How to Sew Masks with Filter Pockets

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In view of the current scenario, I could not stop myself from designing a face mask. Initially, I was reluctant to design one, as I was doubtful about the effectiveness of fabric masks.

 

With the immense shortage of masks even for doctors and in the light of them asking for help to solve the shortage, I finally ventured out to design a fabric face mask that can give the maximum protection possible, if not complete.

 

 

This tutorial on how to sew face masks with filter pockets can help you make masks for yourself and also for others.

 

I know these masks are never a replacement for N95 masks but can be used in situations where N95 is not available. These masks can also be used as a cover for the N95 masks to make them last longer. In fact, even the CDC recommends the use of fabric masks in the absence of N95 masks.

 

 

These masks are designed with filter pockets. Through research, I learned that a HEPA vacuum cleaner bag has high effectiveness in capturing virus- sized particles, and as such a piece of it can be cut to be used as a filter.

 

If a new vacuum cleaner bag is not available, you can use a piece of your cotton t-shirt, which according to the CDC, has a high ability to capture particles. In the absence of these materials, you can also use dried antibacterial wet wipes or even toilet paper as a filter.

 

 

 

These masks can be made in two ways, one with elastic and if your supply of elastic is over, you can sew them with ties. In fact, I can say that the mask can last longer with ties, as elastic tends to get stretched and damaged after multiple washes.

 

I have also given an option to attach a piece of pipe cleaner to hold the mask better over the nose and give it a perfect fit.

 

 

To make the masks, I recommend the use of tightly- woven, high thread count cotton fabrics for maximum protection. You can use heavyweight cotton fabric like quilting cotton or cotton fabric used for furnishings like bedsheets and pillowcases. Stretchable fabrics and knits are a strict no-no.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This mask design gives you the shield of four layers of cotton and an additional filter layer in between. It can also be made in adult and child sizes.

 

How to Sew Masks with Filter Pockets

Disclaimer:

These masks are never a replacement for N95 masks. They can only be used when N95 masks are not available and also as a covering for N95 masks, to make it last longer.

CDC recommends that children under the age of 2, people with trouble breathing, and anybody unable to remove a mask unassisted should not wear a face mask.

  • Following the suggestions of many of my readers, the tutorial has been updated with an external casing for the pipe cleaner to make it removable while washing.

 

Materials Required:

Pieces of tightly woven cotton fabric for the mask outer and lining- measurements specified in the table below.

 

3/8- inch elastic or fabric strips for ties – requirement specified in the table below.

 

Pipe cleaner or floral wire- 6-inches.

 

Sewing Notions.

 

 

Gather your supplies.

Table

Cutting Dimensions

  • In the table below, ‘W” stands for the width and “L” stands for the length of the fabric piece to be cut.
  • Pinch to zoom if you are on mobile. 

 

Cutting and Sewing The Mask

 

 

Cut your mask front, mask back, and lining pieces, referring to the table above.

 

 

Cut your pipe cleaner casing piece, referring to the table above.

Also, cut your elastic (or ties) and pipe cleaner pieces.

 

 

Place the mask front and one of the lining pieces layered, with the wrong sides together and aligning the edges. Repeat with the mask back and lining pieces.

 

 

Fold the long edge of the layers, towards the lining,  by 3/8- inch and press.

 

 

Sew down the folds along the edge.

 

 

Fold the two pieces lengthwise in half, aligning the edges and press.

 

 

Draw two straight-line markings along the two shorter edges, referring to the measurements in the picture above.

 

* Note that for adults the lines are 1- inch long and 1- inch from the folded edge. For children, the lines are ¾- inch long and ¾- inch from the folded edge.

 

 

Sew straight lines along the markings.

 

 

Open, turn over to the right side, and press.

 

 

Turn over to the wrong side and you can see two box pleats formed. Handpress the pleats flat to make it look like the pictures above.

 

 

Press with an iron to set the pleats. Repeat on the mask back.

 

Next, we sew the elastic.

  • If you wish to sew ties instead of elastic, refer the end of this tutorial.

 

 

Place the edges of the two elastic pieces  ½- inch from the long edges of the mask front. Pin and sew the elastic pieces to the mask.

Next, we need to sew the pipe cleaner casing to the mask back.

 

 

Take the casing piece and fold the two short edges and one long edge towards the wrong side by 3/8- inch and press to set.

 

 

Fold it in half widthwise and mark the center along the raw edge.

 

 

Next, fold the mask back in half widthwise and mark the center, again along the raw edge.

 

 

Place the casing on the right side of the mask back, with its right sides facing up and the center marks aligning. Pin the raw edges of the two pieces together.

 

 

Sew along the pinned edge to join.

 

Let’s sew the mask back and front together.

 

 

Place the mask front and back layered, with the right sides together and aligning the edges. The elastic and the pipe cleaner casing pieces are now sandwiched in between the mask front and mask back. Sew the mask shut, leaving a gap of about three inches along the folded edge. Keep the seam allowance as 3/8- inch.

 

 

Cut the corners to reduce the bulk in the seam.

 

 

Bring the right side out through the opening.

 

 

Turn over to the mask back and sew the pipe cleaner casing shut along the other long edge. The two short edges are left open to insert the nose piece.

 

 

Poke the corners out gently, without tearing the corners.

 

 

Press the mask to set the pleats.

 

 

Take the pipe cleaner piece and insert it into the casing, through the opening.

 

 

Our face mask with a filter pocket is ready!

 

Tie Version:

Cut the four pieces for the ties, referring to the table above.

 

 

Take one of the tie pieces, fold the two longer edges towards the wrong side by 3/8-inch and press to set.

 

 

Fold it in half and press once again. Repeat on the other tie pieces.

 

 

Place the ties 1/2- inch from the long edges of the mask and pin. Sew the ties to the mask (picture for illustration purpose).

 

Pin it for later here,

 

 

 

 

 

 

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32 Comments

  1. Juli
    April 4, 2020 / 2:45 am

    Where does the filter go?

    • Surayya
      April 4, 2020 / 3:34 am

      The filter is placed in between the front and back of the mask through an opening underneath. You can see it in the post.

      • Julie
        April 9, 2020 / 11:30 am

        I don’t see it either, which step is this?

        • Surayya
          April 9, 2020 / 12:36 pm

          Please check the fifth and the sixth pictures of the finished mask, from the top.

  2. April 4, 2020 / 11:18 pm

    I read an article about making masks. It said to use blue shop towels for filters. The writer said they had tested a multitude of different materials and the shop towels proved to be best blocking about 90%. The writer is raising money to have them tested with civic 19. Costs about $40,000.

  3. Stephanie
    April 10, 2020 / 5:19 am

    Wont sewing the pipe cleaner in close the filter opening?

    • Surayya
      April 10, 2020 / 12:27 pm

      The pipe cleaner is placed on the opposite (closed) side of the opening.

  4. April 11, 2020 / 7:52 am

    Excellent tutorial. Thank you.

    • Surayya
      April 11, 2020 / 2:50 pm

      Thanks and welcome!

  5. Pauline
    April 11, 2020 / 2:43 pm

    Excellent instructions. Easy to make and easy to use. Thank you.

    • Surayya
      April 11, 2020 / 2:49 pm

      Thanks and welcome!

  6. Deb Ridgeway
    April 11, 2020 / 3:36 pm

    Thanks for the instructions. Please note that some vacuum cleaner bags also contain fiberglass and are not recommended for filter material. Also, please consider making a pdf version of this for printing. Stay well!

  7. DJ
    April 11, 2020 / 7:46 pm

    Very good tutorial. I believe that most people who wear masks for extended periods of time prefer the ties instead of elastic. The elastic over the ears gets irritating very quickly.

  8. Amy
    April 17, 2020 / 5:10 pm

    I tried making some of these and got stuck after sewing on the inch lines. It says to turn it over and this will make a box pleat. I am struggling with how this works—-can you clarify. Thank you!

    • Surayya
      April 17, 2020 / 7:05 pm

      Once the inch lines are done, you can see a fold formed on the wrong side. This fold when pressed flat forms the box pleats.

  9. Allison
    April 17, 2020 / 5:26 pm

    I’m having trouble viewing the table that says how long the ties should be (may be an issue with my phone). Is anyone able to tell me?

    • Surayya
      April 17, 2020 / 7:07 pm

      You have to cut 4 ties, 12-inches long and 2- inches wide for an adult and 11-inches long and 2-inches wide for a child.

  10. Mar
    April 19, 2020 / 2:19 pm

    I can’t see the table with measurements at all.

    • Surayya
      April 19, 2020 / 3:37 pm

      I have updated the tutorial, kindly check.

  11. Heather
    April 23, 2020 / 2:03 pm

    Just made this mask and found that it was a bit small for an adult, granted, I measured on my husband who has a big head. Did you mean to have the tuck at 3/4″ for adults and 1″ for children? Also, I had to extend the size of the ties – 12″ was just enough but not quite.

    • Surayya
      April 23, 2020 / 2:45 pm

      The tuck is at 1-inch from the fold for adults and 3/4- inch for children. As for the ties, you will need them 14- inch long for an adult with a large size head.

  12. Mary Meister
    April 25, 2020 / 1:39 pm

    Won’t the pipe cleaners rust when you wash the masks?

    • Surayya
      April 25, 2020 / 2:33 pm

      I have washed my mask many times without the pipe cleaner getting rusted or damaged. But if it is still a concern, you may wrap the pipe cleaner with duct tape to make it waterproof. You can also replace the pipe cleaner with plastic floral stems.

      • Cathy singer
        May 20, 2020 / 4:52 am

        You can sew in the pipe cleaner casing, leaving the short ends open so the pipe cleaner can be removed for cleaning. I fold the pipe cleaner in half, twist it loosely, and then wrap the raw edge in medical adhesive tape (no sewing needed!!) so it doesn’t scratch the cheek. I make the casing shorter than the pipe cleaner so it is easy to remove it.

  13. Cassy
    April 26, 2020 / 5:54 pm

    Hi, thank you for the tutorial. Buy the ties ended up inside after sewing the four sides and turning into the right side of the fabric 😂. What do I do please?

    • Surayya
      April 26, 2020 / 6:35 pm

      Hi Cassy,
      You will have it to rip it open. There is no other solution!

  14. Cindy Gray
    May 5, 2020 / 2:29 pm

    really this was so hard I thought I neede to go back to engineering school. why are there three pieces olf pin k material and only 1 floral for the front. could not finish this and now have material cut out

    • Surayya
      May 5, 2020 / 2:50 pm

      The floral fabric is used for the mask front to identify the front and the back part of the mask quickly.

  15. Lisa
    July 29, 2020 / 7:42 pm

    Thank you for this, it’s one of the best patternes I’ve seen. What are the meassurements in centimeters, please?

    • Surayya
      Author
      July 30, 2020 / 2:06 pm

      I am glad you liked my pattern, thank you! For converting inches to centimeters, just multiply each of the measurements by 2.5.

  16. Agnes
    September 10, 2020 / 9:49 pm

    Thank you for this pattern, I have compared the finished mask with others and have found it to be the most effective. Thank you for sharing.

    • Surayya
      Author
      September 11, 2020 / 3:26 am

      Thanks for the appreciation, it made my day!

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