Easy Best Fit Mask

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Introduction: Easy Best Fit Mask

About: Enthusiastic hiker, quilter and creator with a passion for making the most of every situation and finding the best and easiest way to do anything!

It looks like we are going to have to get used to wearing masks for awhile. As a sewist, I've been making masks for friends for the last few weeks, but have never been completely satisfied with the patterns I've tried out (which have been many).

I wanted to design a comfortable, well-fitting mask that's easy to make. If a mask isn't comfortable or doesn't fit well, people won't keep it on, or will take it on and off, which is counterproductive.

The mask patterns I've tried fall into two categories:

  • a rectangular mask with pleats or gathers
  • a more 3 dimensional mask with curved pieces, such as the Olsen mask, which I've made from this excellent instructable

The 3 dimensional masks are great, but are harder to make, and since they fit the face very closely, the pattern has to be modified for each individual in order to achieve a good fit. This is not feasible when making large quantities of masks for unknown recipients.

The rectangular pleated masks were easy to make, but had some shortcomings:

  • they often gaped at the sides
  • the double layer of pleated fabric at the side was bulky and stiff
  • the direction of the pleats vented hot air upwards towards eyes, fogging up glasses
  • the elastic was sewn directly on to the mask, and couldn't be adjusted to fit the ultimate mask recipient

My goal was to revamp the design to address these issues. My solution is an easy-to-make, comfortable mask which fits a variety of faces well - the EasyBest Fit Mask.

Supplies:

  • cotton fabric - this can be from an old shirt, a sheet, or quilting fabric - these are all woven fabrics
  • an old T-shirt
  • 1/8" or 1/4" elastic, or use strips of T-shirt fabric, or shoe laces or other cord to hold mask around the ears. You will need two 16" strips of T-shirt fabric or cord or two 11" pieces of elastic
  • 3" to 5" of wire, twist tie, pipe cleaner, or other bendable metal strip to shape mask around nose

All fabric should be pre-washed in hot water and run through the dryer before cutting.

Step 1: Measure and Cut Fabric

The breakthrough in my design process comes from these two key changes to the standard rectangular mask:

  • adding side panels to create a channel for the elastic or cord
  • using T-shirt fabric for these side panels

T-shirts are made from knit rather than woven fabric, which brings several advantages: the edges don't fray, and the material has some stretch so it conforms well to individual facial contours.

To make this mask, cut out:

  • one 8" X 14" piece from the cotton fabric (for a smaller adult face cut fabric 7" or 7 1/2" wide)
  • one 6" X 7" piece from the T-shirt knit

Knits generally stretch more in one direction than the other. On a T-shirt, the stretch will generally go around the body, rather than up and down. Cut your knit piece with the stretch going in the direction of the 7" side.

If making ties from the T-shirt fabric, the easiest thing to do is cut a strip from the hem of the sleeves, or the hem of the body of the T-shirt. This fabric is already two layers, sewn together - ready to use as a fabric tie. You will need either two 16" fabric ties or two 11" pieces of narrow elastic to attach the mask to the face.

Step 2: Sew Your Two Pieces of Fabric Into Tubes

Fold each of the fabric rectangles in half, right sides together (i.e. good side of fabric facing in) and sew the raw edges together with a 1/4" seam allowance. You will be sewing along the 8" side for the main body of the mask, and along the 6" side for the knit side piece.

You now have 2 tubes.

Cut the knit tube in half, perpendicular to the seam, so you have two roughly 3" square tubes. Press the seam allowance flat, turn right side out, and press with the seam somewhere in the middle.

For the woven tube which forms the main body of the mask, turn right side out, keeping the seam along the bottom edge, and press.

Step 3: Mark "INSIDE" on One Side

Use a permanent fabric marker to write INSIDE on the top of one side of the main tube. You may want to put something behind the top layer of fabric, like a pad of paper, to make sure the ink doesn't go through to the outside of the mask.

Step 4: Prepare Nose Strip

I have tried many things to replicate the metal (aluminum or zinc) nose strip which is commonly found in mass produced masks for medical use. This strip enables the mask to be shaped to conform to the shape of the wearer's face, allowing for a tighter seal along the top. A good seal provides better protection, and also reduces the upward flow of warm air which can cause glasses to steam up.

The first photo shows a variety of nose strips:

  1. metal strip cut out of a commercial mask, 5" X 1/8" - this is what we are trying to replicate
  2. plastic strip with two wires on inside, from a coffee package, 5 1/2" X 1/4"
  3. duct tape strip with 2 wires inside it, 4" X 3/8"
  4. pipe cleaner with tips turned in, 5 1/2" long
  5. craft wire, tips curled in using round nose pliers, 24 gauge (thicker wire, e.g. 18" gauge, would be better). Sometimes I combine this with a plastic wrapped twist tie.
  6. 2 plastic wrapped twist ties, not separated from each other, 4" long

Some mask makers have been able to find 1/4" wide rolls of aluminum, which would be ideal if you can find it.

I've tested these nose strip options over many washings and by far the best option is #2, the strip from coffee packages. The pipe cleaners work fine if it's a good quality pipe cleaner with decent wire in it. With any option involving wire, make sure you turn in the tips to avoid having wire ends poke out through the fabric. I find 3" is long enough for the nose strip. Avoid option #3 - the duct tape does not survive well in the laundry.

Since first publishing this Instructable, I have been given 3" aluminum nose strips by the Sheet Metal workers union (SMART), which is donating these to home mask makers - thank you! If you live in Canada or the United States, you can request these nose strips here. The 2nd photo shows one of their aluminum nose strips. However, I find the coffee bag strips the most comfortable of all.

Step 5: Sew Nose Strip Inside Tube at Top of Main Panel

Enclose the nose strip in a channel inside the top of main mask tube. Start by centering the nose strip, pinning on one side to hold it tight against the top of the tube, and marking where the strip begins and ends with pins.

Once the metal strip has been pinned in position, enclose it with stitching. To keep the strip from moving around, start by sewing a narrow channel, then increase the width of the channel to accommodate the nose strip, trying to avoid sewing on top of the nose strip, then returning to a narrower channel.

The third photo shows what this looks like on the outside once you've sewn the nose strip in place.

Step 6: Mark Sides for Pleats

On the outside of the main panel, mark 1" intervals, starting from the bottom. Keep markings close to the edge so they will be hidden once the mask is sewn. Don't worry that the top mark is less than 1" from the top.

Use these marks as a guide to make three pleats.

First pleat: bring bottom marking up to the next marking and clip or pin in place on both sides.

Continue in this way until you have three pleats. You do not need to follow the marks religiously - they are just a guide. I generally make the middle pleat larger as this is where the most room is needed.

These pleats are designed so that the "valleys" that could fill with hot air are on the outside, not trapping hot breath on the inside. This is the reverse of the pleat direction in many mask patterns.

The goal is to make the pleated sides end up the same size as the knit side pieces, about 3" high.

Step 7: Sew Main Panel to Side Panels

Take one of the knit tubes and place it under the main tube, so that both outside raw edges are aligned. The knit tube should be against the inside of the main panel, and its seam should face the table. Carefully take out the clips or pins, one at a time, and reclip the main panel to the side knit tube, without losing the pleat.

Sew these two pieces together, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Repeat on the other side. It's best to always sew in the same direction that the pleats are going in (as in the 2nd photo). Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam to secure it.

Once you've sewn this seam, you will have a smooth, clean join on the inside of the mask with no raw edges visible.

Step 8: Turn Side Pieces Over, and Sew Down on Front

Turn the side knit pieces over to the front, and sew them down very close to the raw edge of the knit fabric, just past the thick seam you have just sewn, which is now covered up.

Sew a second parallel line of stitching, to completely enclose the raw edges of the fabric seam. This second line of stitching creates a channel at the edge of the mask, about 1/2" wide, for the strap.

The 4th photo shows the outside of the mask once this stitching is complete, with the bulky raw edges of the pleated main panel completely enclosed by stitching.

The 5th photo shows the inside of the mask once the stitching is complete - not quite as pretty as the outside, but actually more comfortable, as the raw edges of the knit pieces (which could curl up and not lie completely flat) are on the outside, not the inside.

Step 9: Add Elastic or Cord on Both Sides

Use a safety pin or large needle to pull the elastic, strip of T-shirt fabric or cord through the channels on each side.

Tie a knot loosely, holding both ends of the cord in one hand, looping them over a finger and slipping both ends through the loop. If desired, the ends of the elastic, fabric or cord can be sewn together once the recipient has tried on the mask and adjusted for a comfortable fit around the ears.

Step 10: Try on Mask

Try on the mask and adjust the length of elastic or cord so it fits well by moving the knot.

Enjoy this comfortable mask and stay safe!

SAFETY NOTES:

  1. Wash your hands before you put on your mask, before you take off your mask, and after you take off your mask. Click here for good instructions on how to put on and take off a mask.
  2. Wash your mask in hot water after each use. You can put it in the washing machine and the dryer. The wire will be a bit bent afterwards - just straighten it and store your mask flat. If you don't want to run it through the washing machine and dryer you could drop in in a pot of hot water and boil for ten minutes, then air dry.

Read further for more options and pro tips!

Step 11: Option: Use Different Fabric for Inside of Mask

You can make the inside of the mask out of a different fabric to distinguish the inside from the outside. I find that having a knit T-shirt fabric on the inside makes the mask more comfortable. It may also provide increased protection, by having both woven and non-woven layers of fabric in the mask.

To make the lining or inside of the mask from a different fabric, instead of cutting one 8" X 14" rectangle in Step 2, cut two pieces of different fabric, each 8" X 7 1/4", and sew them both together along the 8" side with a 1/4" seam allowance. The rest of the instructions remain the same. The photos show these two pieces of fabric, and the inside of a finished mask with white T-shirt fabric as the lining layer.

When sewing a knit and a woven fabric together, keep the woven fabric on top - this helps it feed more smoothly through the machine.

Step 12: Option: Small Design Change to Allow Insertion of Filter Layer

An additional level of protection may be provided by inserting a filter between the outer mask fabric and the lining.

This design variation creates a 3" opening on the inside at the top, which allows a filter piece to be inserted.

  1. Cut the fabric rectangle for the main mask piece one inch longer, i.e. 15" X 8"
  2. If you have a serger, serge the raw edges of the 8" wide edges, or zigzag to reduce ravelling.
  3. Fold the rectangle in half, right sides together.
  4. Using a 1/2 seam allowance, sew for 2 1/2", then backstitch. Sew in 2 1/2" from the other side, and backstitch. This leaves a 3" unsewn gap in the middle.
  5. Iron the seam open. Press so that the edge of the seam allowance is at the top edge.
  6. Turn right side out. You will have a 3" opening about 1/2" from the top of your mask.
  7. The rest of the instructions for making the mask remain the same.

Step 13: Potential Filter Materials

You may want to add a filter layer between the lining and the outer mask fabric using the design variation described in the previous step.

The filter should be made from non-woven material. The idea is to have something that further reduces the chance of airborne droplets reaching your face. However, a filter may make the mask less comfortable and breathable - it's a tradeoff.

You can cut your filter piece from:

  1. a cheap non-woven fabric shopping bag
  2. a coffee filter
  3. a paper towel or a Kleenex
  4. a piece of interfacing (see final paragraph - this is my favorite)

The filter material should be cut to a 5" square, and inserted through the gap on the inside at the top of the mask. Throw the filter piece out before washing the mask.

Do not use vacuum cleaner bags as a filter material - although this was widely recommended in some online mask tutorials, vacuum bag manufacturers have advised that this is dangerous and could result in fiberglass or other harmful particles being inhaled.

My favorite filter layer is a square of fusible, lightweight, non-woven interfacing. This can be ironed onto the inside of the outer layer of the mask before the pleats are made, and becomes a permanent part of the mask which does not have to be removed. The 2nd photo illustrates the placement of this interfacing square between the 2 layers of fabric. You don't need to get your iron inside the fabric tube, just iron on top and follow the manufacturer's instructions for fusing.

Step 14: Pro Tips and Efficiencies When Mass Producing Masks

Once you have made one mask successfully, try these techniques to efficiently make many masks in a short period of time.

Time saving pro tips:

  1. Cut all fabric with a rotary cutter and mat rather than scissors. You can cut several layers at once.
  2. Organize your materials so you have enough to make many masks - you want to set up an assembly line.
  3. Complete one step for all of the masks before moving on to the next step. For example, if sewing ten masks, insert the nose strip in all ten masks before moving on. Then sew all the side pieces to the main panel. With this approach, you change sewing machine settings only once. For example, when you are attaching the side pieces, you should lower the pressure on the pressure foot because you are sewing through multiple layers. When inserting the nose strips, you may want to change to a zipper foot.
  4. Use a "header" and "footer" - small scraps of folded fabric, about an inch long, that you start sewing on, and end on. (The "footer" stays in the machine and becomes the "header" the next time you start sewing something). Any issues you may have with the stitching will show up in the header, rather than on your finished item. This is especially useful when you are about to sew a bulky seam or a knit that the sewing machine might not be too happy with.
  5. Line up your fabric and sew pieces one after another, without cutting the thread in between - just sew a few stitches in between. This is called chain piecing. Snip the threads holding the pieces once finished.

Step 15: More Pro Tips and Efficiencies

A few more tips when making many masks:

  1. When cutting the T-shirt for the side panels, lay the T-shirt flat on your cutting mat, cut off the hem, then cut a 6" wide strip which is the entire circumference of the T-shirt. This can then be sub-cut into 7" long pieces. Repeat until you have used all the fabric in the T-shirt.
  2. Chain stitch those side panel pieces together, iron seam flat, turn inside out and cut in half. Stack those pieces, seam side down, so they are ready to add to the main panel.
  3. If your sewing machine has this option, set it so that when you stop sewing, the needle is in the down position. This enables you to manipulate the fabric while keeping the needle in the correct position. Useful for example, when attaching the nose strips in Step 5.
  4. In Step 8, instead of sewing two parallel lines when sewing the side pieces down on the front, sew a rectangle, so that you are starting and stopping once, rather than twice.
  5. When sewing this final rectangle, start and stop with 4 small stitches, rather than backstitching. This is secure and neater looking than backstitching. Your final stitches will also overlap your first few stitches as you complete the rectangle. See last photo which illustrates this stitched rectangle which encloses all raw edges neatly.

Share your beautiful and comfortable masks!

5 People Made This Project!

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46 Comments

0
cjraabe
cjraabe

Tip 2 months ago

The use of knit fabric on the sides is genius. I've use it with several mask styles, and particularly like it on the no-fog style. I make my knit tube slightly smaller than the side measurement so the side gathers slightly, attach to the front of the mask wrong sides together, and to the back of the mask wrong side to right side. This reduces bulk. To have fewer seams showing, I stitch in the front ditch to attach the back. Comfortable and attractive.

20210209_130506.jpg
0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 2 months ago

Thanks for the tip and the photo! Good idea to make the knit tube slightly smaller. Your mask edge looks very neat and tidy and I see the benefits of the smaller knit tube.
Agreed - the knit sides make all the difference!

0
drewscreen
drewscreen

8 months ago

I appreciate the wonderful hints and tips on sewing a batch of masks at one time.

This design does not prevent fogging for eyeglass-wearers, at least not for me or my wife, who are always wearing our glasses outside the home. Also, I can report that unless you are already an somewhat of an expert at the sewing machine, sewing knit material is anything but "easy".

In total I have made over 20 pieces of this mask, and while the T-shirt fabric on the inside does seem to be more comfortable on the face, it also makes the mask almost unbearably hot for summer use. I can't wear the earloop style masks because they make my glasses slide off, and pushing them back up all the time would mean I would be touching my face more rather than less. Thus we went with the band-over-and-behind-the-head further variant, so maybe that has been an additional factor in our disappointment in their performance. I will give them another shot in the cooler months. For now I am going back to the fine Olsen-style masks we found here on Instructables by ashevillejm.

1
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 8 months ago

I'm impressed that you made 20 of these masks! I agree that knits are harder to sew than woven fabric and take some getting used to. Make sure you use a 100% cotton T shirt knit (not a polyester or synthetic) - it will be easier to sew with, and more breathable (not as hot). In hot weather I would use the version of the mask which is not lined with a knit, just 100% woven cotton (the knit lining is only an option in Step 11). The Olsen-style masks are good and I have also made many of these, but they have to fit your specific face quite well in order to stay on properly - great if you are making them for yourself, but not if you are making masks to give to others. I designed this mask in order to be able to give them to a wide variety of people/face sizes (eg volunteers at the Food Bank - people I would never meet) and have found that it adjusts well to fit almost anyone. Stay well!

0
drewscreen
drewscreen

Reply 8 months ago

Where we live (Italy) the vast majority of the people believe covid is real, but summer tourism seems to have brought an influx of science deniers from EU countries that have had fewer cases. The problem I have with the Olson is it's vertical column of needle holes that passes in front of one's nose and mouth, which the Easy Best doesn't have. I was looking for a little more piece of mind with the Easy Best.

I wasn't absolutely sure that the knit fabric I was using was 100% cotton, so that could be a big factor in the problems I was having.

I think I WILL make a new batch of these masks with T-shirt fabric on the sides only, as they should be a lot easier to sew and cooler to wear.

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1
wkyukon
wkyukon

10 months ago on Step 11

I received one of YukonJulie's masks recently and first wore it at home to test it out. After a few moments, I barely noticed that I was wearing it. There was no tension on my ears from the straps, which had been a problem with a commercial mask I had bought. The way the pleat opened up made me confident I was getting full coverage of the lower part of my face. The fabric was soft and cozy. And, best of all, with the nose piece bent to fit my nose and the bottom of my glasses fitting just over the top of the mask, I had no fogging up issues, something that happened with the commercial mask within seconds. Thanks, YukonJulie!!

0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 10 months ago

Thank you! I'm so glad that you found that it was comfortable and fit well - just as I had hoped with this design!

0
andrea.c.leonard
andrea.c.leonard

Question 10 months ago

Hi! Any suggestions for how big to cut the fabric for a child? (Toddler and older child sizes would both be helpful!!)

0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Answer 10 months ago

See the comment directly below yours re: the measurements another reader used to scale the pattern down for a small adult face.
For a child, I would take a soft tape measure and measure how wide the child's face is, measuring over the nose and from ear to ear. Then subtract about 2 1/2", since there will be side panels, and the mask doesn't need to go all the way to the ears. Cut your central panel this wide. For eg, you might want the central panel to be 5" wide by 10" long. You will only need to put in 2 pleats since there is less fabric. The side knit panels could also be scaled back to about 6" X 5", so that you end up with side pieces that are about 2 1/2" X 2 1/2" once sewn into a tube and cut in half.
I hope you post your finished mask once you've made it, and share the measurements that worked for your child. Happy sewing!

2
BOBYYC
BOBYYC

12 months ago

We have tried several mask patterns but yours is one of the best. My wife has a small face however, and the mask was a little too big. I scaled it down by cutting the face piece 7" x 12" and the sleeves 6-1/2" x 6". I put in only two pleats and it fits quite well. Thank you for the detailed instructions.

0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 12 months ago

Thanks for this nice feedback and for the details re: the modifications you made to make it slightly smaller. So glad to hear that it worked out well. Stay safe!

1
Maya50
Maya50

12 months ago

Thank you for sharing these instructables! After reading the previous post from analogue brain and the suggested tips in the comments, I decided to make my mask 12" by 5,5" instead of 14" by 7" and it came out perfect. My machine died on me so I also had to do it by hand. With your instructions it took me about 40 minutes to make my own mask and about 30 mins to make a second one. Thank you again for sharing your knowlegde and super easy to follow instructions!

0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 12 months ago

Thank you for sharing the photo of your finished mask. It looks fantastic! Your sewing is so neat - it looks very professional - and I am impressed that you did it by hand. I'm glad you found the instructions easy to follow and that this worked out for you. Stay safe!

1
Matthieu1
Matthieu1

1 year ago

Thank for sharing. Nice concept around the ears. Don't use mask with seam betwenn mouth and nose.
Have a look on the French "AFNOR Masque" (Association Française de normalisation, something like "standardisation commission")

A document lists the different fabric sandwiches according to the level of filtration.
Category 1: 90-95% @3µm
Category 2: 70-90% @3µm
and "non conforme" for under 70%

google : "base de données matières resultat dga maj"

0
303_trancer
303_trancer

Reply 1 year ago

Viri have dimensions of nanometers, so...

0
Matthieu1
Matthieu1

Reply 1 year ago

Yes, you’re right. The virus alone is that size (125nm). However, he’s embedded in all the droplets that are being expelled, and this one are a lot bigger.
We speak about barrier mask, they just filter 70-95% of 3µm droplets. No mask = no filter....

0
303_trancer
303_trancer

Reply 1 year ago

The problem is that we get some conflicting information from governments. First they said the virus was spread by droplets when somone coughs. Then they said somebody can spread the virus even if he has no symroms?!? So if he has no symptoms, he is not coughing, right?
And when I see most masks, they don't fit well and most of the time they leak somewhere. And just like electric current, the air you breath in will always follow the path with the least resistance. So there will always be a portion of the air not filtered at all... Even if you were wearing a mask that filters for 100% at even 1 nm, if it doesn't cover your face for 100% it can't filter for 100%. And to my knowledge it takes only one virus to get infected...

Mask are good for trying to prevent spreading the virus to healty people but I think it will not help getting the virus if you are in an unhealty environment where the virus is in in the air, be it in droplet form or the virus itself because of the bad fittings of the masks. What mask are good for is letting people realise we live in a dangerous time and they should act like it by keeping distance from each other. That is for some people very hard to do and don't try to ask these people to please hold the advised distance... Then you have an attitude and sure enough they will come even closer to you!

So for me the only sure thing is staying as much as home as I can. Maybe I'm to paranoid.
Here in the Netherlands people are tyred of the "smart" lockdown and now suddenly much more is allowed because the numbers of deaths is falling. I think that the majority still thinks this is just a kind of flu, only a bit worse. And oh what are people happy that they finaly can go to the hairdresser again after soooo long...
If you don't belong to the risk group, OK. But I do and many more. Lets see how big the second waves will become in many countries.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong this time.

0
Matthieu1
Matthieu1

Reply 1 year ago

You said : "First they said the virus was spread by droplets when someone coughs."

And when we speak... too --> Youtube : "SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Micro-droplets - NHK World report"

0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks. I have looked at the document you mentioned - what an incredibly detailed study of different fabric combinations! I'm pleased to see that 2 layers of T-shirt knit are considered good. Generally, if I am using a separate fabric for the lining, I use a T-shirt knit for the lining, and a woven cotton for the outer layer, thereby providing a combination of woven and non-woven fabrics which provides a better barrier than 2 layers of woven fabric but is still breathable.

0
YukonJulie
YukonJulie

Reply 1 year ago

Thank you very much for this comment and for the link to the French mask reference document which I found on this website: https://www.afnor.org/actualites/coronavirus-telechargez-le-modele-de-masque-barriere/ That's an incredibly detailed and well-researched resource for mask makers! It was interesting to read that they don't recommend any vertical seams in the nose mouth area - that makes sense, as the holes created by the stitching could allow micro particles to enter the mask. I am glad that my design does not have any vertical seams in the middle of the mask!