How to Make a Cloth Mask: Step-by-Step Instructions

how to make a cloth mask

The CDC has recommended that all Americans wear face coverings when leaving their homes, and while the majority of us would like to comply, finding face masks anywhere — at the grocery store, at Walmart, and even online — has become all but impossible.

So, people are getting creative.

They’re wearing scarves and bandanas. They’re pulling turtlenecks over their mouths and noses when going shopping. And in many cases, they’re hand-making face masks right out of their homes.

My mom is in the latter camp. Despite still working a full-time job (remotely, of course), she found time to make our whole family — my two toddlers included — custom face masks. Some have our alma maters or our favorite sports teams, and others are just our favorite colors. All are made out of materials she had at home (and ones you can easily still find in stores).

Here’s a quick glimpse at what they look like. My son calls it his “bank robber mask.”

My mom was able to document her latest mask-making session and share her secret ways. If you’re looking to make your own masks at home, here’s the how-to.

Making Your Own Cloth Face Mask at Home

To start, gather up your supplies. You’ll need some sort of cotton material (t-shirts work great, and a bandana was used for this example). 

Other than that, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Flat elastic string
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine (or a needle and thread)
  • Pins

Step-by-step instructions to make a DIY face mask:

Step 1: Cut 

Cut your fabric to the correct size. If you’re making an adult mask, it should be 9 inches by 6 inches. For kids, it’s 7.5 by 5 inches.

You’ll then need to cut your elastic, too. You’ll need two strips of 7 inches each. 

Step 2: Fold your fabric lengthwise and mark off a small opening.

Fold your fabric in half, lengthwise. It should give you what looks like a long, two-layered rectangle.

Fold your face mask fabric lengthwise and mark off a small opening

Use pins to mark a small, 1.5- to 2-inch opening on one of the horizontal sides of the fabric. You’ll eventually pull the mask through this hole before closing it up.

Use pins to mark a small opening in your face mask

Step 3: Sew and attach elastic No. 1

Start at one of the pins and sew along the edge to the closest corner, stopping about a half-inch out. Lay one end of an elastic string between the two layers, and then sew to the edge of the corner. Sew over the elastic two more times to ensure it’s secure.

Sew and attach elastic to your face mask

Once that’s tightly attached, continue around the corner, sewing along the edge of the vertical side. When you get about a half-inch away from the next corner, secure the other end of the elastic string using the same method. Once you’re done, the elastic string should be completely hidden inside your mask (we’ll turn the mask inside out to reveal it later on).

Make a cloth mask with elastic

Step 4: Sew and attach elastic No. 2

Start back at your other pin, and repeat the above steps. Sew to the closest corner, attach one end of your second elastic string, then continue closing up the vertical side of your mask. You’ll attach the other end about a half-inch out, and close out the corner.

How to Make a DIY Cloth Face Mask

Step 5: Flip your mask inside out

Carefully pull your mask through the small opening you left at the top.

flip your face mask inside out

Once you’re done, sew up the opening with a few back-and-forth stitches. You should have what looks like a basic mask.

Basic cloth face mask

Step 6: Add pleats

Finally, use pins to create pleats in the mask. Make two folds in the fabric, pin them tightly down, and sew them in place about an inch out from the edge. Sew over them again to make sure they’re secure.

Add pleats to your face mask

A quick tip here: Make sure you fold your pleats in the same direction. It should make the mask taper toward your ears and better fit your face.

Add pleats to your face cloth mask

Step 7: Test it out

Finally, try on your mask. Make sure it fits properly and that the elastic bands fit your ears and feel secure. You may need to do a few practice masks before you get it right. Remember: the mask should cover both your nose and mouth fairly snugly. 

Step 8: Repeat for friends

The shortage of masks is pretty much nationwide, so once you get the hang of it, consider making masks for your loved ones and friends in need, too. You may want to gift some to neighbors as well. It will help ensure your family (and your whole community) is safer at local grocery stores and other public places.

Tips for Success

Once you have your mask (or masks), consider storing it with your keys and maybe put an extra one in your glove box. This will ensure you’re never without one when you leave the house.

You should also wash your mask regularly using the hot setting on your washer. Hang-dry it to ensure it keeps its shape and is not torn up in the dryer.

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By Aly Yale / April 23rd, 2020 / Categories: / Tags: ,

Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.