Hi all, hope you are at home and staying safe! Right, I’ve not used this blog in a million years, but was asked to share my face mask instruction with a friend, and decided to write it up so that others can use it. There are endless instructions online, so I’m sure I’m just duplicating – however, I’m really happy with my design, as it has comfy and adjustable straps, is really well covering over the lower half of the face, and has a pocket for additional filters to be inserted. And it may not surprise you to know I have an enormous stash of fabrics that have been begging to be used, so perhaps this will finally start to clear them.
It may also be the kick I needed to update my blog and get writing again…although I’m not promising anything!
Let me know if anything isn’t clear, or if there are any cool modifications you make. And please share a pic of your finished mask :-)
YOU WILL NEED: 10″x16″ rectangle of fabric, plus 2 pieces of approx 5″x 1.5″ to make the seam binding (this will depend on your pleat distribution and seam allowance, so a top tip is to not cut this bit of fabric until the main body of your mask is constructed).
10″x16″ rectangle of iron-on interfacing
An approx. 40″ strip of cotton jersey (or a strip cut off an old tshirt will do).
Optional: Metal nose strips or even a paperclip would do for the top edge – but don’t worry if you don’t have this.
So, here goes!
- Cut one rectangle of woven, breathable material 10 inches by 16 inches- ideally quilting cotton. Different fabrics will be more effective than others, but a good rule of thumb is to hold the fabric up to the light – the more light that comes through, the poorer the filtration.
Cut a matching rectangle of iron-on interfacing and attach it to the wrong side of your cotton layer.
At this point you should have something that looks like this (the front on the left, the interfaced back on the right):
2. This will be folded in half shortly, to make the main body of the mask. Before you do that, you need to hem the top and bottom (not the sides) of your rectangle. This is the two 10″ sides. To hem it, just fold and approx 1cm, and then fold it over and press again. It should be able to just hold like that, but you might want to put one or two pins in before stitching.
Secure these hems on the sewing machine, using a basic running stitch.
TOP TIP – if you have any paperclips or malleable metal nose strips to insert into your mask, you can secure it into this top hem with a few stitches.
3. The next step is to fold your rectangle, but we need to make sure that both hemmed ends are on the face side of the mask, rather than on the edge of the mask where they will tickle your nose! To do this, I folded down the nicely hemmed top edge by 1cm, and then lined up the bottom hem alongside it, something like this, and then pressed and pinned into place:
You will notice that this creates a pocket in the mask where you can add extra filtration if you want. I have added in a removable filter insert into mine, which allows me to wash the fabric portion without damaging the filter insert.
ANOTHER TOP TIP – when pinning, keep the pins perpendicular to the edge of the fabric – this will help with the next stage (pleats)
4. Pleats: I did this by eye, which is definitely easier on your second or third attempt! Using straight pins and/or an iron, measure 2 or 3 evenly-spaced folds (approximately 1”) on each side of the mask. The wider you make your folds, the shorter the sides of your mask will be. Make sure that the folds go in the same direction, and make sure that the folds point downwards on the outside of the mask (i.e. the side that is not against your skin). This is very important as it will prevent dirt and debris collecting in the folds. Press and pin into place.
There is no law on how many pleats you make, but I noticed that a 3-pleat mask was far more comfortable than a 2-pleat one (it fits better over my nose!) – so the instruction below is for 3 pleats, but 2 will do if you are happier with this.
Now stitch the pleats down 1cm in from both sides, to secure the folded shape.
5. We are now going to add seam binding to each side, which will also form a channel to hold the straps on each side. Measure the length of the stitched side of your mask (where you have just secured the pleats). Using the additional fabric you have, cut 2 rectangles of fabric 2″ longer than the side, and approx 1.5″ wide, to make seam binding. Take one of the small fabric pieces and line it up with the edge of your mask, right sides together. stitch and press out, and then press the short edges in (middle left picture below)
Once you have done this, fold the remaining section of the seam binding over onto the back of the mask and pin into place before stitching across with the machine. Remember, this is a channel for your straps, so don’t make it very tight – also try and stitch as close to the edge of your binding as possible so that it gives the largest possible channel (bottom left pic)
6. Once the seam binding is attached, you pretty much have your mask! All that is needed is to add a strap.
The reason we have seam binding on the mask is to create a channel on each side for a strap to slide through. This means that we can have one continuous, adjustable strap, which goes round the back of the head or neck, through both channels, and can be secured with a single bow, rather than with two.
I have used cotton jersey for this strap, for a few reasons – firstly, it doesn’t need hemming as it doesn’t fray. Also, it’s stretchy, breathable, washable, and in plentiful supply in lots of pretty colours!
This is the trickiest bit of the whole make – you now need to thread the cotton jersey through the channels – I did this by using a small crochet hook as a guide through the channel, but you could use a knitting needle or even a chopstick or something similar.
Et voila – your finished mask should look a little like this:
And you will look like this:
I am really happy with this mask as it has good coverage all the way under the chin and to the ears, and the straps are far comfier than others I have tried! If you find that the mask is not fully secure around the nose, I’ve read that some people are using a paperclip or some florists wire to make a nose strip (as you would see in a bought builders’ mask), to shape the fabric.
A number of things –
a) I’ve just written this up but there are endless variations on mask instructions online. So there is no one right answer. If you only have a 9″x15″ rectangle, or if you use ribbon rather than jersey for the straps, or if you use a different interfacing, or if you choose not to have a pocket in the middle, or if you add 2 pleats or 4….then it’s still going to create a protective barrier between you and airborne particles when in public. So don’t worry too much about the specifics, and enjoy making it.
b) This mask is in no way a subtsitute for a real particle-filtering N95 mask. However, recent studies suggest that a double layer of good quality cotton quilting material may reduce particles by 60%-80%. The iron on interfacing is a non-woven additional double layer, which will also reduce particles.
c) This mask is completely washable! However, quilting fabrics soften and lose some of their fibres over time, so the mask will reduce in filtration ability with successive washes. I am mainly using mine as a cover over a builders’ mask, to prolong the life of the builders’ mask.
d) To boost the filtration, you can use your handily created pocket in the middle of the mask to add more protection. I have used a thin, double layer of meltblown fabric, which is the material used to make the commonly used disposable masks. It is non-woven so is likely to catch the particles that the cotton missed. There are lots of suggestions online, and I’ve even heard of people using HEPA vacuum filters. This is all a balance between ultimate filtration, and still having a comfortable, breathable, cool mask which you can wear for long periods if necessary.
e) UV has been proven to reduce the life span of germs on materials (although not Covid-specific) so after washing or after wearing, it is good practice to hang it up in a sunny place for a few hours or until you need it again.
f) If you are making a stack of these for a local care home or hospital, please check if masks of this type are required and if they have any specific requirements. Also, if you are making a stack, it really cuts down on time to make a bunch all in one go – cutting 10 rectangles, then ironing in 10 interfacings etc. I found that one mask took me 40 mins, but 10 took me just over 2 hours.