Saturday, March 21, 2020

Medical Masks - It's SOS time.

Completed Mask

 Hey all, this is a short fast tutorial on how I am making medical masks. There are lots of us getting requests so anything you can do to help our health care professionals would be awesome. 

You will need good quality cotton fabric and cotton thread, you'll also need elastic. I used 1/4 inch, I've heard other's using 1/8. So far I could find it at Joanne's but I hear it's sold out in many places. UGH!!!

I have modified the mask instructions from Deaconess Hospital to allow us to insert pipe cleaners to get the mask to form fit the bridge of the nose. Here is the video/page of the Deaconess's instructions. Please look it over I'll be doing things very similarly.

Whereas Deaconess is sewing 2 pieces of fabric together to form the mask, I'm using one long one. 

Cut out a large rectangle - 8 x 14.5 inches
(Note, since I wrote up this blog I've discovered an easier way to insert a pipe cleaner/wire. If you read through the directions before March 24th, I've added 1/2 inch to the large rectangle so it's now 8 x 14.5.)

NOTE - If you can't find any 1/4 inch elastic and are using 1/2 inch, cut this rectangle 8 x 15.5 to give yourself more room to fold down the top. (You'll see what I mean as we progress here.)

EDIT (May 15th). I'm making masks bigger now. So cut your rectangle 8.5 x 15 and your elastic 8 inches. Thanks! for all you do.

Fold in half , right sides together and press.
 The top of our mask is going to be the fold. In an effort to keep bulky seam allowances away from the bridge of the nose area and to add a light weight sleeve for our pipe cleaner I'm folding my long piece of fabric instead of using 2 pieces. 
Cut two 7 inch pieces of elastic.  In the above pic the fold we pressed into our rectangle is on the right. Do you see the angle that I'm holding the elastic in? That is the position we want the elastic in only BETWEEN the folded layers of fabric. Hold it/pin it in place between the fabrics just under the fold and stitch 1/4 inch down the side.

Stitch 1/4 inch from the edge. You can't see it, but our piece of elastic is sewn down at the top along the fold. When you get towards the bottom stop. Find the end of the elastic and position it at the corner in that same angle. 

Stitch down the elastic. MAKE SURE IT ISN'T TWISTED under the fabric, it should lay smooth. Once this corner is finished, turn the corner and stitch a couple of inches and then stop. We are going to turn our 'bag' inside out and we need to leave an opening.

Repeat this process on the other side of the mask inserting the elastic and stitching it down in the corners. Leave a couple of inches open along the bottom.

What your mask should look like.
Now, flip it inside out and press.
It's time to make pleats.

Fold down the top of your mask 2.5 inches and press.
 Now fold it back up so 2 inches is between the fold of the first pleat and the top of the mask.

Folded down, when you fold it back up leave 1/2 inch or so pinched to make a pleat.
 The Deaconess video shows this part really well if you need help. 
The fold you see is now 2 inches from the top

The pleat - sorry my pic is stinky it was hard holding the camera steady with one hand while holding the pleat in place.

Make 3 pleats, 1/2 inch each. Pin in place
We will be stitching down all the pleats and finishing the mask but before we do that, scroll to the pink mask at the bottom of this blog. (Since writing this blog I'm doing things MUCH easier!)

The second photo of the pink mask shows how I'm turning down the top of the mask to make a sleeve for a pipe cleaner or wire. Follow that photo for instructions. 
When the top of the mask is turned down to create a tunnel for the pipe cleaner, start stitching across the top tunnel and continue on all around the mask using a 1/4 inch seam. When you get to the bottom corner go around it but sew 1/8 inch seam along the bottom to close that hole we left open.

 Sew a 1/8 inch seam along the bottom. When you get to the other side of the mask switch back to a 1/4 inch seam.
When all three sides of the mask and the pipe cleaner tunnel are stitched down, stitch along the same sewing lines again to make sure the mask is really sturdy.
(It will be taking a beating in the coming weeks.) 

Going over the stitching one more time.
Insert pipe cleaner and hand out as needed. I plan on giving more than one pipe cleaner with my masks but we could run out of those too.  The pipe cleaners can be taken out of the masks to wash so our nurses will have to remember that I guess.

Our healthcare people are heroes and they are in the line of fire right now. Call your local hospital and ask if they would like some of these. The way they are being used is that they will go over the medical masks so the nurses can switch out the fabric ones and keep their 'real' masks cleaner longer. 

I've also read that if a health care professional wants more filtration a panty liner or thin Kotex pad can be stuck to the inside of the mask.

Please stay healthy my friends and help where ever you are able. It's in these dark scary times when we often see the best in human nature so let's shine our light.

Here is my friend with her new mask. (And pics of the front and back side.)

Comments and questions are welcome.

OH - if you have pretty fabrics they will sooo appreciate it and so will their patients. We also can't forget the menfolk so anything with antlers or fish will be fine, lol.

I'm adding this on because my wonderful friend Sun S. figured out a MUCH easier way to do the sleeve for the pipe cleaner! Forget adding a separate piece of fabric for a sleeve- this is the new improved and it looks better, too!

When you get to the pleating process pictured below, leave 2 inches from the first pleat fold and the top of the mask.
Leave 2 inches from  first pleat fold to the top of the mask.
Now fold over the top say 3/8 of an inch or so.

Fold the top down 3/8 inch or so. Pin it in place. 

Finished mask. (See the pipe cleaner sticking out?)

When you sew the envelop for the pipe cleaner down, don't stitch down the sides. Sew right along the fold and then down the pleats as we did on the yellow morning glory mask. Be sure to double stitch for sturdiness!
Whew - thanks Sue that is a real time saver!!

Edit - It's April now and elastic is sold out everywhere and nurses are developing tender ears so I've switched to ties. Actually, I'm using grossgrain ribbon. All I do is cut four 18 inch lengths and sew them into the corners - at a 90 degree angle. Then I tie a tight tight knot at the end of the ribbon after the mask is done. It's working quite well! 


  1. Love it! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for this tutorial! We are making them for our hospital here in Annapolis. I like the pipe cleaner idea. Will give it a try!! Take care and God bless!!! Janet

  3. I couldnt find elastic either after I used what I had. A nurse on one of the Mask pages suggested Shock cord. I found 3/16th" on Amazon that will get here by Thursday. Since it falls between the 1/8 an 1/4, I think it should work well. I got gold, white is limited and takes longer to get here. I can finish the ones I started and cut more while I wait. I may do some with the ties till the cord gets here.

    1. You wrote me on FB about using head bands from Dollar Store - that seems like a good idea, too. (I'm mentioning that here so other's can see it.) I also found some 1 inch wide BRAIDED elastic which I can cut into 3/8 inch strips.
      Sew on!

  4. Thank you for posting this. Yes please check for local need of masks first. Our first responders have requested face masks due to a severe shortage. My local quilt shop put out the call yesterday.
    I love seeing Zoey Jo's antics. puts a smile on my face. Love all you do Bonnie Thanks again
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    1. I have a nurse friend who requested them. I also called my local Dr's office to see if they would like some. I think calling the local 1st responders is a great idea. Thanks for the tip!

  5. I saw a tutorial today on JoAnn FB Sewist site- using a dual layer (pocket on back side) so a HEPA filter could be added and removed for washing of the mask. The HEPA "filter" was HEPA vacuum bags cut to fit inside the doubled mask. Also suggested: ties so the mask could fit more than one size and be snug to the face. And: sizes - as faces and heads aren't one size fits all. I like the pipe cleaner idea - could use on the side as well - the masks are supposed to fit securely with no gaping areas. Nice job, Cathy! I LOVE your quilts, and blog! You are very skilled, talented, and inspiring! Thank you! (I'm very pleased just to enjoy looking at all the wonderful things you create!)

    1. Thank you for all the compliments and encouragement - I'm glad you like my blog and quilts! At this point I'm pretty much the only one sewing for a medical facility/nursing home and they are only using the masks over their medical ones - including the N95s in order to extend the life of their med masks. They are switching out these cloth ones between patients. I will most definitely keep the HEPA filter in mind though in case things get much worse.

      Stay healthy!

  6. Great tutorial Cathy - thank you. Just a small note though - before making these for your local health workers check first to see if they are able to use them. Not all are accepting them. Stay safe - stay well.

    1. Yep, I had a friend ask me for them and I think I'm the only one supplying her facility. Many others are making masks as requested by a bunch of our hospitals in here the Milwaukee area. I would hope people who are making masks have places to distribute them!
      Stay healthy!