After making over 130 masks for local Atlanta hospitals and essential animal care staff at Zoo Atlanta, I’ve finally got my pattern down to a science.
There’s a ton of masks patterns out there. What’s different about my pattern? SPEED. I needed masks quickly for the Zoo and the hospital so I skipped ironing seams for finger pressing and combined steps for efficiency and speed. I discovered that sewing the elastic already in the bias tape tube shaved off several minutes from other tutorials.
You need to prep your materials so you can sew without interruption. I thankfully had a husband and lovely neighbors to help fold the ends of the pipe cleaners to prevent the wire from poking through the mask. The elastic was pre-cut into 10 inch strips along with the bias tape cut in 4-5 inch sections. I cut 4 layers of fabric at a time with my rotary cutter and worked in groups of 30-50 masks at my machine at a time. You need to be able to grab these items around your machine quickly.
Pro Tip: Pre-wound bobbins for your machine saves a ton of time. No more running out of bobbin thread and having to stop your project to create more bobbins. I buy them by the case on Amazon in both black and white.
I made a video to show how I sew each mask in about 5 minutes. I’m quicker when I’m not explaining the steps:
I also have a PDF Quick Reference Sheet with the basic steps.:
Materials for each mask:
- 100% cotton fabric (size 9in by 15in)
- 1/4in wide elastic (10 inch piece) via Amazon.
- 7/8in wide bias tape. Around 10 inches per mask via Amazon.
- Pipe cleaner (around 6inches long with the ends folded to the inside and pressed flat) in bulk via Amazon.
Step 1: Create the pocket:
- Fold fabric right sides together and sew a 1/4inch seam over the top 9 inch side stopping after sewing 3 inches. Backstitch to lock the seam. Lift the presser foot and start again 3 inches from the other side. This 3 inch center gap without stitching will become a pocket.
Step 2: Topstitch around the pocket
- Use your fingers to open the seam flat. From the right side of the fabric, topstitch 1/8in from the pocket seam on both sides. This creates the pocket and sews down the seam allowance on the underside.
Step 3: Sew pipe cleaner
- Turn mask right side out with the pocket seam 1/4in from the top of the mask and facing up. Place pipe cleaner inside and at the top above the pocket. Sew a line just below the pipe cleaner to hold in place.
Step 4: Make the pleats
- With the front of the mask facing you, use your fingers to create 2 or 3 pleats across the width of the mask. The pleat width doesn’t matter but make sure they are even both sides. Try not to overlap your pleats to avoid bulkiness in the seam. Once you are happy with your pleats, sew down each side of the mask to hold the pleats.
Step 5: Sewing the bias tape and elastic
- Open a 5 inch piece of 7/8in bias tape and place it around the side edge. Fold under the top of the tape towards you to encase the top edge of the mask. Place a 10inch piece of 1/4in wide elastic on top and inside the tape. Make sure the elastic is away from you needle as you sew a 1/8 to 1/4 inch seam close to the edge to bind the tape and create a tube for the elastic. Make sure you are sewing through both layers of bias tape and the mask. When you get close to the bottom edge, fold up the bottom of the bias tape to encase the bottom edge and continue sewing to finish off the seam.
Step 6: Tie the elastic.
- You can wear this mask around your ears by timing the elastic together on each side or tie the top and bottom elastics together to go around the head. Once elastic is fitted and tied, hide the knot into the bias tape tube for comfort.
Fitting your mask:
This mask is designed to be wore several ways for comfort. Untie the elastic and adjust around your ears or tie around your head for comfort. You can also replace the elastic with shoe laces or another type of cording if you choose. Once you have tied the elastic to size, you can slide the knot into the fabric tube for comfort.
What if your elastic falls out?
If your elastic falls out of the side of the mask, use a paper clip to punch through the elastic and secure around the paperclip. Thread the paperclip (with the elastic attached) through the fabric tube sides. One the elastic is rethreaded, you can retie the elastic in a knot.
Mask Washing instructions:
These masks are washer and dryer safe. If you added a paper mask or filter material inside the pocket, remove that prior to washing. To keep the elastic from becoming untied or tangled, place the mask in a lingerie or delicates bag in the wash or wash the mask in a “low or no spin” cycle.
I hope this guide is helpful! I’m off to make a few hundred more!