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How to Sew a Surgical Face Mask in 5 minutes

Have you considered making your own face mask or donating to hospitals or retirement homes? These masks are easy to make, and the pattern I will share is great for pros and beginners. Learn how to sew a super simple surgical face mask from fabric with this easy step by step tutorial! The instructions are simple, so keep reading for more.

Please note that the ability of homemade masks to protect against viruses is unknown. However, in the light of the current face masks shortage, when all compliant supplies have been exhausted, the CDC allows the healthcare providers to use homemade masks as a last resort option. Read more directly on CDC site here.

How to make a DIY surgical face mask from fabric

Supplies and tools

materials and supplies for the surgical face mask patternYou actually need very little in terms of materials and tools:

Downloads: Printable instructions for the surgical face mask (PDF)

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Medical themed fabric picks inspired by a nurse wearing a stethoscope fabric mask. It is a great way to show appreciation to our awesome frontliners

We occasionally link to goods offered by vendors to help the reader find relevant products. Some of the links may be affiliate in nature meaning we earn a small commission if an item is purchased. Read full disclosure here

Our FREE face mask patterns:

how to sew a surgical face mask

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare all your materials and tools, print out the instructions.

(optional) Download and print the pattern at 100% (no scale). You can watch the video first, and then follow the written instructions. Please enjoy and don’t forget to Like and SUBSCRIBE over on YouTube to be kept up to date with new videos as they come out.

STEP ONE: Pin the elastic to the sides of your fabric

pinning elastic to one of the short sides of the surgical facemaskThis step is quite straightforward. Simply place one piece of fabric on a flat surface. Then, pin the elastic to the short sides of your fabric. If you have clips – use them instead of pins. Sewing clips were a total game changer for me – they slide on and off so easily, don’t pierce the fabrics, and I know I won’t accidentally sew over them or prick my fingers.

Place one end at the top and the other end at the bottom. Remember to leave about 3/8 inches at the edge of the fabric.

Now turn your mask to the other side and repeat the same process.

STEP TWO: Pin the fabrics together

pinning both fabric layers together

Next, place the second fabric with the pretty face down over the first fabric. Then, pin both sides together. Both pieces should have the pretty sides facing out because you will be pinning the elastic to the inner side. There should be a seam allowance of 3/8 inches at the top and bottom. Also, be sure to leave an opening of about 2 inches at the bottom.

Tip: Remember to keep the elastic inside when pinning the fabrics.

STEP THREE: Sew your fabric

sewing through the layers of the surgical facemask with a sewing machineNow, starting from the opening at the bottom, sew around the face mask. Backstitch over the elastic so that it holds because there’s going to be a lot of tension around that area. Do not sew over the opening at the bottom because you will use that to turn the face mask inside out.

TIP: Remember to take out the pins just before you sew so that you don’t put a strain on your needles.

STEP FOUR: Turn the face mask around

Before you turn the fabric, you could snip the corners to give your face mask a smoother feel. Be careful not to cut through your stitch line. Now, use the 2-inch opening at the bottom of the face mask to turn the right side up.

turning the surgical facemask right side out with scissors

Use your fingers to push out the edges. If you still need to push them out a bit more, you can use a pointed object like the tip of the scissors. Be careful not to push too hard or you’ll tear through your sewing.

STEP FIVE: Fold and Press

measuring 1/2inch foldsUse your hand to smooth out the face mask then press it so that it’s flat. Next, fold the face mask into three pleats. To create the pleats, first fold the mask in half, then press. Second, open the half and fold the top edge and the bottom edge to the middle and then press. Making three folds.

all pleats after ironingThird, pin or clip the folds until you have three pleats. Pin both ends and then, press again.

STEP SIX: Topstitch

Next, topstitch around the mask, remembering to take out the pins or clips as you go around. This will also close up the opening at the bottom.

TIP: If you have a beginner sewing machine and it has troubles sewing over the pleats, consider using a walking foot attachment.  It is exactly what I’m showing here, and it really helps making the pleats much easier. However, you should be just fine using a regular presser foot

Voila! The surgical mask is ready!

surgical facemask with pleats open

It is sooo easy to make, that you can make a bunch more to wear or donate them to others.
There are few tools/notions that can help make a bunch of masks faster and easier.

Many hospitals are in DIRE need of masks, so you can put your skills to good use and really make a difference.

two surgical masks side by side

FAQ and Troubleshooting Tips

Is this pattern suitable for a beginner?

This is a very simple pattern that is quite easy for beginners to make. There are several surgical face mask patterns all around, but this is one of the simplest.

Do I have to press the face mask?

Definitely. I understand that some people do not really like using their pressing irons, but in this case, you should. That way, your face mask will be neater and turn out much better.

What fabric should be used for homemade surgical face masks?

Basically, the recommendation is that you use a fabric that is 100% thickly woven cotton. Cambridge University shared a few recommendations about what fabrics work best when making a homemade face mask.

Additionally, if you are making masks to donate, before you start sewing, check the requirements of the hospitals /clinics or retirement homes in your area and see what they are accepting. You should also ask about the recommended fabrics as well.

Also, you might want to make a face mask that can fit a bendable nose wire. Why not check a simple pattern for that here.

RELATED:

 

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WANT MORE?

Now that you’ve made the standard face mask and covered your bases, how about something more advanced? Our newest free DIY face mask pattern featured adjustable fabric ties, filter pocket and flexible nose piece. Check it out:

Find the full written instructions HERE
Our FREE face mask patterns:

how to sew a surgical face mask

DIY cloth face mask with ties

To conclude, these are tough times because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, making surgical face masks for your local healthcare workers to help alleviate the current shortage of PPE is a great way to help your community.

So, why not give this pattern a try and let us know how you do. Tell us, we’d love to hear from you!

Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Anything else you’d like to share?

Let us know in the comments

RELATED:

Breathable mask DIY

3D face mask tutorial

DIY neck gaiter

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 41 comments
Face Mask Pattern (FREE) - How To Make Diy Mouth Mask - March 27, 2020

[…] Watch the video tutorial for my new Surgical Face Mask here! […]

Reply
Jo-Ann Dwyer - March 28, 2020

Please show it using just scissors,not the mat and rotary wheel. Please show the best stitch to use for hand sewing. Precisely describe the fabric needed.

Jo-Ann’s Fabric store was handing out kits, last time I heard.

That music is loud and heavy. Please, for the love of God, change it. Thank you.

Reply
    Helen - March 29, 2020

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Use backstitch for handsewing – here is how to do it https://hellosewing.com/basic-hand-sewing-stitches/
    The fabric must be 100% tightly woven cotton such as quilting cotton or the cotton use for quality bed sheets.
    I’m afraid that changing the music is not that simple. You can mute the music or decrease the volume.

    Reply
      Cindy - April 2, 2020

      Thanks for all your work on this.

      I have cotton fabric I’d like to use. I’m not sure whether it’s tightly woven or not. How can I check that?

      Reply
        Lynn Moser - April 15, 2020

        Hold it up to the light. Can you see thru it? Breath easily thru it? You can see how close the threads are to each other. A good sheet is 600+ threads per inch. Cheap sheets 300.

        Reply
          Helen - April 16, 2020

          ^ I second this

          Reply
    Katherine - May 1, 2020

    >>Please show it using just scissors, not the mat and rotary wheel<>Please show the best stitch to use for hand sewing. Precisely describe the fabric needed.<>Jo-Ann’s Fabric store was handing out kits, last time I heard.<>That music is loud and heavy. Please, for the love of God, change it. Thank you.<<

    HINT: while I agree with you and have no idea why people feel the need to add music to their videos, especially when it's almost always too loud and you can barely hear what they're saying, there is a workaround. Turn ON the closed captioning and turn OFF the sound on the video. Solved.

    See? Life doesn't have to be complicated, especially when you have the entire internet at your fingertips. Remaking a video, however, is pretty complicated.

    Reply
    Heather - May 5, 2020

    When people are kind enough to create a tutorial like this for free “for the love of God”, a simple “thank you, this is awesome!” should suffice.

    And turning down music that is not your preference and using common sense to know you can use scissors instead of a wheel are both easy work-arounds. Easy peasy!

    Thank you for all your hard work in creating such a great, easy to follow tutorial! My daughter and I will be making these today.

    Reply
      Helen - May 6, 2020

      Thank you, Heather. I really appreciate your kind words. Indeed, a lot of effort goes into creating each and every one of these tutorials.
      Hope you and your family stay safe and healthy during these tough times!

      Reply
      Lois - July 6, 2020

      I agree with you totally. Thank you Helen.

      Reply
Sally Fourth - April 1, 2020

Please provide written instructions in addition to the video tutorial.

Reply
    Helen - April 2, 2020

    Hi Sally, the written tutorial is now up. You can also download the pdf with the instructions for later use. Enjoy!

    Reply
Angela - April 2, 2020

Your PDF instructions would not download to print.

Reply
    Helen - April 2, 2020

    I just re-uploaded the instructions. Refresh your browser (press F5 on your keyboard) and try to download them again

    Reply
Lynette Allison - April 3, 2020

Thanks for the pattern for the mask. Am going to make lots for our hospital!

Reply
    Helen - April 3, 2020

    You are very welcome.
    Healthcare workers cannot care for us without protection – thanks for helping them out during this critical time

    We will be releasing a tutorial how to BATCH sew these very soon. Stay tuned

    Reply
Susan - April 4, 2020

I use a chopstick to point the corners. Won’t poke through the fabric or stitching.

Reply
    Helen - April 4, 2020

    Good tip. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
Cindy - April 5, 2020

Any idea of how much smaller to make this for children?

Reply
    Helen - April 5, 2020

    It’s 7″x5″ for 6-12 years old kids.

    Reply
Bryan - April 6, 2020

Thanks for the very clear instructions. I made one today using a couple of old pillowcases, and since I had no elastic, I cut the end off an old belt made of braided elastic and unwove the lengths I needed.

Reply
    Helen - April 6, 2020

    Cool. Happy to hear you liked it!
    It’s amazing what one can find when scavenging the house, isn’t it

    Reply
Donna Fleming - April 7, 2020

Hi. I had trouble with my machine making knots. What size needle did you use? I had my machine set up to make a quilt, but after I had so much trouble sewing through thicknesses, I thought I might need a needle for seeing jeans.

Reply
Leslie - April 13, 2020

How far in do you sew the elastic? I can’t see a seam allowance for sewing the two pieces together. I am assuming that it is a 3/8 seam.

Reply
    Helen - April 14, 2020

    It’s 3/8″ in from top and bottom long edges of the fabric and yes, I am using 3/8″ seam allowance

    Reply
Dia - April 15, 2020

Can you make the pattern that has the bendable nose piece with elastic ear loops? Or do you think that would not work? I am a beginner sewer – and I am trying to get the stuff together to make these for my family — with some of the members of the family having elastic ear loops will be much easier for them to manage – but they will need to nose piece to help decrease the fogging on their glasses. Looking for tips. Thank you so much for all of the work you have done presenting these!!!!! I really appreciate it!

Reply
    Helen - April 16, 2020

    Which pattern are you talking about – we already have 4! 🙂 With a little modification you can add nose wire and/or elastic loops to any pattern
    To add bendable nose wire you can topstich a little piece of fabric/bias tape on the back side of the mask very close to the top edge. Insert the wire and stitch it closed OR leave at least one of the ends open to make the nose piece removable. Hope that helps! Happy stitching

    Reply
      Dia - April 16, 2020

      Thank you so much!!! I was looking at the pattern with the bendable nosepiece – but it had bias tape instead of elastic ear loops – so I was wondering if it was ok to adapt it. Thank you for your tips!!! They really help!

      The new complication is that I have to figure out how to make bias tape as I can’t find any to purchase – I am trying to get 100% cotton material for the mask – I assume we need that for breathability. Could we use a cotton poly mix to make homemade bias tape? Or should I look for 100% cotton for that as well? THANK YOU!!!!

      Reply
        Helen - April 17, 2020

        You can use either. Why don’t you make your own bias tape? I’ve just posted a really handy trick how to make bias tape fast. If you are using it just for masks you may cut it horizontally instead on the bias as you don’t need the stretch. Here’s how https://hellosewing.com/how-to-make-bias-binding-tape/
        There is also a video to show this in action!

        Reply
          Dia - April 18, 2020

          THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! Will do!!!!!

          Reply
Dorothy - April 25, 2020

It’s actually a great and helpful piece of info.
I’m happy that you shared this helpful information with us.
Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

Reply
Thomassen - April 26, 2020

Thank you for taking the time.
Best regards,
Thomassen Schneider

Reply
    Helen - April 29, 2020

    You are welcome

    Reply
How can I print the pattern? Thanks - April 28, 2020

Please help, how can I print the pattern? Thanks

Reply
nancy mize - April 28, 2020

Please help, how can I print the pattern? Thanks

Reply
    Helen - April 29, 2020

    There is no pattern to print – just cut out a simple rectangle 9 x7″

    Reply
Tara Jane Prayag - April 30, 2020

Hello. Thank you so much for your pattern. We’re making a batch for community volunteers. However, we’re in the UK – I am sorry to be a bit thick but what is 3/8′. Is it the equivalent of 2cm? Many thanks.

Reply
    Helen - May 1, 2020

    Hi Tara, 3/8″ is 1 cm.
    Thank you so much for helping out during the pandemic. You are AWESOME!

    Reply
Virginia - May 16, 2020

The masks should always be worn with the pleats down. All your pictures are showing the masks upside-down.

Reply
Kim - June 30, 2020

thanks for the video. But your mask has pleats, they need to be facing down.

Reply
    Helen - June 30, 2020

    You are welcome, Kim. You can wear this mask with pleats down – all you need to do is to flip it upside down.

    Reply

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