Learn how to sew a pleated fabric face mask with an opening for a removable filter. Help prevent the spread of germs by wearing a fabric face mask.
For some time now, I’ve been contemplating sewing a few fabric face masks for my husband and myself. For some reason, in our normal disaster preparedness, we failed to purchase face masks. Then, once we needed them, there were none available to be purchased.
I’m sure that’s a familiar story to a lot of families right now.
Why Sew a Fabric Face Mask?
You hear a lot about how fabric face masks aren’t effective and shouldn’t be used, except in cases of last resort. Well, I think that’s where we are folks. In an ideal world, we’d have unlimited access to medical grade face masks. And in that same ideal world, we’d also have access to a vaccination against the COVID-19 virus, too. (In case you don’t know, we don’t – yet!)
“Some Protection is Better Than No Protection”
Since some protection is better than no protection, I’m going with the some protection. Who knows, when we come through the other side of this disease, we may just find that homemade fabric face masks were effective.
When to Use Fabric Face Masks
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. I am not an authority on the subject of disease control and prevention. I am a wife to someone who is immunocompromised and trying my best to keep him healthy. I am relaying information that I have discovered while doing research on the use of fabric face masks to prevent the spread of disease, like the Coronavirus.
Please consult your healthcare provider for medical advice.
Since I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, the CDC as of April 3, 2020 now recommends that people wear fabric face masks:
”…CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
“ The role of facemasks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes. Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear a facemask until they are isolated in a hospital or at home. The patient does not need to wear a facemask while isolated.”
The CDC further advises that individuals who are not sick do not need to wear a face mask all the time. But, they do advise wearing a face mask when caring for someone who is ill.
And within the days since I started writing this tutorial, they now advise to wear a fabric face mask any time you leave your home and are unable to insure you maintain a safe distance from other people, such as the grocery store or pharmacy.
Video: How to Sew a Fabric Face Mask
Below is a video that walks you through sewing a fabric face mask with an opening for a removable filter and casings to insert the draw strings or elastic.
For more tutorials, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel!
How to Sew a Fabric Face Mask
When selecting your fabric, keep in mind that you may want to bleach your face masks when washing them, so be sure to select fabric that is bleach-safe.
This mask actually has an opening for a removable filter. The fabric I selected for the removable filter is made of 100% non-woven polyester. You can find it in your fabric store or online and it is sold as interfacing. Be sure to select a medium weight 100% polyester interfacing.
Fabric Face Mask with Casing
I have made many different types and styles of face masks over the past week or so. The pattern I’m sharing with you today is the one that I thought was not only the most effective, but the best fitting, most comfortable and the easiest to put on and remove.
According to an independent study, “The best masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, and had thicker and tighter weave.” Please keep this in mind when selecting fabric for your face masks.
Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links for products or services I think you’ll like. The Birch Cottage is a member of the Amazon Associates program. This means if you make a purchase from one of these links, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
- cotton fabric for front of mask (main fabric)
- cotton fabric for back of mask (contrast fabric)
- 1/4” wide elastic cord, ribbon or extra fabric for strings
- rotary cutter, cutting mat and acrylic ruler
- cotton thread
- safety pin
- sewing machine
- steam iron
Fabric Face Mask with Casings and Opening for Removable Filter
This face mask is my personal favorite because it has casings on the sides that allow the string or elastic to be pulled up or down and is easily adjustable. Plus, it’s easier to put on because you don’t have to tie it in two places, unless you make it so you have to tie it in two places. The option is yours.
Be sure to use 100% cotton fabric for both the front and back of the mask. Additionally, you should use a different color of fabric for the back so that the person wearing the mask can easily tell the difference between the front and the back. And, as always, your fabrics should be pre-washed, dried and pressed.
Step 1: Cut Fabric
- Cut 1 piece of main fabric for the front of the mask 7’H x 10”W.
- Cut 1 piece of contrast fabric for the back of the mask 7”H x 10”W
(it’s best to use a different color for the back so you can distinguish the front of the mask from the back of the mask)
- Cut elastic 36” long – or – cut ribbon 48” long
Step 2: Press
Lay the main fabric face down and fold 1/4” along one of the long edges toward the wrong side and press in place.
Lay the contrast fabric face down and fold 1/4″ along one of the long edges toward the wrong side and press in place.
Stitch 1/8″ from folded edge of each piece. This will be the TOP of the face mask.
Step 3: Sew Lining to Main Fabric
With right sides together, begin sewing from what will be the top of the face mask, using a 1/4″ seam allowance and leaving a 3” opening in the middle (where you will insert the removable filter), along the folded edges of the fabric.
Sew all the way around the mask, making sure you leave a 3″ opening in the top of the face mask. Turn mask right side out.
Step 4: Make Pleats
After you turn the mask right side out, press flat.
Making sure the opening is at the top of the mask, measure down about 1” from the top of the mask and make a 1/2” pleat. Pin in place. Do the same along the other edge. Making sure the pleats are going in the same downward direction.
NOTE: The pleats should be facing down. You want the pleats facing down so that when you are wearing the mask, the pleats are pointing downward.
Make two more 1/2″ pleats that are approximately 1″ apart and pin in place. You should have three pleats that are all folded in the same direction.
Press the pleats in place and remove the pins. Sew a 1/4 seam along each pleated edge to hold the pleats in place.
Step 5: Make the Casing
Fold the sides (short edges with the pleats) over 1/2” and pin in place.
Sew close to the edge of each fold, making sure to allow plenty of room to insert elastic or ribbon into the casing.
HINT: I like to insert my elastic BEFORE I sew the casing seams. Just be sure to not catch any of your elastic or ribbon in your seam. It saves an extra step! If you do this, you can skip step 5.
Step 5: Insert Elastic
Attach a safety pin to the end of the elastic or ribbon, insert pin from the top of the casing opening and push the pin through the casing.
Then insert the pin in the bottom of the casing opening on the other side of the mask, working the pin through the opening.
FOR ELASTIC: The loose ends of the elastic should both be on the same sides (top or bottom) of the mask. Overlap the ends of the elastic and sew with a zig-zag stitch. Trim any loose ends of the elastic and string.
FOR RIBBON: The tail ends of the ribbon should be at the top of the face mask.
Your face mask is now ready to be worn.
Face Mask Filter
I have read different things about what to use for the face mask filter. If you need a filter, choose non-woven fabrics such as flannel or interfacing. Simply cut the filter fabric to fit inside the mask and insert.
Keep in mind that there is a fine balance between breathe-ability and infection control. From what I’ve read so far, choosing good quality quilters cotton fabric for the mask front and back are your best options. Again, this is subject to change based on recommendations by the CDC or your local healthcare authorities.
How to Wear Fabric Face Mask
Here’s a quick video showing you how to wear the face mask with the “looped” face mask ties or elastic. I just really think this makes the face mask so much easier to put on and take off.
What’s Different About this Face Mask Pattern?
You may be wondering what’s different about this mask pattern from others you’ll find online. It’s the casing. Like I said, I personally think (and I may be wrong) that the casing makes the mask easier to put on and take off. And it makes it so it can more easily fit a variety of head sizes.
More Face Mask Tutorials
As I said, I am not a healthcare professional, contagious disease specialist or any kind of face mask authority. I am simply sharing what I have made to help protect my family.
Here are some other patterns from various institutions that you may find useful:
- The Center for Disease Control
- Ohio Department of Health
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- The New York Times
- Kaiser Permanente
- University Hospitals
- Covenant Healthcare
- University of Maryland
- JOANN Fabrics
- Missouri Star Quilt Co.
If you are looking to make masks to donate, please check with the institution you are donating the masks to for their preference/instructions on the types of face masks they will accept.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Please stay healthy!
Til next time…