How I made a basic face mask


I had been getting more and more concerned about being outside during Coronavirus lockdown and decided to put my sewing supplies to use. I wanted a mask, but didn’t want to buy one that medical and care workers might need.

  • What you will need is 2 bits of cotton fabric, around 25cm by 20cm (or one bigger bit that folds into that – 25cm by 40cm ish).
  • A fabric piece about 20cm by 15cm to act as a basic filter, for example cotton flannelette pillow cases, or a thin microfibre camping/gym towel. Tightly woven yet allowing air flow.
  • About 40cm of flat elastic, or hairband round elastic.
  • Sharp scissors, some pins if you like things straight, and needle and thread.


I am using stretch denim and a bit of pink fabric from my sewing box, and a piece of camping towel. They aren’t cut straight, but this demonstrates how to stack the layers. I trimmed it tidy afterwards.

You place the front and back facing each other, like in the picture above, to make the mask we sew it inside out, and then all the edges end up inside when the mask is done – magic. Nice and tidy! Starting at the edge of the filter piece, sew all the way towards the lower left corner, then add half the elastic so it runs through the corner, between the patterned sides of the fabrics, like a sandwich. Next sew upwards toward the top left corner and repeat the same thing with the same piece of elastic, then carefully tie the end of the elastic into a basic knot (making it into a loop) that will be half hidden in your mask. Continue around the right side in the same way.


Repeat this for the other side until you end up with just a 5cm to 10cm gap on the lower edge. You can just see the elastic poking out of the corners on my example. This was my first attempt, and a did short straight lengths of elastic. My Mistake! A circle loop is easier to adjust to fit later.


The tricky part, turn it all inside out. Make sure that the filter bit stays inside, if it’s on the outside, don’t panic, just pop back the other way out, and try again.

Turn it all inside out, which means it’s now the pattern side out, and has little ear loops poking out on the slightly shorter sides. Don’t sew up the gap just yet.


Right side out, little open hole at the bottom and the loops sticking out at the sides.

Next you’ll want to make two little folds and stitch them down, but do one at a time, it’s easier that way. Fold a line horizontally inwards, and then outwards a couple of cms after. This will look like a sort of zig zag from the side. Here’s where pins or pegs come in handy if you don’t sew often. Move up a bit, and do the same again once more. Two of these zig zag tucks will allow the mask to open up into a rounded shape to move as you talk or yawn. Careful to not sew through your elastic at this stage, so you can still adjust it later.


View from the edge, showing what you should now have.

Now we are nearly done. Try it on and see if it is loose or tight, you want it to stay on but not hurt your ears by pulling too hard. If it needs adjusting, poke your fingers in and fish out one of the knots, adjust it and do the other side equally. Once you have it comfy, make sure it’s a good knot and trim the excess elastic ends so the tails aren’t more than a couple of cms long. Now you can finally close that bottom hole.


Close up the bottom.


And you’re done.


Or wear it the other side out.

If you want it to look better iron the creases in before you wear it, but it’s not really needed. I’d recommend having 2 of these, one to wear, one in the laundry. On about laundry, I’d suggest soaking in Vanish or similar laundry safe bleach, then putting it in a normal load of washing, or quickly hand wash and hang up to dry.

Disclaimer, I’m not a doctor or scientist. I’m just a normal Mum, confused by the conflicting advice on whether face masks are useful or not in this pandemic. I believe a mask won’t totally protect you, but used with all the social distancing, and extra hand washing it can’t be a bad thing. Anything we can do to reduce the risk of spreading, why not at least try.

FYI, I found the denim hard to breathe through. Later masks I made were cotton on both sides and much easier to breathe through.

Top tip from a friend, a half opened up paper clip will help it fit better across the nose. Sewing a paper clip inside the mask would make it non machine washable, but if you stitch two tiny loops at the bridge of the nose you can thread it back through after each wash, and replace when the clip becomes weak at the hinge.

However I discovered on later masks I made that a couple of pipe cleaners poked through the elastic holes are great for making the nose area fit better. These mean it’s only hand washable, but if it fits better it’s more effective.

Stay safe! Crazy times we are living in.

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