DIY Medical Face Masks to Sew

These are the best DIY medical face mask tutorials to use if you’d like to sew them to donate to local hospitals.

diy medical face masks

There is a shortage of medical face masks. Hospitals are in desperate need of face masks for medical care professionals. If you are staying at home during this crazy time and know how to sew, you can use your time and skills for the greater good by sewing fabric face masks and donating them to your local hospital. Let’s craft for a cause!

When I read this article, I knew it was something I could help with. I plan to put my fabric stash to good use to help my local hospital prepare for the influx of patients they expect in the coming weeks.

Face masks should be made from high quality, tightly woven 100% cotton material. Remember that there are male and female workers who will use them, so a variety of colors and patterns would be appreciated.

Fabric face masks do not replace medical grade face masks. However, because of the shortage, many hospitals are using them in non-critical areas of the hospital or they are being layered with a medical grade mask.

Here is what a friend (whose husband is a doctor) had to say after making a batch of masks to donate:

 Hubby got his first round of handmade face masks at his ER yesterday. This IS helpful and also helps raise morale at the ER, because they feel they aren’t facing this alone. But! Here’s some feedback I hope will be helpful.

1. They need to be slightly wider (taller vertically!) so they can reach from above the nose to below the chin.
2. If you can vary the sizing on the ones you make, that’s helpful. The ones delivered fit some people. But some docs like my hubby are bigger. Many nurses have quite small faces. So maybe size your pattern up and down so you have small medium and large if you can.
3. The masks he got had elastic that went around the ears. These have a lot of fit restrictions. If you can do ties behind the head, they will fit way more people.

Without a good fit, they aren’t helpful. ❤️

You people doing this—your efforts are appreciated! In many places the docs are allowed ONE disposable face mask per day. Within 3 hours, my husband’s has stretched and is useless (the mask worn over the N95) and handmade masks would be great replacements. (And they need to be washable so they can reuse them).

Most mask patterns I’m seeing are the same size: 6″x9″, so it might be good to try making a 7″x12″ mask or to vary the sizes a bit so doctors and nurses can choose one that fits them best.

Before you begin sewing, call your local hospital to see if they accept donations of fabric masks and to find out any specific requirements they might have. 

PHD students from the UC Berkeley School of Public health have compiled a list of hospitals accepting donations of homemade masks. It is organized by state and is being updated frequently.

JOANN Stores are donating supplies to make masks. You can learn about that here.

fabric medical masks to sew

Surgical Fabric Face Masks You Can Sew

Medical Face Mask with Ties 

Created by a nurse, this is my favorite pattern because it doesn’t require elastic. Nurses say they prefer tie masks because they are more adjustable than elastic and more comfortable to wear for long periods. The page includes a free printable pattern and good instructions.

Face Mask with Elastic Loops

 This is the most basic medical face mask pattern with two loops of elastic that slip over the ears. If you are a beginner sewist, you can handle this pattern. It includes a video tutorial to walk you through every step.

Center Seam Shaped Face Mask

This mask features side elastic ear loops, but instead of a pleated mask, the fabric is cut into an ergonomic shape designed to comfortably fit over the nose. It also features a pocket to insert a medical grade mask inside. This pattern also comes in several sizes geared for children and adults.

Face Mask With Flexible Nose and Bias Tape Ties

This mask would probably be the most comfortable for healthcare workers to use because it features a bendable wire piece in the nose to help it keep its shape and bias tape ties to help customize fit.

Face Mask Picture Tutorial

This face mask features contrasting trim along the two outside edges, which gives the mask a nice finished look and would probably help keep the elastic secure. The tutorial has great step-by-step photos too.

Basic Pleated Mask

This is a nice Youtube video tutorial for the most basic pleated mask with elastic loops.

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So there you go… several different medical face mask tutorials for you to pick from. Now let’s all get to work! 

I have felt so isolated and helpless over the last week of our home isolation. I am so excited to have something worthwhile to focus on. I’ve always said that crafting is the best therapy and I stand by that now more than ever. By making masks, not only am I helping my local medical workers, but it will keep my hands busy and my mind calm and give me a purpose to these long days at home.

And to doctors, nurses, hospital staff, first responders and all of those individuals who are working tirelessly to care for others, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Hang in there during this crazy time.

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional and cannot offer medical advice. Use these masks at your own risk. 

22 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a RN and I’m concerned that this gives a false sense of security, the face masks that the medical community use have to meet specific standards to be effective against pathogens, have you checked with the CDC?? If not you probably should. Don’t get me wrong it’s a wonderful idea, just concerned for everyones safety! Thank you! 😷

    • Call your local hospitals, nursing homes or home health facilities to find out if they are accepting donations and what their specifications or needs are.

  2. Hello, i want make masks, but a read that the fabric mask don’t protect of vírus… 🤔
    But you say that doctors are using cotton masks on hospitals … I really don’t understant what is true and what is not…🤔

    • A cotton fabric mask alone does not protect against the virus. They must be worn in conjunction with a medical grade N95 mask. These fabric masks are designed to help the medical grade masks last longer. They can also be worn in non-critical areas of the hospital or as a last resort if no other options are available.

    • I have been told by nurses that I know that they’re cutting up hospital dressing gowns and bed sheets and tying them around their faces because they don’t have enough N95 masks. In this case, a homemade face mask is better than nothing in my opinion; especially one with a flexible nose as this tutorial shows, and a pocket for some sort of filter. I thought about an air conditioner or heater filter. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

      • Yes, you can use a furnace filter for the n95. It must be at lease a #10 filter for viruses. Cut the filter apart, remove the “chicken wire” over it and iron out the accordion type filter filler to use as the middle layer of your mask. These also must have some type of metal wire for the nose. The duck bill pattern is usually used to cover the whole face; you can google it.

    • These masks are designed to be worn with an N95 mask to make the medical grade mask last longer. They are not meant to be worn alone.

    • Any ideas on a filter idea? Felt, coffee filter, air conditioning filter cut apart? Anything else?? What would be best if medical grade aren’t available for sale

      • I’m sorry Jan, I can’t offer medical advice. These masks should be worn with a medical grade mask if you truly want protection from the virus. I have heard of people cutting apart HEPA filters meant to be used in HVAC systems, but I cannot vouch for the effectiveness.

  3. Perfect to stop people from touching their faces. This is the reason we also wearing masks at the moment. Masks, hand washing and social distancing. I work in a vet clinic and we have many safety measures in place.. and also a shortage of surgical grade masks so this is perfect for me to stop me touching my face!

    • I wouldn’t recommend felt. It’d be hot and hard to breath through. Also, hospitals need to be able to wash the masks over and over again, so I don’t think felt would hold up well.

      • I made mine with a felt filter. It wasn’t that hot wearing. I have also washed both the filter and the mask. Dried at high temp. For at least 1 hour.

  4. From the studies I have read these masks are not as effective as medical grade. But some places are facing shortages of masks. Any mask is better than none and certain fabrics and constructions do prevent mopre than 50% of the viruse. Not ideal but if there are none it is better than nothing.

  5. In my experience, I hate surgical masks that loop over the ears – they hurt the ears and don’t fit well. Masks with ties can be adjusted and are much more comfortable when worn for several hours. Pleated masks are best. Before the disposable surgical masks were made we wore cotton masks made of several layers of thin cotton.

  6. Those of you making masks with fabric self ties or with bias tape: how long are you making the ties? All the patterns I have found show elastic loops.

  7. Recommended by veteran drs they said cotton masks were used in the past. The important part is being able to add a non-woven fabric to the center. They suggested in the article using wet tissues that were dried, but using toilet paper is fine too. Also recommended “non-woven cloth” found in rags, diapers, gauze, wet tissues, tampons as filters too. I found that interfacing is a non woven fabric so I was going to add that as an internal sewn in 3rd layer. Most masks only use two layers of cotton.

  8. Here’s what I’ve heard. My sister is a nurse. St her hospital staff on non covid units get one surgical mask per day. If these get wet they are trash. I’m sewing extras for her to have when her allotted mask is trashed. Non covid floors are not necessarily safe from covid. pre-symptomatic people are all around. She has a handful of n95 masks she will reuse and wants the home sewn ones to go over those. That’s why it’s important to call your local hospital before donating. Or find medical professionals you know who want them and donate directly. Hang tough

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