The official word has come from the CDC and the federal government, and many state governments had already been recommending the practice: when going out in public wearing a face mask is recommended for everyone. And, in order to insure that medical-grade masks are being saved and directed to the frontline healthcare workers who need them most, the rest of the population is encouraged to use DIY masks. You are a maker, so you’re ready to help make masks for yourself, your family, and your friends.
We already have a number of great static and video face mask tutorials within our general resource article. Click here to access those as well as free pattern links for hair covers and even gowns. If you or someone you know does not sew or if you simply want a super fast (five minutes!) alternative, this easy, no-sew project is for you.
Model is shown with the mask tight across her nose and mouth. Some recommend a better fit if pulled all the way down over the chin. The finished mask is easy to adjust.
As mentioned by the CDC as well as other governmental healthcare groups, the DIY mask is not 100% protection against acquiring the COVID19 virus. Instead, wearing a masks as an individual is meant to prevent you, who may or may not be infected, from infecting someone else. There is increasing evidence that this virus can be spread by pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. A face mask is one of the best ways to cut down on airborne respiratory droplet spread in public. Wearing a mask in public also keeps you more aware of not touching your own face.
Here in the US, the recommendations about everyone wearing face masks are strong but not mandatory. The choice is up to you, however, initial “negative concerns” about the general public wearing masks have really fallen by the wayside. We should all understand by now that our own DIY masks are not some magical method for keeping us 100% safe. Social distancing and hand washing are still just as important. If we all do what we can, we can make a difference.
Although the recommendation says “everyone” wear a mask remember that cloth face coverings should NOT be placed on children under age two. Never put a mask or any other face covering on an infant or an incapacitated adult who is not able to adjust or remove the mask themselves as this could compromise their ability to breathe.
In all instances, all DIY fabric masks should be laundered in hot, soapy water after every use! Put them on AND take them off using the stretchy ear loops or ties; don’t touch the front of the mask. Then immediately wash your hands. These no-sew masks are super fast and easy (really ALL the mask tutorials are); make several for each person in your household so there’s no temptation to wear them more than once before washing.
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: You can either use a scarf or bandana you already have on hand or square of fabric from your stash. Quality quilting cotton is best with a tight weave. When folded all the way, this project yields 24 layers of fabric at the very center of the mask and 16 layers at either end! In addition, you can add a filtering layer of your favorite substrate. We show using a square of interfacing. With this many layers, you could also use other filtering options. Our Resource Article has several suggestions as well as some great discussions within the comments on using everything from coffee filters to landscape cloth, from cotton t-shirts to antimicrobial pillowcases as options. We do not have expert opinions on every possible option, so the final decision is up to you.
- ONE apx. 20” x 20” square of fabric or one app 20” x 20” scarf or bandana
- TWO small loops of elastic or elastic hair bands or… a sock from which you can cut stretchy loops (shown below)
- ONE apx. 6” x 6” square of filtering material – optional; we used non-woven interfacing
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- If using a scarf or bandana, press it flat. We are assuming your scarf/bandana already has a hem so no additional finishing is necessary.
- If using fabric, cut a 20” x 20” square.
NOTE: It is not 100% necessary to finish the raw edges of the fabric square. However, as mentioned above, this DIY mask should be laundered after every use. So if you feel the fabric you’ve chosen is prone to raveling, you might want to run a quick finishing stitch around all four sides. Choose something lightweight and flat, like a standard zig zag, to avoid any lumpy or stiff edges within the folds.
- If using a filtering layer, cut ONE 6” x 6” square.
- Lay the fabric square flat on your work surface, wrong side up.
- Fold in half and press lightly to set a horizontal center crease line.
- Position the optional filtering layer on top of the fabric. The bottom edge of the filtering square so be positioned along the center horizontal crease line equal distance side to side.
- Fold the square in half, exactly as you did above to set that horizontal crease, sandwiching the optional filtering square between the layers.
- Fold in half again.
- Fold in half one more time. The height should now be approximately 2-1/2”.
- Find the two elastic bands. Slip one band over each end of the folded fabric.
- Slide the bands toward the center of the folded fabric. They should be approximately 8-9” apart.
- Fold in each end toward the center using the elastic bands as your fold points.
- The two ends should overlap one another at the center by about 2”.
- Open up the folds of the end that is on the bottom of this overlap.
- Slip in the ends of the top layer. It’s like putting one end into the “pocket” of the other end. You can press flat at this point as an option to help set all the folds.
- The overlap shown should be a good size for an average adult. If making a mask for someone with a larger head or if making a mask for a child, the overlap can be adjusted.
Optional stretchy loops from a sock
NOTE: With volunteers everywhere helping to make DIY face masks, standard elastic has become scarce. This is what we recommend hair bands above. However, another very clever option we saw from various online sources is to use an old sock or footie to cut your own stretchy bands.
- Find the stretchiest part of the sock or footie and slice through both layers.
- About 1/2” in width is good.
- Fold your fabric in the same manner as above and slip the DIY elastic onto either end – again, just as shown above.
Put on and gently expand to fit face
- Use the stretchy loops to put on the mask.
NOTE: As mentioned above, always use the loops to both put on and take off the mask.
- With the loops in place over your ears, gently pull apart the folds just slightly. You are pulling from the top and the bottom at the same time. Again, be gentle; you are simply adjusting the folds to best fit your face.
- You’re ready to go out and about in your no-sew mask.
- Remember, as soon as you get back home, remove and launder the mask before wearing again.
Project Design: Our mask is adapted from several existing online tutorials, in particular, this Instagram tutorial from Japan.
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild