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Cloth face masks have many practical uses. The World Health Organisation and the UK government have recently advised the public to wear whatever masks they can, including cloth, when on public transport and in enclosed areas. I have seen more and more people asking for a pattern. So here is how to sew a face mask with a filter pocket.
*Please Note – these are not and have not been tested as ‘medical grade options’. I cannot guarantee and accept no liability for the use of this mask as a medical device or in a medical setting.
This post was first published on 6th April 2020, but has been updated to reflect current guidelines. It is a collaborative post – for more details please see my Disclosure policy
How To Sew A Face Mask (With A Filter Pocket)
This pattern has a filter pocket. Cloth by itself may not be good enough, but if you add a filter, such as
- an N95 mask filter
- a standard surgical face mask
- a non woven material such as Vilene M12 , Vilene L11or Vilene F220
then a cloth mask could offer more protection and be a very useful thing to have.
See the WHO guidance on what fabric to use for face masks. They currently advise 3 layers of closely woven fabric.
This mask is 3 layers, but also has a filter pocket for if you do feel the need to add a further filter.
These masks are also useful if you are crafting, have allergies, or live/work in a particularly dusty or smoggy area.
You Will Need
- Cotton fabric – closely woven 100% cotton. Or polycotton outer and 100% cotton inner
- Coordinating thread
- Flat elastic – mine is about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick
- Scissors. Or a cutting board, quilters measure and rotary cutter.
- Pins and a sewing machine
- A pipe cleaner or florists wire – to help fit the mask more closely to the face around the nose.
I have stipulated 100% cotton fabrics as these can be washed at much higher temperatures than most fabrics. These masks are best used once then washed thoroughly before being used again.
Also, instead of a pipe cleaner / florists wire you could use an opened out paperclip – though these do have a tendency to rust. Or harvest the nose metal from old standard surgical masks that you may have used.
Cutting The Cloth For The Masks
For an adult mask you will need 3 pieces of cotton material measuring 9 inches by 6 inches, and 2 pieces of elastic measuring 7 inches in length.
For a child sized mask you will need 3 pieces of cotton measuring 7.5 inches by 5 inches, and 2 pieces of elastic measuring 6 inches in length.
I actually like to cut 2 pieces of standard fabric, then cut a third piece in a cotton lawn material for the filter pocket.
Making The Masks
Firstly, sew a small 7-8mm hem on one of the long sides of the filter pocket piece of fabric. I turn over the hem by 4mm twice.
Then sew the elastic to the right side of one of the pieces of main fabric, Sew one piece into one short side, and the other piece into the corners of the other short side, as below.
Next, place the hemmed filter pouch piece right side down onto this elasticated piece,
And place the second main fabric piece right side down over the two other pieces. Pin all these together.
Mark a 4-5 cm gap in the long side away from where the filter pouch hem is laid.
With a 5mm seam allowance, sew all the way around the four sides of your pinned fabric. Backstitch at the beginning and end of your sewing, and leave the gap open. On the side where the filter pocket hem is placed, ensure you avoid sewing through the filter pocket layer, but on the other 3 sides ensure you catch all three layers.
Clip the corners and trim your seam allowance if you wish. This makes sure you get crisp outer corners.
Turn the whole structure inside out through the gap. Push out the corners well. And give the whole thing a good press.
This is the front:
And this is the back.
On the long top edge, you will still have an open gap. We are going to close this. But first we need to make a channel for the nose fitting piece.
About 12mm or 1/2 inch from the top edge, sew a line of stitching.
This creates a channel for the pipe cleaner or whatever you are using to nose-fit the mask. Insert the pipe cleaner. I have since found that folding over the ends of the pipe cleaner stop it poking through.
Then sew a very small seam allowance close to the very top edge, to close up the turning gap and seal the pipe cleaner into place.
I also like to firstly centre the nose fitting metal strip or pipe cleaner, then sew a line of stitching to ensure it doesn’t shuffle along the channel.
Finally, we need to add some pleats.
I fold the mask in half lengthwise. Then fold the mask on itself to make a pleat.
Repeat to make a second pleat. Pin in place. And then sew down each side with a 5mm seam allowance to sew all the pleats in place.
And you have a finished face mask!
Both the nose and the ear loops can be adjusted to fit the face closely. The closer the fit to the face the better.
For a filter, cut a piece of Vilene to size and slip it into the pocket. Or use an N95 filter.
Again, I do have to state that these are not and have not been tested as ‘medical grade options’. I cannot guarantee and accept no liability for the use as a medical device or in a medical setting.
But do think that these are certainly a useful thing to have in the current times.
Find some great sewing books alongside a great selection of arts, crafts and haberdashery at The Works.
Including this different face mask pattern, the Olsen pattern, which comes in adult and child sizes.
Do you think that you will be making some of these? Do let me know in the comments, or find me on social media.
And please do pin this post for later.
This post was first published on 6th April 2020, but has been updated to reflect current guidelines.