Here’s a behind the scenes look at my methods for sewing DIY fabric face masks with filter pockets and nose wire. Plus, I’m including pattern customisations, mask storage, and (why not?) matching DIY projects for pets and people. How to make fabric face masks isn’t the type of DIY we’d usually share here at Dalmatian DIY, but this hasn’t been a usual sort of year. We received lots of questions after I posted some candid snaps of my mask making activities on our social media and stories. So, I decided to share my mask making information here for everyone. To keep things fun (and dog-friendly), I’m including matching projects anyone who could use an extra dose of creative fun to help keep spirits bright. Matching outfits? Happiness! Even if those smiles are hidden away behind masks for a while.
When we went into New Zealand’s first lockdown, my husband asked me to make some masks in case they were needed. Face masks of all varieties were out of stock, and we’d given what we had in our emergency kit to my parents for their return flights to Canada. Navigating airports through COVID was far more mask-worthy than walking the distanced aisles of our local supermarket. The nature of his work requires him to be aware of the COVID situation and evolving recommendations, so we had our homemade face masks long before masks were eventually recommended. When New Zealand re-elevated its lockdown, I sewed free masks for our neighbours, family, and some other special people. Just my little way of gifting it forward. Here are the details on my preferred fabric face mask patterns and variations.
Finding a DIY Fabric Face Mask Pattern That Fits
DIY Fabric Face Mask Shapes, Sizes, and Styles
There are lots of different DIY fabric face mask patterns. Choosing the right style and fit depends on your personal preferences. If you’re going to sew masks for yourself or your family in bulk, I’d suggest trying a few sample masks before you commit to bulk cutting and sewing. You might find that you need to tweak the pattern a little for a better personal fit or add modifications to suit your sewing methods, materials, or planned use. It took me a while to find the right design. Both hubby and I wanted something slightly different than the mask patterns that were available at the time. That lead to customising my own set of patterns for cutting and sewing face masks.
Creating Modified Face Mask Patterns
I test sewed and test wore several different patterns and styles before I eventually created my own custom set of mask templates. They’re based loosely on the shape of the Shanniemakes duckbill face mask (she has great DIY instructions, free patterns, and videos – check out her blog), but with different assembly, edge finishing, and extra layering. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of customising your own design. It’s a great way to make a shape and style of DIY fabric face mask that really works for you and/or your family. The more comfortable the mask, the easier it is to wear properly. Importantly, a good fit will help the face mask be as effective as the design and materials allow.
My personal set of patterns isn’t shared here. It’s a design derived from the work of Shannie and others. I’d rather give credit where credit is due and send you to the original inspirations, armed with ideas for how to tweak designs to your preferences. DIY Face Mask Patterns (Shanniemakes) and DIY Face Mask Sewing Pattern (Craft Passion) are great sites that were already sharing well-developed fitted face mask DIYs long before COVID. I hope that you find the perfect pattern, or that this post inspires you to create your own perfect fit.
My Modified Fitted Face Mask Design
My masks are a three-layer modified fitted style, with the inner layer sewn as a slide-through pocket sleeve for adding extra filters. Most of my masks are sewn on three sides and inverted. It’s much easier than binding all around, especially with the huge number of masks I’ve sewn over the past few months. Most of the internal pocket sleeve layers have bound edges, for hidden style and plushness at the cheeks.
Using binding on the top edge of the mask eliminates peeking backings when worn. You know that annoying bit of the back of the mask you can so often see? Banished by binding. Excellent! It also helps to reduce fogging glasses and creates a handy sleeve for nose wire.
The side elastic sleeves are usually folded, but I occasionally use a wide binding instead. Generous sleeves are handy for threading elastics or substitute ties with ease. I don’t like sewing elastics into place on face masks. This limits replacement options if things snap or need adjustment. We also had a phase where elastics weren’t available, and having sleeves for alternative ties is great for flexibility.
See below for the full details on how my DIY fabric face masks were made, including materials and step-by-step photos.
My Technique for Making Fitted DIY Fabric Face Masks
These masks were created as a comfortable, reusable, accessible option where non-medical masks are recommended. Information on mask fit, types, materials, and other factors is always evolving in the current COVID scenario. Recommendations may be different in the time and/or location where you read this post. This post is not technical guidance and these masks are just my personal creations.
Supplies and Materials
My masks were all machine sewn. You’d have to be a sewing whiz or crazy to hand sew the mask numbers I made to give away. Small quantities can be hand sewn if you don’t have a suitable sewing machine (affiliate link), but it will take time to hand sew this type of mask. You’ll also need good scissors, complimentary threads, and an iron and ironing board. If you’re making binding, a straight edge, rotary cutter and mat, and binding tape makers (affiliate link) are handy. Mine got a workout making all the colourful bindings for these masks.
When my masks were made, the recommended guideline for DIY fabric face masks was three layers of quality tightly woven cotton or cotton blend materials. Most of the masks pictured use those materials, noting that a few had a fourth layer because they included a lighter decorative fabric. The masks all have a pocket sleeve that can be used to add a filter or filtering material. There’s interesting research ongoing using different mask materials for repelling and/or filtering vs. their breathability (and washability). I opted to stick with the recommended fabrics, but I also created separate washable inserts. Just in case. Ready-to-use filters can be hard to get sometimes.
Optional Specialty Materials:
Using my serger machine (affiliate link), I made simple washable reusable filter inserts with stabilised chiffon. Indications were that electrostatic qualities made this a light but effective filtering fabric, especially when layered in combination with other fabrics. They were very easy to make with the serger, so I made a stash to have on hand, just in case. I serged the edges of long strips, then finished them in pieces. The filters are slightly different sizes for different masks, since I made child through to extra large fitted masks. Clever hubby 3D printed a bunch of plastic ear savers for our teacher and nurse friends, too. You can see some in the collage below.
Elastics or Other Attachments:
As noted above, my masks have fit-your-own sleeves. I like that you can easily replace elastics, change the type of attachment, or adjust the fit. It’s great to have flexibility on how a mask is secured. Unfortunately, elastic was sold out everywhere when most of my masks were made and I ran out of craft stash supplies. With sleeves, wearers can thread the sleeves with their own elastics, laces, or other ties.
Ready made nose wires also weren’t available, so I used jewellery wire to make my own. It doesn’t corrode like some nose wire options, which is good with a washable item like a mask. It’s rather thin, but also super flexible for comfort. Skinny wire can be a tad pokey, so rolling to blunt the ends (and in some cases capping with tape) and gentle handling will help to extend the life of the masks. I wash our masks in a lingerie pouch. It’s also handy for minimising contact with worn masks and for avoiding elastic tangles in the laundry. The CDC says normal soapy washing and air drying is all that’s needed for fabric masks. Easy peasy.
Making DIY Fabric Face Masks in Bulk Batches
I made face masks for giveaway several times, each in big bulk batches for groups of family, friends, and neighbours. Our kitchen looked like a sewing store had exploded in there for a while. Organised chaos! Hehehe. I learned a lot along the way and evolved my techniques in between batches. Simplifying the process helps immensely if making large volumes, and grouping tasks makes things flow smoother. Of course, as noted above, if you’re making multiple masks, test fit and refine your pattern and/or design before you commit to numbers.
A Peek at the Sewing Process
The process for sewing will depend on your materials, pattern, and customisations, but here’s the rundown on mine. My masks were sewn in three layers, with staged preparation and bulk assembly as show in the collage above. The general process was as follows:
- Wash (preshrink/bleed), dry, and iron fabrics flat prior to cutting.
- Cut the materials to pattern shape/size. I played with lots of fabrics and combinations, both for kids and adults. If you have to wear a face mask, you might as well have some fun. See the matchy matchy ideas later in this post if you’d like to take the fun up a level!
- Individually join the paired side pieces of the fitted layers along the midline. Iron and topstitch the inner sleeve layer to secure the folded over seam allowance in the back for extra durability with filters sliding in/out. Optional for other layers.
- Bind or hem to finish what will be the exposed side edges of the inner filter sleeve layers.
- Lay out the mask pieces in matched sets and confirm sizing on all three layers before sewing.
- Layer the sets right-side-in and pin. Note that the filter layer nested on the inside atop the inner layer. I found my knee really handy for layering the curved pieces snuggly together at this stage.
- Sew the bottom and side edges, leaving the top open.
- Invert to right-side-out through the open top edge. Carefully iron to press, trying to make sure all of the seams are fully turned out.
- Topstitch across the bottom edge of the mask. The sides will be stitched concurrently with sewing the sleeves, so there’s no need to do a separate topstitch.
- Run a quick machine stich inside the top binding seam allowance to pre-secure the layers (optional) for easier binding. Attach the binding, leaving one side open to insert the nose wire (carefully work into position) before sewing closed.
- Fold the side edges inwards to create sleeves for elastics or other ties. Sew securely into place.
Quick and Simple DIY Washable Mask Storage Bags and Cases
Drawstring Mask Storage Bags
For all of the different household sets of gifted masks, I made a simple washable drawstring fabric bag to hold the sets and other add-ins for drop off. They can do double duty to consolidate and store clean masks when not in use. The bags were sewn similar to our drawstring dog treat bags, but the larger scale made sewing simpler since I could sew the drawstring sleeves last. I sewed the top of the side seam where the single drawstring would enter/exit with a fold-over V, then finished the French seams to swallow the bottom of that V. It’s tidy and reduces bulk at the drawstring point. I used a narrow webbing instead of a typical drawstring. As a sneaky bonus, the webbing can be removed for emergency mask ties, if needed. A safety pin was included with each bag for convenience adding elastics or ties to masks.
Face Mask Storage Pouches
I also made little washable fabric storage pouches. The larger pouch fits any size of face masks when folded at the middle. They’re great for storage, like keeping a few spare face masks in a glovebox, bag, etc. Or for isolating dirty masks from other clean stuff until you get home for washing. They were sewn like making an envelope style pillow, just on a mini scale. The smaller pouches fit a double-folded mask to tuck into a purse or other small spot. It’s is a simple open-topped mini bag, similar to our waterproof dog treat bags. For quick bulk sewing, I hemmed long strips of fabric before cutting to width and sewing the pouches. The sides have French seams.
Matchy Matchy Mask Mania!
Ok! Now that we’ve covered the serious mask stuff, it’s time for some fun! Feel like making a few matching accessories for your dog? Or perhaps for yourself? Or the kiddos? Anything you feel like sewing in a matching fabric is a-ok if it brings you a smile. We could all use a few extra reasons to smile, especially in these crazy times. Here are some matchy matchy ideas for mask coordination.
Making DIY Dog Accessories to Match Fabric Face Masks
When I was making masks for our neighbours and friends, one joked that they’d need a matching bandana for their dog to match their stylish masks. They should have known I was the wrong person to tempt with such jokes. Hehehe. Of course, I couldn’t resist. Their draw string drop-off gift bag included two dog bandanas, each matching one of their new masks.
Matching DIY Dog Bandanas and Fabric Face Masks
The bandanas I delivered were simple serged edge bandanas, like the example Humphrey is showing off in the collage below. If you have a serger, it’s one of the simplest and fastest ways to sew a bandana. See our post on making DIY dog bandanas with serged edges for details. The pictured mask is one of my husband’s and the bandana is Humphrey’s. No, they haven’t been out in their matching outfits. Yet. Haha! Perhaps they’re both grateful for our current COVID controlled status. Silly momma!
Of course, a serger is only one way to make a bandana. There are lots of other DIY dog bandana ideas here on the blog to help get you inspired, including both sewn and no-sew projects. The example below modelled by my spotty assistant is a cute but simple way to sew a bandana. I had an offcut of this lovely yellow material that was too small for a standard bandana for Humphrey’s sizing, so I used it for a bandana with binding trim ties instead. Pawfect! There’s a no-sew dog bandana DIY for binding, too if you’d like to cheat a little.
Other Doggone Great Matchy Matchy Mask Fun
DIY dog bandanas are one of my favourite quickie crafts and a great way to match your outfits, but bow ties would also be super cute. DIY dog bow ties use smaller pieces of fabric, so they’re a greats scrap buster for face mask fabric offcuts or leftovers from other projects. See our DIY dog clothing and accessories for more ideas.
I went looking for unique mask-matching DIY links to share for extra inspiration (see below for non-dog DIY ideas) and stumbled across a few fun DIY posts from other furfriends. Our chocolate chunk pals at Wag Wear Repeat have mask-matching over the collar dog bandanas and Kol the cutie has a DIY detachable dog collar wrap that matches his mom’s mask and scrunchie. Strolling in style!
As another DIY dog idea, if you’re into DIY scrappy dog leashes or collars, you could make one that matches several of your masks for easy variety. With a big lad like Humphrey, I prefer using rugged ready made safety gear when we’re on walkies. But, I’ve recently started whistle work and a scrappy lanyard or fob would be a cute matchy mini version. Hmmm… Now I’m giving myself ideas. Haha! Check out our DIY for dogs board on Pinterest for more DIY project ideas.
Matching Your Fabric Face Mask to Your Dog
DIY Dalmatian Print Fabric Face Masks
Our regular readers and social media furfriends know that I can’t resist the dots and spots. It should come as no surprise that I couldn’t resist buying Dalmatian patterned fabric. I bought some to make a mask for my niece, but made masks for us, too. Humphrey hasn’t been mortified by us wearing them thus far with New Zealand’s relative COVID calm. But you never know when the mood or the need will strike. I still have some more Dalmatian print fabric left in my stash. Any suggestions on what else I should make?
Face Masks with Dog Fabrics and Prints
Dali lovers are lucky. There are all sorts of different matchy matchy fabric options. You can often also find prints with Dalmatians in them, including branded fabrics like 101 Dalmatians. Don’t worry though, furfriends! Other dog breeds or different types of pets can still have lots of fun with prints and patterns. There are all sorts of cute fabrics available. Check your local sewing fabric shop or search online. If DIY isn’t your thing, you can find lots of cute ready-made dog patterned masks, too.
Adding A Dog Design
If you can’t find a fabric you like or if your shopping options are limited due to COVID restrictions, you can draw, paint, stamp, dye, bleach, or stencil your own design. Depending on your design, you can do this on the fabric before sewing or on the completed mask (or with a ready-made mask). You can also use iron-ons, printable heat transfers, or create custom Cricut designs to put your own unique spin on your mask. Be careful with your materials to make sure they’re safe for wearing, breathable, and durable enough for a wash-and-wear mask. It may be best to keep the designs small or create them as accents away from the main breathing area of your mask.
If matching the outside of your mask is a little to doggone crazy for you, you can use patterns and prints on the insides instead. It can be your little secret. Strangers and colleagues don’t need to know about your hidden layer of face snuggling dog happiness or other cute prints. Shhhh…. They can be your little secret reason to smile behind the mask. I actually did this with a few of the masks made for neighbours and friends. All business out the front, with a bit of hidden fun on the linings and sleeves.
Beyond the Dog
Making Fabric Face Masks and Matching Accessories
When I was looking for links to share with you for extra inspiration, I stumbled beyond the dog into the wider world of mask matching. Why should the dogs have all the accessory fun? I’m a casual kind of person, so a full wardrobe of masks and matching accessories isn’t really my style, but there are always exceptions! For those of you who work in public-facing roles (especially with kids), plotting a special event or holiday outfit, or looking for ways to keep things fresh and fun for your kids (or grumpy grown ups), here are some DIY accessories to match face masks. You can go all in with matching fabrics, common designs, colours, or themes, or you can create unique combinations.
- Fabric headbands (Polka Dot Chair)
- Fabric covered headbands (Oliver and S)
- Wire scarf head band (Thinking Closet)
- Retro bow hair ties (Treasurie)
- Sailor hair bows (Sweet Red Poppy)
- Fabric wrapped bobby pins (Just Call Me Chris)
- Fabric covered hairclips (See Kate Sew)
- DIY fabric maiden braids (A Beautiful Mess)
- Marble and fabric necklaces (How Does She)
- Fabric strip bracelets (LGB Studio)
- Braided fabric bracelets (How Joyful)
- Fabric covered bangle bracelets (Sarah Hearts)
- Fabric friendship bracelets (Crazy Little Projects)
- Decoupage fabric pendant with beaded heart (Mod Podge Rocks)
- Fabric button earrings (Sew Hip)
- Make a broach using one of our rolled fabric rosettes (Dalmatian DIY)
- Infinity scarf (Positively Splendid)
- Neck tie scarf (Sweet Red Poppy)
- Embellish a sunhat (Little House on the Prairie)
- Sew strips to make removeable fabric hat bands (Sew DIY)
- Embellished pocket t-shirt (Polka Dot Chair)
- How to apply basic sewn appliques to clothing (Mama Needs a Project)
- How to apply no-sew fabric appliques to clothing (Where the Smiles Have Been)
Bags and Purses:
- Reversible mini messenger bag (Crazy Little Projects)
- Ruffled clutch (Noodlehead)
- Children’s fabric tote bags (Green in Real Life)
- Basket tote bag (Sew She Can)
- Selvage tote bag (The Little Mushroom Cap)
- Speedy patchwork tote bag (Sew She Can)
- Quilted patchwork tote bag (Jedi Craft Girl)
- Patchwork child’s purse (Clover and Violet)
Little projects are a great way to put your small scraps and offcuts to good use. Many are quick acrafts with minimal materials, and you can use them with or without your mask if masking up is optional. For bigger projects like purses and bags, I particularly like the idea of mixed material designs with combined fabrics, scrappy patterns, and/or patchwork. You can combine complementary materials from a bunch of different masks and be matchy matchy with all of them. Yay! You can also piece together materials for use in larger projects. I think piecing would be especially cute in a well-patched scarf. Plus, piecing is a great way to use your small offcuts from mask making.
Stay Safe, Furfriends and Families!
I hope that this post has given you lots of ideas on how to make your own customised reusable DIY fabric face masks as well as lots of fun little matching DIY projects for dogs and for people. And perhaps a few well-needed smiles or giggles, too. If you’re looking for more information on lockdown life with pets, check out our post for ideas on maintaining mental and physical stimulation, creative projects with limited resources, and external links for more information for pet owners. Wherever in the great big world you may be reading this from, we hope that you and those you love are safe and stay well, furfriends. And we hope you are smiling behind your masks. Woofs!