Introduction: Face Mask - Batch Process

Making Masks is what all the 'cool kids' are doing right now and I have been making a fair few as part of a nation wide sewing movement. In making them I've come up with a way to "batch" them that I wanted to share.


  • tight woven 100% cotton cloth*
  • pipe cleaners
  • tape - cloth, medical, or masking
  • bias tape (not pictured, but required for this tutorial - store bought or home-made works)
  • flat wound/woven string or elastic
  • thread


  • sewing machine (or hand sewer or at the least needle and thread)
  • scissors
  • wire snips or a pair of crap scissors you can cut the pipe cleaners in half with
  • safety pin or some other tool to run the string through the bias tape

* I am promoting two different colors one white or light. This is by requests we've seen from medical staff so it's easy for them to know which side is the "inside" of the mask quickly and easily.

(Please note these are made for "adult faces" and you would need to make a different size to fit children or those of a smaller frame. Also please note that these, per the CDC, are not considered PPE and should only be used as a last resort. Please do your research and take the precautions you need to in keeping yourself and those around you safe. For more information please check the CDC's website!)

Step 1: Cut Your Fabric Pieces

Iron your fabric so it's nice and flat and easier to work with. Since I'm using a roller blade and ruler to cut my fabric in stacks I find a flatter fabric far easier to work with.

Once you have your fabric ironed it's time to start cutting.

You will need 1 square of each color/piece per mask.

Make the squares 7-7.5" x 8-9.5" (these number can wiggle just a tiny bit if it makes your material go just a bit further - the goal is minimize waste and maximize mask production)

I found my roller blade and a ruler make this quick work. I was able to cut out 55 masks in just under an hour.

Step 2: Prepare the Nose Wires

Prepare your nose pieces as follows:

  • Cut your pipe cleaners (one for each mask you're making) in half.
  • Take two halves (I mix up the colors just because I like playing with them - they won't be seen in the final project) and twist them together to create a loose spiral (see picture).
  • Trim up the ends to be more or less even and cut the ends if they are bent and have become sharp. (We don't want anyone to get a nose poked - ouch).
  • Take a 1/4 - 1/2" of tape and wrap the ends of each twisted section tightly. This will hold them together and help prevent the ends from ripping the cloth or poking the user (again - ouch).

Keep doing this until you have 1 piece for each make you're making.

This is pretty time consuming and making the 55 nose wires in this picture took me around 2 hours, but I was watching YouTube at the same time - so I wasn't as fast as I could of been.

Step 3: Finish the Filter Pocket Top

On one of the short ends of your lighter fabric fold it over about 1/2" (not exact - just try to keep it pretty uniform from the beginning of the piece to the end of the piece).

Stitch this with a zig-zag stitch. (I use a zig-zag to help prevent fraying).

When you reach the end of the sheet don't stop to take it off the machine just load up your next piece (again folding the end over 1/2") and keep on sewing. Do this for all the lining pieces you cut. When you're done you'll have a long "banner" of liners attached together with a little big of thread between them.

Now that you have "hemmed" the linings snip them apart at the bare threads and set these aside for later.

(If you're more comfortable pressing the hems first, feel free, but it's really not needed once you get comfortable folding and sewing at the same time. This will save you quiet a few minutes when you're doing a big batch)

Hemming all the linings took me just about a half hour?

Step 4: Inserting the Nose Wire

Now it's time to add those pipe-cleaners you made earlier.

Take the outer fabric with the short side up and lay 1 pipe cleaner a the top.

Fold the fabric over with about 1/4" of fabric left over.

Fold this over again to make a "tube" that will hold the nose wire in place.

Transfer this to the sewing machine.

If you have a sewing machine that will move the needle to the right most position - GREAT - I don't so I chose to use the widest zig-zag stitch I had. I did this to help hold the pipe-cleaner into place by not giving a lot of room for the pipe cleaner to shift from side to side.

Sew the pipe cleaner in place as shown above. (This is why you made the 'tube' larger than just the size of the pipe cleaners. You'll need some room to flatten it down and sew it to the outer fabric.)

Like the last step when you reach the end of the sheet don't stop to take it off the machine just load up your next piece (again 'rolling' the pipe cleaner up into the fabric) and keep on sewing. Do this for all the lining pieces you cut. When you're done you'll have a long "banner" of outer pieces attached together with a little big of thread between them.

Again like the last step snip all your pieces apart at the bare threads and set these aside for the next step.

This is a bit more tedious step - maybe an hour to run through all 55 pieces.

(BE CAREFUL not the hit the pipe cleaner with the sewing machine needle as it can break your needle and that's both scary and can be dangerous. Keep the pipe cleaner on the outside of your presser foot as shown in my example image.)

Step 5: Attach Liner to Outer Layer

Now take your liners and your outer fabrics and make them 1 piece :).

Lay 1 outer fabric on your table with the right side UP.

Lay 1 liner fabric on the outer piece right side DOWN.

Say these to where the hemmed edge is just below the pipe cleaner.

Now you'll most likely see that the liner is longer than your outer fabric. That's cool and fine. Just wrap the liner around the outer fabric (see the picture if this gets confusing)... double check that the right sides are together.

Now stitch these two pieces together. (You'll want to remember to put your machine back to a straight stitch for this step.)

As with the last two steps - don't take the time to cut the thread between each one, we'll do that at end of this step... just make another 'banner' :D.

Not too fussy - this step took me less than 1 hour.

Step 6: Time to Pleat - Side A

Time to Pleat.. and I cheat :D. (If you don't have one of the following cheat tools skip through this and the next step for how to pleat by pressing your material.)

I really really really don't like pleating, but it's important for these masks to be pleated so I found a mechanical way to help me get my pleats more uniform and faster. I used this 3d printed design ( to make a pleating fork (Yeah it's my design, but that's neither here nor there).... I was told you can also use a tuning fork - or if you have a "heavy duty plastic fork" you can break off two tines (leaving 2 tines) and use that - but please note I didn't try those last two so I can't guarantee that they'll work as well. If you don't have a 3D printer ask around or look for a maker space or google how to get an item printed locally :D.

Take 1 of the pieces and flip it around to where the right sides are now facing out (wrong sides together). Put this into your sewing machine and stitch until you are into the lining.

Insert your pleating fork/tuning fork/broken plastic fork into the material and then turn the fabric with the tool to make a pleat.

This may take some getting used to so I would suggest using some scrap cloth to 'get a feel for it'.

I added 3 pleats per face mask.

I like to make sure the pleats face "down" on the front so anything that falls on the face of the wearer will fall off the face, not get caught in a fold.... just one of those weird things I do.. I know.

With practice you'll get to where the pleats get to fit with a little tiny tail left at the bottom of the face mask - that's what you're going for :D.

As you've learned earlier you just keep going - don't snip them off each time and better yet when you finish this step don't snip the masks apart.. Leave the masks attached after this step - it will make adding the bias tape easier.

Depending on how you do your pleats this can be pretty time consuming... I don't press my pleats and use my handy-dandy tool to make my pleats pretty quickly so it only took me about an hour and a half to get through this side..

Step 7: Time to Pleat - Side B

Time to do again what you just did, but this time on the other side :D.

You'll notice in my pictures that Side A is still attached at the side - that's a good thing.

You'll also notice that I'm flipping the way I'm putting the pleat in since I'm working on the other side of the fabric. This way the pleats will be going the same way once the mask is done :).

Again - don't snip the masks apart after you finish this step... you want them all attached in a long banner.

Another hour and a half to do this side.

Step 8: Pleating - Alternate Design.

Add 3 pleats to each mask. There's not hard or fast rule on this and I'm pretty bad at it. Just remember you want about 3.5"-4" in height left once the pleats are added. Use your iron to press them in place and then run a stitch down each side to 'hold them in place'.

(This is how I used to do the batches... that's why it's got a different fabric)

Step 9: Bias Taping the Sides

Here you can get fancy and do the sew one side of the bias tape, tuck your ends, wrap the bias tape around and then securing it - if you want to know how do that, please go find a tutorial online - doing that will make a 'prettier' end product, but I'm going for speed - not beauty.

Since I'm used store bought Bias tape it's made 'on the bias' which means it's cut in a way it shouldn't unravel. If you're making your own bias tape (which I understand it's free to use your scraps and a bit more eco-friendly, but I find the process infuriating so I buy my bias tape) then please check your tape for it's tendency to unravel - I can only image having little strings tickling your face all day would be just this side of torture to the end user.

Open the bias tape and sandwich your first mask between the folds.

Keeping the shorter side up stitch close to the edge of the bias tape.

Now here's the kicker.. be careful not to go too shallow on seam allowance. You're creating the channel for your ties/elastic so you'll need enough 'clearance' for the sting/elastic to go through.

You'll be dancing a finer line here. Maybe do one or two until you get a place you're comfortable at :D.

No need to cut the bias tape or to do the masks one at a time.. this is why we left the strings on the sides - it'll help 'feed the masks' into the tape - just keep opening the bias tape and adding a new mask at the breaks.

Just remember to reverse the stitching at the beginning and end of each mask - since you'll be cutting these apart after both sides are done and there's no more stitches going on top of this you'll need to "lock" the stitches so these say on after washing, drying and wearing.

My time for 55 masks on this step was just about an hour and a half.

Step 10: Add the String/tie/elastic

You're almost done. :D.

Cut the masks apart so that you have just enough bias tape to go from top to bottom of the mask side.

Take your string, ribbon, sewn shut bias tape - what ever you're using as ties and cut 46" lengths. These will be inserted in the channels you just made along the sides of each mask.

Now put on a movie and start adding the string to each mask. This is the time you get to feel accomplished as you finish each mask. If you're like me you show your significant other (or your pet or your teddy bear) each mask as you finish it... they'll love seeing your progress and you can see how many ways they can say "good job" :D.

Using your preferred tool (I have a waist band inserter I use) push the string (or elastic if you've still got some of that - as of March 2020 it's pretty hard to find due to this mask craze) ends up from the bottom or each side of the mask. If you don't have one of these maybe cut a slit in a straw or use a safety pin or a chop stick and push the string up where it goes.

For ties I'm using 46" long - on the group I'm on they're saying 36" of 1/4" flat elastic works - I have not confirmed that measurement because I'm using flat string (it's what I have lots of). You can also use a washable ribbon (if you do knot the ends or sew the ends to stop unraveling).

That's it.. you're done with your batch. Go You! Now either use them or donate them to a facility that needs them!

(About an hour for this part :D. So grand total is 11 hours of work for 55 masks. That's just 12 minutes a mask... 12 minutes to work on something that could help save a life - or at the least - make a professional's PPE last a bit longer. Some professionals have told our group they're using cloth masks over their N95s to keep their N95s clean so they don't have to throw them out as often.)

Fiber Arts Contest

Participated in the
Fiber Arts Contest