Since the CDC just recommended that everyone wear a face mask in public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, it’s time to talk about another way to make a face mask with ties.
In my original DIY face mask that ties tutorial, the ties are attached permanently to the face mask using packaged bias tape. I started with this option because you don’t have to cut or fold the tape. And, since the folds are done for you, it’s as simple as folding part of it over the basted short edge and sewing it all together.
Not everyone has packaged bias tape in their supplies, though. And of those don’t have bias tape on-hand, many of them don’t want to make their own.
For some, it feels too complex and for others, it feels time consuming. Because, let’s face it, we’re all trying to crank out masks as fast as we can and for each of us, certain tasks feel like a leisurely walk, while other tasks feel like climbing a steep mountain.
Use T-shirt Ties Instead Of Bias Tape
The happy medium? Making t-shirt ties! T-shirt ties don’t fray (when you use 100% cotton tees) and they are super soft on the scalp/ears/head. And that’s not event the best part! A face mask with t-shirt ties face provides a little stretch/give that allows someone to make easy adjustments on how well they can secure the mask.
How To Make A T-shirt Yarn
Now, you don’t have to make a ball of yarn and could just cut straight strips from the bottom of a t-shirt, but balling it up as a continuous strip cuts down on waste. This is why I recommend yarn instead of single strips for this project. If you’re in a rush, however, cut a line straight through the t-shirt tube and don’t look back!
The video below demonstrates the basic technique for making t-shirt yarn. For the purpose of a face mask, I recommend cutting 1.5″ and 2″ strips depending on how you’re going to use it.
If you treat it like bias binding (which I will show in the tutorial below) then you want 2″. If you are going to thread it through a casing, then 1.5″ is fine.
The reason for the wider cut is to give the tie a little more heft. Typically when people use t-shirt yarn, they are knitting it all together so the finished item is stronger than a single strand on its own. In this case, the t-shirt ties will have daily stress on them without any reinforcement so making them thicker will help.
Your Face Mask With T-shirt Ties Awaits!
For this face mask with ties, I’m going to go with the basic pattern again – meaning it isn’t a mask with a filter pocket, but I am going to make a little nose bridge pocket.
For my filter, what I’m going to do instead of a pocket, is use a tea towel (aka flour sack towel). Not only will the towel not add bulk, but Standford Medicine listed it as 83% effective as a filtering material. If you don’t have a tea towel, then just use the top portion of the t-shirt you cut up. It’s listed as 70% effective in that same article.
Materials You’ll Need For This Project
For this face mask design, you’ll need the following:
- Two 9′ x 7.5″ rectangles of 100% cotton fabric – one patterned, one solid. I have been using muslin as my solid, because of the tight weave and I have a bunch on-hand.
- One 100% cotton shirt sized adult large (or bigger). If you aren’t making yarn, then side seams are OK.
- One flour sack towel (optional)
- One 9″ x 3″ strip of fabric (if you want to add nose bridge casing)
How to Sew A Face Mask with T-shirt Ties
Sewing a face mask with t-shirt ties isn’t really all that different than sewing one with bias tape as ties. The knit material is just a little bit more fussy since it rolls inward.
Face Mask Tips & Tricks
But first, as always, some important notes:
- Sewing the mask with two different patterns allows for an easy visual cue as to which side has been used for the back versus the front. I have opted to use one color (in this case muslin) because it is VERY obvious which side should be the back. This has been a great visual cue for me as well.
- Pleats should go “down” on the front side of the mask. This allows any droplets to ‘slide’ off the mask instead of getting caught in the folds. This is another reason for different patterns or a solid color on the back. It will allow you to know which way to start your pleats.
- A nose bridge is important for people who wear glasses because it helps ‘seal’ the mask to the face. With a nose bridge, eye glasses won’t fog up all the time. For those who don’t wear glasses, it’s not essential. It does create a tighter fit, though, which means less places for germs to sneak in.
- Some patterns call for a 9″ x 6″ rectangle, but I found that was too short to make a nice-fitting mask with 2-3 pleats.
6 Easy Steps To Make A Face Mask
Here is a quickie explanation for the experienced sewers:
- Make t-shirt ties 30″ in length.
- Create a fabric sandwich where the patterned fabric is in the middle of the solid color and the “filter” fabric you’re using. The right sides of the patterned fabric and solid fabric should be together and the wrong side of the patterned fabric should be on top of the filter fabric.
- Clip or pin (because the filter fabric may act squirrely) then sew the top and bottom long edges with 1/4″ seam allowance. Turn it right sides out. Now the filter fabric should be the middle layer.
- Top stitch the top and bottom edges.
- Add 2-3 pleats, clip, and baste with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Bind the pleated rectangle with 2″ wide jersey knit material that measures 30″ in length (when not being pulled taut).
- OPTIONAL: To add a nose bridge, take the small piece of fabric and fold it as though you were making bias tape. Take the edges and fold toward the center. Make sure to finish the ends. The finished pieces should be around 8″ x 3/4″. Place the fabric piece just underneath the top stitching. Use the stitching as a guide to top stitch the little piece of fabric onto the front of the mask to create a channel. Use a paper clip, jewelry wire, or plastic coated copper wire as the nose clamp.
Photo Tutorial of Face Mask Construction
Step One: Prepare the 2″ wide t-shirt ties for the face mask.
Cut the t-shirt in 2″ wide strips. Then, cut open of side of the tube and tuuuugg to make a long tie.
Step Two: Sandwich the three layers of fabric together. Clip the sides, then sew the top and bottom long edges with a 1/4 seam allowance.
Step Three: Turn the fabric right sides out, then top stitch the edges.
Step Four: Create pleats, clip, and baste with 1/4″ seam allowance.
Step Five: Attach the t-shirt binding, clip, and secure the binding to the mask body with a zigzag stitch.
The whole zigzag stitch should be on most of the t-shirt material and the mask body (not the edge). Because the t-shirt material (aka jersey knit) doesn’t fray, it’s OK that it’s an unfinished edge that rolls a little.
A Finished Face Mask With Ties From A Tee
Optional: Add a nose bridge
You can put on the mask as-is and head out for your essential activities. If you wear glasses, however, you’re going to want to add a nose bridge. There are many ways to do include a nose bridge. I find that adding it after the fact, however, is one of the easiest. You will never mess up the mask because you ‘forgot to add the nose bridge pocket’.
Steps To Create Nose Bridge Casing
- Take the small piece of fabric and fold it in half. The take the edges and fold those toward the center. The finished piece should be around 8″ x 3/4″.
- Sew the two ends closed to ensure they don’t open and fray.
- Take the piece of fabric and top stitch the top and bottom edges to the top of the mask. Remember, you want the pleats “down”. So, you’ll want to pay attention to the orientation of the mask body before you sew down the fabric.
- Insert your nose clamp medium (e.g., paper clip or jewelry wire or plastic coated copper wire, etc.)
Share The Goods
If you are an organization in need of handmade items (not just face masks) please feel free to contact me and let me know more about your needs. There are a lot of people with home studios who want to contribute and are looking for a variety of ways to volunteer.