By Lila Troum
A new, (potentially) fashionable staple in everybody’s lives nowadays: a mask. Whether you use a disposable one or a reusable one, wearing a mask is important and critical to wear in a public setting. I’ve been sewing for around eight years now, and last April I picked up the trick of learning how to make my own reusable masks! Throughout the year, I’ve tweaked my pattern and found what works best to create the best long-lasting, reusable mask.
- Your choice of cotton fabric (I’d recommend having ½ of fabric on hand in total), at least one pattern/print but you can always use two if you want a reversible mask!
- Your choice of thread, I recommend one that’s going to match your fabric, but whatever you have will work.
- Elastic. Any form of elastic will work, I use a knit elastic cord (the traditional ones you find on disposable masks) but anything as simple as a rubber band will work (though I’d stray away from a rubber band if possible, they aren’t that durable!). You can get elastic from most craft/fabric stores, and for tougher, easier access elastic, stretchy headbands work well.
- Needle or a sewing machine. For this project, I recommend a sewing machine, as they tend to create more even, tighter stitches and it takes significantly less time, though hand sewing also works!
- Fabric scissors. These aren’t absolutely necessary for this project but I highly recommend them. Standard scissors (those you’d use to cut paper or anything) won’t work well/at all on fabric, it’ll be very difficult to cut through fabric and you’ll create uneven, ragged edges on your fabric.
- Pins (optional). Not necessary, but I find them very helpful when it comes to keeping fabric in place while sewing. These are especially helpful if you’re sewing by hand.
At the end of the article, I’ve included a video of how I make my masks if you’d rather watch how, though I’ve also given a list of instructions.
- The first thing you’re going to want to do is to lay out your materials and cut out your fabric. The size of your mask is going to depend on who the mask is for, you wouldn’t size a mask for a ten-year-old as you would for a forty-year-old. It may be difficult to gather measurements, but I find a good, standard size is 6” x 8” tweaking as necessary. 6” may seem like a lot, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’re going to be pleating the mask. Cut out two rectangles of your cotton fabric.
- Once you have your two rectangles of fabric, this is where you’d pin them together, good side to good side. It’s important to put them good side to good side, as whatever you sew together will, in the end, be facing outward. If you’re using pins, this is where you could pin the rectangles of fabric together to keep them in place while sewing.
- Begin to sew around the edge of the rectangles, leaving about ¼” from the edge of your fabric. Go all the way around, leaving a small (about 1”-2”) gap between where you start and end, so that there’s a hole. If you’re using a sewing machine, or even if you’re hand sewing, I’d recommend backstitching at both the end and the beginning to strengthen the seams.
- Flip your rectangle inside out through the hole that you left while stitching the sides together. Both good sides of the fabric should now be out and you should have clean, smooth edges around your rectangle.
- Sew a border around the rectangle, making sure to close the gap. I’d recommend about ¼”-½” from the edge of the fabric, but you just want to make sure that you’re closing the gap and sewing the raw edges together, ensuring that they’re not poking out. You can always pin the hole closed to make sure you’re fully closing it.
- Now you want to make pleats. To do this, take your rectangle and lay it horizontally. Take both sides of the rectangle and fold them over to create a pleat. You can pleat as many times as you’d like, though I wouldn’t recommend exceeding four at most. My personal preference is two, but the bigger the mask, the better having more pleats may be. Sizing your pleats is also a personal preference. Having pins comes in handy during this step, as you can pin the pleats into place.
- Sew down the line that you created when sewing a border. You don’t have to sew all the way around again, though you can if you’d like. You just want to ensure that the pleats are in place and stitched. I’d recommend backstitching here, too.
- Now that you have a nice, pleated mask, it’s time to create the loops for your ears. Sizing is also personal on this one. Everyone’s face is different, so it’s hard to give a rough estimate, but I find however tall you originally made your mask (6” in a standard case) is a somewhat rough estimate that would work. Though, I highly recommend you measure your own by putting the elastic up to your cheekbone and looping/stretching the elastic around your ear to the middle of your jaw. If this mask isn’t for you, you can always estimate again and remove/add a few inches. Cut out the elastic, make sure there are two pieces of elastic, and tie a knot on both ends of the strings.
- Sew the knots to the corners of your mask, all four, attaching both strings to one side of your mask. Make sure to backstitch multiple times to enforce and tada you have your own reusable, reversible mask!
That’s really all there is to it! It’s easy and can be done very fast. I’m able to make about 4 masks in an hour if I really focus. Sewing is a great and incredibly useful hobby to take up, so if you’re looking for ways to make masks inexpensively and find a new hobby, I definitely recommend sewing your own!