Mask Tutorial

I thought I was done posting about masks but I keep getting questions and questions and questions.  I’ve been asked to do a tutorial.  I can’t video myself so I decided to take some pictures.  I do not have all the answers.  I only know how I do it.  So, here goes.

I make multiple masks at a time…like a batch of 20.  For this I’m only making two.  For each mask I cut a piece of fabric that is 8″ x 16″ at a minimum.  If the fabric usage works out, I’ll cut them slightly larger.  I use solids for the ties and cut them at 2″ across the width of the fabric.


I start on the 8″ end.  I double turn the fabric over so no raw edge is showing.  I don’t bother ironing.  I need to make these fast.

I chain piece EVERYTHING.  Putting out and cutting thread wastes a lot of time.  
The back one get clipped off and turned so the opposite side can get stitched down…again chain piecing.


I do the opposite end of second one to.  Next fold the fabric right sides together in half making the ends meet.  Sew right along the hem.  Sew in 1 1/2″ from the edge then stop.  I make sure to backstitch.  Notice that I drew marks on my seam guide on my machine that let me know when to start and stop.
This is the seam guide I have and LOVE.  It’s Lori Holt’s Seam Guide (find it HERE.

I keep the line of the machine and know to stop when the edge of my fabric meets the back line.  I back stitch, pull the fabric out and then…

I reposition the fabric so it is even with the front line.  I start sewing, again backstitching. Then I sew to the edge.

Now it’s time to turn it right side out.
I work to open, then flatten, the seam with a good finger press.

Next I take it to the ironing board and press making sure the seam stayed open and that the seam line is only 1/2″ or so from the top.  I’ve learned to manipulate the fabric if it’s direction fabric so that the fabric on the front side of the mask is facing the appropriate direction.

Now it’s time to insert the twist tie.  I’m out of twist ties so I’ve been using pipe cleaners cut 4″ long.  I insert them in the seam at the top as show.  The purpose of making the seam was to allow for a filter and later a pocket to in an added layer of protection.


I don’t measure.  I put it in place as a good “guess”.  I position it in the machine like this…


I go over the pipecleaner a few times to old it in place.  I end with the needle down close to the edge and pivot the fabric.

I sew to the end. Pivot, put in a few stitches and then…
pivot again and go the entire length.  
At the ends I pivot and sew again….
stopping at the center spot where I originally tacked the pipecleaner in place.

Remember my goal is to chain stitch and not be moving the fabric in and out of the machine.  That wastes time and thread.  So..I meet the next mask up like this….


I tack the pipecleaner in place.
I go down and pivot as before but this time I stop and clip the first one off of the second one.
Once a mask gets to this step.  I lay it on the table with the pipecleaner facing me and right side up.  (Wrong side has the pocket opening)
I bunch together pleats and pin in place.  At first this is awkward but it gets easier and easier the more you do.


Next I grab a tie.  I to not iron the ties at all.  I don’t even iron the fold.  The fold come in handy.  I use that as the marking for the center point.  I lay the mask on the tie centering it on the fold line.
I then sew across the edge of the mask where the pins are removing them as I go.
Remember chain stitching.  I drive my machine off the tie and hook up the next mask.  I usually have about three or four “air stitches” to get it in place but it works and that saves time.
I sew that in place then grab the next mask.  It’s time to finish the ties.

Again…No ironing.  I need to make a lot of masks and that consumes a lot of time.  I fold the tie in as shown…
..then fold it in half.  Again chair stitching, I feed the tie in.

I stop, fold, position and sew again.
and again.
When I get to the mask, I stop and reposition more carefully folding the tie around the mask.  I back stitch as I come on to the mask….
…and I go off the mask.  The keep repositioning and folding all the way to the end of the tie.

Again chain piecing, I feed the next mask tie through.
I continue chain piecing until all the ties are finished….and there you have it.

TWO masks.

A few things to note about these masks….

Many people are putting a layer of these Scott Shop Towels HERE on Amazon in the pocket to add an extra layer of protection.

I’ve also heard of using this….Filter Fabric Meltblown Nonwoven Fabric.  Find it HERE on Amazon.

I’ve heard people are microwaving their masks to sanitize them.  THESE MASK CANNOT BE MICROWAVED.  If masks have a twist tie in them and they are microwaved they can start a fire in your microwave.

Using this technique I’ve made 37 in one day.  It was a big day but totally do-able for me now that I’m so concerned with ironing and am implementing chain stitching as much as possible.  I also think that it helps to do a bunch as once and not making one mask at a time.  On Wednesday when I quit for the day, I had made 302 masks total.  People have requested them pretty much as fast as I can make them.  Right now I am sewing for Karl’s work….I can honestly say, I’m completely and totally sick of making masks.  But tomorrow is another day and I will make masks again.  It’s the least I can do….but seriously, it’s time to bring Home Ec classes back to schools and more people learn to sew again.

Also million thank yous to people who have sent fabric my way.  I’m using LOTS to make masks.  I’ve sent some out to my two nieces, a group of Decorah based mask makers and a group of Lawler based mask makers.  Without your donations of fabric, we would have supplies to make masks.  We all say THANKS SO VERY MUCH.

I have answered many mask making questions in THIS blog post.  Please read it before asking a lot of questions.  If I didn’t cover it there, ask away.

8 thoughts on “Mask Tutorial

  1. Jill MCCaughey

    Jo, you are so right about reinstating HOme Ec into schools. As a retired Home Ec teacher, it saddens me to think how many young adults have no knowledge of the basics of running a house, cooking a meal, sewing a seam, Doing laundry, or managing their money. Computer classes replaced our “housewife” courses—which were taught to everyone, NOT just girls (don’t get me started on the role designations!) . The simple skills needed to plan meals and manage a household are something new to so many who rely on ordering online, or going to restaurants—where they are on their devices proving what a glamourous life they lead—and how cute their children are. Back to basics is part of the lessons we are all learning. People are reading books, getting to know their family, taking walks, planting gardens, learning to relax and be grateful for every day we have on this earth.
    Thank you for all you do, your honesty with your readers and your influence on those around you.
    Jill in Calgary/Phoenix

  2. Cynthia

    Jo, this is not quite about the mask making, but I’m looking for the pineapple quilt making information for when you make the pineapple quilt. I want to print on tracing paper and don’t know where you got your pattern.

  3. sewhappy

    the many readers on this blog and other blogs: I am sure the bloggers love your loyalty BUT there are so many site for face masks making AND no one mask will fit all situations. Do some of your reach, and find what works the best for yourself. Happy Sewing.

  4. Sue

    Thank you Jo for all you do. I tip toed into mask making because of your original blog post about it a couple of weeks ago. Originally for my daughter and her NP coworkers, now for everyone! My son recently returned from 3 years in the PeaceCorps (he did an extra 3rd year and PeaceCorps Volunteers were evacuated globally back to the US 3 weeks ago). He is currently interviewing for a job, but in the meantime, he is helping me to sew masks. He had never sewn prior to this, but he is doing a fantastic job. He even asks, are we making masks today? To date I think we have made 130. And…. we have spent so much time talking and catching up after him being away for 3 years. Such a blessing in the midst of this Pandemic. Silver linings are everywhere if we look. Be well and stay safe. You are bright light Jo.

  5. Roxanne

    I love Sue’s story about making masks with her son. ❤️
    Your write up and photos were really good and can I just say that the fabric you used here is completely charming, even (and especially) as a mask. Beautiful work. Hugs!

  6. Kim LeMere

    Thank you Jo for sharing your technique on making mask quickly and efficiently. I haven’t made many and I learned a few things from your style of chain piecing. When I was in high school we did 1/2 a year of shop ( I learned to used power tools, tune a lawn mower and even some minor plumbing and electrical things) and we did 1/2 of home ec. I was never intimidated by power tools having been raised on a farm but I must admit cooking wasn’t my thing or doing laundry…..I learned a lot
    Thank you to all of you who are making masks for others, you’re a blessing.

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