Make your own face mask

Would you like to have a comfortable mask that sits away from your face while covering it well and has several layers, a nose wire and a filter pocket? And is also a great oppotunity to practise your sewing skills: folowing a pattern & instructions, binding, basting, pleats, loops, zigzagging/overlocking?! Then please read on : )

I was given a 3m FFP3 mask during the coronavirus outbreak which is 99% effective at blocking viruses, so I wanted to replicate the great fit of it! I wanted to make it seam free, as the FFP3 has seams but they are fused not sewn, so no little holes! I've also listed below the articles I read about fabrics and filters. It's worth noting that an FFP3 won't protect others from your virus particles so much as it has a valve. In my opinion (not professional!) a valve-free mask is needed to help protect everyone from each other.

So the features of this mask are:

  • It's all one piece so the only sewing holes are where the binding is attached round the edge. 
  • It's designed to tuck right under your chin & halfway to your ears - the pleats give the neat fit around the face and hold the fabric away from nose and mouth. 
  • You can attach ear elastics or head elastic into the loop at the side and adjust then before sewing or knotting closed. I've gone for head elastic as much more comfortable. 
  • You can replace the elastic if needed as it's not sewn in.
  • The outer layer is a tightly woven cotton poplin or 80-120 thread count bedsheet, the mid layer a brushed cotton or another layer of poplin/sheeting
  • The inner layer (option to split into 2 to create a filter pocket) is 10oz denim which is stiff, keeping the mask away from your nose and mouth
  • These fabrics have all been sited as the best choice in a number of articles (see end of tutorial for all the articles I have read). They are also more breathable than polyprop fabrics which a couple of articles recommend
  • You can choose funky fabrics as the outer and binding (use ready made binding or make your own)! You could even use fabric pens and paints to draw or write inspiring messages on a plain outer fabric!

We've linked to the M pattern below plus instructions for making a S & L - we have found most women want the M, kids would be the S  I expect (or smaller) and men unless they have a small head/face prob a L. Our top tip is to print and cut out the pattern in paper, then pleat the pleats and staple or pin them and try the paper mask to your face before cutting in fabric - the larger pleats are at the chin. You can then pich out bits of the paper width or length as shown in the instructions for making the other sizes until it fits well. There isn't any seam allowance turned in as the edges are bound with bias binding, so the edge of the pattern IS the edge of the mask in terms of size

Disclaimer & care:
Please take great care when you remove the mask after each wear, take it off without touching your face and wash it and your hands in warm soapy water. Also wash and dry before first using. This is not a medical mask, it should help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other diseases by catching droplets on the inside (from you) or outside (from others) but I cannot guarantee that. Please do your own research into the best way to protect yourself, friends and family. And wash your hands a lot! Many thanks

Articles I read before making masks: - lots of interesting graphs, with polypropylene scoring low!! "Balancing breathability and filtration, we recommend:
Paper towel
Denim (10oz)
100% cotton bed sheets (80-120 thread count - though others have told me over 200 thread count is ideal, hmmm)."
Hepa filter from vaccum cleaner or air conditioning unit scores high but low on breathability 

BUT Another group bought a filter testing machine and found polypropylene and polyester cleaning 'Blue Shop towels' to be most effective! 
We bought a roll of Scotts Heavy Duty Blue Shop towels online in the UK (£6ish) and will be cutting these up to make filters. They seem to be fairly breathable. I would take the filter out before washing in a machine, but they seem fine by hand, have washed one several times and has not disintegrated

This Cambridge study was the first one done in the UK on mask filter materials and is referred to by the Smart Air Filters article above.

I also watched several videos on Youtube. It's tricky as they all say something different or often suggest fabrics you can't get hold of! So having read everything and tried breathing through a polypropylene one, I went for these fabric and filter choices

Read the making instructions (pattern, instructions & shopping links at the bottom of page)

Where I bought the ingredients

  • Updated 1st June 2020. During the Covid 19 outbreak fabric shops have been closed to the public but most are doing delivery. Closet Case Patterns created a list of stockist with all their details here which could be useful if those I've recommended below don't have what you need
  • Outer fabric - I used cotton poplin, avail from most fabric shops. Ditto Fabrics in Brighton currently has fast delivery or pick up. Or use a bed sheet - go for 80-120 thread count. Want to check the thread count? It's laborious but you can google it!
  • Inner stiff (split) layer - 10oz denim is available from Fabric Land in Brighton, but they are only doing online orders at the mo and you are looking at 12 days from date or order to despatch. Gill at Ditto Fabrics may have some in, call her on 01273 603771 to find out what weights she has as she is sending very quickly or you can collect from the shop in Kensington gardens in Brighton
  • Mid layer - I used bed sheets for the brushed cotton mid layer. You could use another layer of poplin or bedsheet that you use for the outer
  • Bias Binding - I had a lot in stock but you can buy from most haberdashers - again try Gill at Ditto. You could make your own bias binding 25mm wide (cut 5cm wide bias strips) using a bias binding maker (get one with an awl) or by ironing strips in half then ironing the edges in to meet the centre. The bought stuff is usually starched which makes it much easier to sew; you can starch your own bias strips using a spray starch like this one (spray and iron dry the fabric strips then fold) or soaking the fabric in a gelatine mixture & drying before cutting your strips (mixture is 2tsp gelatine granules from the supermarket dissolved in a bit of boiling water, then added to 2ltr cold water)
  • Nose Wire - I ordered on Amazon here but but they now have a long delivery time so these look the same with fast delivery and are cheaper
  • Filter - Scotts Heavy Duty Shop Towels to cut up and use as filter I bought here
Finished mask!

Download your pattern & instructions

If you have any trouble downloading or viewing the patterns or instructions open our dropbox folder to find them here : )