April 15, 2020

Fabric face mask instructions

These step-by-step instructions will help you make personal, nonclinical masks to protect yourself and others from the spread of COVID-19.

For those interested in making masks to wear in nonclinical settings or for personal use, Kaiser Permanente offers step-by-step instructions for making masks (also available in Spanish and Chinese) and an accompanying how-to video. Even homemade masks need to meet certain specifications in order to be effective. Please, if you are sharing the community masks you are making with others, masks should be washed before wear.

Here's what you'll need


  • All materials must be latex-free.
  • One piece of fabric 15 1/2 inches long and 7 1/2 inches wide to make one small/medium-sized mask.
  • 2 strips of fabric 1 1/2 inches by 36 inches for ties.

Fabric type

NOTE: Please wash and dry your fabric 2 to 3 times before cutting. These masks will be laundered over and over again and we don’t want them to shrink. Use cotton because it is breathable and can withstand excessive laundering.

Use either fabric:

  • 100% cotton or cotton blend woven 6 to 8 ounces (in densities similar to dress shirt or bed sheet fabrics).
  • 100% cotton or cotton blend jersey knit 6 to 8 ounces.
  • All masks will use 2 layers of fabric per the pattern and instructions.

Fabric color

  • Lighter colors preferred 


  • Polyester or cotton

Sewing instructions

  • Use 2 1/4 inches or 2 1/2 inches stitch length on your sewing machine (or 10 to 12 stitches per inch). Back-stitch for strength where indicated. The seams need to be strong enough to withstand wearing, as well as laundering in heavy-duty washers and dryers.


Step 1

Use the pattern to get measurements and  cut your fabric to size. (15 1/2 inches by 7 1/2 inches).

Step 2

Fold the fabric in half (to 7 3/4 inches by 7 1/2 inches), right sides together. Sew a seam on the side opposite the fold with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Back-stitch about 3 stitches at the beginning and end of the seam.

Step 3

Turn the piece so the right side of the fabric is facing out and press the seam. 

Step 4

Stitch down each of the open sides with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. This will hold the layers together when you pleat so they do not act independently. 

Step 5

On the mask, measure down from the folded edge, mark at 1 1/2 inches, 1 1/2 inches, 1 inch, 1 1/2 inches per the pattern on each side of the mask. 

Step 6

Starting near the foldline, create the first pleat by bringing the first mark to the second mark on both sides of the mask and pin into place. For the second pleat, bring the third mark to the fourth mark on both sides of the mask and pin into place. 

Step 7

Sew the pleats down on each side. Do not sew over pins. Take them out as you go. 

Step 8

Turn the mask so the seam from Step 1 is on the top and pleats open toward the top of the mask. Mark 7/8 inch from the top pleat on each side.

Step 9

Pin the top pleat to the 7/8-inch mark on each side. 

Step 10

Sew the 7/8-inch pleat down on each side. This final pleat allows the mask to cup over the nose and to hug the side of the face. 

Step 11

  1. Trim the side edges of the mask about 1/16 inch (and no more than 1/8 inch) to clean up threads and straighten the sides. 
  2.  The mask part is done. Now attach strips of fabric that will tie at the back of the head. (Picture reflects results after completing both steps 1 and 2.)

Step 12

  1. Cut out 2 strips of fabric 1 1/2 inches by 36 inches.
  2. Once they are cut out fold the strips in half and mark the center.
  3. On the mask, mark the center of the 2 short sides.

Step 13

Pin the center mark of the strip to the center mark on the short edge of the mask, right sides together. Sew at 1/4 inch. 

Step 14

Press each long side of the strip in 1/4 inch. Double fold the strip in so you are enclosing the edge of the mask and the edges of the strip and sew from one end of the strip to the other close to the open edge. Back-stitch at the beginning and the end. 

Step 15

Repeat steps 12 to 14 on the remaining side of the mask with the other strip. 

Step 16

Clip loose threads. Please now wash the mask before wearing. 

All images: ©2020 by Suzy Furrer, Apparel Arts. Used with permission.