Pleated Face Mask Sewing Pattern with Ties or Elastic – Free Printable

The DIY face mask pattern in this post will teach you to make a pleated fabric face mask with either elastic ear loops or fabric ties.

If you can’t find elastic to make elastic ear loops, the pattern includes additional instructions to make and use fabric ties. You can make fabric ties from cotton fabric, t-shirt material, or ready-made bias binding.

You can make this easy fabric face mask with or without an optional interior filter pocket. The filter pocket allows the wearer to insert additional layers of filtration material if they so desire.

The pattern also includes instructions for inserting nose wire into the upper nose bridge section to create a better fitting fabric mask.

A free printable PDF version of these pattern instructions is available at the bottom of the post. And you can watch the video tutorial on Youtube.

If you don’t have a sewing machine, I have a separate post with 5 Ways to Make a No-Sew Face Mask and another free pattern showing you How to Fold a No-Sew Bandana Face Mask.

fabric mask for hospitals with filter pocket, fabric ties, and bendable nose piece

Is there a need for Fabric Face Masks?

Yes! The CDC says that the use of cloth masks can help slow the spread of disease.

Many makers have asked for a pattern to sew homemade surgical-style face masks for their families, communities, and local hospitals.

There is currently a high demand for all types of face masks. Since disposable masks are hard to come by, many people have been making fabric masks to use as protective face coverings.

Members of the community are encouraged to use reusable fabric face masks and other face coverings when in public, or in situations where social-distancing is difficult

What’s more, since there is such a high demand for protective equipment for health care workers, many hospitals across the country have requested homemade surgical masks as an emergency stopgap measure.

According to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted.

The CDC Now Recommends the Use of Cloth Face Coverings

Federal health officials now recommend people over the age of 2 cover their mouths and noses with cloth face masks when in public.

This is a voluntary public health measure meant to help “stop the spread” when people must visit public spaces such as grocery stores and public transit stations.

CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

Sewing a cloth face mask for yourself will allow medical grade surgical masks and N95 masks to be reserved health care professionals and patients.

Homemade Face Masks are Helpful

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has explained that wearing a cloth mask can help protect the people around you, especially essential workers or other people with risk factors.

The CDC explains that while homemade masks are not a substitute for social distancing, they are an important tool for protecting ourselves and others.

Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.

CDC.gov

Making and wearing fabric face masks is important because it helps to reserve medical facemasks meant for healthcare workers.

I strongly caution you before you spend time sewing these masks:

  1. Follow the CDC guidelines as the situation develops.
  2. Contact your local hospital and clinic to ensure that they are accepting masks, and that any masks you make will meet their individual guidelines.

The Best Fabric to Use to Make A Face Mask

Researchers at Cambridge University tested the effectiveness of a wide range of household materials for use in homemade masks. They measured how well the household materials could capture and filter small particles.

Test data shows that the best choices for DIY fabric masks are cotton t-shirts, pillowcases, or other cotton materials. Using a double layer of material for your DIY mask adds a small increase in filtration effectiveness.

Other research has found that most effective masks were constructed of two layers of heavyweight “quilters cotton” with a thread count of at least 180, and had a thicker and tighter weave.

This face mask pattern has 2 layers of fabric, and an internal pocket in which you can add additional layers of disposable filtration material if desired.

Best Fitting Face Mask

We all know that face masks need to fit well and be comfortable in order for them to be the most effective. I’ve written a guide with lots of ideas about how to adjust mask patterns and fix premade masks for the best fitting mask.

An Important Distinction

Homemade face masks are not as effective as the N95 filtration mask recommended by the CDC, and are not a substitute for proper PPE.

Rather, they are meant:

  1. To respond to the hospitals’ requests for emergency backup masks.
  2. To help community members “slow the spread” in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Sources for further reading: Cambridge StudyNatureOcc. Env MedAnnals Occ Hygiene)

Some Hospitals are Requesting Homemade Surgical Masks

Some hospitals and clinics accepting donations of homemade face masks. Organizations like Masks for Heroes have a searchable database of facilities currently seeking donations. If you are wondering where you can donate masks, they can help you find a hospital or clinic that needs them.

Before you spend time sewing a large batch of masks to donate, please call first to ask if they are accepting them. You should ask if this face mask pattern (2 layers of fabric with a pocket for additional disposable inserts) will meet their requirements. You should also ask about drop-off/pick-up procedures.

materials for a fabric hospital mask

DIY Face Mask Pattern

The finished adult mask will be 7.75″ wide and 3.75″ tall.

View the full video tutorial on Youtube!

Materials

  • 100% cotton fabric (with a tight weave)
  • 1/8″ flat elastic for ear loops, or 4 fabric ties (you can use the same cotton fabric to make strips, use pre-made bias binding, or strips of cotton jersey)
  • fabric scissors
  • ruler
  • pins or clips
  • sewing machine and thread

Cut List

For an adult size mask:

  • Cut 1 fabric rectangle 16″ long and 8.5″ wide (40.5 cm by 21.5 cm)
  • Cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 7″ long (or up to 8″ for larger adult size) (18 cm – 20 cm)

For a small child-size mask:

  • Cut 1 fabric rectangle 14″ long and 6.5″ wide (35.5 cm by 16.5 cm)
  • Cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 6″ long (15 cm)

For a large child-size mask:

  • Cut 1 fabric rectangle 15″ long and 7.5″ wide (38 cm by 19 cm)
  • Cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 6.5″ long (16.5 cm)

For fabric ties, if you aren’t using elastic:

  • Cut 4 rectangles 18″ long by 1.75″ wide (46 cm by 4.5 cm). Fold the long sides to meet in the middle, then fold in half again to encase the raw edges. Stitch down the length of the rectangles along the edge to create the ties.
  • 18″ may be too long for some people, especially kids. Please feel free to trim this down.
diagram showing how to sew fabric masks for hospitals

Step 1: Sew to the top side, with pocket

Fold the fabric rectangle in half, with the right sides facing each other.

Sew along the top 8.5″ width edge, using a large 5/8″ seam allowance. Leave a 3″ – 4″ opening in the center of this seam to create an opening for the filter pocket, and to allow the mask to be turned right side out after sewing. In the picture above, I’ve marked this opening with pins.

Update: Some people are finding it easier to insert/remove additional filter material if they make a larger opening. Instead of leaving a 3″ opening, you could make a 4″ inch opening.

materials and supplies to sew a face mask

Don’t want a filter pocket? If you don’t want or need a pocket, that’s totally fine. You will still need to leave an opening so that you can turn the mask right side out. After you’ve attached the elastic or ties (in the next step) and turned the mask right side out, you can stitch the opening closed. Then you can continue with the rest of the directions.

sewing the seam for the filter pocket in a fabric surgical mask

Next, turn the fabric so that the seam with the pocket opening is centered in the middle of one side. Using an iron, press the seam open.

Fold the excess seam allowance under, encasing the raw edge of the fabric. Topstitch or zig-zag stitch along each side of this seam to finish the edge. This will help keep the fabric from fraying when you insert and remove any filters.

See the next photo or the video for clarification.

sewing the seams for a homemade fabric surgical mask

Step 2: Pin Elastic or Fabric Ties

If Using Elastic:

Pin one piece of elastic to each side of the mask, one end to the top corner and one end to the bottom corner of the fabric rectangle. This will create the ear loop once the mask is turned right side out and pleated. Place the ends of the elastic about 1/4″ to 1/2“ from the top and bottom corners of the fabric.

The piece of elastic itself will be sandwiched between the two layers of fabric. Once you turn the mask right side out, the elastic will be on the outside.

Repeat this process on each side to make two ear loops.

pinning fabric ties to the cloth mask
fabric ties or elastic on the inside of the mask before sewing

Alternative – Use fabric ties:

If you can’t find elastic, or prefer to use fabric ties, you can use 4 fabric ties, one in each corner. Each tie will be 18″ long. Sew one tie in each corner, being careful not to catch the ties in the side seams.

You can also use twill tape, bias tape, or strips from cotton jersey (t-shirt fabric).

The finished mask will then be worn by tying the fabric strips behind the head. See notes at the bottom of the post.

Step 3: Sew the Sides, Securing the Ties

With a 3/8″ seam allowance, sew each side of the facemask. Backstitch over the elastic or fabric ties to secure them. Trim the corners with scissors so that it will be easier to turn the mask right side out. Becare not to accidentally clip the stitches.

Turn the mask right side out and press with an iron. You can use a pencil to push out the corners.

using wire to create a flexible nose piece on a fabric mask

Optional: Insert a Flexible Nose Piece

Cut a 6-inch piece of pipe cleaner, floral wire, or other flexible wire to create a nose piece. I folded the ends of wire back into to keep them from poking through the fabric. Place the wire through the pocket hole and slide it up to the very top of the mask. Stitch around it on all 3 sides to keep it in place.

making the folds for a pleated face mask

Step 4: Make the Pleats

Make the mask with three evenly spaced lines. To do this, you can measure and mark with a water-soluble fabric pen. Or, you can do what I did, and fold the mask in quarters – fold the sides to meet in the middle, and then fold again in half. Use an iron to make a crease.

use pins to secure three pleats on a fabric surgical mask

Use your markings to create three evenly spaced 1/2” pleats. Pin the folds down, make sure all pleats are facing the same direction. Sew along the sides to secure the pleats. I like to sew down the sides twice, just to make sure.

When the mask is worn, the pleats should open downwards to prevent any particles from collecting in the fold pockets.

sewing down the pleats on the side of a fabric face mask for hospitals

Troubleshooting the Pattern

What if you can’t find elastic?

I’ve heard from many people that are having a hard time finding elastic. If you can’t find elastic to make the ear loops, you can make a mask with fabric ties instead. You can use ready-made 1/4″ twill tape, double-fold bias tape, or cut long strips of the same tightly woven cotton fabric you are using for the rest of the mask.

To make bias binding fabric ties: Cut 18″ long strips of fabric, 1.75″ wide. Fold the long sides together (lengthwise or hot-dog style) so that they meet in the middle. Then fold the strips in half again (lengthwise) to encase the raw edges. Stitch down the strips along the edge to create the ties.

how to make bias binding fabric strips that you can use to make face masks with ties

If you wanted these straps to have a bit of stretch, you could also cut long strips from cotton jersey or knit T-shirt material. The great thing about using jersey fabric is that it will form itself into a tube when you stretch it. And, it’s comfortable to wear since it keeps a bit of stretch.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll want to cut 4 pieces about 18″ long, and attach one strip to each of the corners. The mask will fasten by tying the straps behind the head.

What about metal to help the mask fit better?

To help the mask fit better around your nose, you can insert a length of flexible metal to the top inside of the mask, through the pocket insert opening before forming the pleats. Then, you can topstitch down around the metal insert so that it stays in place. I’ve seen people use pipe cleaners, floral wire, or twist ties.

I have another article all about how to add a nose wire to masks patterns and premade masks.

What can you use as a filter?

It is so important that everyone understands that while wearing a cloth face mask can offer some level of protection, it can’t protect against viruses the same way that an N95 mask can.

Many different types of filters have been suggested, like coffee filters, felt, and vacuum filter bags. Not all of these filters are effective, and not all of them are safe.

Without further research into the safety and efficacy of face mask filter materials, we won’t know what the best filter is.

Face Mask Filter Materials: Pros and Cons

  • HEPA filters. In testing, a layer of HEPA vacuum cleaner bag seemed to perform the best. However, it is difficult to breathe through. In addition, many people have raised concerns over the safety of materials (like fiberglass) used to produce these filters. At this time I can’t recommend them.
  • Coffee filters. One of the mask designs that the CDC has published includes a layer of a coffee filter. They are readily available and disposable.
  • Blue shop towels. Others have tested the efficacy of blue shop towels, like these. They look promising, but the data hasn’t been released publically or verified.
  • Dryer sheet or baby wipes. Because these items are coated in fragrances and other chemicals, I don’t recommend using these as a filter.
  • Non-woven interfacing. This has been suggested many times in the comments. I can’t find research suggesting it will help. If you choose to use interfacing, avoid the fusible/iron-on types.
  • Flannel or felt. These materials are not as closely woven as the cotton fabric on the outside of the mask, so it is doubtful they would improve filtration effectiveness. In addition, they may trap moisture.
  • One more layer of cotton fabric. The research we do have suggests that the safest and simplest option for a filter is cotton t-shirt material or tightly woven cotton fabric.

If you are sewing for hospitals, they may have their own medical grade filters. Always call before you sew to check their requirements.

Disclaimer: This pattern has not been industry-tested and is intended for educational purposes only. The decision to use this device is solely your own.

Where can you donate masks?

Not all hospitals are requesting masks, but many are. Search your local hospital to see if they have requested donations.

Many groups, such as the Sewing & Craft Alliance, are working to connect healthcare organizations with volunteer sewists. Check out their website, WeNeedMasks.org.

Also, an organization called Masks for Heroes has a website with a searchable database of facilities currently seeking donations. If you are wondering where you can donate masks, they can help you find a hospital or clinic that needs them.

How do you wear a cloth mask?

It’s important to use proper procedures when putting on, and taking off, your mask. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing the mask and wash your hands immediately afterward.

Here is a clear, step-by-step guide to the best way to properly wear a face mask.

Important to Note: Per the CDC, masks “should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.”

What about ear savers for face masks?

Try one of these easy DIY Ear Savers patterns to make wearing your face masks much more comfortable! Click for a variety of free patterns.

How do you clean and sanitize a cloth mask?

Wear only dry masks. When masks get moist, even if it’s just from your breath, they need to be cleaned.

Wash masks regularly, with regular detergent and in a hot washing machine cycles. Dry completely.

Free Face Mask Printable Pattern

Click here to download a pattern PDF

DIY Fabric Surgical Mask

DIY Fabric Surgical Mask

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Homemade fabric surgical face mask to be worn as a last resort in a crisis situation.

Materials

  • cotton fabric, tightly woven
  • 1/8" elastic, or fabric ties

Tools

  • sewing machine and thread
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • sewing pins or clips

Instructions

  1. Cut the fabric. For an adult size mask, cut 1 fabric rectangle 16″ long and 8.5″ wide. Cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 7″ long. Or, cut 4 fabric ties 18" long.
    For a child-size mask, cut 1 fabric rectangle 14″ long and 6.5″ wide. Then, cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 6″ long.
  2. Sew the top side, with a pocket opening. Fold the fabric in half, with the right sides facing.
    Sew along the 8.5″ width edge, using a 5/8″ seam allowance. Leave a 3” opening in the center of this seam to create an opening for the filter pocket, and to allow the mask to be turned right side out after sewing.
    Press the seam open. Topstitch/zig-zag stitch along both sides of the seam for a neater edge.
  3. Pin Elastic or Fabric Ties. Pin one piece of elastic to each side of the mask, one end to the top corner and one end to the bottom corner. If using fabric ties, pin one tie to each corner, with the rest of the tie sandwiched inside the two layers of fabric.
  4. Sew the Sides. Sew the sides of the facemask. Backstitch over the elastic or fabric ties to secure them.
    Clip the corners, turn the mask right side out, and press with an iron.
  5. Sew the Pleats
    Create three evenly spaced 1/2” pleats. Pin the folds in place, making sure all pleats are facing the same direction. Sew down each side to secure the pleats.
    Note: When the mask is worn, the pleats should open downwards to prevent any particles from collecting in the fold pockets.


    Notes

    • Some hospitals are requesting a larger pocket opening for faster filter changes -- try 4".
    • For a smaller child size, start with a square that's 6.5" by 14".
    • For a larger child size, start with a square that's 7.5" by 15"

    Did you make this project?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

    A free pattern to sew homemade surgical masks for hospitals. Make a standard pleated face mask with a filter pocket and elastic ear loops or fabric ties from cotton fabric or t-shirt material.

    Remember, before you start sewing a huge batch of masks, please call the hospital or clinic and make sure that they both want and can accept homemade masks.

    644 thoughts on “Pleated Face Mask Sewing Pattern with Ties or Elastic – Free Printable”

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for this tutorial, really helpful and easy to follow. I’m having trouble with the pleats though. When I sew down the edge I find it hard to get a nice neat, straight line as the pleats make it too bulky. I might try with the pocket opening off centre a bit so one of the pleats doesn’t have all of that extra fabric on as well. Does anyone have any good tips please, I’d really appreciate it?
      Thanks

      Reply
    2. I didn’t have any luck with this pattern. The elastic measurement is too short, it pulled the square off, and when I went to try it on it was very uncomfortable, and I have a small head. 8″ might be better. When trying to pleat, the filter pocket seam area had so much bulk of fabric it wouldn’t lie flat. How does yours look so neat and flat? Maybe its in the wrong spot but I used a ruler for 3 evenly spaced lines.

      Reply
    3. If I want the nose piece but do not want filter pocket, how do I do this? I’m making them for men who want to reverse them. The pocket doesn’t make that work, so I need no pocket, but just the pipe cleaner nose piece. Wracked my silly brain and can’t come up with a solution other than using a needle and thread. Extra work.

      Reply
      • Creat a 6” X 1” pocket on mask near top with a 6 1/2” x 1 1/2” piece of fabric. Fold 1/4” under and stitch, leaving one narrow end open. Insert a 6” pipe cleaner or a 12” inch one folded in half.

        Reply
      • Instead of leaving an opening as instructed, I found it easier to pin the elastic and pleats before sewing the sides together. If you do that, you will be able to turn it right side out and not have an opening near the mouth on either side of the mask.

        Reply
      • I made masks for my family and two needed a wire because of their prominent noses. So before assembling I finished a strip and attached to the backing fabric. When the mask was assembled the heavy gauge floral wire I was able to put in. The only drawback is the washing machine can sometimes remove or partially dislodge the wire as the strip is open both ends and not very narrow. However we have found this the best way for adding the metal and it has been working.

        Reply
    4. Why do you recommend not using usable interfacing? I have been using ultra-light Pelion interfacing. Is this harmful?

      Reply
    5. Thank you – this is the only set of instructions I could find that truly made sense to me – so far I’ve made 100. Once you get the flow, I’ve been making maybe 20 an hour? I really appreciate all the time and thought you put in to the tutorial.

      Reply
    6. Thanks for the pattern. I’m a nurse as well and making these for the family. I am using ties to secure as adjust to different heads easier. One way to keep them from being sewed over while doing the sides is bring up the ties through your hole for turning inside out. Makes it much easier.

      Reply
    7. The opening for the filter insertion should be at the bottom; if it’s at the top, particles could drop into the opening; also the reason why pleats face down. And, before beginning to sew, the machine should be wiped down with a disinfecting wipe. The seamstress should also be wearing a mask when sewing. If using elastic for the side loops, make sure it is the kind that can take hot water washing. Who knows how long these masks will be needed. One more thing, for the metal insert to fit around the nose, make sure it is something that will not rust when washing. When I made mine, I found a short piece of thin electrical wire (copper) an electrician had discarded. I basted it inside a temporary seam under the top seam, so it could be removed before washing. If making a few of these masks, you will undoubtedly discover your own adaptations. But remember, for daily wearing of masks, they really should be washed once a day (boiling a few in a pan is also a possibility instead of running a hot wash in the washing machine. I only made 30 while I was on ‘holiday’ but found it a worthwhile activity.

      Reply
      • I make my adult 6×9 with 7-inch ear elastic (1/8-inch size elastic),
        and that 8-10 age/size child I use 5×7 fabric with 5-inches ear piece elastic (1/8 inch elastic)… for the 4-6 year olds, I use 4×6 fabric, 4 inch ear elastic…

        Reply
    8. I loved doing this project! My family and I just recently bought homemade face masks, but they were too small. So, I thought I might as well give it a go! It turned out pretty well, and I have made 3 so far. I have just ordered more elastic so I can continue. Thank you so much for this simple, yet very useful project! 🙂

      Reply
    9. Thank you for sharing. Nowadays so many people wanting custom face masks and now that we can buy filters locally this added help is perfect! I now am sewing for nurses, postal employees, family, and friends! Thank you again

      Reply
    10. I love the pattern and have made one each small and large child, but am uncertain what the finished height should be. I’m sure mine are too tall but my daughter-in-law said they are fine. How tall should they be?
      Thank you.

      Reply
    11. A face mask is necessary from keeping yourself safe from the coronavirus pandemic spreading all around the world. The method that you shared with us in this article to make face masks will help us in making them easily. Thank you for listing it together and sharing it with us. Keep sharing more such articles with us in the future.

      Reply
    12. For adding nose wire, after the mask is complete, I sew a 5”-6” piece of double fold bias tape over the top edge, sewing the long edge over the mask top, but leaving the ends open! Then I can insert a length of pipe cleaner shorter than the bias tape (folding in the ends of the pipe cleaner so it is not sharp). It works great and can be removed for washing.

      Reply
    13. This will help a lot of people who are not able to purchase Face Mask. I appreciate what you are doing. Thanks for sharing your creativity.

      Reply
    14. Thanks so much for this pattern and the instructions! I’ve tried multiple patterns and this is the first that has worked for our whole family. I’ve shared the pattern with 3 friends already. 🙂 I’ve whipped out 3 masks today!

      Reply
    15. Hi Sarah, This looks like a great pattern for masks. I work for a nonprofit in Seattle, and we are going to request hand sewn masks from volunteers on our website. The sizing on your mask looks perfect; we serve a lot of men with larger faces, so smaller masks don’t fit. Because of that, I’d love to provide your pdf for volunteers to download. Is it ok to do that? I will leave it as-is, copyright included at the bottom. Thanks!

      Reply
    16. Thank you so much for this!

      Can I check that the filter pocket side is meant to be on the inner side, which would sit against your face?
      Or is it meant to be facing outward?

      Reply
    17. I love your mask pattern. I have made a slight addition. I have sewn a pipe cleaner into each mask along the top edge. This enables the user to fold the mask firmly but comfortably around their nose.

      Reply
    18. Hi Sarah,
      What is the finished dimensions for a mask that is for a 7 year old and upwards please? I have made 3 and would like to know if the size I have is correct. Thanks, Terry.

      Reply
    19. I’ve seen a pattern where to use 8 or 9 inch plate, place it on fabric and cut it into 4ths and sew two pieces together. I’m going to try this and use two bandanas. I’ll let you know how the results turn out.

      Reply

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