Skip to Content

How To Sew A Face Mask That Ties

How To Sew A Face Mask That Ties

I’ve already shared how to sew a face mask that uses elastic, so today I want to show you how to sew a face mask with ties.

After speaking with a good friend of mine who is a nurse at a large hospital in the Bay Area, she reminded me that not everyone likes the face masks with elastic.

Sometimes they pinch too much, or the elastic leaves an indentation behind the ears and becomes uncomfortable over time.

At her hospital, she reminded me, people wear both types of masks: elastic and ones with ties.

It may not be the most popular, but it’s still good for our medical professionals to have options because we never know what they’re facing on a day-to-day basis.

So this is a quick tutorial on how to sew a face mask with ties.

face mask with ties tutorial

Simple Steps To Make A Face Mask That Ties

Please note: It may appear that the ties are going the wrong direction in the picture above, but making them vertical allows for people to ‘perch’ the first tie easily on top of their heads without it slipping as much.

UPDATED: This post was updated on March 30, 2020 to reflect some of the best practices I’ve learned after sewing several different patterns and from feedback received from the field.

Materials For A Pleated Face Mask That Ties

The materials you’ll need for this style face mask are:

100% cotton fabric with a fun pattern

The pattern helps differentiate the inside from the outside. Novelty or quilting cottons also have a tighter weave, which is preferred.

100% cotton solid fabric

In this tutorial, I used two layers of muslin.

You can use one layer of a solid cotton with no issue.1/2″ bias tape (store bought or make your own).

You will need two pieces that are 36″ each. Each one will be used to create the ties on each side.

Fabric marker

If you like to mark before pleating, you’ll want a fabric marker nearby. Personally, I am just winging it by pinching and clipping.

Tips And Tricks To Make This Style Of Face Mask

Sewing this style face mask is very straightforward.

First, 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.

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.

The Short & Sweet Tutorial Version

Here is a quickie explanation for the experienced sewers:

– Cut one 9″ x 7.5″ rectangle from the patterned fabric and one from the solid.

– Right sides together, sew the top and bottom long edges with 1/4″ seam allowance. Turn it right sides out.

– Top stitch the top and bottom edges.

– Add 2-3 pleats, clip, and baste with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

– Bind each side of the pleated rectangle with a 36″ pieces of bias tape. The length of each tie not bound to the mask ends up being 16″ from each corner.

Step-By-Step Face Mask Tutorial With Pictures

For those of you who would still like to see how it’s done, I have a step-by-step explanation below with some pictures thrown in to make sure things are clear.

Step One: Cut two 9 x 7.5″ pieces of fabric.

Step Two: Place right sides together and clip. Sew top and bottom edge using 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step Three: Turn the fabric right sides out.

Step Four: Top stitch the top and bottom edges with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step Five: Pinch and clip pleats, then baste with a 1/4″ seam allowance. The finished body ends up around 4″ high.

Step Six: Prepare the 36″ pieces of bias tape and sew both pieces onto the mask. (Read on for more specific details below.)

This step requires a little more explanation.

You’ll want to tie a knot at each each end of the tape to keep minimal fraying.

To be very specific, that’s a total of four knots (two for each tie).

I marked the middle of the bias tape with a clip so that the mask can be placed within the section of tape so that each tie is even.

When you sew the bias tape, make sure to start at the very end of the piece in order to sew the fold closed.

To make it easy, I placed and secured one tie at a time because the tape is long enough that clipping them at the same time would be annoying while sewing one down.

The length that will be used tie the mask behind the head ends up being 16 inches from each corner when the height of the mask is a four inches.

Done! A finished face mask with ties.
Finished Face mask with ties.

To create a more finished look, it’s best (of course) to use matching thread but since how pretty it looks is not as important as getting these to people in need as quickly as possible.

Also, for the purpose of the tutorial, I used a contrasting thread so you could see how the ties were finished. I have done masks with both a zigzag stitch (above) and straight line.

So, choose whichever works best for you.

Let’s Help Medical Professionals

I realize there are conflicting messages online about whether or not fabric face masks are acceptable.

So, as with any handmade donation, before you get started find out if local-area hospitals and clinics are accepting donations.

It’s also good to speak with friends and family in the medical profession to see how their organizations are handling this crisis.

If you want to connect with like-minded makers and sewers, hop over to my Where Can I Donate Face Masks? page to see if there is a group or organization that fits your needs and goals.

If you know of a medical professional in need, please contact me or leave a comment below so I can help get the word out. I also welcome suggestions of additional tutorials or featuring other organizations in need of donations.

Share ideas for good deeds!


Friday 17th of April 2020

What size fabric pieces would you use for a 4 and 6 year old?


Friday 17th of April 2020

Jayne, Thank you for your comment. What I have done for friends is this: for the 4 - 6 years olds, I use a 5" x 8" piece and for 8 - 12 year olds, I have been doing it at 6" x 9". That may seem big, but this allows for full coverage below the chin and it goes closer to the ears for a more comfortable fit around the head. As always, each child will have a preference but my ongoing assumption is that most kids won't like things that are too tight and therefore with it a little bit bigger they won't feel so constrained that they'll refuse to wear it. I know some patterns are more fitted, but that's not what works best for my group.

Also if you have some t-shirts on hand, I would recommend using t-shirt ties ( because they are soft and have some give. They would also be a good thing to use to practice tying (for the older child) in a way that would afford some opportunities for an "I did it myself!"

If you need anything else or would like to see any additional tutorials, please let me know. Kind regards, Dana

Geraldine Thompson

Thursday 9th of April 2020

I would put the length if the ties in the directions


Thursday 9th of April 2020

Geraldine, Thank you for the comment and your suggestion. I had included the tie length in the details below the step, but can definitely see where it is beneficial to have the length included in the step as well. I have updated the tutorial accordingly.

I welcome any additional feedback you may have in the coming weeks. Kind regards, Dana

Connie Muckelberg

Tuesday 7th of April 2020

can I use satin ribbon for the mask ties?


Tuesday 7th of April 2020

Connie, Thank you for the comment. I wouldn't recommend satin because I anticipate it won't tie as tightly or may even slip undone? People have been using grosgrain ribbon and twill tape, however. Might you have some of those? Also, you can make ties from old t-shirts: These are some of my favorites now because they have some additional stretch and are easy to make when the other options run out.

I hope this helps! If you need anything else or would like to see additional tutorials, please let me know. Kind regards, Dana

Mary Battershill

Monday 6th of April 2020

I have some vacuum-cleaner bags for a shop vac--thus they are large enough to make several masks, and I read that they are 95% effective at filtering. Do you know if these are going to stand up to laundering? My plan is to have the dark cotton outer layer and the vac-bag inner layer.


Monday 6th of April 2020

Mary - Thanks for the comment. The reports on the vacuum bags are varied in terms of their safety. I have used them in some cases, but only as an insert in a pocket as opposed to having it right against my mouth. I did make one (while prototyping) with a sewn-in layer of bag and it washed up just fine. I was really surprised. But I didn't like the feeling when I wore it, so that was a "no go" from the beginning. Since these things are all so personal it's hard to say what's best. Did you see the Stanford article: A tea towel is 83% which is still really high. That's what my "go to" is right now because it's easily laundered, typically easy to purchase, natural, and easy to sew.

Is there anything else I can do to help? Kind regards, Dana

Jennifer Jaremski

Monday 6th of April 2020

Thanks for the great instructions! I used up all of the elastic I had on hand and now need to make masks with ties. I do not understand the t-shirt instructions above (sorry!) -- do you sew the strips closed and then turn them inside out? Or should I attach the strips like the bias tape example in these instructions? If I were to use a strip of cotton fabric, how wide should the strip be before folding in like bias tape? Thank you!


Monday 6th of April 2020

Jennifer, Thank you for the comment and the kind words. Are you going to make ties out of t-shirts or out of cotton fabric (or both!)? For cotton fabric, sew it "closed" only when starting at the end as you make your way to attach them to the body.

I would start with a 3" wide and 36" long piece of cotton and then you need to do the fold in half, then fold the edges toward the center to create your tape.

I can see where the t-shirt details don't make complete sense, it's hard to explain. I may add a video in the coming week; that was just hard to shoot today.

How else can I help? Kind regards, Dana

Comments are closed.