Sew a simple pleated fabric face mask with just a single rectangle of fabric and 12’’ of elastic with my easy to follow sewing tutorial. You can do this – and since fabric masks are washable, you won’t have to spend money on any more disposable face coverings. Read on for step by step instructions.
Finding the right fabric face mask is like finding a the right hat – you’ll know when you find one that suits you! This pleated face mask is 2 layers of fabric with pleats on the sides. I used regular quilting fabric and there is an easy to access filter pocket at the bottom edge that you can use with my free filter pattern. Of course, you don’t have to use a filter, but it will be nice knowing that you can if you want.
This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The blog post below is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF download for $2 is totally optional.
To make this DIY mask you will need:
- 1/4 yard of cotton fabric (a fat quarter would work great!)
- 12” of soft elastic (I used inexpensive 1/4’’ wide elastic, but 5/8’’ wide fold over elastic, narrow cord elastic, or ready-made face mask ear loops are good substitutes depending on what you prefer)
- matching thread
- scissors or cutting mat and rotary cutter
- sewing pins or clips
- sewing machine
cut 1 fabric rectangle 15’’ tall x 9’’ wide
cut 2 pieces of elastic, each 6’’ long
Note about fabric ties:
If you would rather use fabric ties instead of elastic, cut four pieces of bias tape that are each 20” long, or cut four 2” x 20” strips of fabric and fold and press them bias-tape style. Topstitch along both long edges to make a 20” long tie. The instructions below indicate where to insert the ends of the fabric ties instead of the ends of the elastic.
1. Press the raw edges of the top and bottom (9’’) edges of your fabric rectangle to the wrong side by 1/4’’, and then again by 1/4’’.
Sew close to the edge to make a narrow hem.
2. Fold the rectangle in half (wrong sides together) with the hemmed edges together and press the fold at the top.
3. Open the fabric rectangle and place it right side up on your work space.
Pin or clip the 6’’ pieces of elastic to the side edges as seen above, just below the fold that you pressed in the fabric.
If you are using four fabric ties instead of elastic pieces (see note above), attach two of the ties now instead of the two elastic pieces. Attach the ends the exact same way.
You can either sew the ends of the elastic in place – or to save time, just use pins but place the heads of the pins facing out so you can remove them in just a minute.
4. Fold down the top hemmed edge so that the rectangle is folded in half again, this time right sides together, and the hemmed edges are lined up again.
The elastic pieces should be sandwiched in between the fabric layers – right next to the fold.
5. Sew each side with a 1/4’’ seam allowance:
start at the hemmed edges, backstich,
sew down to the fold (remove the pin!) and backstitch again over the elastic.
Turn the mask right side out and press the edges flat.
6. Make a 1/2’’ pleat just below the top corner on the right side.
Then make the same sized pleat on the left side (see photo below).
I don’t like my pleats to overlap the elastic because it makes the top bulky. You can see from the picture of the back of the mask (above right) that my 1/2’’ pleat goes just up to the elastic, but doesn’t overlap onto it.
Some have said that downward facing pleats are better for repelling germs. I don’t know if that’s true, but I think they look better anyway. 🙂
It makes it easier if you go ahead and form the pleats on the left side of the mask before moving on.
7. Make a 1/2’’ pleat that ends just above the hemmed edge.
Again, I don’t let my lower pleat overlap on the hemmed edges because I think it makes it too bulky.
8. Make one more downward facing 1/2’’ pleat in the middle of the mask.
Adjust all 3 pleats so they look even, if necessary.
9. Bring the loose end of the elastic on one side around to the bottom and insert it in between the hemmed edges close to the side seam. Take care that the elastic is not twisted.
I found that wonderclips were great for holding the ends of the elastic in place until I stitched them.
If you are making fabric ties instead of using elastic, insert the remaining two fabric ties in between the hemmed edges instead.
Repeat with the end of the elastic on the other side of the face mask.
10. Secure the end of the elastic by stitching (and backstitching) the hemmed edges together for just 1/2’’ at the bottom corner.
Then pivot and stitch over the pleats until you reach the top of the mask. Backstitch and cut threads.
Repeat on the other side.
If you find that stitching over the pleats from the bottom to the top is like ‘swimming upstream,’ you can start at the top and sew downward.
However, I like securing the elastic at the bottom edge first.
Using a filter is optional, but you can make one using my free template and any filter material you prefer. Then just slip your filter inside through the layers at the bottom.
This tutorial is included in my list of the 5 Best Easy and Free DIY Face Mask Sewing Patterns. This list also includes a fitted face mask sewing pattern (it’s a free printable pattern). Homemade masks have been approved by the CDC as a substitute when N95 facemasks or medical grade masks are not available. Besides quilting cotton, you can use cotton flannel and t-shirt fabric. Be sure to let me know what you think!
Here are some tips for using a pipe cleaner or other nose wire to make the top edge of the cloth face mask fit more closely to your face.
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂