Yet Another DIY Face Mask Project

DIY Face Masks

I had a moment of silliness the other day and decided to indulge it. If you sew and frequent places like Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest, you’ve no doubt seen the plethora of posts on making your own face masks. Maybe you’ve even helped make some for some organization. 

Embellishing face masks had been stewing around in my head for a few days but the trigger was when my nurse practitioner’s office called to schedule a routine appointment for some paperwork. OK, it was for my Medicare provider. As much as I hate to recognize it, the government classifies me as “elderly.” (Who knew?)

That call was the trigger for silliness. I decided I needed a mask to wear in for my appointment. (Yes, I am staying home but hey, I do that anyway. Just now I have a real excuse to do it.)

First came the clown mask, then the puppy, and finally the kitty. I experimented with several mask patterns. The first one is just a basic pattern that I found here: How to Sew a Surgical Face Mask for Hospitals – Free Pattern.

It was OK but I wanted something that fit a little better. This one wants to creep up into my eyes but it could also have to do with the fabric I used (Kona cotton). It also gaps around my face a lot. This is the most common type of mask pattern you’ll find out there. It might keep you from having my germs fly in your face if I cough, but it doesn’t do much to protect me from you.

After a little searching, I found this one from Riley Blake that has a little more shaping and includes darts. I used it for the dog and kitty. This mask would fit even better with some kind of wire or aluminum strip inserted over the nose area. Fortunately, the way this mask is made I can still do that even with a completed mask.

I also modified the pattern slightly to use elastic loops that fit over the ears instead of the ties mainly to make the project faster. Plus, I have tons of 1/4″ elastic leftover from a sit-and-sew class I used to teach.

Stitching the layers together does make it tougher to create the side pleats because of the added bulk of the seam allowance but it’s not impossible.

  • TIP: If you decide to do the same thing, leave a 2″ opening on one side to turn everything right side out. You can close the seam when you edge stitch the pleats.

Here’s a kitty version of the same pattern.

And a new addition, a bunny, just in time for Easter.


I need to stress right here that these are NOT medical-grade masks and cannot prevent the spread of any virus or disease.

In fact, they’re worse than the basic mask patterns out there because I’ve stabbed the fabric several thousand times with a needle making it even easier for the bad guys to get through. However, each mask is created so that a filter of some kind can be added and I did fuse a piece of non-woven interfacing over the embroidery after stitching to reduce permeability.

By the time I made the kitty version, in addition to the patch of fusible non-woven interfacing over the back of the embroidery, I also applied layer to the lining piece. Not only does it give the mask structure, it improves the filtration factor while still keeping the mask breathable. Just don’t try to run a marathon with one on!

With a good filter or where PPE isn’t a requirement, they could be useful—and fun—in a pediatric setting. 

This Is Not An In-the-Hoop Project

Other than embroidering the fabric before I made the masks, there’s nothing different for following the patterns. So while I’m providing the designs as digital downloads, I’m not including any patterns or instructions on how to make the masks.

Embroidery Tips

For these designs on quilt-weight cotton, I used a medium tearaway. 

Why not use a no-show mesh? For one, you don’t need a cutaway on a woven with this type of design. Secondly, if you’re using it as a “germ blocking” layer, you’re destroying its properties with all those needle penetrations. 

To add a barrier, you could use a fusible no-show mesh or fusible non-woven interfacing applied to the fabric AFTER embroidering. 

Unsuitable “filters” include, but are not limited, to:

  • Dryer sheets
  • Fusible fleece
  • Batting
  • Plastic (you have to be able to breathe!)

Will I Make a Video on Making A Face Mask?

No. Videos on making masks these days are, well, viral. You can easily find them on YouTube. 

Besides, my haircut appointment (which was already a few weeks overdue) was a victim of salon closures. IOW, I don’t want to get in front of a camera!

A Better Fitting Mask

After sharing a selfie wearing the dog mask on Facebook, several friends asked me to make them a mask (they’re immune-compromised). 

No, I’m not taking orders so don’t even ask me if I can make you one. Chances are if you’re reading this, you have the skills and supplies to make one yourself.

I chose a different pattern and omitted the embroidery. This pattern from UnityPoint Health stitches up quickly and conforms nicely to the face, especially if you insert some shaping material (wire, aluminum strip, etc) over the nose area. For these, I used a cotton tee-shirt for the lining (it’s soft on the face) and colorful quilt-weight cottons for the outside.

  • TIP: I cut up tee-shirts from those “been there got the tee-shirt” events they all seem to be sized triple-X. Do prewash all your fabrics.

The wire I used in the first few was just slightly heavier than floral wire and I top-stitched it into place between the layers after finishing the mask. This was the most time-consuming step. The wire also means that you’ll need to hand wash instead of machine wash. 

  • NOTE: Since I made these masks, I discovered a better “shaper” by cutting short strips from aluminum pie pans. (The kind pre-made pies come in.) I wrapped a short scrap of Sulky Soft N Sheer around two stacked 3″ by .5″ wide strips and zigzagged in place over the bridge of the nose after the mask was finished by slipping it under the pocket on the inside of the mask. My sewing machine can sew through fingers so the aluminum was like butter.

The downside to these masks is that there is a seam right down the center of the front—as in right in front of your nose—and that’s an opening for the bad guys. The idea is that you will insert a filter or possibly a mask into the pocket. The finished version rather resembles a bikini top for someone with only one boob in the center of their chest.

Of course, another downside to the center seam is that it makes it harder to embroider. You’d need to embroider each half and then stitch them together. I didn’t make these embroidery designs for that purpose and I didn’t bother embroidering faces on any of these masks. You could embroider a kiss on one cheek for a nice touch though.

An advantage of this mask pattern is because of the shaping instead of darts or pleats, you can fuse non-woven interfacing to the back of the fabric. I’m using Shirt Tailer simply because I have a whole bolt of the stuff and it doesn’t make the mask too stiff. You’ll still need to deal with that center seam doorway and it will be difficult to fuse over that.

Here’s another shaped mask pattern in multiple sizes: FACE MASK SEWING PATTERN.

Notes for Seamstresses

You’ll notice that all these patterns use the same size for the inner pieces as the outer and we all know the inner side of the curve is smaller than the outside. You may want to cut in the inside pieces slightly smaller along the outside edges so that when you turn your mask, the inside is smooth.

Summing Up

  • Fabric masks alone will not filter out all tiny viruses.
  • Needle holes and seams create gateways for easy entrance.
  • Masks must conform to the face to provide any protection from external bacteria, viruses, dust, etc.
  • Masks can reduce the number of bacteria, viruses, etc. that you spew into the air.
  • Many places are requesting fabric masks to extend the life of other masks. If you are making masks for that purpose, make sure you follow any guidelines they provide. 

Just Breathe! 

This too shall pass. Things will change but that’s just life!

Stay well, my friends, and keep your sense of humor. This design says it all:

Where to Find the Designs & Mentioned Products

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