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How to Sew Your Own Fabric Mask

On Friday, President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends people in the United States wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The additional public health measure is not a substitute for social distancing but is mainly to prevent those who have the virus — and might not know it — from spreading it to others.

The Washington Post talked to Grace Jun, assistant professor of fashion at Parsons School of Design and chief executive of Open Style Lab, who wrote this pattern after consulting with the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and the NYU Langone Medical Center. “Accessible design,” Jun said, “is better design.”

This pattern is designed to be sewn with a machine, but it can be hand-sewn, too.


  • Fabric scissors or a rotary cutter
  • Ruler or ruler tape
  • Pins or clips
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread (polyester works well for extra strength)
  • Iron or heavy books
  • Optional: safety pin


  • Two pieces of 12-inch-long and 7.25-inch-wide 100 percent cotton fabric (tight-weave cotton or quilting cotton). If possible, use two different colors to indicate the mask’s inside and outside.
  • One piece of 12-inch-long and 7.25-inch-wide interfacing or lightweight, breathable, stiff fabric.
  • Fourteen inches of 1/8-inch flat elastic, stretch yarn or additional fabric for ties.


Cut your pieces and mark stitch lines

Cut three fabric rectangles 12 inches long and 7.5 inches wide:

  • Two cotton fabric pieces
  • One interface piece

Stack the fabric: The top layer should be a thicker/quilting cotton (red in the pictures above), the middle layer should be the interface piece, and the last layer underneath should be a softer cotton (white in the pictures above).

Trace all of the pattern lines on the top layer of fabric. Cut along the solid line through all three layers so you have three pieces of equal size.

Cut two pieces of elastic, each at least seven inches or longer to allow for an adjustable fit.


Stitch the darts

Fold your fabric stack in half with the top layer on inside (red in the pictures) so you are stitching your triangular darts on the white/inside layer. Clip or pin together.

Stitch one 1/2-inch dart on what will become the top of your mask — for your nose. Stitch another 3/4-inch dart on the other side for the chin. Note that these can be adjusted to be smaller or larger to fit the wearer.

You can cut the darts open or press them flat.


Stitch the zigzag curved lines

Sew along the curved dotted stitch lines with a zigzag stitch.


Stitch the top and bottom outside edges of the mask

Fold the top and bottom edges (long sides) of the mask toward the inside along the marked seam allowance and press and pin or clip. Stitch on top of the fold to close. (This will leave a raw edge. You can finish your edges before sewing to finish if desired.)


Stitch the zigzag horizontal lines

Sew along the horizontal dotted stitch lines with a zigzag stitch.


Attach elastic straps to mask

Fold the edges of your fabric tabs over 1/2 an inch or more and stitch 1/4 an inch from the edge to create a tunnel for the elastic. Feed the elastic through the tunnel (a safety pin attached to one end will help with threading). Try on for size, and adjust the length as needed. Stitch or tie the ends of the elastic together.

In making this pattern, Jun used a tightly woven quilting cotton fabric or a cotton fabric with a high thread count. A 2013 study published in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness found that well-fitting, homemade masks made of cotton T-shirts provide some protection from droplet transmission, the method by which the coronavirus is spread.

Jun has also designed a companion mask made of vinyl, which would make it easy to wipe down and disinfect. The see-through vinyl would also leave one’s mouth visible when communicating with someone who’s hearing impaired.


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