COVID-19 really has taken our lives by storm – we are living through historic times right now! I, like all of us, have had to take some time to adjust to my new, if temporary, normal. All the stress of transitioning from at-school schooling to at-home schooling has really thrown me for a loop. I finally feel like my family is a little better settled-in to our quarantine now, after sending a few emails to teachers sent asking for their patience, and some time spent venting with a good friend on the phone, I feel ready to accept our new normal for a while. Some things about me that really make this virus scare feel like it hits uncomfortably close to home are 1- that my husband is a doctor working in a hospital setting, and 2- since I have Type 1 diabetes, that means I am immunocompromised. Despite my pancreas stubbornly refusing to make insulin, I am blessed with general good health, so for that, I am most grateful. What this means for us as a family, though, is that we are especially careful not to take the risk of infection lightly! So, now that I have my sewing mojo back, and have had time to do a little research of my own, I’d like to share with you, how to make a DIY accordion-style face mask!
Benefits of the accordion-style face mask:
- keeps you from touching your nose and mouth
- keeps most airborne virus infected droplets out
- if used as a slipcover for a medical-grade accordion-style face mask, this mask can serve as a washable cover to help extend the life of the mask with the filter media
- washable and reusable
It has to be said that I am not a doctor, and do not claim that these masks are as effective at blocking out the coronavirus as surgical quality masks are. I do think that wearing this mask is better than no mask at all! After deciding what type of mask to make, the next question is what materials to use…
According to a 2013 Cambridge University Study where different fabrics and materials were tested and compared, 100% cotton t-shirts and wovens were the best choices when surgical face masks (the best option) weren’t available. Vacuum bag filter material actually came in second place, but since I don’t have a stash of those laying around, the woven cotton fabric will be the fabric of choice for me! I chose not to use the cotton t-shirt (knit) option, simply because I tried it out, and the knit fabric tends to collapse in on my face, making it harder to breathe. I figured if the mask wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t use it, so since my masks are going to be made of two layers of fabric, I chose to use two layers of cotton woven fabric.
Also, it is useful to note that when choosing fabric for your mask, the front and back of the mask don’t have to be the same color or fabric, and it may even be helpful for them to be different since it is important to wear the same side out each time you wear it. In other words, even though the mask is reversible, you want to keep the germy-outside side out and the side that touches your face clean at each wearing, and not switch it up until you wash it!
- 100% woven cotton, light to medium weight, like quilting cotton, 1/4 yard of 44″ wide fabric would make 2 masks
- 18″ of narrow elastic for ear loop version (1/8″, 1/4″, or round elastic ~1/16-1/8″), here is a link for the kind I used in white & black elastic or multicolor elastic, OR
- 32″ for head strap version (1/8″, 1/4″, or round elastic ~1/16-1/8″), OR
- fabric ties instead of elastic: either 60″ of pre-made double-fold narrow bias tape, or one strip of fabric, 1.25″ wide x 60″ long.
- Optional: plastic-coated paper clip, standard size
- Optional: seam ripper
Free Downloadable Patterns: Child-sized or Adult-sized
Note: Print out the pattern on 8.5×11″ paper, at 100% scale. If making the mask on a serger and you are ok with leaving the serged edges exposed, you can cut off the 1/4″ seam allowance from around the mask pattern piece, since you will not need it.
If you don’t have access to a printer, or would just like to save the ink and draft it yourself, here are the dimensions:
- Child size pattern: 8″ x 7 3/8″ (21 cm x 19 cm)
- Adult size pattern: 9″ x 7 3/8″ (23 cm x 19 cm)
- Once you have cut the rectangle out, you can just space out the 3 pleats along the shorter side of the rectangle. Each of the three pleats should take up one inch (2.5 cm) of fabric.
Instructions for making the mask:
- Pre-wash and machine dry the fabric to eliminate shrinkage in your final mask. Iron if wrinkled.
- Cut out 2 mask pattern pieces, one in the outer fabric, one for the lining, transferring the pleat markings (dots) onto the right side of each fabric piece.
- Place the mask pieces right sides together. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew around the perimeter, leaving a ~2.5″ opening unsewn. Turn the mask right-side out, pushing out all corners, and topstitch 1/8″ from the edge around the entire perimeter. If you are using a serger you can just sew them right sides out and leave the serged edges exposed.
- Using the dots from the pattern, make three horizontal pleats, as marked on the pattern. Press in place, pin, and sew along each side edge to secure the pleats.
- Fold each side 1/2″ from the edge and sew the channel for the elastic, using a 1/8″ seam allowance.
Instructions for attaching the elastic straps:
If you are using elastic, you can either make around-the-head straps or around-the-ear loops. It’s a matter of preference, really. My husband is a physician who wears masks all day and prefers the comfort of around-the-head straps. Since I am not, I would just wear this to say, the grocery store, and since I have long hair, it would be easier to just have ear loops. Here’s how to do either:
For elastic ear loops, cut the elastic into two 9″ strips. Thread the elastic through the channel and tie the ends into a knot, and pull the knot back into the channel. If you are making it for someone else, leave this knot tied loosely. Leaving it tied loosely allows them to pull it back out of the channel and re-tie it to fit their needs.
For elastic head straps, keep the elastic in one length, and thread one end up one channel, and then down through the other. Tie the ends loosely into a knot, and pull the knot back into one of the channels. If you are making it for someone else, leave this knot tied loosely. Leaving it tied loosely allows them to pull it back out of the channel and re-tie it to fit their needs.
Instructions for attaching the non-elastic straps:
For the non-elastic option, fold the strip of fabric as shown in the diagram below, and sew it into a narrow strip. Take either the finished narrow strip of fabric or bias tape, and thread it up one channel, then down through the other channel- leaving two loose ends. Tie the ends into knots to help prevent them from slipping back through. The user of the mask can now adjust the fit of the mask as needed.
Alternatively, you could use a serger to make the straps. For this method, fold the long strip of fabric right sides together lengthwise, and serge the raw edges together.
Then, turn the tube you have just created right side out, using a bodkin or safety pin. I am using a metal bodkin here, and it is one of my favorite sewing tools.
Press flat with iron if desired.
Optional Nose Wire Instructions:
After fully assembling the mask, flatten your plastic-coated paper clip. Use a seam ripper to poke a tiny hole in the lining side of the fabric, close to the side seam. Insert the wire and center it at the top of the mask. Be sure to orient it so that the pleats are folding down from the top on the outside of the mask. Sew a small box around the wire, while holding it close to the seam. See the photo below:
I have read of other people using chenille straws or getting creative with other options for the nose wire, but I can’t attest to their resistance to rust, etc. One last option is to purchase a flat nose wire, usually made of aluminum, and designed for this purpose. I have tried this idea out recently, and although I like the flatness of the wire when compared to the round plastic-coated paperclip, they were really designed for a mask that wasn’t going to go through the wash, so I can’t say how they will hold up yet!
If you choose to try the flat nose wire, sew it in place just like the paperclip wire inside a stitched box. Insert the flat wire after topstitching the mask, and before sewing the opening shut.
Optional filter pocket instructions:
Another option for your mask is to add a filter pocket. This allows us to insert a disposable filter, like this one, and insert it in between the cotton fabric layers.
We will be making a small opening along the bottom seam of the mask in order to insert the filter. These steps will be done before sewing the mask outer fabric and lining together. The first step is to place a pin at the center of the bottom edge of the outer fabric pattern piece; once you have done that, mark the fabric 1″ away on either side of the pin. Next, make a 1/4″ snip in the fabric at those markings; this will give you a 2″ long flap of fabric. The third step is to make a narrow hem by folding the raw edge in and pressing it to the wrong side of your fabric. The last step is to sew the narrow hem in place. Repeat these steps for the mask lining pattern piece.
Once both sides have the identical notch sewn into their bottom edge, stack the outer fabric and lining right sides together, and sew around the perimeter with a 1/4″ seam allowance, starting and stopping on either side of the hole as shown in the photo below. You can then turn the mask right side out and topstitch, starting and stopping on either side of the opening you have just created. You can continue with the rest of the steps to pleat and finish sewing your mask.
Ta-Da!! Now you have your very own accordion style face mask. Wear it in good health. Thanks for sewing with me. I hope that you and your family stay healthy!