How to Make a Cloth Mask

See the Guidance section for selection of materials and number of layers.

These instructions are designed for inexperienced people who have basic hand sewing skills.


If you are an experienced sewer, there will be some steps you might skip or combine.  This method is for handsewing. If you are experienced, and making this on a machine, we suggest cutting the outer fabric at 8.5", and not making the side seams.  You will need tape or a small piece of material to finish the right and left mask edges after making the pleats.  If you are less experienced, and making this on a machine, you may need to make the pleats (step 5) by hand, don't break your needle on the multiple layers!

1. Cut 2 tightly woven pieces of fabric, the outer 16" by 9" (40 by 22 cm), the inner 13" by 6.5" (32 by 16 cm). For example, the outer could be cotton muslin, the inner flannel.

2. Sew 1/4" hem along short edges (right and left) of the outer, larger piece.
Sew 1/4" hem along bottom and top long edges of the outer, larger piece.

3. Lay the smaller piece (b) over the larger piece (a), centred.

Pipe cleaners (chenille stems) twist ties, florists wire or paper fasteners (metal strips) are used to make a moldable section for the bridge of the nose. Place the metal strip in the middle of the cloth as shown.

4. Fold both pieces of cloth together in half, over the twist tie or pipe cleaner, which should be right in the fold.

Sew a horizontal seam to hold the metal strip in place.  

Sew a stitch at each end of the metal strip to hold it in place.

Sew 1/2" seam along top and bottom of fabric.  Leave the edge at the bottom unseamed to facilitate later replacement of the twist tie or pipe cleaner.

5. Make 3 half-inch pleats, facing downward on the outside, in the fabric.  Sew in place.  These stitches pass through 12 layers of material and a vertical needle position with a single pass at each stitch will be needed (ie, pass the needle vertically from the back of the material to the front, and then as a separate stitch, from the front to the back)

6. Sew buttons on each corner, on the outside of the mask.  With the metal strip at the top, the folds on the outside of the mask are directed down.

Loop together elastic bands to make straps that attach on the buttons, and go from side to side at the top, and at the bottom.  Use as many as you need for a comfortable fit.  The bottom strap sits behind the neck, at the base of the skull.  The top strap sits at the back of the head, about half way up.  The top strap will be longer than the bottom strap.

You can make earloops (using shorter straps from elastic bands) if you prefer.