I just posted a 37-minute long video tutorial of how I make my face masks. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing you can jump to video headings or read the (mostly complete) script.

The masks are based on  Jesse Killion’s mask pattern. For a list of materials, see Mask Making materials.


For a list of materials I used, including Don McCunn’s template for bending the nose wire, see Mask making materials.

Video headings


(Except for the introduction and the part about fitting the sample)


Here is a note about fitting.  I make sure that people can open their mouths and yawn with the sample shell on.  That ensures that mask won’t be too tight.  Now it’s time to record the location of the pins and clips.  I use an order form that has spaces for fold back length, tuck length and distance from the center.  The fold back is from the original back edge to the new fold. 

The tuck length is the length of the tuck times two since it has two sides. 

The distance from the center is the distance from the center seam to the center of the tuck, which is the center of the clip. 

I record these so that I can dismantle the sample shell if I need to, or so I can make more masks in the future for the same person without having to remeasure.  Of course, if I can, I leave shell intact so I can see if the finished product matches the shell.  I also record the fabric swatches, the thread colors, which construction, cotton or cotton and  chiffon, and the tie or elastic preferences. 


To create a unique pattern, I find the pattern number that matches the shell.  Be sure to select the right number. 

I trace Jesse Killion’s mask pattern with a sharpie on a sheet of card stock.  Extend the back line above and below the mask.  Find your fold back measurement.  From the sharpie line on the right, measure to the left the fold back measurement.  This will be the new fold line. 

Cut the curved edge and the two sides up to the new fold line. 

Looking at the front, draw along the edges onto the back which is folded under the mask. 

Turn the mask over and draw onto the fold.  From this new line, measure out to the right either 1 1/4 inches or 1 3/8 inches.  Connect the marks.  Now you have the beginnings of a flap for the channel.  If you cut the pattern out as it is now, the edges will show from the front.  To make it look more finished, place your pencil at the corners and angle new lines towards the center on both sides and cut. 

Double check your pattern by looking at the front of the unique pattern and measuring from the fold line to the original sharpie line to its right.  Does it equal what you determined was the needed fold back length?  I keep all my jk patterns and unique patterns in a file.    


I buy most fabric in 1/2 yard pieces.  I zig zag the edges and wash and dry on hot.  When I am ready to make a mask, I iron it good side down and fold it back to the length of one mask.  Then I fold it in half.  I keep the selvage towards me and off the back edge of the ironing board so that when I lay the pattern down, the selvage ends up at the front and back of the mask.  This helps the mask stretch front to back nicely.  I can get 2 1/2 masks from a 1/2 yard of fabric.  Sharp 10″ scissors help. 

I will add another video about how to use chiffon as a permanent third layer. 


I start sewing the curves from the bottom of the mask right sides together.  I use the right edge of my presser foot as a guide.  My stitches are set at 3. 

After I sew the curves, I trim off the excess.


Here I clip the front and back together starting in the center.  I make sure that whichever way the seam allowances turn on the top is the way they turn on the bottom.  I only pin to the corners.  Then it’s back to the ironing board. 


Here I spray the edges and press them down by about 1/4 inch.  Our iron’s steam function is broken!  Make sure that you iron in just one direction so you don’t introduce wrinkles into the fabric.  


Snip off the little corners.  I usually start with top edge.  Again, the presser foot is my seam allowance.    I use my left thumb to keep the seam straight while backstiching.  This section starts with the pink mask.  I switch to an orange one to more clearly demonstrate trimming the excess, cutting the corners off and notching the internal and external corners.  For notching, it helps to anchor the scissors and curve the fabric to make little half moons.  Try not to get too close to the stitching. Notching helps the right side out mask to be nice and flat around the curves. 


Here you turn the mask right side out, being careful to force the corners out.  Either spray the mask or get your fingers damp to roll the edges out until they are even and press in preparation for stitching.  


I don’t start on the very edge.  That makes the machine jam.  I start in about a half inch, then back stitch, then forward stitch, again, letting my left thumb keep the stitches straight. 


Back at the ironing board, I either spray the whole mask or dampen my hands to roll all of the seams to their fullest extent and press all around.  Sorry my hands disappear for a moment!  We don’t work in Hollywood! 

Finish pressing by turning the flaps in at the corner and making a crisp crease by steaming the fold.  Make sure the back edges are even with each other.


Cut the bias tape a little inside the seam allowance on both ends. 


Start the stitching in a bit and back stitch.  Starting right at the edge can make the machine jam.  Reinforce the bottom of the U so the zip tie will be secure.  It takes me 3 stitches to go the width of the pocket. 

Mark the zip tie, clip and melt.  You can hold the zip tie above the flame.  Use your thumb to guide the closure stitches.  Be sure not to break a needle by sewing over the tie.  Trim excess bias tape.  Apply fray check.  Turn the flap in and secure.  I line the right side of my presser foot up with the left line of stitches made by the bias tape.  For a little looser channel, I leave a little bit more space.  Again, I don’t start at the very edge.  Too many layers of fabric will jam the machine.  When I made this video I accidentally threw away the good part of the zip tie and had to cut another. 


I start clipping in the middle of the mask and work out.  I leave about a 1/16 of an inch across the top so that the bias tape doesn’t creep over the top edge while I am sewing.  The bias tape extends to about half an inch from the side flaps. 

I cut 4 additional pieces of bias tape for the front boning pockets.  The top pocket extends from the bottom of the nose wire channel to just where the masks starts to curve down.  For smaller masks, about one inch.  The bottom boning pocket starts about an inch from the bottom edge and extends up about an inch and a half.  The side boning pockets are about 2 inches for smaller masks. 


Slowly stitch across the top, reinforcing well at the edges.  Make sure to pull the face of the mask straight with your left fingers to avoid puckering along the front. 


I use 1/2 inch bias tape for all of the pockets, but if someone is sensitive to pressure on their nose, I use a small piece of velvet instead.  It is softer.  It comes on rolls at Joann’s fabric. I bought an 1/8 of a yard. 

The top pocket takes the most time.  Make 3 distinct lines of stitches.  Down one side.  Down the other.  Then across the top, being sure to back stitch and reinforce across the top several times, since the outside edges of these pockets will have to endure the pressure of the zip ties.  Use your thumb to keep the stitches straight.  Also try to count stitches so that you don’t run off the bias tape and puncture the face of the mask. 

 As much as I try to line up the inside and outside layers, inevieitably one is farther to the left and one farther to the right.  When you are placing the vertical pocket bias tape, try to line them up according to the outside layer center seam.  If you line the bias tape according to the inside center seam, it will still work, but it will look funny on the outside. 


There is a trick to attaching the remaining pockets with fewer stops and starts.  Again, lining the bottom pocket up along the cetner of the outside layer and an inch from the bottom, place the mask so that the bulk of the mask is away from you.  This allows you to sew one side of the U, reinforce the short side, then back up the other edge without having to lift the needle. Sometimes if it takes 4 stitches across the little end, I move the fabric as it comes down the other side to get the remaining stitches away from the very edge of the bias tape.  It gets easier with practice. 


Why do I use 4 pockets instead of just a T that encloses the two zip ties?  Over time the fabric will stretch and the zip ties can get fatigued.  The 4 pockets allows people to replace the zip ties if necessary, and also increases air flow. 

Positioning these pockets can be tricky.  What I aim for is the bottom third of the mask.  If the tabs are long enough, I tuck the near end under the tab to try to hold it still.  I try to get the tab to point down toward the bottom of the mask at about 80 degrees. 

Place the bulk of the mask away from you, come down one side, reinforce at the bottom of the U and go back up the other side. 

Placing the other horizontal pocket piece is crucial.  First, pull your thread tails to the rear of the machine.  Your hands will be full by the time you get the mask on the machine.  Lay the mask open and place the second piece wrong side up on top of the first.  Close the mask while holding the pieces down.  Pull up while pulling the top piece of bias tape with you.  If you don’t get them directly across from each other, start again.  Getting these off kilter makes the mask crooked and you don’t want to seam rip them out and restitch them since that would leave big holes in the face of the mask. Lost focus a little.  Sorry.  This section ends with a shot of a sample shell that I had to fix.  You can see the big holes.  I fray check all the bias tape pockets.


I consult my notes about the tuck size.  The center of the pinch of my tuck is the tuck from center measurement.  Filling the clip creates an inch tuck.  Filling half a clip creates a half inch tuck.  I experimented a lot to figure out how to use my presser foot and the lines on the throat plate (what an awful name) to figure out how to make  tucks. 

I make a half inch tuck by lining up the corner of the tuck with the bottom right corner of my presser foot and show just a tiny bit of shadow in the oval in the presser foot.  I start stitching, then back stitch until the stitches run off the new edge, then down to the bottom, back stitch, and done. 

For an inch tuck, I line the corner of the tuck with the 10 on the throat plate, show just a tiny shadow in the right of the oval in the presser foot and sew as with the half inch.  Your machine might be different. 

However you figure out how to make exact tucks on your masks, make sure that you make the tucks on the inside of the mask.  The bias tape pockets should be looking at you while you make tucks.  After you make your first tuck, you can use it as a guide to the other. 


Insert the zip tie in the top or bottom and stretch the mask to figure out where to cut the other end of the zip tie.  Cut that end, remove it, melt both ends and re-insert. The zip tie should stretch it tight.  If your son works on cars, get your own pair of wire cutters.  Insert the horizontal tie and repeat.  Make sure the finished horizontal tie stretches the mask tight, as well. 


In this video I used t-shirt tie.  The description below tells where I got it.  I laid it out on a mat for rotary cutters and cut along the tiny lines about an inch.  I insert the crochet hook from the top so the loose ends come out the top. 

When I make one for someone else, I let them cut the ties after they figure out what is a good length.  If I use paracord, I use 46 inches per mask. 


This mask will have a copper wire.  I cut the wire about 7 inches long.  For adults, I pre bend it according to Don McCunn’s suggestions.  For kids, I pre bend the wire with a little shorter bridge since their noses are smaller.  For smaller masks, I end up trimming off about 3/4 inch off each end, making sure that the ends of the wire are far within the pocket.  Then I sand the ends of the wire.  When the person tries on the mask, I ask them to take the wire out and try to shape it to their nose and cheek bones for a good fit. 

Well, that’s all! 


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