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DIY Cloth Masks: Socially distant hugs you can launder

If you’re curious about how I arrived at this design, I wrote about that in this post.

Materials

  • tightly woven cotton or cotton/polyester cloth (like the cloth quilters use, or high quality flannel)
  • 3-inch length of wire, unless you’re making the Large size, which benefits from 4-5 inches of wire. (Bonus, curl the ends! And don’t use paperclips or wire that will rust)
  • Filtering Material (optional): non-woven material such as fabric interfacing
  • Ties or Elastics: choose one option
    • Two cloth ties: 1/4 inch ribbon or fabric ties (2 lengths, 3-feet each) – hey, even long shoelaces or lanyards or whatever.
    • One looped cloth tie: 1/4 inch ribbon, fabric tie, shoe laces, etc (1 length, 3-feet each)
    • Over Ear Elastics: string elastic (2 lengths, 7 inches each) for behind-the-ear elastic
    • Behind the Head Elastics: 1/4 inch elastic (1 length, 18 inches) for behind-the-head elastic

Making Fabric Ties

If you’re making fabric ties, cut a 3-foot strip of cloth that’s about an inch or an inch and a quarter wide (this is a great time to use cloth that’s not suitable for the masks themselves). Fold each long edge in toward the center (kind of like how the back side of a staple looks in a piece of paper). Then fold in half and pin. You should now have a kind of flattened tube with no raw edges showing. Sew along the folded-in side. (Edit: Thanks to people who have pointed me to instructions like this on making bias tape a little faster!)

A note about nose wires

The “regular” adult size pattern tends to work well with a 3-inch nose wire. The large pattern may benefit from an additional inch or two of wire, particularly if the wearer has a pronounced nose.

The goal is to have the wire cross the bridge of your nose and then get to the part of your cheek that flattens out to the side — often right under where the iris of your eye begins. After that part the fit to the cheek will be managed by tying the mask securely to your head.

Patterns

The research I’ve done suggests that any pattern that meets the following criteria is a fine pattern, so don’t feel bound to use the one I’m using. Here are the criteria:

  • It must fully cover the nose and mouth
  • It should have two layers of cloth
  • It must fit as closely to the face as possible (no gaps by your chin, cheeks, or on either side of your nose)
  • If it doesn’t have a built-in non-woven filter material, it should have a pocket so that wearers can insert filters.
  • It should be sturdy enough to withstand washing. Lots of washing. People should be washing these masks after every use.

The templates I use, which I adapted from here and here, are available for download below. (Sorry for the odd colors on the scans – I don’t have great scanning equipment at home.)

The pictures included with the Citizen Mask are very useful, as are their instructions. Mine are just a slight variation on those, and I’ll only add a few pictures that augment what they’ve posted at the Citizen Mask site.

Instructions

The Main Mask

  1. Wash the fabric in hot water and run it through the drier (this cleans it and also pre-shrinks it)
  2. Fold the fabric with the good side (called the “right” side) on the inside of two facing layers.
  3. Pin the templates to the folded cloth and cut around them. Now you’ll have two pieces of cloth for each template, with “wrong” sides on the outside.
    1. If you’re going to build a filter layer into your mask, see the instructions below at this point.
  4. Sew 1/2 inch in from the edge along the Nose side of the pattern (this 1/2 inch between the edge and the sewing is the “seam allowance” and all seam allowances in this pattern will be 1/2 inch from the edge).
  5. Every 3/4 inch or so along the Nose edge, cut straight from the edge to just before the seam. (This is called “clipping the curve” and helps the seam lie flat along the curve.)
  6. On the Lining pieces, fold the Ear side up and toward the Nose about a quarter of an inch and stitch down.
  7. Open up the Front and Lining sections and iron the clipped curves so that the raw edges are splayed apart on either side of the seam. (While not strictly necessary if you don’t have an iron, this step will reduce the chances of weirdly bulky seams and curves later on.)
  8. Put the Front and Lining pieces together, right sides together on the inside, so that the peak of the Nose seam on the Front matches the peak of the Nose seam on the Lining, and so that the curve of the Cheek edge lines up on each side. Pin these pieces together. (Pro tip: put one pin on each side of the center seam, holding those splayed raw edges out away from the seam.)
  9. With the lining side on top so that you can see the folded up Ear edge, sew a seam from the folded Ear seam all the way up and over the Nose ridge and to the other folded up Ear seam.
  10. Line up, pin, and sew a similar seam along the bottom Chin edge from Ear to Ear.
  11. Clip the curves on the Cheek seam.
  12. Turn the whole thing inside out, which is actually right side in. Now your raw edges will be on the inside and the “right” side of the fabric should be on the outside.
  13. Fold over the last remaining top and bottom raw edges on the areas near the Ear on the longer cloth pieces so that they line up with the turned under seams. Now you’ll only have the straight up-and-down edge nearest the ear left as a raw edge.
  14. Sew along the entire top of the mask 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch from the top from Ear to Ear. (This step is not strictly necessary, but helps hold things in place and withstand repeated washings and such.)
  15. Repeat this procedure across the entire bottom edge from Ear to Ear.
  16. Cut a 3-inch length of wire (or longer, see above)
  17. Feed the wire into the nose area and nestle it as close as you can to the top seam across the top of the Nose, behind all the raw edges in there. Use a needle or chalk or something to mark the beginning and end of the wire.
  18. Being VERY CAREFUL not to sew across the wire itself, but staying well around the outside of it (or you’ll break your needle… which I have done… multiple times) sew a line down from the Cheek toward the middle of the mask about 1/2 inch past the seam from Step 14.
  19. LEAVE THE NEEDLE IN THE FABRIC and turn the fabric 90 degrees. Sew about 1/4 in from the seam from Step 14 across the bridge of the Nose, enclosing the wire.
  20. Go a couple of stitches past the end of the wire and then turn the fabric again to stitch straight up to the other Cheek edge. Now you have a fully enclosed wire.
  21. Make the Ties using one of the options below for either
    1. Two Cloth Ties
    2. One Looped Cloth Tie
    3. Over-the-Ear Elastics
    4. Behind-the-Head Elastics

Four options for Ties

Two Cloth Ties

  1. Fold the last remaining raw Ear edges in toward the lining about 1/2 inch.
  2. Lay a ribbon or cloth tie along the last remaining visible wrong side of fabric on one Ear edge, right up next to the folded over edge.
  3. Fold the folded over edge again, in toward the lining fabric. The two folded edges from the Lining and the Front should be right up next to each other, and the tie should be nestled into the “sleeve” — a little tube you’ve created.
  4. Sew up along the folded edge nearest the lining, being sure not to sew the lining down or catch the ribbon in your new seam. Now you should have a tie that you can slide back and forth in that sleeve, and you should have an opening between the sleeve and that stitching from Step 4 of the Main Mask construction. This is the pocket for the filters people will insert when wearing the mask.
    cloth mask with filter pocket
  5. Repeat on the other side with the other length of cloth tie
  6. Once you’ve made sure that the ribbon can move back and forth in the sleeve and that it’s evenly placed so that the middle of the tie is in the middle of the sleeve, sew one last little line of stitching right from the middle of the Ear edge, across the sleeve and ribbon. (Do not catch the lining pocket in your stitching.) This will make it so the tie won’t fall out, but the mask can still be gathered at the Ear edge for a better fit.
  7. If you used ribbon, melt the ends a bit to prevent fraying.

One Looped Cloth Tie

  1. Fold the last remaining raw Ear edges in toward the lining about 1/2 inch.
  2. Lay the ribbon or cloth tie along the last remaining visible wrong side of fabric on one Ear edge, right up next to the folded over edge.
  3. Fold the folded over edge again, in toward the lining fabric. The two folded edges from the Lining and the Front should be right up next to each other, and the tie should be nestled into the “sleeve” — a little tube you’ve created.
  4. Sew up along the folded edge nearest the lining, being sure not to sew the lining down or catch the tie in your new seam. Now you should have a tie that you can slide back and forth in that sleeve, and you should have an opening between the sleeve and that stitching from Step 4 of the Main Mask construction. This is the pocket for the filters people will insert when wearing the mask.
    cloth mask with filter pocket
  5. Taking care not to pull the tie out of the first Sleeve, loop the tie around to lay the other end along the other Ear edge, and make its sleeve just like in steps 2 and 3 above.
    Mask with single looped cloth tie

Over-the-Ear Elastics

  1. Fold the last remaining raw Ear edges in toward the lining about 1/2 inch.
  2. Lay a length of elastic (about 8 inches) the last remaining visible wrong side of fabric on one Ear edge, right up next to the folded over edge.
  3. Sew up along the folded edge nearest the lining, being sure not to sew the lining down or catch the ribbon in your new seam. Now you should have an elastic that you can slide back and forth in that sleeve, and you should have an opening between the sleeve and that stitching from Step 4 of the Main Mask construction. This is the pocket for the filters people will insert when wearing the mask.
    cloth mask with filter pocket
  4. Tie the ends of the elastic together and tuck the knot into the Sleeve.
  5. Repeat on the other side
    cloth mask with ear elastics

Behind-the-Head Elastics

  1. Fold the last remaining raw Ear edges in toward the lining about 1/2 inch.
  2. Lay the elastic along the last remaining visible wrong side of fabric on one Ear edge, right up next to the folded over edge.
  3. Fold the folded over edge again, in toward the lining fabric. The two folded edges from the Lining and the Front should be right up next to each other, and the ribbon (or elastic) should be nestled into the “sleeve” — a little tube you’ve created.
  4. Sew up along the folded edge nearest the lining, being sure not to sew the lining down or catch the ribbon in your new seam. Now you should have an elastic that you can slide back and forth in that sleeve, and you should have an opening between the sleeve and that stitching from Step 4 of the Main Mask construction. This is the pocket for the filters people will insert when wearing the mask.
    cloth mask with filter pocket
  5. Taking care not to pull the elastic out of the first Sleeve, loop the tie around to lay the other end along the other Ear edge, and make its sleeve just like in steps 2 and 3 above.
    cloth mask with looped elastic behind the head
  6. Tie the ends of the elastic together and tuck the knot into one of the Ear sleeves.

Building in Fabric Filters

If you have access to that blue surgical fabric, here’s the best way I’ve found to build that into this style of mask. This is also a good way to handle “non-woven” fabrics like fabric interfacing.

  1. Surgical fabric comes in a double layer, so separate the two layers.
  2. Use the “lining” pattern to cut two pieces for each masks that are about 1/2 inch shorter on the Ear side than you cut from the cotton.
  3. Layer the filter fabric on the outsides of your two cotton lining pieces.
  4. Sew the Nose seam as usual and clip the curve as usual.
  5. Fold the cotton on the Ear seam over the filter fabric and sew that seam. Now you’re ready to treat this whole piece as your regular lining side and jump into Step 7 of the main instructions above.

Wearing the Mask

It’s not entirely intuitive how to properly wear a mask. The CDC has guidance, and I have instructions for the masks I make.

Remember! Wearing a mask helps prevent you from spreading your germs and helps you remember not to touch your face. It’s not meant to prevent you from getting other people’s germs. So stay home if you can, and wash your hands.