Sewing Cloth Face Masks

First of all, my hope is everyone is healthy and safe during this time. As you may know hospitals and medical clinics all around the world are running low on supplies. Some are reaching out to the public for help in sewing cloth masks to donate. So I put together this CDC-Compliant Face Mask Tutorial that is great for sewing in bulk to donate to your healthcare community. Now the CDC is recommending that everyone wear cloth face masks when out in public. This is an ideal pattern to make for family and friends. There is a lot of face mask patterns and resources out right now and it can be overwhelming. I find this one I created to be the easiest to sew in bulk and to customize (straps, fabric, filter insert/pocket, etc). I've been sewing for healthcare in the Atlanta area for a couple weeks now and the 2-piece (high quality, tightly woven) cotton masks are what they prefer. I also include how to sew an insert/pocket into these for filters down at the bottom and several ways to make fabric straps to tie as well as the elastic version below. 

  • Tightly woven cotton for hospitals
  • 1/4" elastic
  • 1/8" elastic
  • Strips of jersey (t-shirt/knit fabric) for straps
  • 1.5" strips of fabric for straps
  • loop turner
  • Sewing machine
  • basic cutting and sewing notions

Standard (healthcare) they typically wear these OVER their N95's
fabric: (tightly woven, high quality cotton): 2 by 6" x 9"
elastic: 2 x 7" strips
fabric straps: 1.5" x 16"

Adult: (personal use)
fabric: tightly woven cotton (you don't want see through material), cotton duck for top layer, denim, batik): 2 by 5.5” x 8.5” 
elastic: 6 3/4" to 7" strips depending on your face size. 

Children:(ages 8-13) ****ALL children under 13 should not be unattended with face masks
Fabric: 5” x 7 ¾”
elastic: 6.5” strips

Ages 3-8
Fabric: 5” x 7”
Elastic: 6 ¼” strips

Pin the elastic (or straps see below) to the corners and baste stitch into place just to secure from moving. I also sew the elastic on a diagonal. 

Place liner over exterior so right sides are together and pin into place being mindful of the elastic straps. 

When you sew, leave a 2" gap at the center bottom so you can flip right sides out. Stitch with a 1/4" seam allowance. Make sure the elastic is through the seam allowance (we don't want these to snap on someone). You can even back stitch at the corners a couple times to ensure they're secure.


Clip just a little bit of the corners being sure to NOT going into the stitches or elastic. 

Flip right sides out through the opening and press. 

Topstitch just along the top edges making sure to secure the opening. 

Fold over little pleats about 1/4" each starting 1/2" down and pin. You need 3 for each side so make sure they're even. 

Topstitch folds down using 1/4" seam allowance. 

For the alternative jersey string mask:

Cut strips of "t-shirt string" as an alternative for the elastic straps.

I used a basic jersey cotton t-shirt I had on hand. I measured off 1" strips and cut. If the knit you are using is thin you may want to go a bit wider (1 1/4" to 1 1/2" strips). If it's a thick knit go for maybe 3/4". Basically when you pull these strips they shrink and become stretchy string. You want them to be no smaller than 1/4" in width once pulled. So you may have to do some testing. 

Cut 4 x 20" strips and sew them in the corners so they can tie/knot them around the back of the head. You can use painters tape to secure the straps in the center when sewing right sides together.

Repeat the above steps...Make sure the elastic sits over the edge of the fabric 1/4" so it doesn't snap went pulled. 

My husband tried on both versions (elastic/t-shirt string) and did not notice the difference.  I like the idea of adding the tie version so they can customize it if necessary.  

Fabric Strap/Bias Tape Mask:
Another strap option is with made with fabric straps. You can use bias tape, use the bias tape maker, or fabric made straps.

  • Cut 1.5” strips (you need 4 x 20" long)
  • Press the sides into the center. 
  • Fold again to create a double-fold strap. 
  • Then topstitch the 2 ends together just along the edge. 

Create the mask piece without the straps sewn inside.
Stitch 4 x 18” straps just along the corners right sides facing.
Create 3 even folds in between the straps. Pin or use clips. 
Flip the straps flat encasing the raw edges.
Topstitch straps and folds into place. 

Use a loop turner: (this is easier than the folded strap above).
Cut 1 1/4" wide x 20" long strips. 
Sew right sides together just along the edge.
Flip right side out with the loop turner. 
This version you can sew inside like the elastic version and knit
version above. 

All the different strap above... I personally prefer the elastic for myself. I have read some medical personnel get ear soreness from wearing the masks all day so I would go with the strap versions for healthcare. No right or wrong way to make these and do what is best for you or the healthcare community you're donating these to. Keep in mind some hospitals or at least the ones I'm sewing for require specific patterns and materials to use. 

How to quickly add a pocket insert for filters:

Supplies listed above plus dimensions. 

For the back pieces press over top 1/4" then another 1/4" and top stitch down. Baste stitch your preferred straps in the corners of exterior. 

Place one of the back pieces right sides together with the exterior and sew (1/4" seam allowance). 
Add the other side which should overlap the other back piece about 1" or so total. Stitch that side down. 

Clip corners and flip right side out through the insert/pocket. Top stitch if you'd like the bottom and top edges. 

From the back, fold the center pleat first making sure the insert seam is flat. My pleats are usually 1/4" or so but you can make sure they're visually even before stitching. Stitch the center pleats first. 

Add the other folds, clip, and top stitch sides down (1/4" seam allowance).

Use your preferred filter material to place inside the pocket. 

Now to add a nose bridge with pipe cleaner:

Cut a 5" strip of pipe cleaner (for children 3-4"). Place in through the opening and glide to the top (opposite side of opening). It helps to mark the center of the mask.

How to for the filter insert.  

Center the pipe cleaner and place as close to the edge as possible. Pin into place. Stitch the long edge first from end to end (1/4" seam allowance should be enough).

Then stitch just along the sides backstitching a couple times to secure the pipe cleaner from moving. Finish the bottom edge of the other side and then add the pleats as above. 

I hope this helps you all in our current crisis. Stay safe and healthy friends. 


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  9. Thank you for the tutorial! I do have one question - is there a way to figure out what 'tightly woven cotton fabric' might be listed under? Cotton Duck is pretty easy to find, but as far as hospital grade, can I use quilting cotton fabric or garment cotton fabric? They don't seem to list thread count on Jo-Anne's or Walmart websites, thought I'm not sure if that would be terribly helpful either. Any suggestions? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Mariah, you're welcome and yes you can use quilting cotton that's what I use.

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