On April 8, 2020

How to sew a protective face mask

The supply of surgical masks is at a critical all-time low throughout the entire nation. Orders for the standard disposable masks used in hospitals are back-ordered, due to the high demand for protective equipment. Because of these supply concerns, many hospitals across the country have requested homemade surgical masks as an emergency stopgap measure. According to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted.

“In settings where facemasks are not available, care providers might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However… caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face,” according to cdc.gov.

Since facemasks are in short-supply, local hospitals have been eager to take donations. So if you have time and are feeling up to the challenge, give it a try!

Sewing masks is a relatively simple task (if you know how to sew!) This pattern has two layers of fabric, and an internal pocket in which you can add additional layers of disposable filtration material, if desired.


100% cotton fabric (with a tight weave)

1/8-inch flat elastic, or additional fabric for ties

fabric scissors


pins or clips

sewing machine and thread


Cut the fabric. For an adult size mask, cut 1 fabric rectangle 15 ½-inch long and 8 ½-inch wide. Then, cut two pieces of elastic, each 7 inches long
For a child-size mask, cut 1 fabric rectangle 13 ½ inches long and 6 ½ inches wide. Then, cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 6 inches long. (If you are using ties, make four 18-inch long ties.)

Sew the top side, with pocket

Fold the fabric in half, with the right sides facing each other.
Sew along the 8 ½-inch width edge, using a 3/8-inch seam allowance. Leave a 2-to-3 inch opening in the center of this seam to create an opening for the filter pocket, and to allow the mask to be turned right side out after sewing.
Optionally, topstitch: Press the seam open. Turn the mask right side out, and topstitch/zig-zag stitch along both sides of the seam for a neater edge. Turn the mask wrong side out.

Pin Elastic

Pin one piece of elastic to the top and bottom of the short side of the fabric rectangle to create an ear loop. Place the elastic ½-inch from the top and bottom edge of the fabric. Repeat this process on the opposite side. (If using ties, stitch one to each corner.)

Sew the Sides

Sew the sides of the facemask. Backstitch over the elastic to secure it.
Turn the mask right side out and press with an iron.

Sew the Pleats

Create three evenly spaced ½-inch pleats. Pin the folds in place, and sew along the sides. Making sure all pleats are facing the same direction.
Note: When the mask is worn, the pleats should open downwards to prevent any particles from collecting in the fold pockets.

For more information visit Sarahmaker.com.

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