DIY Fabric Mask Cover–Covid 19 PPE helper


**Not to discourage you from making this mask–I’ve had positive feedback on the fit and coverage BUT if you are making for a specific organization–make sure that they do not have a specific style that they are requesting. Many hospitals/agencies are issuing their own patterns–some specifically designed to work with a filter they have found–so make sure you are making what they want and will accept**

Well, this isn’t my usual sort of post–but in light of all the requests by healthcare workers (HCW) and hospitals for masks and/or mask covers, I thought I’d share my “project-of-the-day”.  If you follow my blog you know I’m a NICU night shift nurse.  I live in an area that hasn’t had the rush of Covid-19 patients yet . . but you know it is coming.  It breaks my heart to know that my fellow HCW’s are using the same mask all day and begging people to make them something . . . anything . . . to try and extend the life of the masks they have and help get them through this crisis.  I dread the day when I am in that position.  So today, I spent my time working on creating a fabric mask/mask cover that I hope I never have to use.

What I’m making today is not a medical grade FILTER mask.  Think of it as a dust cover.  I am claiming no medical efficacy or medical grade filtration.  Why make them?  Because they are better than nothing.  Masks can help “catch” the droplets that are produced when you cough or sneeze.  They can also help prevent you from touching your face and mouth (there is evidence Covid-19 is spread by the fecal route as well as airborne and surface).  HCW’s are also using fabric covers like these to put over their N95 masks to try to keep them cleaner and make them last longer.  Why don’t we have masks?  Here’s one link to an article about a domestic manufacturer and here’s a NYT article about Chinese production of masks.

The CDC has stated that, in the absence of PPE, a bandana or handkerchief can be used (scroll to the bottom of the linked article).  I think I can make something a little better than a handkerchief!  Can these masks help?  Here is one link that thinks they can, and here is another one.  Are there concerns?  Sure.  A wet mask can wick bacteria/other bad stuff through it.  Germs from the mask can get on your hands, which is why it is important to use good technique and hand hygiene when using any mask.  But, desperate times call for desperate measures–so here we are.

What sort of fabric?  Well, there’s all sorts of opinions.  The general consensus is cotton is best, and t-shirt fabric makes a good liner.  This source likes a heavier fabric on the outside (this shows the completed mask).   This article by Smart Air compares a lot of different fabrics.  I’d avoid fleece because of the microfibers.  Some people like to have a pocket in the mask to be able to insert a filter.  The mask that I made does not have a pocket, but you could easily adapt it to create on.

The link to my mask pattern is:  RIGHT HERE  It should print on a standard 8.5 x 11″ sheet at the correct size (but there are inches marked so you can check the size).

Costumecrazed Mask pattern

**edit**:  response to a question:  the measurement from the folded edge to the side of the mask is 7″

For adding a filter pocket or metal nose piece, see Part 2.

I developed this by messing around with a few published mask patterns (Turban projectNurse for a Nurse, and BLHandmade among others)  and combining and adapting them over about 10 different prototypes until I created something I liked.  I wear glasses, and one problem with many of the masks is that they fit loosely over the nose and exhaled air escapes through the top and fogs up my glasses.  One solution some masks use is adding plastic covered wire to the upper edge, but, I only had a few twist ties, and couldn’t find any on my brief sojourn to the store today, so I went another route.  This one isn’t perfect, but it’s better than some.  I also wanted it to fit over a N95 mask if someone wanted to use it that way.  I didn’t have one, but I did  have a cheap dust mask, and I think that  worked as a substitute.  Some of the patterns also had raw edges on the inside, and I wanted to avoid those because I know how harsh hospital laundry can be.



Fabric:  you will need two pieces 8″ x 14-15″.

One for lining which can be t-shirt knit, a sheet, etc; and one of outer fashion fabric, which can be heavier, a print, even non-stretch denim.  I’ve read cotton is best, but I think you can use what you have (avoid fleece).  A tightly woven fabric is better than loosely woven.

**edit**:  I’ve seen comments about needing 100% cotton because of “autoclaving”.  I highly doubt masks would go through the autoclave, which is for sterilizing ie equipment because masks aren’t sterile–they come in a big box all stacked together.  Polyester would go through hospital laundry just fine–I work in a NICU and we have lots of fleece & knit sleepers.  There are also lots of other non-hospital people, like first responders, grocery store clerks, physical therapists, who might not care what it is made of. Just my two cents

Ties:  twill tape, bias tape, ribbon, etc, total of 2 yards (two pieces 36″ long)  OR

Elastic:  1/8″ or elastic cord about 8″ long (I haven’t used wider elastic, but I read a comment it was uncomfortable)

Making the Mask:

  1.  Cut two pieces, one of fashion fabric and one of lining (please ignore my stained ironing board cover–yikes!)cut two, a lining and an outer fabric--costumecrazed mask
  2. Press the sides under 1/4″.press the sides under --costumecrazed mask
  3. Pin the two pieces right sides together ( I have one pin in the upper center–it doesn’t take much) and sew the long edges together with a 1/4″seam.  I suggest using a small stitch for strength.

4.  Clip the two “corners”.

clip two corners--costumecrazed mask

5.  Turn the tube right-side-out.

turn the mask right sides out--costumecrazed mask

6.  Press.  I press from the back side and “coax” the lining down so it doesn’t show from the front.

mask turned and pressed

7.  Add two or three pleats on the side to make the side edges about 3″.  Press in pleats.  I make the top one (not too deep) and then measure as I’m making the second one.  Don’t over think it–this isn’t an heirloom item.  It’s functional, likely with a short life.

**If the pleating is hard for you to get–just make one pleat.  Position it near middle/top third since most of the space is needed over the mouth area**

**edit**  After ironing/steaming the pleats in place, clipping them while they cool makes them really easy to sew, especially if you are using a knit lining.  If you are making a batch of masks, this works really well.

clipping the pleats after steaming. mask

8.  Stitch the pleats down from the inside (I do this to flatten the casing and make it easier to thread the elastic or ties through.  You can skip this step).

stitch down the pleats from the back side

9.  Fold the edge to the back and create a casing, about 1/2″ give or take.  Stitch down securely, making sure to backstitch on the ends of the casing so it won’t pull out.  If you want a wider casing, you can cut the mask a bit longer on the sides.

Fold over and stitch down to form a casing

The mask to this point,  If you want to add a line of topstiching along the top and/or bottom, now is a good time.

casings done

10.  Add a dart on the bottom (to shape it around the chin).  It should be roughly 1″ wide by 1-1.5″ deep–don’t stress about it, just do it.  Sew with a smaller stitch and make sure to backstitch.  If these end up going through hospital laundry it can be brutal on items.  I do not trim this pleat, I just leave it in there.

11.  Mark the center of the top edge on the back side.  I use a sharpie if I can’t find my heat sensitive fabric pen . . which I usually can’t.

mark the center of the top edge on the back

12.  Take the “corner” (dot on the paper pattern) and bring it to the center, forming an inverted box pleat on the FRONT of the mask and shaping the mask by lining up the edges evenly.  I do it this way, because while I like how the box pleat looks on the front better, by inverting the pleat, the fabric is shaped around the nose and fits tighter on the face.  Repeat with the second side.  I stick the first side under my presser foot and start sewing, and then fold the second side as I go.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

13.  Stitch the pleat in place.  I’ve decided I like stitching it from the front with a straight stitch and making a small “box” with the stitching.  This lies flat and seems secures.  Initially I was using a tight zig-zag and stitching from the back, which also works.   Top stitching could also be added now, if desired.

Mask at this point:

14.  Elastic:  If you want elastic, cut (2) 8″ pieces of 1/8″ elastic or elastic cord (or longer if you need, or you want people to be able to tie it to fit).  Thread it through the casing (I use a pin).  Tie it together, and pull the knot into the casing.

15.  Ties, convertible side ties:  If you want ties, cut (2) 36″ long pieces of tie–twill tape, bias tape, ribbon, strips of fabric you make into a folded strip etc.  Pull through the casing (I use a pin).  If you want it there permanently, stitch the tie to the casing–either once in the center of the casing, or on either end.  Alternatively, you could secure with with a pin and it could be removed for laundering (help with tangling), changed out if soiled/frayed, or easily replaced with elastic.  (See also Alternative ties below)

tie through the casing--costumecrazed mask

16.  Ties, attached across top & bottom:

Made with extra side binding:  If you would rather have sewn on ties, you can alter the pattern so that the sides are about 3/4″ shorter .  Don’t bother pressing the edges under.  After pressing in the pleats, stay stitch them down and trim the fabric close to the stitching.  Cover the side edges with double fold bias tape (or whatever you want)–seen here in pink.  Then, cut two 40″ pieces of double fold bias tape, twill tape (used here), fabric etc, and center on the upper and lower edges and stitch in place to bind the edges.

Made with NO extra side binding:  If you make a mistake like I did, and sew the two pieces together wrong sides together–don’t bother taking it part, just go with the flow.  You don’t even need to trim or bind the sides–just turn them under and stitch to make a “hem” on the side–it’s sturdy enough on it’s own you don’t need extra binding.  Then, here I used twill tape, fold your 40″ strips over the edges and stitch in place.  I used a zig-zag.  If you have any missed spots on the inside, ie where the pleats are, just go back and reinforce.

17:  Tips as I go:

Non-fray lining:  If you are using a non-fray lining, like a t-shirt knit, you can trim the lining 1/4″ instead of turning it under and pressing (back in step 2).  You could print two copies of the pattern and  label one “lining” and trim it down to save fabric.  Here I’m just trimming what I already cut.  This reduces time and bulk.

non-fray t-shirt knit lining, costumecrazed mask

If using a non-fray fabric like t-shirt knit for the lining, you can trim off the edge instead of turning it under, to decrease bulk

Altering the lining:  If you are finding the knit lining is too bulky–consider cutting it shorter and adding woven fabric on the sides.  It means an extra seam, but if it makes life easier to make the mask, a little time is worth it.  This would also be an opportunity to make a “pocket” to insert a filter.


Where is my daughter when I need her?  Well, actually, the one you usually saw in the past just got accepted to Pharmacy school for next fall (!!!!) and is currently working a lot of crazy hours as a hospital pharmacy tech . . . so . . . you get my gorgeous self.

Mask with elastic:

Mask with ties, shown OVER a dust mask:

How much time does it take?

Well, honestly, you get a lot faster and now that I’ve made a bunch, once I have them cut and I sit down at the sewing machine–about 10″ (if I don’t mess up–and if I do, I try to go with it, not waste time taking out stitches).  You can also speed up your time by doing them assembly line style so you spend less time getting up and down to use the ironing board.  Once you’ve done a couple, it really goes pretty fast.  Do I want to do this for the rest of my life?  Nope.  But it’s not too bad to make a few.  It seems like drops in a hurricane, but, lots of people working together can do amazing things.

I’m not listing any specific places to donate.  Check to see if your local community is looking for them for nursing homes, assisted living, hospital, veterinarian, etc.  If you can’t find anyone–just do a google search, and more-and-more places are popping up, either hospitals or individuals in the severely affected areas.

As always, I love feedback and comments, and don’t forget to “like” and “follow”.  I’ve got some actual costuming posts in the works . . . but they’ve been sidelined for the time being.

Stay safe, and do a little sewing in your time of social-distancing.

9 thoughts on “DIY Fabric Mask Cover–Covid 19 PPE helper

  1. Thank you! I haven’t been costuming for a long time and really enjoyed seeing your post. Just yesterday I was talking to friends who brought up this very subject. I am looking for a local facility that I can donate to. Again, thanks for the very timely email.




    • I’ve read that there are people looking to make national connections. I also saw someone suggest emergency services (like ambulances). I figure I can just start making and eventually someone will ask for them 🙂 The release of industrial N95’s for healthcare will help, but it still isn’t projected to be enough. Just in the last 24 hours there are more needs posted online . . so I’m sure the requests will come.


  2. I made one similar to this but both ends are open so the N95 mask slips inside and one still uses those ties. This was John’s suggestion.


    • I’ve seen those for sale, but haven’t seen a pattern. I also don’t have a N95 mask to play around with for measurements/fit. I’d imagine it can’t go under the mask as that would affect the seal (although, do they really seal after people are wearing them for hours/days? I saw one reference to up to a week 😦 ) Lots of variations, for different needs and different levels of care. Thanks for making some!


  3. Thanks for this! I like all of the variation of ties – who knows what we have on hand, or will run out of. It looks like a good functional design.


    • Lots of places making masks . . and now it sounds like there is more droplet transmission than originally though, so (it sounds like) masks can help asymptomatic people from spreading it. Anything that helps flatten the curve.


  4. Pingback: Costumecrazed Mask DIY Part 2: Filter pocket and metal nose piece | costumecrazed

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