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.
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 This Face Mask
The materials you’ll need for this style face mask are:
- 100% cotton fabric with fun pattern (but no comics), a tight weave 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, I am just winging it by pinching and clipping).
Steps To Make a Face Mask with Ties
Sewing this 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.
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.
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.
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.