The Perfect Face Mask

3 sizes of masks, PDF pattern link below in text

We’ve been dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic for well over a year now and I have finally discovered the perfect face mask. At least it fits me, and DB, and my mom, pretty darned perfectly. They are also very simple to make yourself.

I was finally able to travel to the U.S. to visit my mom early this month and I wanted some new face masks for the long plane ride. I also wanted to make them myself because, well, I can. I was looking around the internet for fabric and mask components and came across everything I needed at Textielstad. They had fabric on sale for only 5 euro that was printed with masks in various prints that you just needed to cut out and sew together. They also sold the metal nose bands so important to glasses wearers. I was really excited to find a special interfacing that is sold as a mask filter, so my masks would be 3 layers yet still breathable. I still had lining fabric I could use (100% cotton). Here’s what I started with:

pre-printed mask fabric
filter fabric, lining fabric, nose clips, elastic and example masks

I quickly discovered that the mask fabric was printed in 2 mask sizes. I made several of each. I liked how the larger ones fit, but they were still too small for DB’s manly nose. So I created a larger size by simply adding a seam allowance around the larger size, which fits him perfectly. I took my masks with me to the U.S. and ended up giving my mom the small ones I had made, which fit her well.

This week DB is going back to work at an actual office so I made a couple of new masks with this pattern for him. Then I decided to make paper patterns of the different sizes because I like them so much and want to share them with the world. 🙂

Here is the pdf file. Below is a short description of how I made the masks. If you know how to sew, this should be pretty obvious. If you are a beginning sewer, these masks are a great place to start honing your skills! Print out the file and make sure that the 2cm / 3/4″ square measures correctly after printing and adjust the scaling as needed for your printer.

Cut out the pieces in the outside fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric is best), the filter fabric (if using) and the lining fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric, or plain white sheeting is best).

With right sides together, sew each layer together along the front seam with 1cm / 3/8″ seam allowance.

Then trim the seams and snip them along the curves to that they will lay flat when opened.

Open up the pieces. Put the outside and lining fabrics together, right sides facing. Then lay the filter fabric against the lining fabric. It doesn’t matter which side of the filter fabric faces the lining fabric. Pin the top and bottom edges of all 3 layers together and sew the seams with the same 1cm / 3/8″ seam allowance. Again, trim the seams and snip the curves.

Turn right side out by opening up between the outside and lining fabrics and pull through.

Next I did a first pass at top stitching along the top nose of the mask. I did this now because it is easier to put the metal nose piece in after topstitching. If you are not putting in a nose piece, you can skip the top stitching for now and go on to the elastic ear pieces.

Press the seam flat with your fingers and top stitch along the top curve from about 2cm from the edges (not all the way to the edges because you still have to add elastic and turn those edges in).

pinning the nose piece in place

Slide the metal nose piece between the lining and filter, centering it horizontally and pushing it snug up to the top of the mask as far as it will go. Then stitch from edge to edge, under the metal piece, so that it will stay in place. Be careful not to hit the metal with your needle! Oops, replace the needle if needed.

outside view
inside view

Now time to add elastic and finish top stitching.

Cut elastic to the size indicated on the pattern pieces (or a size you think will fit you best). Fold in the edges 1cm / 3/8″, tucking it all neatly in. Slide the elastic in between the layers and pin in place. Do this on both sides.

Beginning at the top where you left off the previous top stitching, continue stitching all around the mask, from top, the sides (back stitch over the elastic to make sure it is strongly attached), around the bottom (make sure the seam is well open) and up the other side to meet up with the previous top stitching.

And you’re done!

One last thing – for the large size, I made a small tuck on the sides. This makes the mask itself the right volume for the face, but takes less room on the side and seems to fit better. This is a matter of choice and you might try both ways to see what works better. Here’s a photo of the tucks (one for the outside fabric, one on the inside for the lining/filter). I didn’t do this tucking for the medium and small sizes.

Here are finished photos of the 3 sizes so you get an idea of the differences in them. I hope you find this useful, even at this late date in the pandemic. I hope that we in the Western world are more used to wearing masks now so that even if you have a cold and still have to ride a train you will wear a mask as a courtesy to your fellow passengers. When I was working in Thailand I was impressed by how people cared about each other and masked-up when they were sick. Maybe I’m only wishful thinking that the rest of us will be so considerate.

top to bottom: large (with tucked edges), medium, small

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