Need a quick, simple mask pattern for donation masks or for making a bunch of easy to wear and wash masks? Like the idea of a mask that doubles as a headband so you are unlikely to forget it or lose it? Ta da!
I’ve finally done it – I cracked the code for an easy, comfortable mask/headband that is simple enough to be handsewn by someone with the most minimal needle threading skills, and quick enough to be sewn in large numbers for meaningful donation efforts.
Seriously though… I think I’ve tested every pattern on the internet for making face masks. There’s the ones that use plates, the ones that use socks, the ones that involve measuring your face… My brain is a bulldog and I literally fall asleep turning over pattern pieces and materials in my mind, trying to get a better fit that sews up snappily. I’m thinking in terms of mass production too. If someone wants to make and donate masks, they are going to burn out quickly with a pattern that requires too many fiddly and painstaking steps like pinning, pleating and ironing. Screw that!
But here’s the thing, I am unwilling to let go of functionality. The simplest mask patterns just do not fit well or work… Sock/tee shirt masks are pretty useless.
My first blue shop towel lined mask style was highly detailed with a nose clamp, and a sewn layer of blue shop cloth towel to serve as a filter. I developed this pattern with healthcare aides and front line workers in mind. Each mask took 30-40 minutes to complete. I was able to reach my goal of 550 masks made with the help of some other sewers, but it took a while! When the call went out for masks for the Navajo Nation, I wanted to start sewing again but I wanted a simpler and faster mask that could also be worn without the filter if desired, in outdoor situations and for lighter duty use by individuals while they shop or exercise.
In order to work a mask has to securely cover your mouth and nose and the fabric has to actually offer some amount of both blockage (your sneeze stays in) and filtration (other peoples germs stay out).
I refuse to play with pleats, so I knew I was going to go with a gathered style. But gathering rectangles of multiple layers of woven cotton is not ideal. The layers are too bulky which results in poor mask fit/comfort. This problem goes away when you use a stretchy knit fabric, but so does the filtration and blockage that you get from the woven fabric.
Then it hit me… combine the two! By sewing soft and stretchy knit channels onto the sides of a woven fabric pocket, you get the best of both worlds.
The pattern is very VERY basic. For each mask you need a rectangle of woven fabric and two rectangles of knit fabric. You could probably make a dozen masks or more from one old sheet and two tees that you are done with. I’m including pattern sizes for adult xs/s (7 x11.5) and l/xl (8×14).
You can size down for a kid’s mask easily by subtracting an inch or two and making the size channels shorter.
Simple Instructions for Easy 10 Minute Mask:
Finish the top and bottom edges of your rectangle (the short sides) with a serger or by rolling under 1/4 inch and topstitching.
Fold your knit pieces (channels) in half lengthwise. Measure up 2 inches from the bottom of the woven rectangle and place channels on the right side of the fabric. Sew the knit channel pieces to the woven mask piece edge, raw edges facing out. (see photo).
Fold the woven mask piece into a pouch as follows: Fold the top part down (rightsides together), lining up the fold line with the top of the channels. Fold the bottom part up, lining up the fold line with the bottom of the channels. The bottom part will overlap the top.
Stitch along the right and left sides, going over or just inside the line where you stitched down the channels. Trim and turn the piece right sides out.
Top stitch along the edge near the channel, if desired. Thread with your choice of ties/closures. I like to add toggles and beads for both style and function!
Closures for Easy 10 Minute Mask:
There are many choices besides elastic for this mask. These include tee-shirt yarn (there are many many tutorials on how to make tee shirt yarn on YouTube), ribbon, bias tape, cloth strips. For donation masks I prefer the tee shirt yarn – it is easy to produce in bulk and soft and comfy.
For my own personal use I prefer soft round elastic, and am using a soft poly bungees cord along with a plastic toggle lock that helps to get the best fit.
The toggles work will with tee shirt yarn as well. Beads are a fun way to add style to either type of closure. It’s also possible to make earloops with a soft elastic, if that is your preference.
Bonus: This mask looks and feels great when worn as a headband too!
Mass producing the easy 10 minute mask:
Some turbo-charging steps I took when making these masks for donation:
- Cut out all the woven rectangles
- Finish top and bottom edges ( I used a serger)
- Make bulk channels. Rather than cutting individual rectangles for channels I cut long strips of tee material in the right width, folded in half and serged long tubes. This allows me to cut the length I need as I am working and not have to fold and line up (less fiddly) when I attach the channels. You could do the same with a zigzag stitch.
- Bulk task the sewing tasks. That means doing all the channels in one fell swoop. Then all the envelopes, all the trimming and turning, and all the topstitching. Get someone to help you trim and turn, and to help thread the ties too!
Notes on wearing these easy 10 minute masks:
These are NOT medical masks. They are what I would call light duty masks or simply “face coverings”. Their performance depends a lot on how you wear them. Because they do not seal at the nose, you will have to wear them a little more tightly if you want to minimize airflow in and out the top of the mask. They will need to be washed frequently, which should not be a problem with these materials.
Two layers of tightly woven cotton filter pretty well, but for certain (indoor and prolonged) situations, you might want to add a filter. Filtration can be vastly improved by adding in a coffee filter or a square of blue shop cloth (also washable) inside the pocket as an added layer.
If you are wearing this as a headband and get really sweaty, that is going to affect your mask’s performance plus might be a little icky, so please keep this in mind! Likewise if you are coughing and sneezing, you probably don’t want to wear the mask as a headband afterwards. But you probably didn’t need me to tell you this right?
Happy masking! Please tag me if you make this mask!