Introduction: DIY Cloth Face Mask


It's been almost a year since I put this instructable up (March 7, 2020). We're up to 4.5 million views. Amazing. Thousands of kind people have sewn hundreds of thousands of masks to give away since then. Many a fabric stash has been depleted! I updated, simplified and edited a few things in the instructions and notes just now. .

Masks of Love, the all volunteer organization I helped start back then has morphed into a social enterprise which pays local sewers and continues to donate masks to the community in need - for each one sold, one is donated. If you decide not to DIY, please consider shopping there and be a part of that.

Infections are finally slowing and vaccinations are steadily rising. But the variants are worrisome. The CDC now recommends double masking. We're not through this yet. Let's keep taking care of each other and wearing our masks.

It's been exactly 3 months since I put this tutorial up. I don't need to tell you how much the world has changed since then. When I first googled face mask tutorial in February, there were 3. Now there are 100K+. I appreciate all the feedback, positive comments and the many many masks that have been made so far from this pattern. In my town, Asheville, NC, a group of volunteers used it to make thousands of masks for the community. As cities and towns open up we need masks more than ever. There are a zillion different kinds to choose from. Whichever one you decide to sew, please be sure to wear your masks correctly, use materials that have been shown to be effective, and make an extra to give away.

I know there are still some quirks in the instructions and pdfs and I promise I will continue to improve the tutorial as I have time. <3

This update is care of two wonderful DIY folks from this community:
1. Since printers tend to slightly shrink or enlarge documents, and since one size mask does not fit all, Winko has created scalable vector based files!More info about this in step 1.

2. You have been asking for a video tutorial. Super star Sabrinayaya is an RN working in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario Canada. She made us a video for how to sew Mask 1 I made a couple comments about it in Step 2.


Hey mask makers! You rock! Sorry to disappear for a week but I was helping get our local community mask sewing project off the ground (western North Carolina). I've added a Mask 1 pattern PDF (reg size) with a GRID on it, at last. Also some new informative links related to cloth mask effectiveness and other relevant topics. Lastly, I've added a section about FILTERS. Keep sewing and keep safe!

Child size pattern added, problem with large size pattern PDF solved, added some more measurements to the wire and elastic supply list, added a whole section on filter options in the research notes. Tomorrow I will add a new step at the end, with a list of community coordinated mask sewing calls. Medical facilities asking for DIY help to alleviate short supplies across the US and elsewhere.

Holy moly, the DIY face mask world is blowing up. See #millionmaskchallenge on twitter. Some of the info being shared is incorrect, at least according to what I've been looking at for the last 2 weeks. But some of it is useful. I am trying to compile relevant new info in the research notes at the end.

Hey folks, thanks for reading. I just shared the research links I used in the final step, if you want to come to your own conclusions. I have also added a simpler version of the pattern (Mask 2) with no filter pocket, as well as a larger size option (in Step 1 files). I will continue to update this pattern and info as I can. Working on a kid size one next. Stay safe!

Why You Should Make (and wear!) Your Own Cloth Face Mask

Wearing a face mask helps stop people from becoming infected in two ways:

1) By blocking most airborne droplets, potentially filled with virus, from being inhaled by the mask wearer

2) By containing your own respiratory droplets so they are less likely to travel through the air and potentially infect others.

They also help stop the wearer from touching their own mouths and noses.

Why should you make your own face masks?

1) By making your own, and hopefully some for family and friends, you will be decreasing demand on supplies of industrially manufactured disposables, which are still needed by hospitals and nursing homes.

2) Not every mask pattern fits every face. For many people, this fitted masks rests closer, with fewer gaps, than rectangular surgical masks.

4) Homemade masks are washable, making them environmentally friendly.


Mask 1 is fitted, with 2 layers of fabric and a pocket between them for an optional filter (see research links for info on filters). It is held on by elastic ear loops. Elastic can also be threaded to fit around the head.

Mask 2 is fitted, with 2 layers but no pocket, and is easier to make.

seam allowances are ¼” unless noted

MASK 1 & 2 supplies (child, regular and large size):

8" x 12" fabric outer layer
8" x 12" fabric lining layer
3” piece of soft wire (this can be decorative wire as shown, picture wire, or a pipe cleaner doubled over)
approx. 22” of elastic cord (child size length 10", regular size length 11-12", large size length 13")

You can choose any tightly woven cotton or cotton/poly fabric you like. Hold it up to the light to see how tight the weave is. Use the same fabric for outer and lining if you want, or use different ones to help you remember which side is clean and which dirty.

The research (see links at the end) shows 100% cotton having some effectiveness. Cotton/polyester blends may have additional properties of repelling water, making them better barriers to keep droplets from soaking through outer layers.

Don't use stretchy, sequined or velvet material.

Wash all fabrics before sewing to pre-shrink, and to assure you are working with the most sanitary materials possible.

Step 1: Pattern, Cut, Center Seam

Print out PDF paper pattern piece(s) at actual size on 8.5” x 11” paper. For MASK 1 print file called "Mask 1 reg size pattern". It has 2 pieces: A (outer) and B (lining) . For MASK 2, print either "Mask 2 reg size pattern" or "Mask 2 large pattern" or "Mask 2 child pattern". It just has one piece. At this time I don't have a large or child size pattern for a Mask 1. Will work on that. Cut out the paper pattern pieces.


  • For those without a printer - open up the gridded pattern PDF so you can draw it yourself
  • Make sure you print with the landscape orientation, not portrait or it will come out too small.
  • Here are the measurements for reference Don't stress about 1/8" variations on your printed patterns. There is wiggle room in the design:
    - Mask 1 piece A is 6 3/8" h x 5.25" w. at the bottom B is 6 3/8" h x 4.25" w at the bottom
    - Mask 2 child is 5.25" h x 4 7/8" w and the bottom
    - Mask 2 regular is 6.25" h x 5.5" w at the bottom
    - Mask 2 large is 6.75" h x 6" w at the bottom
  • Instructables community member Winko made scalable files for masks 1 and 2. Go to this link and open the pattern you want in your browser. There is a drop down menu with print sizing options, including a customizable one.
  • European paper size: I've been told that the paper size in Europe is DIN4 and you need to adjust the scale to 107%.



Layer your fabrics right sides together.

Pin pattern(s) to folded fabrics and cut two A and two B. Transfer the 2 dots from pattern onto the two A pieces on wrong side of fabric. Pencil a line between them lightly on each piece.


Layer your fabrics right sides together.

Pin pattern piece to folded fabrics (outer and lining). Cut 4.

Sew center curves of outer layers, right sides together. Sew center curves of lining layers, right sides together. Clip the curved seam at about ½” intervals but not down to the seam.

Step 2: MASK 1 Sides, Sleeves for Elastic

For MASK 1 (with pocket)*

Fold straight sides of lining fabric toward wrong side, and sew fold down with straight stitch.

On outer layer sides, fold top and bottom corners down, using the dotted lines on pattern and the transferred dots as guides. Pin. Fold raw edge over and pin. Ironing helps keep this in place. Stitch along all the 3 folds on each side, 1/8” from fold.

Make the sleeves for the elastic - With wrong side up, fold angled, stitched ends of outer layer up to the pencil line. Stitch down.

*To see a video of someone making this mask, go here. This was made by Instructables community member Sabrinayaya, who is not only an RN, she is also sewing masks for her hospital and made this video for us. Rock star! Note about her video: She mentions using paper clips for nose wire but I recommend against that. Paper clips break too easily. And she sews the elastic into a loop. I recommend tying the elastic so that it is more adjustable and so that it can be looped on the ears OR around the back of the head.

And here's another video demonstration of someone sewing Mask 1, by Nancy Beers or Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. Thank you Nancy!

Step 3: MASK 1 Connect Layers, Elastic

Lay inner layer over outer layer, right sides facing in. Sew the top edge and the bottom edge. Clip curved seam.

Turn right side out. Top stitch the top and bottom seams, 1/8” from edge. This will assure both layers stay in place during laundering.

Feed elastic through the sleeves (approx. 11” per side). A wire needle or small safety pin can help feed it through.

Step 4: MASK 1 Nose Wire, Elastic, Filter

Make a channel to hold the nose wire by stitching a line 1/4” from the top stitch line, echoing the curve (2” on each side). Slide a 3”ish piece of wire into the slot created (loop the ends first with pliers if they are sharp). Sew the ends of the channel closed.

Tie ends of elastic into loops and fit mask to your head by tucking loops behind ears. Adjust knots as needed. It should fit snugly but not pull on your ears. If desired, you can make the elastic go around the back of the head. Don't cut the elastic in half. Feed each end of the 16" length through the sleeves in a U shape. Tie together and fit mask. Adjust knot as needed for snug fit.

Bend the wire to fit snugly over the bridge of your nose.

Optional: If you have a suitable filter material, you can increase the filtering capacity by slipping this material into the pocket between the outer layer and the lining. Cut whatever filter material to fit as needed. See research notes for more about what might be suitable.

Step 5: MASK 2 Instructions

For MASK 2 (easier, no pocket)

Pin right sides of outer and lining layers facing each other. Sew all the way around the edge, except for a 1.5" gap on the bottom edge. Turn right side out and press.

Note - the pointy end of an ironing board is the perfect size and shape to press these masks on.

Sew the wire channel, 1/2" down from edge and 2" to each side of the center seam. See picture.

Slide the wire through the turning hole, into the wire channel. Stitch the ends of the channel closed so it won't move around when washed.

Top stitch 1/8" around the entire mask, closing up the turning hole as you do.Be careful of the wire. You can skip that section of top stitching if there isn't enough room to go above the wire.

Lay mask with lining side up on table and fold 1" of each end of the mask toward the center. Pin and sew, making the elastic channels.

See Step 4 of MASK 1 for how to thread the elastic.

Step 6: Conclusion & About Us


We recommend making 3 masks per person: one to wear, one in the wash, one for a spare or to share. Remove the mask carefully. Do not reach under the mask with dirty hands. Touch dirty to dirty, clean to clean. Wash your hands immediately after removing mask. Wash mask regularly with hot water and soap.

About us:
Since creating this tutorial and getting featured in Forbes Magazine (Thank you TJ McCue!), it has gotten a crazy number of views, comments and questions. I appreciate all the tips and clarifications you all have brought in. Together we have made it better. That's what is awesome about instructables and the worldwide community of makers. What I've learn from you guys has also gone into the masks we designed for the Masks of Love project in my hometown.

This instructable was originally created by myself, artist Jen Murphy, and medical professional Sabra Stein. We were worried about protecting our family and friends. Help from friends Chris and Sheila further developed the design.The patterns evolved from several early sources including

New information about the disease is released daily. This is what I think is the best way to do it as of the latest update. I make NO CLAIMS that these masks will protect you from covid19. Use at your own risk.

Step 7: Research Links

These are the places I got my info, as well as talking to medical workers. Do your own research and please share in comments if you find new relevant information.

Most important article, please read even if you don't read anything else:

How to put on and remove a face mask


Brand new paper reviewing and synthesizing the scientific evidence for how universal masking can reduce transmission and dampen the spread of COVID-19. It's now under review. Preprint here

Oxford Academic 2010

University of Cambridge 2013

National Institute of Health 2013


The latest from the Center for Disease Control

CDC instructions for simple mask.
Low on actual instructions, high in scientific reference.


This site has a compilation of studies and articles on the topic of cloth mask efficacy. For example

"A double layer of 100% cotton cloth is about 70% as effective as a surgical mask at capturing small particles (up to five times smaller than coronavirus).” –Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India"

What is the best way to disinfect your mask? Another good one from our pal at Smart Air Filters:

New info from Yale - Hydrogen peroxide for disinfection! That's what we've been saying all along

What is a reliable way to disinfect masks? (the Smart Air Filters guy ROCKS with the cloth mask info)

If you really want to get in to the weeds, this thread has an overwhelming about of info/discussion about the topics of materials and filters and patterns. The FB group itself has relevant info on many PPE topics

Related articles:
Household products that kill Covid19

How Long Corona Virus will last on surfaces

Decontaminating N95s at Duke University

Step 8: Filters

There is controversy and confusion about using filters in masks and what type (as there is about everything related to masks!). After reading and talking to medical experts last spring, my organization Masks of Love decided to use surgical wrap for our filters. Read more about that here.

The University of Florida anesthesiology team uses the same material sewn into masks

But it's hard to find this material. Premium grade HEPA HVAC filters are designed to filter viruses and are accessible to more people (in big box stores). The following are instructions on how to make a mask filter from a furnace filter. The brand I found is Filtrete but there are others. Read the package to make sure that it filters viruses.

How to make mask filters from a furnace filter:

1. Using a box cutter or knife, carefully cut the cardboard frame off the filter. The wire mesh is sharp! You might want to wear work gloves. There are glue dabs on each side of the white accordion folded fabric holding it to the mesh. Pull back the mesh and pull the fabric away from the glue on all sides. When loose, pull the fabric out of the frame. My husband cut his hand doing this. Be careful. Sorry, I did not get any pictures of this part.

2. Remove any remaining glue bits from the filter fabric. Cut a piece of smooth cotton cloth bigger than the width of the filter fabric (a pillow case works). Set up your iron on an ironing board or a table top with a towel on it.

3. Lay the cloth over the filter fabric. DO NOT TOUCH THE IRON TO THE FILTER FABRIC. It will melt in a hot second, stick to your iron, and ruin that spot on the fabric. Press down through the cotton fabric with a medium hot iron, and iron those accordion pleats flat. This takes a while and they never go away completely. I did it for 3 to 5 min per section, flipping the filter fabric over several times.

4. Make a template for the mask. How big it is depends on what size mask you made and any variations in the seam allowances etc. Using a piece of paper cut the basic shape and try it inside your mask until you get it to fit smoothly. Cover all of the area that you will breathe through, plus a little more. It doesn't need to go all the way under your chin or out to the edge of your cheeks since those areas are pressed flat against your face by the mask. Once you have the right shape, trace it onto thicker paper and cut out.

5. Trace the template with a sharpie onto the ironed filter fabric. Fit as many as you can into the space.

6. Cut them out.

These filters will not maintain their effectiveness after washing, unfortunately. So cut out a whole bunch and replace each time you wear the mask. Though remember - these masks are already 50% and up better protection than no mask, even without a filter. Also please NOTE - when you take the filter out, the out facing side is potentially dirty with virus particles, so immediately throw it away safely, and wash your hands.

More info about FILTERS:
This is what is inside an N95 mask according to:

"[It] is flat-folded and expands into a convex-shaped mask with polyamide/spandex elastic head-loops to secure the mask to the user's face, and a malleable aluminum strip positioned above the nose fora tighter seal around the nose and face. The respirator is comprised of four layers of material: an outer layer of spun-bond polypropylene, a second layer of cellulose/polyester, a third layer of melt-blown polypropylene filter material and an inner (fourth) layer of spun-bound polypropylene...The outer active layer of the respirator is coated with a hydrophilic plastic. The second inner layer is treated with copper and zinc ions. Both layers inactivate influenza viruses using different mechanisms of action." So if you can reproduce some of these protective elements you are increasing effectiveness. Let's look at them one by one:

Spun-bond polypropylene is a textile material that is composed of thermally bonded, continuous filaments in a web-like structure. Here is a list of things that use spun bond polypropylene/polyester, including weed cover and mattress covers:

Cellulose/polyester - what it is Clean room wipes like this would probably work and they are a good size already. But they may also be in short supply. I'm going to try and buy some.

melt-blown polypropylene - made of micro- and nanofibers where a polymer melt is extruded, forming a nonwoven sheet product applicable for filtration and apparels. Still working on finding accessible examples of this.

Step 9: Community Sewers!

"We've gone through ... six months of personal protective equipment in just seven days"

Remember that panic! Last spring and summer there were hundreds of community efforts to make masks for medical centers, essential and healthcare workers in need. Many have dropped off now. If you still want to help out by sewing masks, THANK YOU! Google "community sewing masks" and see what you get. Some have their own pattern they want you to use. Some have specific brands of materials. Dig around for the details on the individual pages. Here are two places to start:

Get PPE to Health Care Workers (nationwide effort to redistribute commercially made masks and other PPE)

Nationwide clearinghouse for masks and other PPE