Introduction: How to Sew a Fabric Face Mask With Filter Pocket (elastic Not Needed)

About: Army Vet. I love learning & being creative. I am back!

This fabric face mask has an opening for a filter, can fit over other masks (surgical or N95s), has the option for a contoured nose and does not require elastic - though I share instructions on how to make it with elastic as an alternate option. For those who do have elastic and want to use it for your mask, you will only need 6 inches of it, as the rest will be made with fabric or bias tape. If you prefer to use only elastic for the straps, I will share how to do that as well. I prefer not to use elastic that just goes around the ears. Though that style would require only a little elastic, it is not comfortable for me and it makes the mask too loose and unfitted.

Around many parts of the world right now, people are making their own masks for personal use and some people are making them for medical personnel. I wanted this mask to be customizable and something that could be worn by anyone - including medical personnel who have resorted to using these washable masks over their N95s or surgical masks.

Where I live currently, there are dozens of volunteers working around the clock making masks for local physicians and hospital staff. There are already enough being donated in my area, so I am personally making a bunch of them for the Walmart employees where I do grocery pickups. They said they would gladly take and use them - so I am working away with all the fabric I have on hand. Also, for those who need fabric and are not going into stores right now (but are doing grocery pickups) - Walmart has 1-yard pieces of fabric that are between $3 and $4 - some are plain and others have unique designs. They also sell thread for about a dollar. So, lately as I do grocery pickups, I try to also purchase those items. For this Instructable, there are so many customization options so you can make it as simple or as feature-rich as you prefer.

If you have any questions, please ask below and I will try to help! I will be posting a video to go along with this Instructable shortly. I will also post another Instructable or two on some other styles of face masks which I have been making. I want to give you a variety of options & styles - so please check back soon for more!


  • 100% Cotton fabric - each mask should be cut at 9.5 inches wide by 17 inches long
  • For Straps with No Elastic - use bias tape, or you can use pieces of your fabric material about 1 1/8th inches wide by 16 inches long (x4) - as you can make your own bias tape
  • Sewing machine, thread, pins, scissors and measuring tape or ruler
  • Ironing board & iron
  • Optional: nose contour
    • I used 20 gauge silver wire (4 1/2 inches long) that I had from jewelry making. Floral wiring may work as well. I used a jewelry pliers to cut the wire.
    • I also used a piece of homemade bias tape (1 1/8th inches wide by 5 inches long). I will explain exactly how to do this in the following steps.
  • Optional: 1/4 elastic or any width of elastic you have on hand.
    • In this tutorial, I use the absolute minimum amount of elastic needed to make a well-fitted mask - and that is 6 inches of 1/4 inch elastic. It is only used on part of the top strap & the bottom is made with bias tape or out of fabric folded into bias tape. I will explain this in depth in the following steps.
    • If you choose to use only elastic for the straps, then that is an option as well. In that case, you will likely need about 26 inches of elastic. I will explain this in a later step.

Step 1: Full Video Tutorial

For those who prefer to see this Instructable in a video format, the full video is here.

Step 2: Cutting, Ironing & First Seams

First, it is very important that you wash your fabric before using it. If it shrinks at all, it will do so before you cut your material out. After removing it from the dryer, it's time to cut it.

It's a good idea to take out your iron and ironing board now as your fabric is probably wrinkled. Iron it out as needed. Then, cut out a piece of fabric that is 9 1/2 inches wide by 17 inches long. You should also have your ruler or measuring tape nearby.

Once cut out, you will need to fold the long sides of the fabric inward at 1/4 of an inch - and iron it down. After those are folded and ironed in at 1/4 of an inch, you will then do something similar on the top and bottom pieces of the fabric. Fold the fabric 1/4 of an inch and iron that fold. Then, take that folded ironed area and fold it inward again and iron it down. Repeat that on the top piece of the fabric - ironing it at 1/4 of an inch, then folding and doing it again. Please take a look at the photos if confused.

Next, go to the sewing machine and sew a seam on the top and bottom edges. Leave the long sides as they are for now.

I will be posting a video within a couple of days as well - as for some people it is much easier to view the process that way.

Step 3: Pocket Opening for Fabric Face Mask & Large Side Seams

Next, take your piece of fabric and fold it upwards, with the opening at the top. Try to line up the top seams. It isn't necessary, but you may want to iron the piece of fabric once folded in half. Then, you will want to measure from the edge inward approximately 1 1/2 inches - and place a pin in the fabric vertically at that location (see image). Do the same for the fabric from the right side inward, approximately 1 1/2 inches. This will create about a 6-inch opening in the middle, which is an opening for filter placement, if needed.

Once pinned, then head on over to the sewing machine. Sew a seam from the edge inward (about 1/8 inch seam) until you get to the pin and remove the it once you get close, so you don't break your sewing machine needle. Do the same on the right side of the fabric.

Don't forget the side seams! Once that's done, head back to the sewing machine to sew large side seams at 5/8 of an inch. You're almost done with the process now.

Step 4: Pleats & Bias Tape Straps for the Mask - Finishing It With This Method

Now it's time to create pleats in the mask. I create four pleats total. Grab some fabric and pull it downward and pin it in place. Try to pull the same amount of fabric from both sides as you create the pleats. You should only have enough fabric here to create four pleats. It does not need to be perfect. Just try to make them even and pin them down in place - keeping the pins quite far from the edges. For me, the sides are usually about 3 inches after creating the pleats.

In this step, I will share how to create four bias tape straps. If you want to know how to create the mask with elastic, please checkout the next step.

If you have bias tape, you will need four pieces of bias tape that are 16 inches long. The bias tape I was using was quite thin at 1/4 of an inch, so it was not that easy sewing the seam on it. But, it worked out ok as long as I held it from both ends while sewing it, to create some tension. Be sure to sew a seam along all four straps.

To finish the mask with this method, you will then go back to the sewing machine to do two final seams - along the pleated edges. The seams will be about 1/4 of an inch. Carefully place your bias tape into a small opening of fabric along the pleated edge at the top and one at the bottom - then bring it to the sewing machine. Be sure that the bias tape strap is in the little opening as you begin sewing. Take your time and go along the edge - being careful to avoid any pins and being sure the bias tape straps are in the right spot. Do both sides and you are done.

If you need to make bias tape, this is how I did it. I cut out four pieces of cotton fabric and each piece was 1 1/8 inches wide by 16 inches long. I went to the ironing board and ironed inward 1/4 of an inch on one side of the fabric the long way. I then, did the same thing with the other long side of the fabric. I then, folded them into each other, or folded that piece in half the long way and ironed it down. From there I went to the sewing machine and made a seam along the piece of fabric, which I then used as a strap. If this is confusing, I will be uploading a video shortly. Otherwise, please ask in the comments and I can add more photos or you can also look it up online to get a good visual.

Step 5: Option: Minimal Elastic for Top Band

For this step, the most important thing is probably the measurements. I calculate the size based on average human head size, which varies between 21 3/4 to 22 1/2 inches. When using elastic, the amount of its ability to stretch is really important so you have a good fit that is not too tight or too lose. So, you may need to alter these measurements slightly if you have a lot of hair or your head size is a little smaller or larger.

First, follow instructions in the last step to prepare or make bias tape. You will need two pieces of 16-inch bias tape for the bottom straps. For the top part, you will need one 1/4 inch piece of elastic that is 6 inches long. You will then need two pieces of bias tape straps that are preferably 1/4 inch by 4 1/2 inches long. Be sure to sew seams along the bias tape if you haven't done so already.

Take out your 4 1/2 inch long strip and carefully put it underneath the presser foot on your sewing machine. Overlap the piece of elastic by about a 1/2 an inch, as needed. Sew these two pieces of fabric together. Be sure to go over it in multiple ways, back and forth multiple times to be sure it it well secured and sewn together. Once the first 4 1/2 inch piece of strap is sewn to the 6 inch piece of elastic, then you will take that and sew it to the final strap that is also 4 1/2 inches long. Sew it together in the same way you did with this last one. This will create one long strap that has the elastic in the middle. Cut off excess threads.

You should be at the stage where your mask is pleated, pinned and ready to be sewn down the edges. You have already done the large 5/8 inch seam along the edges. Now, you will be placing the ends of the elastic/fabric straps in before sewing. Be sure you place it in the top part of the mask. On the bottom of the mask, the fabric straps will be sewn in, just like in the previous step. This seam will be about 1/4 of an inch from the edge. It will secure the straps in place.

Information for those who have a lot of 1/4 inch elastic and want both straps to be made of elastic: For me, when making a mask with only elastic straps - my top band of elastic was 14 1/2 inches long & the bottom piece of elastic was 11 1/2 inches long. If you plan to use only elastic for the bands, you may want to sew the elastic to one end, then hold the mask up onto your face to measure how long of a piece you need.

Step 6: Optional: Nose Contour

This step is totally optional. And, there are other methods to create a contoured shaped nose area - but this is the method I used. I had some 20 gauge wire on hand from jewelry-making. I cut a piece of it at 4 1/2 inches long. I then took a piece of homemade bias tape fabric and cut it at 5 inches long. I recommend homemade bias tape for this one as the fabric works better than the bias tape I used from the store.

I then pinned that folded piece of bias tape onto the interior of the front part of the mask (one pin in the middle). I then went to the sewing machine and sewed a seam along the top edge - just leaving a tiny bit of space between the top of the bias tape and the top edge of the mask.

Next, I sewed a second seam at the bottom edge of the 5 inch bias tape piece. Be really careful to sew these seams with enough space in the middle. I left the ends open and did not sew over them. I then took the wire and fed it through the hole until it got near the end. I then went back to the sewing machine to sew the ends closed. That was it!

Alternate Nose Contour Option that is Easier: Twist Tie. One other way to do a nose contour that is super simple is to use a twist tie. This is obviously not as durable but it does work to some degree at creating a better fit around the nose area. For this, you take a twist tie and place it in the center inner area of the opening. Then, do a zig zag stitch over it and that is it.

Step 7: Finished Masks in Photos

Here are some photos of different types of masks I've made with a variety of fabrics I had on hand. If you guys have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thanks!