With the current COVID-19 pandemic, our health system is becoming quickly overwhelmed. The hardworking doctors and nurses are running short on supplies, especially PPE, or Personal Protection Equipment.

One very specific piece of PPE that is absolutely critical is the surgical face mask. Sadly, there is an extreme shortage of them right now. However, we can help. According to Forbes, medical professionals from around the country are calling on seamstresses for help in making reusable face masks.

See the video below and keep reading to find out step-by-step instructions on how to make these masks so you can help fight the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19.


Materials Needed:

  • A sewing machine that is threaded and ready to go
  • Cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Rotary cutter or fabric sheers
  • Paper
  • Scissors for paper
  • Fusible Interfacing
  • 2 7” strips of ¼” elastic
  • Cotton fabric
  • Cotton woven fabric
  • Clean tee-shirts you don’t mind cutting up
  • Dish towels
  • Pencil
  • Pins or sewing clips

Optional Materials
HEPA vacuum bags can be used in place of the fusible interfacing to provide a more comprehensive filtration, however, if they get wet they are not as effective.

Here are the Directions:

Step One

First, we need a pattern. Get a clean sheet of paper. Use your ruler to measure a length of 9” wide and 6” high. Cut this rectangle out. On the bottom of this rectangle, write the words “cut on fold”. At the top, mark off a ¼” seam allowance.

Now we need to mark all of the pleat folds.

Start by lining your ruler up vertically with the ⅛” mark even with your seam allowance line. Proceed by making solid dark marks at the 1.5”, 3”, and 4.5” lines. Next, you will make lighter markings or dashed lines at ½” intervals. These will be at 1”, 2”, 2.5”, 3.5”, 4”, and 5”. This will be done on both the right and left sides of your pattern.

Step Two

Now we need to cut out our fabric. First, ensure that your fabric is at least 9”x12”. If it is not, you will need two pieces.

Fold your cotton fabric. Place the pattern on the fabric with the bottom of the pattern labeled “cut on fold” lined up with the fold of your cotton. Using your fabric sheers or rotary cutter, cut around the pattern very precisely. We need to make sure everything lines up properly.

Repeat these steps with the interfacing. Line the cotton and interfacing up carefully with the interfacing on the wrong side of your cotton fabric. Fold the right sides of the cotton fabric together.

Sew the top seams together, leaving about 2” in the middle open so that you can turn the mask right side out later.

Step Three

Now that you have the fabric cut out and the top seam ready, you can insert the elastic. For each side, you will put an end of the 7” strip of elastic at the top and bottom edge of your fabric, and then tuck the loop it creates inside with the right sides of the cotton fabric.

Now that you have everything lined up, you will sew the sides up. While sewing, pay particular attention to backstitching on the elastic ends. It is very important that they are secure.

Turn your mask right side out and iron it flat. Turn the seam allowance at the top in while ironing to ensure you can easily sew it shut after.

Step Four

Using your pattern, mark the pleat lines. You can do this with a washable fabric pen or pins. Make sure you clearly mark the top dark line and the lighter line right under it. Do the top and bottom pleat markings differently so you can easily distinguish between them. This will make folding them a breeze.

Now, fold the pleats by folding up at the top mark, and then folding down at the bottom mark. Do this for each of the 3 pleat lines. Use a pin or a sewing clip to hold the pleats in place. They should line up neatly without large gaps or overlapping.

Step Five

Now, we sew.

Start sewing along the edge where the seam allowance is still open. Make sure you backstitch to make it secure! Sew all the way around. Pay close attention to your pleats and elastics. If these are not secure, the face mask will not help anyone.

Once you have sewn all the way around, double-check the entire thing mask. Make sure your pleats are lined up and not too bulky. Also, make sure that they don’t leave gaps in between.

Tug on the elastics a bit so that you know for sure they are secure and tightly in place.

Step Six

You do not want to spread germs around. For this reason, before you donate any cloth masks, they need to be clean.

Start off by washing your hands very well. Consider taking a shower and putting on completely clean clothes and your own face mask.

Now, submerge each of your sewn masks in hot water using either a mild detergent or a laundry sanitizer. Carefully knead each mask gently, and then air dry. Once dry, put the masks into a bag for donation.

That’s it! You are all done! Now you can spend all of those free, socially isolated hours helping your community and the medical personnel who are risking their lives to save everyone else’s.