I’m hoping to get all the resources for face mask pattern options and supplies into one central spot. I will be keeping this page updated with fresh supply links, any new patterns that catch my attention, and the latest buzz regarding face mask sewing from our sewing community. How many people are sewing face masks for themselves, their family members, friends, and local organizations?
The sewing community’s response to our country’s very unfortunate lack of PPE warms my heart. I’m so proud to be a member of the sewing community, now more than ever. If you’re looking for the pros and cons of different types of home sewn face masks, need to know where to find available supplies like elastic and mask filters, or have questions about caring for your face masks, this page should be a good source of information.
Mask Making Materials – In Stock Supply List
I know it can be overwhelming and frustrating to try to source supplies to make fabric masks when you can’t leave home and supplies are sold out in many places. The supply list (aff links may be included ) below will be updated frequently to reflect current available inventory for mask-making materials.
- 1/4-inch Elastic is available here – I saw one video suggesting you could just cut any wider elastic – don’t count on this, most elastics will fray and unravel if you cut them up their length.
- Beaded elastic cording – that is the thin elastic cord – I like it with my mask that I wear hooked over my ears. The online supply is available, but it looks like delivery dates are pretty far out right now.
- Carbon filters are available here – do not wash the filters when you wash your reusable masks. Ideally, they should be discarded and replaced after each use.
- HEPA filters can be found here – HEPA filters or vacuum bags can be cut to size and used as a filter.
- 100% cotton jersey knit – Use strips of this type of knit instead of elastic. The edges won’t fray, you can cut it easily, and it will hold up to hospital sanitation processes if you’re sewing for medical workers.
- If you want to use bias tape for your mask straps, you can make your own bias or binding tape – use these bias tape makers to speed things up.
- After trying a bunch of different wire inserts to help shape the masks around the nose bridge, I think twist ties were my favorite. I ran out, but just put in a bulk order for more! You can get twist ties by next week here.
Sewing Machines and Sergers
Spending so much time at home may provide the perfect opportunity to get started sewing. I’ve noticed that most of the easy to purchase beginner machines have been scooped up, but I happened to find two of the machines that I currently use in my sewing room and they are available!
- The Juki Serger is a great little machine horse. If you’re ready to get started with the convenience of serging, this is a nice machine to work with.
- This Singer Quantum Stylist sewing machine is a step up from a beginner machine; mine has been chugging along for years and years. It has some of my very favorite options like the auto-cut button and built-in fancy stitches. If you’re ready to do a little more sewing than once in a blue moon, this is a great machine.
FAQs about Fabric Face Masks
Many healthcare workers are using homemade fabric masks along with their N95 masks to extend the longevity of their protective coverings. Masks with ample accordion folds can be comfortable worn over N95 masks. This pleated type of mask will work.
Wear the pleated face masks with the pleats folding downward. First, place the mask over your mouth and nose. Gently press from the center of the nose bridge and smooth the metal nose wire down over the bridge of your nose, smoothing from the center down and out so that the mask tucks comfortable over your nose and cheeks.
Remove the mask by releasing the straps and carefully pulling the mask away from your nose and mouth without touching the outer material of the mask. Be especially careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while removing your face mask. If you are using a non-washable filter inside the mask, you would ideally discard the filter after each use. Place the mask directly into a Ziplock bag or a fabric sack to be put into the washing machine. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching the face mask.
Fabric masks should be laundered on a normal wash setting and dried in the dryer on med-high heat. Use regular laundry detergent. To keep the mask and ties from becoming too tangled while laundering, consider washing your masks in a pillowcase or a mesh laundry bag like this one.
If you have options, the BEST material to use would be a high thread count 100% cotton fabric. In the sewing community, this would be quilters cotton and flannel. A layer of cotton stacked with a layer of flannel is a great combo. Typically a cheaper cotton will be thinner and the weave between the fibers will be further apart. You can feel the cheaper quality and it will allow more light to pass through if you hold it up to a window. More light = more particles getting through.
The recommendation for the general public to wear face coverings is intended to reduce the transmission rate of individuals carrying the disease unknowingly. It’s meant to serve as a reminder to maintain social distancing protocol. Materials with a tighter weave or that are less porous have been shown to be more effective in actually stopping particles from traveling through the material. I’ve read studies that suggest t-shirt masks are a good material choice because they are comfortable and easy to breathe through. I’ve read other studies suggesting that knit fabrics are useless. I am operating under the belief that something is better than nothing. I would suggest using a knit face mask only when you are able to add a tightly woven (quilting cotton, flannel) or non-woven (carbon filter, HEPA filter) material inside the mask. This no sew t-shirt mask has a pocket where a filter can be used.
Usually, no. Unless the leggings are made from 100% cotton, they are not the best choice for a face mask covering. Leggings are typically a polyester blend fabric, reducing the breathability. Choose 100% cotton for your most breathable, but also protective fabric.
I get it. You’re trying to make face masks and all of a sudden elastic is nowhere to be found. Don’t panic. The absolute easiest substitute for elastic is using a knit fabric to make ties. Knit is the dream fabric in this scenario because it won’t fray or break down during laundering, so you can easily just cut strips of knit (you can even cut up an old t-shirt) and now additional sewing is necessary to make a wonderful elastic substitute. What’s more is that the knit will not break down like elastic will under heavy duty sanitation processes (like they use in the hospitals) AND I think it’s way more comfy. You can also use bias tape or binding tape to make straps. This is not my favorite way because it takes a lot more time to sew and ties with no stretch don’t seem to be as comfortable or as well-fitting as stretchy straps. Just use the knit!! Both my filter pocket tutorial and my 5-minute serger mask will show you how to use knit straps in lieu of elastic.
I’m not currently organizing or collecting face masks to be donated. Every single organization that I’ve heard about seems to be requesting a different type of mask. If you are going to sew masks to be donated, please contact the appropriate resources in your community so that you know what their requirements are before you begin sewing. Some places are providing the exact pattern they want you to make while others are providing the materials with which to make the masks. Sew masks for yourself or for friends who do not sew.
Do you have other questions? Let me know and I will try to find the answers for you. Please do defer to the CDC website for all official information regarding homemade face coverings. Stay safe and well.