How to make a simple face covering
Updated: Jul 24
Until now I've shied away from making my own face mask. I was confused by the science and didn't really know if a home made version would be beneficial. The advice is constantly evolving but it now seems certain that a face covering of some sort can help in the fight against spreading Covid-19. Anyway. It's no longer a choice. In Scotland and Wales, face coverings are already mandatory for shopping, whilst England belatedly falls in line on July 24th. Time to get sewing. Masks look like they're going to become a wardrobe staple so you might as well have one you feel proud of.
My own mask is based on a pattern I found on the UK government website.
Yes. I'll just let that sink in. A government face mask? Really? Has a make-do and mend expert been installed at No 10 WW2 style?
Well no - not quite! The government website makes it clear that it's not recommending any particular face covering, but it's picked out a random pattern from the many available to demonstrate the sewing basics, and I have to say, it's pretty good.
Having sewn and seen a few different masks, I've realised that they're just like knickers. In other words, some provide more coverage than others. I'm a big-knicker girl (think Bridget Jones on date night) so this style suits me down to the ground. However, it needed a few tweaks to get the close fit I wanted.
For me, the issue with face coverings is that they sometimes leave a gap over the nose, which isn't ideal. So I went one step further and threaded some lightweight garden wire into the top channel. I cut the wire a couple of centimetres shorter than the length of my mask and bent over the ends of the wire to make them safe. I also cut an extra strip of fabric and stitched it over the top of the channel to create more padding. The wire means you can mould the mask properly to the face.
I also changed the elastic. I cut mine twice as long and experimented with tying the two top elastics at the back of my head, and the two bottom ones around my neck. I find this style much more comfortable than the ear loops.
So there you go. My hacked version of a basic mask. You can hand or machine wash it, but you might want to make a little matching drawstring bag that the mask can be washed in too, just to protect your washing machine from the wire. It's useful for storage too.
Whilst checking out different patterns, I also came across this one by Juliet Uzor - the Sewing Bee 2019 winner. It uses a dinner plate as a pattern, fits reasonably well and is nice and simple to make (she hand-sews hers). I did adapt the elastic to my own preference though.
If you're a Sewing Bee fan you can also find fun tutorials from Patrick and Esme both of which made me laugh - and let's face it we ALL need a laugh right now! Whichever pattern you settle on (and there are literally hundreds out there) you'll probably have to make a couple of adaptations to get your perfect fit. It's couture darling...not ready to wear! But it's well worth the effort. You can opt to recycle an old shirt perhaps or a pillowcase (sturdy closely woven cotton fabrics like quilter’s cotton are meant to be good) and even match your masks to your outfits. And let's be honest: making a re-usable mask is much better news for the environment. All those throwaway versions spell disaster for the oceans.
A final resource that's worth exploring is Gathered which I've always found to be a great go-to for free sewing patterns. There you'll find three face covering options including a shaped mask style (available in different sizes) with a nose wire and a filter pocket from Burda. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks very well designed.
Whatever you do. Have a go and adapt as you sew and remember to always follow the correct procedure for putting your mask on and taking it off.
Safe sewing everyone!