How To Sew A Face Mask With Filter Pocket

Each time I sew another face mask, I try to add a feature that provides additional options to healthcare providers, so let’s tackle sewing a face mask with a filter pocket.

I already talked about how to sew a basic face mask with elastic, as well as making a face mask with ties.

This face mask tutorial combines what I consider to be the best practices (and easiest approaches) of the variety of face mask tutorials that are out there. The best part about this one, I feel, is that people can add some type of filtering to mask on the fly and add a removable nose-bridge tightening doohickey. Yes, doohickey is the “technical” term…

Mask Filter and Nose Bridge Options

Before we get started on sewing, I want to provide some information on materials you might use for the removable filter and the nose bridge pieces.

Some of the filter options I have seen across the web are:

– Lightweight non-woven fabric

– Feminine pads (not sure how this would work, exactly, but did see this on a post somewhere)

– Two layers of paper towels. A single blue shop towel is also a decent filter.

Some of the nose-bridge bending doohickey ideas are:

– Unfolded paper clip

– Pipe cleaners

– Twist ties the ones with the plastic coating, not paper

My additions to this list because, (eek!) I don’t have any paper clips, but I did have these on-hand are:

Floral wire (on the thicker side)

Jewelry wire, around 16 gauge (this is what I used for the tutorial)

Handling The Nose Bridge Wire

For any of the above, I highly recommend you put something around the each end of the wire (even after bending the ends over) so that it doesn’t poke through the fabric.

Since I don’t expect the wire to go through the wash, I used blue painter’s tape which worked really well. I know that some people are just sewing the wire into the top fold of the mask, which could also work. I wanted this design to be a little more flexible (no pun intended) overall.

Not to mention, with jewelry wire, it will likely harden after being “worked” when washed and dried therefore the nose bridge won’t work any more.

When I donate these masks, I will provide nose bridge extras to start and then recommend people use paper clips.

Another key note: My expectation is that in a clinical setting, these masks will be used a handful of times, at most.

Each mask will be washed and dried at high heat A LOT therefore we don’t yet know what the wear and tear will be with the fabric. So I am not designing for truly long-term use.

I want these face masks, instead, to be as functional and comfortable as possible.

These face masks are a crisis option and hopefully hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes across the United States will have the real deal available to them regularly soon.

So let’s get started with the tutorial.

DIY Face Mask with Filter Pocket

This face mask body can be finished with elastic or with ties so I have provided a list of materials for both types.

Materials to sew a face mask with filter pocket and elastic

MASK WITH ELASTIC (pictured above)

– One piece of 15″ x 7.5″ 100% cotton fabric

– Two 5″ pieces of double folded 1″ bias tape (store bought or make your own)

– Two pieces of 12″ – 14″ long elastic cord. I used rounded cord because it’s what I had on-hand. Other’s are using 1/4″ flat elastic too or even 5/8″ FOE. I will be trying the FOE in the future.

– Update: July 2020 – I no longer use a vacuum bag and instead, I stick with a two-layer fabric mask or a blue shop towel for the filter pocket.

– One 6″ piece of 16 gauge jewelry wire.

– Fabric pen if you like to mark your pleats

MASK WITH FABRIC TIES (not pictured, use this tutorial to finish with ties)

– One piece of 15″ x 7.5″ 100% cotton fabric

– Two 36″ pieces of double folded 1/2″ bias tape (store bought or make your own)

– One 6″ piece of 16 gauge jewelry wire (or paper clip)

– Fabric pen if you like to mark your pleats

Steps To Make Face Mask With Filter Pocket

Step One: Finish the short edges of the rectangle to prevent fraying.

I used a zigzag stitch since I don’t have a serger available. You can also use pinking shears if you have some.

Step Two: Fold the fabric in half so that the short edges are touching. Then, using 1/2″ seam allowance, sew 1.5″ toward the center from each edge.

Step Three: Finger press to open the seam then turn the fabric right sides out. Top stitch near the seam on both sides.

Prepare the face mask with filter and ties pocket

Step Four: Place the seam an inch down from the top, then sew all four sides of the fabric square using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step Five: Create and baste the pleats.

You don’t need to be super precise when you are securing the pleats because the bias tape (with elastic or ties) will be covering the edges of the mask. So, just use a basting stitch to save time and thread, if you’d like.

Step Six: Finish the face mask body with elastic or ties.

For this tutorial, the picture below shows you how to finish the body with the two small 6″ pieces of bias tape to use as a channel for the elastic.

Step Seven: Insert and secure the elastic. Then pull the knot into the channel so that it isn’t visible.

I used a pen to open up the channel before trying to insert my elastic. If you’re using flat elastic, attach a safety pin to the end and pull it through that way.

If you prefer to use fabric ties instead of elastic, just finish with bias tape like I did in this face mask with ties tutorial. The function of the pockets won’t change.

Step Eight: Prepare jewelry wire for the nose bridge, then insert the wire and the filter into the each pocket.

Step Nine: Admire the functional, finished face mask with filter pocket and repeat!

Finished face mask with filter pocket

Face Mask Maker Roll Call

I hope you found this tutorial on how to make a face mask with filter pocket helpful.

I will be sharing another soon about how to make a face mask with a filter that isn’t removable. My thinking is that this mask will be treated like a “one and done” and won’t need to make it through the wash.

In the meantime, I want to give a shout out to all the makers coming together to do what they can to support medical professionals worldwide. I am seeing so many posts about home sewers cranking out masks as fast as they can.

If you are making masks, please leave a comment below and let me know where you are located and the hospital you are donating to at this time. I want people to see how far reaching these acts of kindness are!

4 thoughts on “How To Sew A Face Mask With Filter Pocket

  • April 8, 2020 at 5:59 am
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    I’m making masks for a home care nurse in Trimble County , Kentucky. We have run out of elastic and began using hair ties. Before I was able to get them I was making them with ties made from new shoe laces, ties I made from fabric, hem binding. Every time I run out of something I try to think of something else. I have been using synthetic quilt batting for filters. Now I’m going to start making this pattern (pocket) for a local nursing home.

    • April 8, 2020 at 6:50 am
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      Lynn – Thank you for taking the time to comment. What you’re doing sounds wonderful! I’m so happy to know that this style is something that will be helpful to your community. If you need to save your fabric for masks instead of cutting or ripping it for ties, t-shirts are another great option: https://createtodonate.org/how-to-make-a-face-mask-with-ties-from-a-t-shirt/.

      Keep up the great work! Kind regards, Dana

  • April 15, 2020 at 10:21 am
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    Thank you, this is a very understandable tutorial.
    Just one question- while I realize that the opening is small, how to you keep the wire from moving around while wearing the mask?

    • April 15, 2020 at 10:35 am
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      Joana – Thank you for the comment and the kind words. What I’ve found is that because the wire is formed to the nose, it doesn’t move around. Plus, if the seal and fit are fairly secure for the whole mask, the wire is held in place.

      If you have any other questions or would like to see any additional tutorials, please let me know. Kind regards, Dana

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