How to make a durable, reusable, adjustable face mask with filter pocket

While cloth masks are not always ideal in medical situations that require disposable water proof membranes, times are desperate. This mask can be washed and sterilized, it has a pocket into which a water proof membrane or filter can be inserted, has an adjustable nose and straps. It can be used by your local hospital staff, or the responsible well, who wish to protect others. The CDC is now recommending all people to wear masks when in confined spaces, such as work, or shopping, so please do make some for your family and coworkers, but also consider donating them to hospitals.

This is a long post, but it needs to be.

For this you will need:

  • Cotton fabric (standard quilting fabric is ideal. We want a tight weave and durability. You need enough to have three 9”x7” rectangles. If you cannot or do not wish to leave the house, you can probably find these fabrics in your home. Cotton bed sheets, pillow cases, sacks, curtains, even tea towels can be used. Just make certain they mostly natural fiber, have no stretch, and a tight weave. Gauzy or textured fabrics will not working)
  • Edging tape (and ideal material would be .5” double gold bias tape, but if you cannot find this, a 1” or 7/8” cloth ribbon will work, as will two strips of fabric that are 40” long, by 2” wide (I will give instructions of how to use all three)
  • A piece of floral wire (this is a thin wire that comes in a spool. If you cannot find this, a pipe cleaner or twist tie will work. Strip the wire down, and use this instead.) cut to 6” length
  • Thread (all purpose)
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine (while you are only using a standard straight stitch, and this can be done by hand, it is not suitable for a medical situation. If making one for donation to a hospital, it must be done with machine)
  • Ruler or grid marked cutting board
  • Scissors or roller cutter

The following steps will come with images to help:

  • Iron your fabric first, before cutting. If you are making your own edging out of fabric, please also do this first (the instructions will be at the bottom, beside the *)
  • Cut three 9” x 7” rectangles. This is about 23×18 cm. If the fabric image pattern matters to you, then do feel free to align it however you wish to make it look nice. If using a more decorative fabric, with glitter or metallic threads or any of that delightful nonsense, you may choose to make the lining of a more durable and plain material. In this case you need one rectangle of decorative fabric, and 2 that are meant for the lining, as seen below)
  • Cut the bias tape into two 40″ pieces. Open the folds completely. Turn the edge inward about 1/2″ and iron flat. Fold the bias tape back up and press. This turns the end inward and finishes the edge when stitched.
  • Lay the two liner panels one on top of the other, with the good sides facing toward each other, and pin at the corners
  • With the 9” side toward the top, measure down the sides to find the center and mark. Mark 3” or about 7.5 cm toward the middle on both sides. Pin this in place and stitch along it. This creates a gap in the center which will become the opening for your filter. (Pro tip: I’ve noticed that it’s easier to measure and sew if I simply fold the two pieces long ways and press a crease. If I do this in advance, I can stack them up and have only to mark the three inches, without worrying about keeping them aligned)
  • Fold the fabric so that all good sides are now facing out, and press.
  • Take the third panel of fabric and lay this on top of the other piece, good side down. Pin at the corners.
  • Stitch down the two short sides
  • Flip inside out and iron the seams so that the entire piece is flat and smooth.
  • Next, fold the entire mask in half, long ways, and iron, then fold the edges toward the middle and iron. This creates creases that will help you pleat the mask later on.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.38.59 PM
  • Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.39.12 PM
  • Lay the mask down, with the outside facing you, and the upper side, up.
  • Find the center of your bias tape strip and line it up with the center of the mask. Unfolding the bias tape completely, pin its edge to the upper edge of the mask.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.39.21 PM
  • Stitch this edge to the mask. (If using bias tape, purchased or made, stitch just above the first crease. If using ribbon, keep a 3/8” or 1cm seam allowance to the top edge.)
  • Repeat this step for the bottom edge.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.39.36 PMScreen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.39.45 PM
  • Finish the bottom edge by folding the bias tape or ribbon over the fabric to the back side, and repeating the same stitch along the whole length of the bias tape to finish the straps and keep the edges turned in.
  • Now we set the adjustable nose. First, fold the bias tape into place as if to finish it, pin it closed at the edges of the mask. Stitch across the tape about 1 1/2″ in from the edge to make the pocket for the floral wireScreen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.40.19 PM
  • Take your 6” piece of floral wire and twist and flatten the ends so that they are not sharp.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.40.08 PM
  • Insert the wire and align its center to the center of the mask. Push it all the way to the edge and pin it there to keep it in the fold. Stitch along the length of the wire, so as to make sure it stays firmly in place along the fold. You don’t have to stitch far or even use the machine, but I find that this keeps the wire from balling up inside it’s pocket, when the mask is washed.
  • Stitch along the bias tape to completely finish the upper edge.
  • To pleat the mask, pinch the top crease that you made, to make a fold that is about 1/2” high, then flip downward, flatten and pin in place. Repeat this for all three ironed creases. Pin slightly in from the sides so that you don’t have to remove the pins as you go.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.40.46 PMScreen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.40.53 PM
  • Stitch along the short sides, with the same 3/8” or 1cm seam allowance (distance to the edge) to permanently affix the folds. Remove the pins and iron flat. The mask is now finished and serviceable. If you choose to finish it out neatly, for appearances or durability, proceed to the last stepScreen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.41.01 PM
  • Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.42.03 PMScreen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.42.11 PM

* To make your own edging from fabric:

  1. Cut 2 fabric strips from the same or a coordinating fabric. They must be 2” wide, and 40-50” long.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.42.18 PM
  2. Fold in half, long ways, and press.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.42.24 PM
  3. Fold the edges toward the center crease, and press.
  4. Press the entire tape so that it stays firmly closed and folded.
  5. If using a ribbon, you need only fold in half, long ways, and press, as the edges are finished and do not need to be folded in. I recommend soft ribbons with no texture, and these will rub against the facial skin and abrade them.Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.42.31 PM

If making your mask water proof, you have merely to cut a piece of water proof material such as plastic sheeting, puppy pads, bed liners, cage liners, diapering material, or so forth, that is 8”x 6” and insert flat inside the pocket of the mask. If these are to be used in a medical setting, the filter should be changed routinely. The masks should also be sterilized with washing as often as possible.

If making a child size mask, the fabric should be cut to 7”x5” or 18cm x 13 cm rectangles, but all other steps are identical. The pleats of the mask can also be slightly narrower. Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 11.42.37 PM

If you wish to have elastic rather than bias tape straps, simply cut the dangling ends off the bias tapes (or measure them appropriately) insert the elastic into the tape and stitch closed. Connect the top tape on one side to the bottom tape on that same side. This will make elastic ear hooks. I’d tie a knot at the ends of the elastic thread, before inserting, to keep it from sliding out through the stitching.

Please feel free to reblog. Make as many of these as you can. The more people have them who must work or go out, the safer everyone will be. Please remember this isn’t about protecting yourself from others. We now know that a person can spread the disease without themselves exhibiting symptoms. Wearing a mask will prevent you from giving this to someone you love, or to our precious essential workers.