Face Mask Instructions

Here is a step-by-step guide to making a facemask, with filter pocket and ties to hold it in place. (options for elastic included.)

Materials Needed:

  1. 100% cotton fabric, nothing too heavy but should be tightly woven. Most quilting fabrics are perfect. It is important that you wash the material in hot water with detergent and dry on high (no fabric softner) so that the material is both clean AND shrunk before you cut it.
  2. Thread, any color is fine. However, be careful about how old your thread may be. If you can break it with your hands, it will make your sewing experience miserable.
  3. A sewing machine. If you do not have a sewing machine you can just do the cutting part. Ideally, with a rotary cutter on a mat, but it can be done with scissors, especially if you have a fabric that has lines on it for easy reference.

BEFORE YOU START: When doing your first mask, I suggest that you cut the materials for ONE MASK, and then sew it together from beginning to end. This will make sure that you have cut the materials correctly. Once you have successfully completed your first mask, it may be more efficient to do one step at a time for a batch of masks. (10-15 masks is my preference.) Cut the face pieces out, cut the ties, iron the ties, sew the ties, and sew face pieces together (while inserting the ties, turn them all, do the three folds on the sides, etc.)


a) The ties are made of pieces that are 20”x1.5”. Easy to do if you have a rotary cutter and a mat. If you are using scissors and have fabric that has lines on it that are close to this width, feel free to cut wider up to 2” so that you can utilize the lines.

b) At the ironing board, fold the tie in half lengthwise. Iron it in place/shut.

c) Open and fold the sides into the middle. Fold again along the first line, so that you have a width of 1/4” and no exposed edges.

You may need to do a couple of inches and then press. When you are done, you should have a single fold on one side and a double fold on the other.

d) At one end of the tie, fold the short side in 1/4”, tucked inside the previously folded pieces. Iron in place. You will stitch this shut later and it becomes the end of the tie.

NOTE: When ironing, it is good to line up two pieces, side by side. You have to press so often that the fabric heats up and will burn your fingers. If you fold in and iron, then switch to the other tie, it gives your other tie time to cool down. ALSO, if you keep all four side by side, they benefit from additional pressing. They need to lay flat. (If you are cutting to provide ties to another person, then it is very important that you get these flat and creased well. Humidity will cause them to open back up. Put them under a book or a flat surface if possible. )

e) Sew the ties shut starting at the folded-in end. It should be 4-5 stitches, reversing to secure.

Then turn the tie, keeping the needle down, positioning it to sew the 20” length. Sew closer to the two-fold side as that insures that you are catching the raw edges inside the tie.

Face Panels and Construction

a. Cut pieces 6” x 9”. If you are using a rotary cutter, cut long strips to either measurement, and then go back and cut the strips to the other measurement. If you are cutting by hand, make a pattern out of cereal box cardboard and outline on to the fabric using a pen, and then cut along the pen marks.

b. Select two pieces of DIFFERENT fabric for each mask. (USE DIFFERENT FABRICS FOR THE FRONT AND BACK. It is important that the user keep face side to face all day long, so with different fabrics they can keep it straight. Doesn’t matter if they don’t match up fashion-wise.)

For each piece of fabric (2), on a long side, fold down 1/4 inch, wrong side of fabric to wrong side, and iron into place. Stitch down. An alternate method is to simply zigzag a single long side on each piece. No need to iron it down.

c. Put the two pieces of fabric face to face (right sides to right sides), positioned so that the stitched sides are on the same side.

d. You are going to be sewing around the edges of the two pieces of fabric with a ¼ inch seam allowance. But not all the way around! Start your seam on the long side where the hemmed (or zigzagged) edges are facing each other. Position the needle and foot about two inches from the corner, so you are sewing toward the corner. Important to FIX your seam here, either by using the fix function on your machine or by starting for a couple of stitches, and then reversing for a couple of stitches.

e. Use a 1/4 seam allowance. Sew for about a half an inch, and then pause the machine with the needle in the down position. Do not lift the foot up.

f. Lay the unstitched end of the sewn-shut tie on the bottom fabric so that it forms a 45 degree angle with the corner.

Lay the top fabric down and continue sewing. You will do the “needle down” turn when the needle is at 1/4” from the edge of the fabric. The seam will have caught the tie, securing it in place.

g. You are now sewing on the short side. An inch or so before you get to the second corner, insert another tie the same way you did the first tie. (If you are using 7” elastic, you would insert the other end of the piece of elastic that you inserted at the first corner.)

h. You are now sewing on the long side which will be the top of the mask. Continue all the way across to next corner, inserting another tie when you get there.

i. Now you are on your second short side. Continue toward corner, and then stop and insert the fourth tie, same as others.

k. Once you turn this last corner, only sew for two inches and then stop. Use reverse or fix technique to secure the seam, so that it doesn’t pull out.

The long, loose ends of your ties should be coming from the inside of the piece, hanging out this the filter open created when you stopped at 2 inches.

j. Pull the ties through, reversing the piece so that all the rough edges of fabric are on the inside. Push, pull and mess with until it is completely reversed and can lay flat. You might want to use a dull object to push the corners out from the inside so that it lays flat.

k. Now iron the piece again, so that the edges are flat and no extra fabric is folding in where the seams are. You should have one long side with an opening. Start at that opening, sewing toward the closest corner and sew around the outside of the piece, again using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Make sure you stop two inches after the fourth corner so that you do not sew the opening closed. That opening can be used to insert filters if they have them.

l. Now you want to sew your pleats into the short sides. You need three tucks to ensure a good, tight fit. The pleats on each end should line up and fold the same way. When you have pleated the edges, the measurement of the short side should be about 3 inches. (Note, it is possible to use a jig made from cardboard to make these easier to do. Instructions on that at the end of this.)

Do not pin your pleats into place. It makes holes in the mask and increases the chance of germs getting through. Instead, iron your pleats into place.

Click here for a time saving pleat technique.

m. Sew the ironed pleats flat on each end. Don’t worry about how good the seams look. For these masks, securing the seams and being fast is more important than a polished, good-looking seam.

n. Next sew all the way around one more time, again starting at the opening on the long side, and ending before the opening on that same side.

And you are done!

Information about the jig…

Here is a link to how to make the jig, but the video measurements ARE DIFFERENT because her mask is different.

Use this TECHNIQUE to make and use the jig but use the measurements in my diagram.