How To Make a Face Mask

Want to reduce the amount of waste produced by disposable face masks? We show you how to make a sustainable face mask using recycled materials.

There are loads of designs for cloth face masks out there on the internet, but this is our favourite. It mimics a disposable surgical mask in design and requires no printing out of patterns.

The mask is made from simple squares of fabric with pleats that make it comfortable to wear and breath in. Best of all, we’ve got tips on how to upcycle materials you have around the house to make your very own masks, reducing their environmental footprint.

Materials to make your cloth face mask

As well as being reusable, your cloth face mask can be made using salvaged materials. If you hunt around your home you’ll find plenty to scavenge! There really is no need to go to the shops.

You can unpick elastic waist bands from old trousers and undies, and snip these into thinner straps. Hair ties will do the job admirably, while rubber bands are another less durable option.

You can also cut up strips of a stretchy knit fabric (see this video to learn how to identify a knit from a weave). And if all else fails, you can simply repurpose the elastic from a disposable mask .To ensure a snug fit (which is essential in making the face mask as effective as possible) this fabric face mask design uses a piece of wire across the top casing so it can be easily moulded to your nose.

Kids’ pipe cleaners or unbent paper clips will do the job for this task. Or gardeners might be able to salvage a bit of thin-gauge wire. Just make sure you bend the ends of all these wires to avoid them breaking through the mask and jabbing you in the face!

In terms of fabric, recommendations are for a mixture of tightly woven cotton fabrics and non-woven materials. Old sheets, shirts and  green bags can all be upcycled into face masks.

It’s important to note, with the Omincron variant now circulating in Australia, experts have recommended that purely cloth masks are no longer effective and N95 masks are recommended. However, N95’s certainly aren’t as aesthetically pleasing! We recommend “double masking” with a surgical or N95 mask on first, and your cloth mask over the top.

How to make a face mask out of fabric

Step one:

Cut two square pieces of tightly woven cotton or poly/cotton fabric, 19 x 19cm. Then cut a third square of a surgical mask non-woven fabric, like fusible interfacing or a “green” shopping bag.

Step two:

Place one piece of fabric on the bottom (right side facing down), the piece of non-woven material on top of this and then top with the piece of fabric you want on the front of your mask, right side facing up.

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Overlock the top and bottom edges (if you don’t have an overlocker you can neaten with a zigzag stitch).

Step three:

Hem these overlocked edges with a 1cm seam. Thread pipe cleaner or other wire through the top hem and trim to the edges. Overlock the two side edges.

Step four:

Mark this edge at 4cm, 7cm and 10cm and press pleats at these intervals using an iron, ensuring the overall length of you’re mask is around 9.5cm. Stitch these pleats in place.

Step five:

Cut two 18cm pieces of elastic. Fold over side edges 1cm and tuck elastic ear bands under this seam at either end, then stitch in place.

Et voila! Your mask is done. Now you can make another to ensure you’ll always have a fresh one to hand. Or make them for friends and family.

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