How To Sew A Face Mask That Ties

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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.

37 thoughts on “How To Sew A Face Mask That Ties

  • March 26, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Thank you! I’ve been wondering where there was a pattern, knowing there are lots of sewers who would love to help out in this way.

  • April 1, 2020 at 9:07 am

    In your quickie explanation, step 2 begins “Wrong sides” and I think it should say “Right sides” so that when turned inside out, the right sides will be on the outside.

    This is a great tutorial and I’m going to make a couple to use when going to the grocery store. I’m using batik fabrics, as they are really tightly woven.

    Thanks so much for the tutorial!

    • April 1, 2020 at 9:43 am

      Linda – Thank you SO much for the catch. I have updated the tutorial to reflect your feedback. I am so happy to hear it was helpful and batiks are a great option! If there are any other tutorials you would find helpful, please let me know. Kind regards, Dana

      • April 6, 2020 at 11:14 pm

        Dana – LOVE this tutorial. I’ve made and given away 24 batik masks to friends, family and neighbors.
        I did make one addition to your great pattern. I made a small dart in the center of the bottom on the back side, so that the mask fits snug under the chin. After I baste in the pleats, I fold the mask down the center, bringing the sides together with the main fabric to the inside. (Be sure to open out the bottom pleat so you don’t catch it as you sew.) I measure 1/2 inch from the center fold along the bottom and make a pencil mark. I then measure 1 1/4 inches up from the bottom along the center fold and make another pencil mark. Draw a diagonal line between these 2 marks and stitch along it, backstitching at both beginning and end. The dart is so small that it can’t be felt when the mask is in place.

        • April 7, 2020 at 6:51 am

          Linda – That’s wonderful! I imagine the batiks look beautiful and we all need some beauty as we navigate this new normal. Thank you for telling me about your addition. Anything that makes it a more comfortable fit is a win in my book. I plan to pull together some tips & tricks/best practices for people to try in a post soon. May I use your explanation and cite you? If you want, I will also include a picture of one of your masks? Just send it to info [at] goodsgivingback [dot] com. Kind regards, Dana

  • April 1, 2020 at 12:46 pm

    just to double check – cut the bias tape 36″ long per side?

    • April 1, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Carol – Thank you so much for the comment. Yes, the whole length of tape per side is 36″. The length of material the person will use to tie the mask is 16″ long. So the mask height is around 4″ and the middle part of the length of bias is used to bind the edge then the leftover 32″ are the 16″ ties on either side. Hope that helps! Kind regards, Dana

      • April 2, 2020 at 12:27 pm

        thank you dana. when I read the directions more closely I saw that, sorry for the inconvenience. PS the mask turned out great so now I’m going into assembly line mode to make masks for my neighbors.

        • April 2, 2020 at 12:31 pm

          Carol – No inconvenience at all! I had been staring at it for a while so I missed that key point and really appreciated you taking the time to tell me. And I am thrilled to hear you like how it turned out. Assembly line-mode is where I am right now too! After this batch of masks, I’ve had a large request for surgical caps so it will be a different kind of assembly line.

      • April 11, 2020 at 11:07 am

        Actually, the wording is odd. You should consider changing the description in the post to be explicit about the length. I cut two 16″ strips before I realized that wasn’t the case; certainly my fault for not double-checking, but one shouldn’t have to scroll through the comments to find the actual length.

        • April 11, 2020 at 11:50 am

          EvilWayne – Thank you for your feedback. Kind regards, Dana

  • April 3, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Which length is the top and bottom edges? 9″ or 7.5″?

    • April 3, 2020 at 8:38 am

      Kevin – Thanks for the question. You want to be sewing and top stitching the longer edge (9″). If you need anything else, please let me know. Kind regards, Dana

  • April 3, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you so much for these wonderful instructions. I wrote everything down and then was delighted to see the tutorial. I am no seamstress and the last time I sewed was 8 years ago. My daughter and her husband are physicians and need the Medical masks so I can now make these for friends and family.
    It is rewarding to finally make one successfully.

    • April 3, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Nancy – Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It made my day! I am thrilled to hear you found the tutorial helpful and even more pleased that you are now able to make them for people in your family and your community. If there is anything else you’d like to see on the site or additional tutorials, please let me know. Kind regards, Dana

  • April 4, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Do you know the proper dimensions for child size masks?

    • April 4, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      Mary Ellen – Thank you for the comment. What has worked best for me is for a tween/teen the mask height should be 3.5″ and for a child under 10 the mask height should be 3″. The length of the mask depends on how close you want something to the ears.
      So basic measurements for a child 2 pieces at 4″ x 9″ and tween/teen 5″ x 9″. If you want it not so close to the ears, then take off 1/2″ – 3/4″. I hope this helps!

  • April 4, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    How do you do the ties when you are using t-shirt material for the ties? Thanks.

    • April 4, 2020 at 1:52 pm

      Sharon – Thank you for the comment. Do you mean, how do I create the ties or how are the ties “attached”? To use them, right now, I create a casing like I did for this filter pocket mask ( and thread them through just like I would the elastic. If you prefer to sew them in, you can do that as well, and just like you would sew in elastic (

      And it’s great you asked because I have a tutorial that will explain this in detail that I am finishing up right now. So check back if you still have questions. Kind regards, Dana

  • April 4, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    What’s the approximate measurement of the pleats? I’m having trouble coming up with a 4″ wide finish. Thank you.

  • April 4, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for these great instructions! I’ve been researching a lot of patterns, and I really like this one. The one change I am going to make is to put in a wire in the top so that the person wearing it can make it fit more closely over their nose. My plan is to take a 6 inch piece of pipe cleaner, and when I turn the tube right side out, put the pipe cleaner in before I do the top stitching. I’m also going to use fusible interface on the top fabric for an extra layer of filtering. Can’t wait to get started making these for family and friends. Together we can get through this!

    • April 4, 2020 at 7:28 pm

      Lisa – Thank you for the comment and the kind words. I am so happy to hear this works for you. Some things I’ve learned:
      #1 Pipe cleaners are taken to the “cleaners” (yes, I need to be punny) when they’re thrown in the wash. They just don’t survive. Some people are using plastic coated copper wire or jewelry or floral wire as an option. Not sure how any of those fare in the wash because I’ve been doing a removable pocket for the nose bridge and the filter ( You could sneak your nose bridge in and just not finish the top stitching to secure it if you don’t want full-blown pockets? Now on to to #2: many people have cautioned against fusible interfacing because of breathing in the glue that is used to adhere it to the fabric. So, you have some other options – did you see this: There are two links that talk about household products you can use. If you have jersey knit or a tea towel you could use that as a layer in between? I was also just doing two layers of muslin and that worked well.

      If you have the time and inclination, please take some pics and tag @goodsgivingback on FB or IG so I can repost them. I wholeheartedly agree that together, we can get through this! Kind regards, Dana

      • April 5, 2020 at 6:29 pm

        Thanks for your suggestions!

  • April 5, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t have bias tape nor know how to make it (I remember my aunts cursing the process with their quilts many years ago). Is there a simple way to make effective ties?

    • April 5, 2020 at 6:55 pm

      Jean, Thank you for the comment and the answer is yes! I am finishing up a post that goes live tomorrow that will explain in greater detail. For now, here is a quick explanation: Locate a new or old 100% cotton t-shirt that doesn’t have side seams and cut ties from it. To do that you need to cut off the top of the tee at the armpits then cut the tube in 1.5″ strips. Cut off one end of the strip to open it up and then pull to lengthen it. I tie two knots at the end, but it’s not necessary. Then, either create a casing and thread them through or sew it into the edges like you would with the sewn-in elastic.

      Here are two pictures to give you a little visual. One is an example of a finished tie and the other is the tie threaded through a casing.

      The ties, when threaded through are around 27″ – 30″ when they aren’t taut (because there is a nice stretch it doesn’t have to be exact). So if you’re doing four individual ties, I would start with 15″ and then cut back if necessary.

      I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Kind regards, Dana

      • April 6, 2020 at 5:51 pm

        Thank you so much!

  • April 6, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    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!

    • April 6, 2020 at 6:48 pm

      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

  • April 6, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    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.

    • April 6, 2020 at 6:42 pm

      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

  • April 7, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    can I use satin ribbon for the mask ties?

    • April 7, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      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

  • April 9, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    I would put the length if the ties in the directions

    • April 9, 2020 at 2:55 pm

      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

  • April 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm

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

    • April 17, 2020 at 7:51 pm

      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

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