local healthcare professionals. No refunds will be given. We appreciate your support!

  32. Amanda says:

    I have trouble sewing over the pleats without everything getting jammed up/needle getting stuck. I am using a heavy duty needle. Does anyone have tips?

    • Joan says:

      I had a similar problem. My suggestion is to stitch a little bit away from the side where the pleats are. Then you can stitch where there are pleats, but don’t stitch where you’d be stitching over the seam allowance. The mask will still fit. Now I have no problems. I use a quilting needle (75/11) because that is what I have.

  33. Gay Broussard says:

    There are several videos to make no-sew masks. You should check those out. You can use bandanas or sheets for the masks and t-shirt strips or shoelaces for the ties.

  34. Joan says:

    I’m making masks, too. The first 25 or so were for my quilt guild, where one member has a relationship with a Community College handling the distribution. I’m now making them with 14 others, and jointly over 650 have been donated to various groups. I’ve made 57 to date. Many with ties, about 40 with elastic. I have found that my husband and I have vastly different face/ head shapes and elastic that works for me is too tight for him. So I’ve used the method with a casing along the short side and elastic tied into an ear loop. Then the elastic can be shortened or loosened by retying.

  35. Michelle Valentine says:

    I just found a site that said you can cup open a bungee cord and there are quite a few bands of elastic in there! I have several bungee cords in my car.

  36. Pam says:

    Anyone know where I can purchase handmade masks for myself and my husband? Unfortunately I don’t sew And would like reputable source to purchase a couple.

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