For my own production, I tried to optimize the pattern and manufacture of the cloth mask, so there’s no need to touch and straighten it out while wearing. To achieve this, the mask is supposed to fit snug and gapless around the nose, cheek and chin and not slide up the eyes or down the nose. Other points I found important were easy replacement of parts such as wire, filter and ties, plus quick and simple sewing, washing and ironing without too much ado.
Test Series of Different Mask Shapes
First, I just meant to sew a couple of cloth masks for myself, my family, some friends, friends of the family and family of friends. To find a suitable shape, I tried all the well-known sewing patterns, but didn’t like their fit – and then the pattern nerd took over (long ago, I studied fashion design, with focus on historical women’s sports apparel and seemingly impossible patterns… :)). Finally, I combined a hybrid pattern from known features, plus a few hacks.
Features of my Optimized Hybrid Cloth Mask
My hybrid cloth mask has a special pleat for the nose that adapts very well to the face, even without wire. It does not push up the eyes or down the nose, and it enables speech, laughter or yawning without slipping. The upper seam can hold a nose wire to improve the fit even further and protect glasses from fogging. The wire can be removed through a little opening in the seam and runs across the entire width of the mask, so you can hardly injure yourself with it.
I opted for folds that give more air to breathe, move less with facial expressions and gently enclose the chin. In addition, straight folds have the advantage of a flat lay-down shape, which is easier to sew and to iron. The trapezoid shaped pattern corresponds with the anatomy of the face, it fits slim and less bulgy on the chin than a rectangle.
The side of the mask has a drawstring tunnel, which can be slightly creased, so the side does not protrude and a tight fit can be achieved. Thanks to the tunnel, elastic ear straps or a head ties can easily be adjusted and exchanged.
At the bottom of the mask, there is a small opening for the insertion of a disposable filter of your own choice.
Handling Handmade Cloth Masks
With careful handling, a self-sewn mask can be rather effective for protecting others from its wearer, but the protection for the wearer is extremely limited. If you use this mask, you do so at your own risk, and you should certainly still follow the usual safety rules (hand hygiene, distance, cough / sneeze protocol, etc.)!
Wash your hands well before putting on the mask, insert a wire to the upper seam and a non-woven disposable filter (f.e. paper tissue) through the lower opening, and pluck it into the corners. Fold up the backwards pleat, place it on your nose and pull the ties around your ears. Now straighten the backwards pleat on your nose, adjust the nose piece and slightly crease the drawstrings. The mask should fit as close to the face as possible, without constricting.
If the mask fits well, do not touch it anymore! Always treat the mask as if it were contaminated. If straightening the mask while wearing it is unavoidable, only touch the ribbon and never the fabric, and wash your hands immediately. Do not wear the mask for more than 4 hours, if it becomes dirty or damp, or if you do not get enough air!
To take off the mask, grasp the straps and remove it without touching the fabric. Store it in a closed container and wash your hands and face thoroughly. The mask should be cleaned after each use. To do this, remove filter and wire, launder at least 60° C (better 95°) in the machine or cook for 5 minutes. Wash your hands. Allow to dry and iron well.
My hybrid cloth mask can be sewn easily and quickly (10 minutes). To make this mask yourself, you need two fabrics (please test in advance whether you can breathe well!) which are washable at at least 60° C, wire and elastic straps or ribbon, a sewing machine or needle and thread, scissors, pins, chalk or pencils for marking, plus (ideally) a flatiron.
Instructions for Sewing my Hybrid Cloth Mask
(1) Cut 20 x 20 cm / 8" x 8" of the back and front fabric and 2 strips of 5 x 10 cm / 2" x 4" each. Also cut 18 cm / 7" of wire for the nose holder and 60 cm / 24" elastic band for the earbands or 120 cm / 48" textile ribbon for a headband.
(2) Layer both fabrics neatly, with the right side inwards. Mark the opening for the wire at the top and the opening for the filter at the bottom. Topstitch both seams 1 cm / 0,4" from the cutting edge. Iron the seam allowances apart.
(3) Turn the piece over to the right side. Iron the allowance out and topstitch the tunnel for the nose piece 0,5 cm / 0,2" from the top edge. Mark and fold pleats from the outside, according to the pattern and the illustration shown above.
(4) Iron the pleats and pin them. Place the strips of fabric with the right side inwards on the edges. Bend, fold in top and bottom and stitch them approx. 1 cm / 0,4" from the cutting edge of the strips. Cut off excess fabric at the edge.
(5) Fold fabric strips over, iron them down, fold them around and in, and pin them down, overlapping the seam on the back. Topstitch cleanly from the front, in the seam shadow. Bend the wire ends and carefully insert it to the tunnel.
(6) Use a safety pin to pull your ties – either elastic for ear holders or ribbon for a long head tie – into the drawstrings on both sides. Adjust elastic straps individually, either knot or sew them and pull seams into the drawstring.
For detailed picture instructions, please visit my pictorial!
Adaptions for different Sizes and Shapes
The dimensions of my pattern and instructions are designed as a rather universal ladies' mask (size M), which also fits men and teenagers sort of okay-ish. Before you start sewing modified sizes, I very highly recommend to make and fully understand the standard model, because otherwise this will certainly become far too complicated!
For a true men's mask (size L), I cut 1 cm / 0,4" more on each side (fabrics 22 x 22 cm / 8,8" x 8,8", strips 5 x 11 cm / 2" x 4,4") and then redistributed the pleat height (2,2 cm / 0,9"). For a bigger men's mask (size XL), I cut 2 cm / 0,8" more on each side (fabrics 24 x 24 cm / 9,4" x 9,4", strips 5 x 12 cm / 2" x 4,8") and redistributed the pleat height to 2,4 cm / 1".
I've seen people use a bigger L size (9” x 9”) as a cover for FFP / N95 masks, and it looked like it would fit well!
With a beard, masks never fit as tight as on a smooth face. If you want to take the risk, I'd recommend keeping the width, adding 2-3 segments of length, and using excess to fold a third pleat. For a longer beard, end pleats inwards.
For a true teenager's and children's mask (size S) that fits 8-12 year olds, I took 1 cm / 0,4" less on each side (fabrics 18 x 18 cm / 7,2" x 7,2", strips 5 x 9 cm / 2" x 3,6") and redistributed the pleat height (1,8 cm / 0,7"). As far as I read, cloth masks may possibly cause some health risks to younger children, so I decided to better not offer an XS size here.
If your printer allows that, you can very simply adjust the size there: size S ist 90%, M ist 100%,, L is 110% and XL is 120% (which might take two pages). I highly recommend to write size and percentage on your printout right away :)
Lots of further adjustments to face shapes, special needs and personal preferences are now available in a separate blog post about Customized Hybrid Face Masks, which includes all the patterns and templates as a printable PDF!
For all the beginners (and everyone else who might get lost in this pattern!), I just (May 3rd, 2020) published a very detailed picture tutorial for this mask in a separate post, to go along with the illustrated instructions. I hope it helps! :)
Frequently Asked Questions (+ some more Hacks)
Does this mask really fit so well that glasses don't fog?
For me and many others, it does! I've tried every pattern available at the time and glasses colliding with mask edges or fogging up were one of the reasons I finally decided to create a hybrid mask. I was actually surprised when I realised how well this nose pleat works – and that it doesn't even need a wire to fit snug and keep my glasses clear!
Is the pattern suitable for people with special needs?
I guess this depends on their needs! So far, I've heard surprisingly often that my hybrid is the only mask people with HSP / hypersensitivity, sensory disorders or on the autism spectrum can bear to wear! Some people with asthma or claustrophobia are also very enthusiastic about the pattern, yet others find it's still too tight. If people tell me this, I tend to recommend a duck bill shape, which also has a snug fit, but offers maximum space in front of the mouth.
Lately, I have also created several Customized Hybrid Mask patterns and templates for different face shapes, special needs and preferences, which can easily be combined with each other, and published those in a separate post.
What do press or reviews say about this mask?
»Die Autorin der Anleitung ist Profi. Und das merkt man. (…) Der Clou bei dieser Maske ist die nach hinten geklappte, separate Nasenfalte (…). Ich war angenehm überrrascht, wie toll die Maske sitzt.« – Birgit S., MaskeZeigen, DE
»I struck gold when I found the Iris Luckhaus DIY cloth mask. This is German engineering at its finest! (...) It has an extra pleat behind the top of the mask which you pull up when putting it on to get a great fit around your nose, even without a wire. The angled sides also help & I’ve found this the best fitting mask (…). It’s genius!« – Janine, CraftFix, IE
»Social media discussions in the mask making community report that this mask is very comfortable to wear and reduces eyeglass fogging due to the unique nose bridge design.« – Open Source Medical Supplies, US
Does this model have ear straps or a head tie?
You have all options – and thanks to drawstring tunnels, you can even switch later! First is two elastic ear straps (easy to dress but might hurt the ears, so it's practical for shorter wearing), second is a long textile tie (harder to dress but doesn't hurt the ears, so it's comfortable for longer wearing). I usually donate my masks in a double packs, one with ear bands and the other with head tie. I like to make my ear bands adjustable through sliding knots or cord stoppers.
If you wear glasses or hearing aids, I'd recommend to either go with the long tie or to use some sort of fastening (hair / paper clips or ribbon), pull the ear straps back and fasten them behind your head, to take the pressure off your ears.
At second sight, there are far more ways then the well-known ones to tie a mask to your ears or around your head! That's why I drew a helpful infographic – and published a separate post about 9 different mask tying techniques.
What materials do you use for Fabrics, wire, ties and filters?
For my own production, I mostly use leftovers and ask for fabrics, wire and ties whenever I'm giving away a mask. So far, this works really well and I'm very happy with the amazing (or funny) materials concidence brought my way! :)
I like thin gardening wire, as it bends well, stays well and even survives accidental cooking :), but binder metal, hat wire, fence wire or pipe cleaners are solid options too. You can even use unfolded paper clips or any thin metal wire! If you are using a broad type of wire, please make sure to adapt your nose piece tunnel seam to a suitable width.
As I didn't find neat rubber cords for ear straps, I use elastic bands, bra straps, jersey or nylon cuts (which roll up by themselves, even better with spandex!). For the head band, I like textile ribbon, gift ribbon or straight grain binding.
I use different fabrics for inside and outside, so you can't confuse them. So far, I've sewn mainly with cotton, because it's cookable, breathable and available, and made sure that at least one layer has a high thread count. I am also testing polyester, silk and chiffon – and I'll probably expand this now, as the WHO lately recommended cotton as a moisture-absorbing inner layer, polypropylene as a mechanical filter layer and moisture-repellent polyester for the outer layer.
I've read great things about filters which aren't available in Germany – so for now, it seems safest to go with materials that were developped to be used near your face, like tissues. To sew in a filter as a middle layer, place it on the thinner layer and treat the two as one. If you prefer to layer masks, the disposable hybrid mask perfectly fits underneath!
Is there some sort of trick on how to insert your filters?
I cut my filter to 16 x 18 cm / 6,3" x 7" and insert it like casing a pillow, (a) pushing top corners of the filter into top corners of the mask, (b) holding them in place with safety pins in the outer top corners next to the wire, and (c) pulling fabric down and straightening the filter into the pleats! In my tutorial, I show detail pictures of the process.
My printed files are not true size. What can I do?
When I published the first PDF in English, I didn't consider different EU and US formats, so if your download was before April 23rd, you may have the wrong format! After I heard about this causing problems, I added a US file alongside the EU one. If this doesn't solve your problem, make sure that pages are printed at 100% – and measure whether 2 cm / 0,8" on the print correspond to a ruler. For some printers, it can help to activate frameless printing!
Can I sew this mask without a sewing machine or somewhat simpler?
To sew this mask on a serger, you proceed as instructed until folding and pinning the pleats. Then, take the strips of fabric, fold top and bottom to 8 cm / 3,2” length and fold them in half so the right side is facing out. Lay the folded strips on your piece, with all cut edges facing the same direction. Then stitch the tunnel with one seam instead of the usual two! When you wear the mask, the tunnel folds out, so that you can't even see the overlocked edges :)
If you don't have a sewing machine, you can skip the inserts, cut only one rectangular piece (38 x 20 cm / 15" x 8") instead of two squares, sew the full upper seam and skip the wire tunnel. This only takes 40 cm / 16" of stitching!
It's also possible to sew on the ties directly, without tunnels. It doesn't fit as great, but can be a practical solution! To do this, either proceed as described and stitch on long ties in place of the strips in step (4), or instead of stitching the upper and lower seam from the wrong side in step (2), place an inwards facing tie in each corner of your fabrics, then stitch all sides except for the filter opening, turn to the right and fix the pleats with a simple side seam.
If you can't or don't want to sew, you might like to try my instructions for a disposable hybrid paper mask with the same amazing pattern, which can easily be stapled in less than a minute, from paper napkins and paper towels!
Are there ways to manufacture this mask a little neater?
Of course you can manufacture the mask much neater – and f.e. overlock all the edges (I just tore the fabric and pre-frayed 2-3 threads; so far, it holds great! :)) and / or neatly sew down the open edges at the bottom, all around the filter insert. If you want to do that, I recommend 1 cm / 0,4" more seam allowance in the lower part (i.e. 20 x 21 cm / 8" x 8,4" instead of 20 x 20 cm / 8" x 8"). In step (2), first topstitch the two parts of the lower seam at 2 cm / 0,8" distance, then iron out the seam allowances. When you're done with that, fold the allowances in individually, iron them again and topstitch over the entire lengths on both sides. Close the upper seam last and continue according to instructions.
For a different look, you can attach another fabric (f.e. the same fabric you use for tunnels!) for the visible part of the backwards fold, which is the top 2 cm / 0,8” (or 3 cm / 12” incl allowance) of the outside of the mask, in advance.
Help, I'm completely confused! WHat am I doing wrong?
For everyone who might get confused when folding the pleats, I have drawn the folding scheme from a side view. I always start with quickly ironing the top fold backwards and then work my way down, from the front side, mark by mark and fold by fold – and once you sew the 3rd or 4th mask, the procedure becomes really fast (seriously!)! :)
In the paper pattern, the top 1 cm / 0,4” and the bottom 1 cm / 0,4” are seam allowances. After your first two seams from the wrong side, you iron out the allowances in the fabric and turn your piece inside out, so the right side is visible. Repeat the process on your paper pattern and fold in those allowances, before making pleats!
For the pleats, it might also help to look for white areas in the paper pattern. Those white areas are visible in the finished mask! Grey areas are pleats facing down, and light grey areas are facing up, but covered by a pleat.
If you've accidentally closed the wire opening in the seam, you can carefully open 2-3 stitches later, with a seam ripper or scissors. This is not an elegant solution, but there is no pull on the seam, so it's unlikely that it will open much more.
If anything is still unclear, you will most likely find answers in the detailed picture tutorial in a separate post.
Why doesn't my mask look like yours in the pictures?
First, you should check whether you have put on the mask correctly and if you have placed the backwards pleat on the bridge of your nose, folded up. Then, you might want to see whether the ties are set to correct length and whether the drawstring is pushed together so it rounds nicely. For a good fit, it is also essential to iron the pleats well!
Depending on face shape and preferences, the lower pleats can be worn differently! For me, the mask fits best when the pleats remain closed, so the bottom of the mask ends at the chin, but others perfer to open the pleats completely and wear the bottom under their chin, close to the neck. Both variants should fit snug around the edge of the chin!
If the mask still doesn't fit, maybe some evil little error has crept in ... Is your back fold 2 cm / 0,8” deep? Are your pleats pointing down? If you can definitely rule out all mistakes, you might just want to try a different size!
Is there a PDF insert I could use for donating my masks?
For my own donations, I simply enclose the first page of the instruction PDF; it contains pretty much everything you need to know about masks, usage and care. A more sophisticated insert for non-sewing mask recipients will follow!
will you publish a video tutorial and more pictures?
I've just published an extremely detailed picture tutorial in a separate post, and a video will follow at some point as well (if I have 2-3 quiet days – and ideas how to shoot that without any cutting and a camera holder!)... let's see how and when this works! Meanwhile, I've seen quite a lot of video-preferring total beginners make absolutely beautiful masks with my pictorial instructions – so even if you're a visual learner, I'd highly recommend to just give it a try!
Can I possibly purchase this fantastic mask from you?
For the moment, I stopped my own sewing because it seemed more important to publish instructions and pattern of my hybrid mask, in order help others to help those in need – and besides my daily work, there's simply no time to do much more than answering all questions and continously updating German and English post and instructions.
However, if you would like to use any part of my work – the mask design, the pattern and/or the instructions – commercially, I would be happy to grant the necessary usage rights for a fair fee, and I'd be thrilled if it was possible to forward all enquiries from those who would like to buy my mask to someone who actually has time to sew it!
But no matter how this journey might continue: Instructions and patterns are always free for anyone who just wants to non-commercially sew some masks for themselves, donations or gifts, and this will definitely remain so.
I update those frequently asked questions and hacks annotations every now and then (last: June 17th)! If you have questions yourself, please feel free comment below (or via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or simply send me an email!
Download of Instructions and Pattern as a printable PDF
Here you can download a printable PDF with introduction, instructions and pattern for my Hybrid Cloth Mask [V5 | June 17th, 2020] on 3 pages (EU Din A4) oder 4 pages (US letter). Before download, please read the conditions below!
* Conditions of Use, Rights and Sharing
This design, pattern and instructions are protected by German copyright laws (© Iris Luckhaus | All rights reserved). I hereby agree to a non-commercial use of my design, which means that you may sew masks for yourself, your family and friends or for donating them to others for free, given that my copyright, name and website are always included!
Without my prior written permission, you may not reproduce, distribute or commercially use any of this material in any way. This means that you are not authorized to present this design (or modifications of it) as your own, and that you may not publish your own photo or video tutorials with my pattern! As long as it's not a tutorial though, I enjoy seeing your pictures with my mask, and thank you very much for tagging @irisluckhaus and #luckhausmask! :)
For updates and further developments (which are sure to come!), please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Xing, LinkedIn, Pinterest or YouTube. If you'd like to share my pattern with your friends, feel free to use my posts!
I'm spending a lot of unpaid time on elaborating and explaining those instructions, helping the helpers to help. If you'd like to encourage this, I'd highly appreciate if you could buy me a little time via Paypal (post@irisluckhaus)!
If you'd like to use my instructions commercially (i.e. with the intention of making a profit), f.e. by selling masks sewn according to my pattern, please contact me and let me know more about your business, your location and your ideas!
Great thanks to Matthias, Angelika, Reinhard, Bruni, Margot, Rose, Tanni, Eli, Ilia, Chrissi, Henning and Ekke for amazing support from near and far, practical ideas, face measurements, advance reading, trying out and trying on! I am also extremely grateful to the hardworking volunteer seamstresses of several awesome mask groups on Facebook for their clever questions and sparkling enthusiasm for my pattern. Furthermore, I'd like to thank all those who sew, wear and give away this mask (or any other mask!) for their efforts to protect others: To me, you are all heroes!