Quick and easy masks using all recycled materials

It’s looking like wearing a mask in public is the responsible thing to do just now. Commercially made and disposable ones are getting hard to find but you can make a basic one yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, homemade cloth masks are not going to filter out and prevent the coronavirus from getting to you but they will prevent you from spreading aerosol droplets if you happen to sneeze or cough and thereby spreading the virus if YOU are infected (and it appears that 50% or greater of folks that eventually do text positive for Covid-19 show no symptoms in the early stages; you might not even know you are infectious). So it’s the responsible thing to wear one out in public with or without physical distancing.

Here’s me with my fetching camo mask that I wore out and about today. Well, not really camo, was actually part of a panda pillowcase from the 70’s, but it looks like camo now. No, I didn’t drive around like that since I was all alone in the car, I just put it on prior to leaving my car and going into the store.

There are lots of mask patterns to be had just now, but I wanted to make my own for several reasons. I wanted to make one that used all recycled materials that I had on hand already. I wanted to make it as comfortable as possible. I did not want to use elastic as that gets uncomfortable or painful for the wearer. I wanted some nose shaping for a bit of contouring on the face and I did not want to use a wire or pipe cleaner as those wear out or are not obtainable. I wanted to be able to accommodate someone with a beard (my son). And, of course, I wanted a quick and easy process that yielded a decent mask that could be laundered and used over and over again. So after a few prototypes and fittings with my very patient son, my son’s GF and I came up with the following procedure and measurements for an adult. You’ll see some raw edges in my masks and the folds may be a bit crooked or the sewing wonky here and there– but its no big deal. They will still do the job and you can crank quite a few out in a sitting, especially with one person sewing and one person cutting and pressing.

You will need 2 layers of fabric. Cut into 10″ x 9″ squares and layer together. I have used some high thread count bed linen fabric here for the outside or top layer. You want the smallest holes as possible in your fabric and cotton bed linens with a high thread count per square inch is about the best you can do. Quilting fabric is a rather low thread count fabric and it may look cool with its prints and patterns but is not going to filter nearly as well.

We cut up a gray t-shirt that my son donated to the cause. This will be the lining next to the face; nice and soft. If there is any printing or lettering on the t-shirt, make sure you place that towards the inside next to the top layer of fabric–some of those inks or plastics could get scratchy on the face.

Next, run a line of zigzag stitch or overlock edge stitch down both of the 9″ sides of your 2 fabrics.

Arrange 3 folds as shown. Exact measurements are not critical but the first fold should happen at about 2″ down (this will be the top of the mask where the nose dart will be sewn), then layer the next two so that they are somewhere between a 1/2 ” to 3/4 ” deep or thereabouts below. I didn’t bother measuring but just eyeballed it for all of them. Hold them down (or pin them if you like) and…

Press them flat. Use steam.

Zigzag the folds down . If you don’t like exposed raw edges in a finished project, cover these raw edges and zigzag stitching now.

Expand the pressed folds and fold in half.

On the center fold, make a mark about 1/4″ above your first pressed fold. Measure 3/4″ over from the center fold the top edge and make another mark. This will be your nose dart. Sew a straight seam connecting the dots.

Leaving a 1/4″ allowance, trim away the excess material.

Lay the mask down flat. Trim from the side edges from just above the first pressed fold to the top of the nose dart on both sides.

Press the nose dart flat to one side or the other and sew it down.

Now it’s time to attach your ties. I am using t-shirt yarn that I had made previously. Bias tape would also work well. Remember that you want something that can be attached nicely and won’t be scratchy or irritating on the face and has enough self-friction to hold a knot to bow. Cut 2 ties that are 44″ long. Unroll your t-shirt yarn or bias tape and with right sides together, sew a straight stitch across the top edge as shown. Release the t-shirt yarn, let it curl around to the back and then zigzag stitch it down on the back side (not shown). If you are using bias tape, zigzag down the whole length of the folded tape beyond the mask itself as the ironed folds will be washed out in the laundry.

Repeat for the bottom. And that’s it–trim your stray threads and you’re done! If you have used all recycled (and many times washed) materials like I have here, there is no problem in washing this mask at all. The folds do stay pretty well put since they are sewn down but you could always give them a super quick ironing if you like.

Now make a bunch!


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