How to Make Your Own Mask (From Things You Probably Already Have at Home)

Learning to make your own mask is the perfect way to reduce waste from single-use surgical versions, as well as using the fabric scraps and old clothes around your house. Angela Murray-Nag (yes, that’s Beatrice’s mum!) ensures her sewing skills don’t skip a generation with this step-by-step guide.   As a textile artist, I love all things to do with fibres and yarns, including knit, macrame, weave and basketry. So, it sounds strange to admit that the thought of retrieving my sewing machine from the cupboard after several years of inactivity actually filled me with fear! Nevertheless, the current situation meant crossing that barrier. After all, with neighbours and friends were busy sewing scrubs, I must be able to manage a mask. A google search came up with a range of ideas, from a simple t-shirt construction to a fully-fitted face covering. I decided to opt for a pleated, surgical-style design that looked relatively straight forward.  It’s surprising what you can find at home and cotton fabrics were easy to lay my hands on; old t-shirt, dresses and pillowcases can all be potential mask-making material. What was harder to source was elastic – only an odd, unmatched hair bobble was to be found in the countless drawers I checked through. Then I had an epiphany moment: what about our collection of eye-masks that we have accumulated over the years from flights, and never wanted to throw away? I remembered that I had recently thrown some of them into a Red Cross charity bag. I was in luck; thanks to lockdown the bag was still waiting to go, and I had to dig down to retrieve them. Perfect, enough elastic per eye mask for two face coverings. After that, elastic seemed to turn up in a variety of unexpected places, including the waist and gathered legs of a pair of silk harem pants from India that I was planning to make into a hair scrunchy. Next, if you want a more secure fit around the nose, a thin wire is required. This time I found that a cable tie from an electrical purchase was ideal. Or pipe-cleaners, if you still have them like I do, from craft sessions with the kids. 

Now, down to the making.

You will need:

A piece of fabric (ideally cotton or some other material with a fine weave), 16 x 8.5”

Two 6.5” pieces of elastic

Filter material: Non-woven fabric preferably, such as Vilene, but you could also use a coffee filter paper, kitchen paper, even a panty liner

Step One

Fold the material in half lengthwise, right sides together and seam the end pieces, leaving a four inch gap in the centre. So stitch 2 1/4″, gap of 4”, stitch 2 1/4″.

My 16” x 8.5” piece of fabric. Don’t forget to leave a gap, like I did on my first attempt!

Step Two

Press the ‘circle’ of fabric flat, with the seam in the centre and then fold each cut edge of the seam in half down its length and run a zig-zag stitch along each one. This help to finish the edges either side of the gap section, which will be used to turn the fabric right-side out and through which the filter is inserted at the end.  

The plain white edge is a selvedge and won’t fray - meaning I took a short cut and didn’t need to zig-zag stitch it.

Step Three

Now insert the two pieces of elastic, so that they are laying between the fabric on either side and pin the edge of the elastic in place at the top and bottom of each side (the fabric may pucker a little at this point). Sew a 5/8” seam along each side, reversing back and forth when stitching over the elastic, to hold it in place securely.


The elastic is hidden between the layers on the right-hand side and waiting to be inserted on the left.

Step four

Take a piece of wire/pipe-cleaner, fold each end over 1/2” to avoid any sharp points and then insert it inside the upper section of the mask and secure in place by stitching around it. This will help to hold the mask securely in  place over your nose. 

Both pieces of elastic inserted, side seams stitched and nose wire also stitched in place.

Step Five

Turn the fabric inside out through the gap, so that the right side is now facing. Press with an iron. Fold a pleat, approx 1/2” in the centre, pointing downwards.


Step Six

Now fold and pin down a further two peats, one above and one below the first one. Pin in place to hold.


Step Seven

Stitch along each side, over the pleats and remove pins. The finished mask now measures approximate 3 1/2” deep and can be expanded to fit neatly over your nose and chin. 

Step Eight

Place filter material through gap and press it flat inside the mask. You are now ready to venture outside! Don’t forget to place it in a plastic bag after use and wash (removing filter first) as soon as you get home. You may need to make two or three! 

Got the sewing bug? Learn about the most common ways to mend you clothes.

Discover how artisans around the world are producing PPE for their local communities

Searching for more creative activities to while away your weekends? See our pick of lockdown pastimes