Basic Fitted Face Mask
There are lots of fitted face mask tutorials out there, so I won’t be going over the basic pattern. Generally speaking, they look like a shortened axe head having a curved, seamed front that extends from mid-nose to under the chin with short sides heading towards the ears. The tutorials also indicate using a liner, and an optional pocket for a filter.
The major differences will be the fabric and the straps.
Note: This mask is not PPE compliant. The best it can do is help contain your own coughs and sneezes and help prevent you from touching your own face. Also, because of the stretch fabric and types of wires used, these cannot be sterilized at the temperatures required by hospitals.
1. Choose Your Fitted Mask Pattern and Fabric
There is an abundance of patterns and tutorials available online. I used the pattern from the site “Sweet Red Poppy” and adjusted the dimensions and angles for myself and for my husband so we would each have a better fit. I then used my pattern for other ladies and his for other men.
Your fabric and lining choice is important. For this pull-on style you will need a stretch fabric and a stretch lining as opposed to the woven fabric usually suggested. I used an ‘active wear’ stretch fabric for the front and a never worn t-shirt which I cannibalized for the lining. This has a good stretch and then returns to the original shape. Think of how dance wear and swim wear behave. active wear
These fabrics should be washed beforehand. After the fact they can be washed by hand, sprayed with rubbing alcohol, or steamed with an iron (don’t press down, just shoot steam) or clothes steamer. The wire for snugness prevents machine washing and ironing after it is completed.
2. Cut the Mask Front and Lining
Cut the mask pieces, two from the front fabric and two from the lining. Make sure the ‘ear-to-nose’ pattern piece is cut on the stretchiest grain of your fabric, usually crosswise, selvage to selvage.
This pattern already has a 1/4″ to 3/8″ seam allowance. If you are working from a ‘finished size’ pattern be sure to cut extra around the perimeter for the seams. Pin or clip right sides of each together.
Please see thumbnails. Each caption has additional information.
3. Sew the Curved Front Seams, and the Top and Bottom Seams
There are now four pieces. Sew or serge the center curved seam together for the front, and also the curved seam for the lining. These are the seams from nose to chin. You now have two full face pieces.
Fit them right sides together and pin. You can see the serged center seam of the lining in the thumbnail above. Again, if you have a tutorial online it will explain it in more depth. That’s not exactly the purpose of this article.
Sew or serge the top seam of your mask and the bottom seam of your mask pieces, right sides together. You will turn right sides out through the ear seams, which are currently unsewn.
4. Decide Wire Size and Application.
At this point you will make a decision concerning the wire that will span the top of the mask for a tight fit. Cut the length for your preference, either to span from the middle of the eyes or to span to the outer corner of the eyes.
There are several options to secure the wire based on your choice and machine abilities. Please see all four thumbnails about this section.
- Before turning right sides out, use the seam allowance to anchor your wire. Beading wire and some floral wire is thin enough to zig-zag directly to the seam. I use double for the beading wire and leave floral wire as a single piece.
- For fatter or flatter wire, turn right sides out and sew a 1/4″ casing or channel. Fatter wire could be a doubled pipe cleaner. Flatter wire could be unstripped garbage bag twist ties.
- For any variety of thin yet sturdy wire, turn right sides out, push the wire against the seam, and sew a very close casing with your zipper foot.
- For a colorful touch or to retrofit an existing mask, sew an external casing to the top of the mask having right sides out. This can be bias tape, grosgain ribbon, or any fabric you have on hand.
If you look at the top edge of my mask, you will see I started with a casing for a wider wire then changed my mind and used a zipper foot to use a smaller wire close to the seam. This gives an appearance of two rows of top-stitching which is fine.
5. Make the Neck Strap
Cut a length of fabric that is close to two inches wide and about fifteen inches long for an adult male. Be sure to cut on the crosswise grain for maximum stretch.
Sew this lengthwise, right sides together. Then turn inside out.
Holding the mask section to the front of your face, hold the new neck strap from ear side to ear side in order to determine what the finished length should be, leaving 1/4″ seam allowance on both ends. Mine ended up being 10 inches long.
Turn your mask right sides out and fold in 1/4″ at the ear sides for a smooth edge. Sew each end of your neck strap to each ear side at the bottom edge of the mask. Please see the thumbnails. This neck loop needs to stretch over your head. See the first photo in this article. Test it out.
6. Make the Head Strap
This is the best part! This split strap is based on our scuba masks which stay in place very well. Each thumbnail has a further description in the caption.
- Cut two stretchy (crosswise) lengths of fabric around 18 or 20 inches long, each about 2 inches wide. See the first thumbnail.
- Sew these two lengths right sides together, then turn right side out. See the second thumbnail below.
- Join the two strips together from one end to about 3 or 3 1/2 inches. I joined these two straps for 4 inches and this should be a little less. My machine has a ‘feather’ stitch made especially to join fabrics, but a zig-zag with a short length could work also. See the third thumbnail.
- Sew this joined strap to the top side of one of ear edge, with the edge that is already folded because of the lower strap. See the fourth thumbnail. This shows the connected neck strap, one connected top strap, the top-stitch down the ear side, and the loose ends.
- Determine the final length of your head strap. If you don’t have a model like my friend Crystal, drape the straps over your head and pull for a snug but not too tight fit. Mark where the head strap should be sewn to the mask front and where the joined portion is to be sewn. See the fifth thumbnail.
- Join the portion of the two straps into one strap as you measured. Cut away the extra strap material. See the sixth thumbnail.
- Notice the extra strap fabric looks like itty bitty pants. See the seventh thumbnail.
- Put the itty bitty pants on a wire man your son made two decades ago. See the eighth thumbnail.
7. Finish Strap and Mask
Sew the newly joined end of the split head strap to the remaining top edge. Topstitch all edges when all pieces are joined.
Please see all four thumbnails.
Alternative Components to Consider
Elastic may be hard to come by these days, although it would be perfect for the head and neck straps. Many craft stores are completely closed and stores that are open are often low on supplies. I also didn’t particularly like the purchased bias tape for ties and making my own ties is annoying and time consuming. You may not like the idea of this pullover style so I will talk about substitute components and techniques.
The first thumbnail shows many possible wire and closure possibilities. Floral wire, pipe cleaners, beading wire, and garbage bag or bread twist ties, sew on velcro, stick on velcro, and synthetic clothesline,
The second thumbnail shows parts of t-shirts. Sleeve hems can be cut in half to make the ties that go around the neck at the bottom part of the mask. Shirt hems can be cut into two strips for the ties around the top of the head. Ribbed neck bands may be used for the neck strap. Even shopping bags may have nice cords to use as ties.
Not shown are things I just thought of. For closure at the neck you might use a snap buckle from a purse or dog collar, a small carabiner clip, a D-ring that can be looped and tightened, a large hook and eye, a button and either a loop closure or button hole, even the back closure from a baseball cap. There are lots of things to utilize whether you are making a new mask or remaking an existing mask in order to gain a more comfortable or closer fit.