Introduction: DIY Face Masks to Support Medical Personnel

About: Hi. I'm Ellen, PhD student by day and sewer/crafter/maker by night. I believe anyone can be a maker, so I post videos on YouTube about what I make and how I make it to offer some help. I believe that if you m…

This is a translation of a tutorial I made for an initiative by “Make In Belgium”. Different rules and requirements may exist in your area, so please check in with your local health providers before making and donating masks.


There is currently a very high demand for facemasks due to the corona virus, especially for medical personnel, and the available stock is reducing quickly. For this reason, “Make in Belgium”, in collaboration with the Belgian Government Office for Public Health, developed an emergency solution: facemasks you can make yourself and donate to hospitals and other medical institutions.

The facemasks do not provide as much protection as official facemasks, but in case of a shortage they are definitely better than nothing. You can also use them if you’re sick yourself, so that official facemasks remain available for medical personnel.

Please note that this facemask is not suitable for protection when you’re around infected people. It’s main purpose is to prevent yourself from infecting others.

You can download the (Dutch) pattern from

The mask is constructed like a pillowcase. This makes it possible to place a disposable filter inside the mask. In addition, the multiple layers provide better protection than a single layer. The pleats help with the fit.

Use fabric that’s 100% cotton, or cotton with 35 to 65% polyester. The most important thing is that the fabric can be washed at 90 degrees C. This also applies to the ribbons. In addition, the fabric should not be too thick, because this inhibits breathing.

In case of medical personal, neutral and plain colors are preferred. But if you’re making a mask for yourself, you can of course use whatever you want.

Step 1: Precautions

Wash the fabric and ribbons at 90 degrees C before you start.

Take the following precautions:

- Wear a mask yourself

- Disinfect your sewing machine

- Wash your hands thoroughly

Step 2: Material Preperation

Print the pattern on A4 paper, cut it out and stick it together. Decide if you’re making the large, small or kids size. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut them out. Make sure to use different colors for the inside and the outside, so that they’re easy to recognize for the wearer.

Cut 4 ribbons with a length of 50 cm. If you don’t have any ribbon that’s washable at 90 degrees C, you can also make strips out of fabric by folding the edges inwards and sewing them shut.

Step 3: Press the Folds and Pleats

Mark the location of the pleats and the fold on the fabric.

Press the fold towards the inside with an iron.

Press the pleats by lining up the pleat marks and pin them in place.

Step 4: Stitch the Hem, Fold and Pleats

Hem the bottom of both pieces by folding the fabric inwards half a centimeter. Stitch it in place.

Stitch the fold in place at the edges.

To make the next steps easier, I’m stitching the pleats in place at the edges too.

Step 5: Assemble the Mask

Place both pieces right sides together and pin them down. Sew them together at the top.

Place the ribbons in the corners of the front piece and pin them in place so that they’re pointing inwards.

Fold the pieces right sides together and pin them down. Make sure the ribbons aren’t in the way. Stitch down both sides to attach it all together.

Turn the mask right side out, and it’s done!

Step 6: Donate Masks

Wash the masks you made again at 90 degrees C to disinfect them, and pack them as sterile as possible, for example in plastic ziplock bags.

Follow the instructions of your local hospitals and other medical institutions to donate the masks.

Step 7: Wearing a Mask Yourselves

If you’re wearing a mask yourself, make sure you wash your hands before touching the mask. Don’t touch the inside of it, and use the ribbons to tie the mask in place without your hands getting close to your face. Don’t wear the mask any longer than necessary and replace it when it’s wet. You can wear safety glasses on top for a better fit around the nose.

Disinfect the mask at least once a day by washing it at 90 degrees C. And remember, wearing a mask doesn’t protect you from infection. It’s meant to prevent you from infecting others.

That’s it.

Take good care of yourself and help the people around you as much as you can. You can do that by making face masks for medical personnel, but also by following the advice of health institutions, washing your hands often and thoroughly, and supporting vulnerable people in your area.