The CDC currently recommends wearing a cloth mask when going in public, but they can have long wait times for shipping when you buy them. That’s why it’s helpful to know how to make your own homemade face mask!
How to Make a Face Mask from a T-Shirt
This tutorial will show you how to make your own DIY face mask by hand or with a Cricut Maker. You don’t need fancy material or elastic — both of which can be hard to find right now — you can make a cloth mask with whatever you have at home!
For your convenience in re-creating our DIY face mask, this post includes shop-able ad links to the supplies we used; read our disclosure policy here.
CDC Now Recommends Wearing a Cloth Face Mask in Public
The new guidelines recommend “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
“cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
Do Cloth Face Masks Work?
Cloth masks serve three main purposes:
- Prevent the wearer from spreading germs to others.
- Keep the surface of another mask clean (N95 or surgical mask), when cloth mask is worn on top.
- Can be used by healthcare workers when caring for regular patients, saving N95 masks for working with COVID patients.
1. Wearing a Cloth Mask Protects Others Around Us
Here’s the interesting thing: experts don’t want you to wear a cloth mask to protect yourself. The main reason to wear a cloth mask is to protect others by preventing the wearer from spreading germs.
A large number of those infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and may unknowingly spread the disease to if they go out in public. Even those who do experience symptoms or receive and official diagnosis often did not have symptoms right away.
If EVERYONE wore face masks during necessary outings, then everyone would be safer.
2. Wearing a Cloth Mask Protects an N95 Mask
Another use for cloth masks is to protect your primary mask. For example, if you have an N95 mask or surgical mask, you could wear a fabric mask over your other mask to help keep it clean.
My friend Marlene is a surgical tech at a hospital here in Houston and she’s been making cloth masks for herself and her co-workers. She explains that since they don’t have enough NN95 masks to wear all the time, some are wearing cloth masks over their N95.
“We’re issued ONE [N95 mask] and we’re to keep it clean until we use it on a positive patient. So some nurses do wear [a cloth mask] over [their N95 mask].”
3. Cloth Masks are Being Used by Healthcare Workers
It’s no secret that there is a shortage of N95 and surgical masks right now. Many of our health care heroes are using cloth masks for regular patients, to save N95 and surgical masks for when they are most needed.
In addition to wearing cloth masks to protect their N95 mask, Marlene tells me that some “staff is wearing them directly over their face on the floor. The cloth masks are just a personal protection while we save on hospital masks. We use the N95 when we get a positive patient.”
It’s important to note that a cloth mask alone is not rated for disease control by the CDC.
From the CDC: “Most face masks do not effectively filter small particles from the air and do not prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales.
When professional face masks are not available, healthcare personnel might use homemade masks for care of patients as a last resort. However, caution should be exercised when considering this option, since their capacity to protect healthcare personnel is unknown.”
Do Activated Charcoal Filters Work to Trap Viruses?
If you look at cloth mask designs online, you may notice that some of them are sold with disposable activated charcoal filter inserts.
Adding a carbon filter to your cloth mask may increase the ability of your mask to trap droplets, though it won’t offer complete protection of airborne virus particles.
My good friend is a physicist, and believes that the addition of a filter is better than no filter at all. For that reason, I left the sides of our cloth mask design open, so you can add a filter insert if desired.
How Often Do I Need to Wash My Cloth Mask?
The handy thing about cloth masks is that they are washable and reusable. You should definitely wash your mask anytime you’ve worn it in public.
In an interview with NPR, infectious disease expert Dr. Daniel Griffin tells us to “think of a mask as like underwear. It needs to be washed after each use.”
Well, when you put it that way!
TIP: When washing your cloth mask, use a mesh laundry bag. Designed to protect delicates in the washing machine, this will help your fabric mask last longer.
What You Need to Make This Easy Homemade Face Mask
The awesome thing about making a cloth mask is that you can use just about anything! We used an old t-shirt and shoelaces, as ordering fabric online can be pricey, and elastic was back-ordered for months when I looked!
If you have traditional fabric by-the-yard and/or sewing elastic, feel free to use those! T-shirt material has a bit of stretch to it and can be a little trickier to sew.
However, if you need to make a mask, it’s good to know that you can make one even without traditional sewing supplies!
Here’s what we used:
- Cloth Face Mask Pattern in Cricut Design Space or PDF for printing
- An old T-Shirt — or other cotton material; tightly woven 100% cotton or a cotton-poly blend is recommended.
- 2 Shoestrings — We used shoestrings because elastic is hard to find right now. You could also try using a stretchy t-shirt yarn like this one.
- Chalk or fabric marking pen — for tracing the pattern onto your t-shirt
- Sewing machine — Though this pattern is simple enough you could sew it by hand with a needle and thread if you don’t have a sewing machine!
- Cricut Maker + Everything Materials Bundle — A Cricut Maker makes it super easy to crank out multiple masks! But we’ll also show you how to make masks by hand!
- Activated charcoal filter insert — optional; increases the ability of a mask to trap airborne particles and droplets, but does not offer complete protection from viruses.
How to Make a Homemade Face Mask
We started with the adult face mask pattern in Cricut Design Space — but if you don’t have a Cricut, you can still make this mask! Keep reading and we’ll show you how!
Method 1: Making a Cloth Face Mask Using a Cricut
If you own a Cricut Maker or Explore, click here to view the project in Cricut Design Space.
There are two ways to make the project with your Cricut:
- Cut out the pattern onto card stock and use it to trace the design by hand onto material. This method is ideal if you’re going to make masks on multiple days or want to share the pattern with friends/family who might not have a Cricut at home.
- Cut the design out of your fabric using your Cricut Maker. This allows you to skip the step of drawing and tracing onto fabric and makes a perfectly even cut.
To cut out the design on fabric using your Cricut Maker or Explore you’ll need the following tools, in addition to what we listed above:
- Cricut Maker + Everything Materials Bundle
- Washable Fabric Pen
- FabricGrip Machine Mat 12″ x 24″
- Rotary blade
Once you have all your materials ready, follow the directions in Cricut Design Space to complete the project.
Before you start, be sure to iron out any creases in your fabric. I used my Cricut EasyPress Mini because it heats up quickly and doesn’t take up hardly any space on my counter!
The Cricut Maker will both cut out the pattern pieces AND draw the lines where you’ll stitch the mask together.
The Cricut machine makes perfect cuts so all of your mask pieces are the exact same size.
However, if you don’t have a Cricut, you can still make this t-shirt mask! Keep reading to see how!
Related: Is a Cricut Worth the Price?
Method 2: Making a Fabric Mask by Hand
I used my Cricut Maker to cut out the pattern onto card stock. That way I could let my mother-in-law take the pattern and make masks too when I am finished with it.
However, if you don’t have a Cricut machine, you can draw the pattern and trace it onto your t-shirt. I took a picture of the pattern and noted the measurements at the widest and tallest points, so you can get an idea of sizing.
You can also download the pattern free, courtesy of Cricut – click here for the Adult SM/Med size pattern that I used for my mask. This is a good general size for adults, though Cricut also has a larger mask too.
Click here to see the other sizes (Adult Large and youth sizes) on Cricut’s blog. So awesome of them to provide these projects free to help out during this time!
Don’t worry if yours isn’t exactly the same size! I used the small/medium pattern from Cricut, so depending on your face shape, you might need to make yours a little larger or smaller than mine. You could also make it kid-sized!
First, you’ll trace the pattern onto your t-shirt:
Take the pieces you made from patterns labeled “2” and sew together along the curved side. Be sure that the inside of the shirt is facing outward, as we’ll flip our mask right-side-out when we’re all finished.
Do the same with the two pieces you cut from the patterns labeled “1.”
Take your longest mask piece (made from the “1” templates) and fold the outside edges inward about 1/2 inch. Pin so they stay in place and sew just beside the pins. You’re creating tunnels on each side of the mask for your straps.
You can see from the photo that t-shirt material can be tricky to cut perfectly, as it is a bit stretchy. I cut this one by hand, to show how it’s done.
Just remember that all these cuts and seams will be on the inside of the mask, so it’s no big deal if they aren’t perfect!
Line up your two face mask pieces so that the top and bottom edges are even and the middle seam matches up. Make sure all of your seams face outwards, as we will flip the mask after we’re done sewing.
Sew along the top and the bottom of the mask, making sure to stop 1/2″ from each edge so you don’t block the tunnel you made for your straps.
Now, flip your mask inside-out (or right-side-out actually!) and sew along the top and bottom again to reinforce the seams. Again, take care not to block the channel you made for your straps.
Thread your elastic or shoelace through the channel you created on each side of your mask:
You’ll notice that we did not sew the sides up. This allows us to slip an Activated charcoal filter insert in the middle of your mask to add more protection.
A printable copy of these instructions is available at the bottom of the post.
What if I Don’t Have a Sewing Machine?
No worries! If you don’t have a sewing machine at home, you can still make a t-shirt fabric mask!
This is such a simple project that you could sew it by hand with a needle and thread. It’s perfect to do while you’re watching TV!
You can also make masks for friends and family who don’t have one, or don’t have a sewing machine themselves. I’ve made about 10 so far – I kind of loved making them after a while!
What if I Don’t Know How to Sew?
If you have a needle and thread, you can make this mask!
It’s been over 15 years since I last touched a sewing machine (in theater class). However, I was still able to whip up my first mask in about an hour.
Now that I’ve got the hang of it, I could make this much faster!
Trust me when I say that if I can make this homemade face mask…anyone can! Just give it a try!
Step-by-Step Instructions to Make a Fabric Face Mask:
Homemade Cloth Face Mask from a T-Shirt
- Sewing Machine or Needle & Thread
- Chalk or fabric marking pen
- Cloth Face Mask Pattern
- 1 T-shirt
- 2 Shoelaces or elastic
- Cut out face mask pattern onto thick card stock using Cricut Maker or by hand.
- Cut t-shirt so that you've removed the sleeves, neckline, etc. and you have a flat piece of material.
- Trace pattern onto t-shirt using chalk or fabric marking pen and cut out the pieces. You should have 4 separate pieces.
- Take the smaller pieces (labeled "2" in photo) and sew together along the long, curved side.
- Do the same for the larger pieces (labeled "1" in photo).
- Take the longest piece (which will be the front of the mask) and fold over the outside edges about 1/2" - towards the middle seam you just sewed. Sew these folds, leaving enough room to thread a shoelace or elastic through.
- Place the two pieces of fabric together, seams on the outside. Sew along the top and bottom, leaving 1/2" at the edge so you don't block the opening for your shoelaces/elastic. Leave the sides unattached - this will allow you to slip a filter inside if desired.
- Flip the mask right-side out, through the openings you left on the side of the mask. The seams you sewed should be inside now.
- Reinforce mask my sewing along the top and bottom again.
- Thread a shoelace through the channel on either side of the mask. This will be used to tie the mask onto your face.
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