Making cloth face masks can be a helpful way to serve others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cloth face masks are now recommended by the U.S. CDC to help slow the public spread of the coronavirus. Wearing one is a good way to love your neighbor by NOT spreading the virus if you are an asymptomatic carrier.
If you want to learn how to make a simple, durable cloth face mask we’d love to help you to do so! We’ve made dozens already to distribute to our refugee community out here, and producing so many has helped us refine the process – and the patterns – we originally began with. This isn’t hard to do. We can typically make a mask in 10 minutes or less, and so can you!
Disclaimer: Cloth masks are NOT the equivalent of N95 masks worn by healthcare providers. They do not offer much protection to the wearer from COVID-19 and are primarily meant to protect OTHERS from you spreading the virus unknowingly. However, the CDC does acknowledge that in critical times a cloth face mask is better than nothing for a healthcare provider. A 2013 study on the efficacy of homemade cloth face masks also showed that it was better than nothing and did offer some degree of protection.
Step 1 – Gathering Materials
- Two 9in by 6.5in pieces of fabric (cotton or cotton/polyester)
- 13in of elastic (cut in half to 6.5in)
- 6 cloth pins (longer ones, around 2in)
- Sewing machine or needle/thread
We started with the 9×6 patterns already out on the internet and found that an extra half inch width made the masks fit a lot more universally. That’s why we use 6.5in for the width. While the CDC patterns recommend a 10in length, we also found that the 9in length fit snug on more people.
Because we are creating these to donate – and thus do not know the face size of each individual – we found this was the best middle ground. If you are ONLY making these for family, adjust your fabric sizes accordingly for face sizes.
Step 2 – Preparing The Materials
The Cloth: If you don’t already have your cloth pieces cut out, do so at this time. You need two identically sized rectangles of cloth to sew together for your mask. You can use the dimensions in the picture above or also download this PDF pattern to print out with the 9in x 6.5in dimensions to help you cut out the fabric sheets to the right size.
The Elastic: Take your 13in of elastic and cut it in half to 6.5in. These will be sewn into your mask. We do not loop them through the fabric but stitch them directly on to the mask.
Step 3 – Making The Mask
You can follow along in the video below or use our text-based instructions:
If you aren’t able to watch our video tutorial above here are the steps explained below in the order you should follow them:
- Put your two pieces of 9in x 6.5in cloth together.
- Begin sewing from the MIDDLE of the long side (9in side) of the cloth to the first edge. Start about 4.5in from the edge and stitch that half together BUT stop about .5 in from the edge.
- Why did you stop? Because now you want to take your 6.5in elastic and lay it in between your two pieces of cloth, running near the edge of the 6.5in piece of cloth. It should be sandwiched in there BUT far enough from your edge to give room for stitching together that edge, about 0.2in or so. See the below picture for an idea of placement between the cloth:
- Now sew the rest of that corner, including the TOP of the elastic band to secure it in place.
- When you finish that half of the first 9in edge, rotate your cloth (if using a machine) to start on the next edge.
- Sew that first 6.5 in edge together but be careful to NOT sew your elastic band too that should be running the same length, but inset enough so you can stitch the fabric together.
- When done with the 6.5in edge, rotate to stitch together the entire bottom 9in edge. At this time you will also be stitching in place the BOTTOM of your first elastic strap like you did on the top.
- Stitch the rest of the 9in bottom edge BUT note that on this edge you also need to stop about 0.5in before completing it, in order to add in your second elastic band like you did in step #3 for your first 9in edge section. Add in your elastic and stitch it on the bottom edge.
- Once done with the bottom 9in edge, rotate again to stitch the last 6.5in edge. Be careful to not stitch to far in and stitch in your elastic band running parallel to this edge.
- Once done with the 6.5in edge, rotate once more but ONLY stitch another 1.5 inches on your starting 9in edge. You want to stitch the top of your second elastic band, and then go another inch or so. You want to leave a few inches gap of unstitched cloth.
- Why did we leave a gap? Because now you want to invert your cloth face mask through this 3in hole!
- Turn the mask inside out now, pulling it out gently through the remaining hole, and pulling out your elastic bands too that were stitched in place on the inside of your cloth pieces.
- Now we need to finish it by doing a second outer stitch around the entire edge and also giving it the “folds” (pleats) on the mask edges so it will fit your face snugly. The folds are circled in the picture below:
- To get the folds, you need to make a small fold in the fabric like you see above, and then take one of your clothing pins and pin it in place lengthwise. Do that 3 times on each side of the mask, making sure that the fold you start on the left side is the same fold you pin on the right side! You should have 6 pins in place in total, 3 on each side for 3 folds.
- After you pin your folds, begin sewing your outer stitch. Begin from the 9in edge section of cloth that still has the unstitched opening. Go the entire length to your first 6.5in edge.
- Rotate your mask, and SLOWLY stitch the 6.5in side that has the folds pinned. If you need to lift the foot of your sewing machine, do so.
- After you finish stitching the first 6.5in edge with the folds, rotate the mask and stitch the bottom 9in edge.
- Once done with the 9in edge, rotate the mask again, and do your final 6.5in edge with the folds, being careful to go slowly.
- Once done with the 6.5in side, rotate the mask and finish the top 9in side back to where you began your initial stitch.
- Once you have completely stitched the outer edges, REMOVE the pins that were holding your folds/pleats in place.
- Once the pins are removed, go and put a SECOND set of stitches around your mask edge again, beginning with your top 9in edge and rotating the mask accordingly to stitch each edge. Try to keep the stitches in line with your first set of stitches (it looks better, but it isn’t necessary)
- This second set of stitches gives your mask more durability.
- Once you finish the second round of edge stitches, cut your thread. You’re done! Your mask should look something like the mask below:
Now That You’re Done, Pass It On!
Now that you’ve made your first successful COVID-19 cloth mask, go ahead and make another to give to someone who doesn’t know how to sew. Get your church and community involved. You can make dozens, if not hundreds of these, with a small amount of materials cost and time.
Those of you with sewing skills have a real ability to serve others during this pandemic! Perhaps when they reopen schools in Fall 2020 (Lord willing) they will begin including Home Economics classes again to teach kids how to sew once more.
If you have any feedback for us, or want to know how you can help us with materials to help make masks for refugees in the Middle East, you can contact us here.