Hey there! Long time, no entry – I’ve been slow on the pattern making (and crocheting in general), ever since I started dental school. However, with the current CDC recommendation that people wear a face mask any time they go out of the house, I’ve been pumping out the cloth face masks!
I’ve tried a number of different patterns I’ve found online, but I keep coming up against the same fit issues over and over again. I know there’s a LOT of masks out there, but I’ve designed my own to try to solve some of the common problems I’ve seen.
As a dental student, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of well-fitting PPE and while a cloth mask is nowhere near as effective as hospital-grade equipment, I’ve addressed a few common patterns with other patterns I’ve found online:
- Minimal gaps: This pattern should minimize gaps between the mask and your face. Some mask designs that create gaps at the edges near your ears (especially if the mask is wide on the side and bunches up away from the face) and gaps along the sides of the nose.
- Nosewire slot: Part of minimizing the gaps was adding a nose wire, but some of the other patterns I’ve seen involves stitching a wire into the mask. I had two concerns about the sewn-in wire: the wire isn’t removable for washing (it’ll rust more quickly) and stitching directly through the mask can add extra holes for small particles to escape and enter. My design allows the wire to be inserted into the bias, allowing stitches to only be in the bias where the tiny holes are more likely to be blocked plugged by 6 layers of fabric.
- Glasses-friendly: A tight seal between your mask and your face also helps prevent fogging glasses! Remember, if your mask fogs your glasses, that means that air from your mouth/nose is escaping through a gap and getting behind your glasses. Droplets can enter and escape through that same pathway. So if you are wearing a mask and your glasses are fogging, it’s not just a nuisance – it means your mask isn’t working well!
- Won’t obscure vision: This pattern should keep the mask away from your eyes. The first masks I made (before I started building this pattern) came up to my lower eyelids and were irritating, often getting into my eyes. I’ve contoured the top of this mask to keep it out of your eyes.
- Anti-nose smushing: The darts along the nose of this mask should prevent nose-squishing. I’ve seen a lot of people in my neighborhood wearing their masks over their mouth only (rendering the mask ineffective). I pointed it out to one woman who responded that the mask compresses her nose and she finds it uncomfortable to wear. My pattern creates space for your nose and will hopefully encourage people to cover BOTH their nose and mouth.
- Ties instead of elastic: I’ve seen a lot of complaints about masks with elastics that irritate ears. Including ties on this mask allows it to fit a variety of head sizes and shapes! Additionally, some say that the elastic doesn’t hold up well to repeated washing in a hospital setting either, so I’m hoping that the ties are useful for the masks I’m donating. (However, if you want to make a mask with elastic instead, I also have a paragraph in the tutorial below for how to modify this pattern).
So with that in mind, please try this pattern for a well-fitting mask (and if you have any extra tips/tricks, share them with me!). If you like the pattern, send your fellow mask-making friends here. The more effective masks we can get out into the world, the better we’ll all fair!
Remember, no face covering is completely protective. The best defense we have is social distancing – staying in your home and avoiding other people as much as possible. Do not let your mask give you a false sense of security, but when you absolutely have to go out, wear a mask that fits tightly and covers both your mouth AND nose!
- Tightly Woven Cotton Fabric
- Two 6” x 9” rectangles
- Preferably use two different patterns. Healthcare workers have requested this so they can recall which side was against their face and which was facing outward.
- Bias Tape (see note at end of post about making your own)
- 3” (cut 2)
- 20” (cut 1)
- 22” (cut 1)
- 42” (cut 1)
- Pipe cleaners work, but fold the ends over so they don’t puncture the fabric
- Twist tie from bread bag or other grocery also works well
- My template
- Print the last page of this PDF (or trace it onto paper). Use the 1″ x 1″ square as a reference to make sure your version is the correct size.
- Template: Cloth Face Mask Pattern – Allison McDonough
- Scissors or Rotery Cutter
- Sewing Machine
Align both pieces of fabric right-sides out.
With pieces together, fold three 3/8 inch pleats lengthwise into the lower portion of the mask and iron into place, leaving the top 1.5 inches free of the pleated zone. (I made a little jig so I can make these in bulk, but you can also just manually fold the pleats – they don’t have to be perfect).
Fold mask in half vertically.
While keeping pleats in place, fold down the top of one of the fabrics to expose the wrong side of the other fabric. Stitch dart in the unfolded fabric. Dart should be at a 45° angle – about 1 inch down and 1 inch in. (Sorry it’s tough to see here – look at the next images for a more clear visual of the size of the dart)
Switch the vertical fold of the mask and repeat on the other side, so each of the two fabrics has a dart sewn in.
Align the two darts and orient the seams of the darts in opposite directions.
With mask folded in half, align template over the mask and cut along the top. Template is on the last page of this PDF.
Stitch 3” pieces of bias tape up the sides of the masks (covering the pleats so they’re held in place). Trim excess.
For a mask with ties, follow the upcoming steps. (If you prefer to make a mask with elastic, bias tape doesn’t need to be stitched into ties and can be stitched onto the mask only, leaving a little bit of excess on either side. You should still follow instructions to leave a gap with overlapping bias tape along the top of the mask to insert the nose wire. Then, the bias tape edges can be folded inward, elastic can be inserted into the bias tape and top stitched in place, to make clean ends and to hold the elastic in place.
Find center of 42” piece of bias tape and center it on the bottom of the mask. Fold under the ends of the bias tape to make clean ends. Starting at one end of the bias tape, stitch together, over the mask, and to the other end, creating the ties and bottom stitches at the same time.
With 20” piece of bias tape, position it so that it only covers about 1/3 of the top of the mask. Fold the free end under to make a clean end, and stitch the tape together.
With the 22” piece of bias tape, fold under the end and position it so it overlaps with the bias tape over the top. This creates a gap in the bias where a wire can be inserted later. Stitch in place and to the other folded-under end to finish the mask and final tie.
Insert wire into the bias gap along the nose and you’re done! The wire can be removed for washing to prevent rusting.
I hope this pattern and tutorial helps you make effective masks! Please reach out with questions and comments. I’m happy to update this tutorial to clarify any areas that are confusing.
The one thing I’ll add is that this mask does not have a filter pocket. I haven’t seen convincing scientific evidence that any of the materials people are using as filters are actually effective. If you feel the need to add a pocket, you’re welcome to do so, but please don’t purchase medical filters or respirators for your own personal use. Equipment is in short supply in hospitals, and I’m a big believer that the general public should not contribute to the depletion of that supply. In general, medical workers who encounter this virus in massive quantities need the medical-grade equipment more than a community member going for a walk.
**Don’t have bias tape? Make your own! Cut strips of fabric 1.5” across. Fold the centers edges to the center and iron in place. Then fold in half and iron. This pattern is written so that you can cut two strips off your fabric from edge-to-edge on a 45” piece of fabric. Remove 3” from each piece for the sides of the mask. One of the remaining 42” pieces will cover the bottom of the mask. The other 42” piece can be cut into pieces 20” and 22”