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Simple Mask Instructions

Our local hospital is passing out mask-making kits for people to sew, and they had instructions, but the instructions didn't have any pictures. So I added pictures to the tutorial as I was making my first couple masks. I realize that there are lots of mask instructions out there. These ones are specific to the effort in Walla Walla, Washington. I hope this is helpful to people. *Please note that I did not design or create this pattern. I just added photographs and extra explanations that occurred to me as I was sewing them*

Simple Mask Instructions


  • Surgical Sheeting - 8.5 inch by 8.5 inch piece for each mask (provided by Providence St. Mary)

  • 1/8 inch (or 1/4 inch) elastic (any color)

  • Pipe cleaner - 6” per mask (provided by Providence St. Mary)

  • Thread (any color)


1. Fold over 3/4 inch along one edge. Sew down so a 1/2 inch casing, or “pocket” is formed. You will sew 1/4 inch from the raw edge. This will be the top of the mask.

NOTE 1: Except for the last seam on the edges, I did not feel the need to back-tack the ends of any of the seams.

NOTE 2: Do not attempt to iron this fabric, as it will melt. Finger-pressing is sufficient.

2. On the opposite side or bottom of the mask, turn up 1/2 inch along bottom, and then turn up again 1/2 inch. Sew along to seal and produce a finished hem along the bottom.

3. Next, create 3 pleats across the width of the mask. Pleats should be somewhat equidistant from top to bottom, but feel free to eyeball it. To make a pleat, pinch the fabric with both hands, so that it sticks up 3/8 of an inch from the table. Then fold the pleat flat and pin. Each pleat should use about 3/4 inch of fabric.

Measure the mask from top to bottom. It should be about 4 inches. If it is not close to this, adjust your pleats to be narrower or wider as needed.

4. Thread a piece of pipe cleaner, or easily-bent wire, into the 1/2 inch pocket casing on the top of the mask.

You may have to push it inside the pocket with the end of a pen or a chopstick. Make sure you will be able to sew your pleats down and fold over the edges of the mask without sewing over the wire (the pipe-cleaner should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches shorter than the pocket).

5. Run a line of stitching (basting) down the sides of the mask to tack the plate into place.

6. Fold the edge sides (with pleats) over to the inside and stitch close to the raw edge of the fabric on the inside.

Make sure to back-tack on both sides of this seam, as it is what is holding the whole mask together.

7. Cut two 6 inch pieces of elastic to make loops for the ears. Using a zigzag stitch, sew the ends of the elastic to the four corners of the mask, making “ear loops” on each side. NOTE: I used 1/4 inch elastic here, because I couldn’t find any 1/8 inch.

8. You are done! Great job :)

I need to mention that the hospital said if you do not have elastic, please do not place ties on these masks! They have ordered elastic and can give this to you to attach as soon as it comes in. It is too difficult for patients to use masks with ties. Thank You!!

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Why "Sewing and the Trivium"

The Story

Classical educators like to divide education into developmental stages called the Trivium. These are called "Grammar," "Logic," and "Rhetoric." Grammar refers to the first steps of learning anything: learning the vocabulary of the subject being studied and memorizing facts about that vocabulary. Classically speaking, this corresponds to the elementary years of learning - years when students never seem to grow tired of astounding the adults around them with fact after fact about things they are interested in. Have you experienced talking to a six year old who is really into dinosaurs? enough said...

Adults also begin learning with the grammar of a subject. Each subject has its own unique terminology and facts that need to be mastered before one can explore the more complicated applications of that subject. Sewing is no different. What is a french seam? What kinds of knit fabrics are better for different applications? What is a dolman sleeve or a raglan top? These are grammar queries.

In classical education, logic refers to the action of logically processing the grammar facts students have learned, or are learning. The student who is particularly suited to this type of thought is the middle-school scholar - the student who wants to argue his or her way through the world and "be right" about all the things. This pattern of thought includes bringing different ideas together, comparing and contrasting them, analyzing what an authority figure says about an argument, and deciding whether different arguments are consistent with each other. In the sewing world, logical questions include things like, "How is knit fabric different than woven fabric?" and "Why does this pattern ask for a particular fabric type?" as well as tasks such as mashing two patterns together or changing the sleeve/length/placket from how the pattern was designed.

The final part of the classical trivium, rhetoric, is when a student makes an argument of his or her own by developing a "thesis" or main point and then laying it out for someone else in writing or speech. Typically, students are ready for formal rhetoric in their high school years - years that they are very concerned about what they look like to other people and gain an interest in learning to craft a message in a way that will be most effective for their purposes. Examples of rhetoric in sewing would be fully-formed tutorials or sew-alongs - or even the writing of a blog post itself. Anything that is explaining previously thought-out/tried-out projects can count as rhetoric. 

My goal on this blog is to lay out my sews and thoughts using this framework. And that is why I chose this title.

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