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 should fit snugly 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 ribbon, plus quick and simple sewing, washing and ironing without 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.
I think it is much safer to use different fabrics for inside and outside, so that you can't confuse them.
The side of the mask has a piped drawstring tunnel, which is individually adjustable and can be slightly creased, so the side does not protrude and a tight fit can be achieved. Thanks to the drawstring, elastic ear straps or a head ribbon (I prefer a continuous strap that ties in the neck) can be individually adjusted and easily 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 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 push or pluck it into the corners. Place the top edge of the mask on the root of your nose and place ribbons around your ears. Pull under the chin, fold nose wire, straighten nose fold 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 it by 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° 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 cotton fabrics (please test in advance whether you can breathe well!), some wire and elastic straps or ribbon, a sewing machine or simply needle and thread, scissors, some 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 mask over to the right side. Iron edges properly and topstitch the tunnel for the nase wire 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 topstitch 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 overlapping the seam on the back. Topstitch cleanly from the front, in the seam shadow. Bend wire ends and carefully insert to the tunnel.
(6) Use a safety pin to pull your bands – either elastic for ear holders or ribbon for a long headband – into the drawstrings on both sides. Adjust elastic bands individually, either knot or sew and pull seams into the drawstring.
Adaptions for different Sizes and Shapes
The dimensions of my pattern and instructions are designed as sort of an 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 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.
For a customized fit, you can adjust the trapezoidal angle of the drawstrings! For petite or triangular faces, bend the strips inwards by up to 16° (or 2 cm / 0,8”) and for big or square faces, bend the strips inwards less, or not at all.
If your printer allows, you can simply adjust the size there: size S ist 90%, M ist 100%,, L is 110% and XL is 120%.
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)
My glasses fog up when I wear a mask. Does this one work better?
For me and some others, it does! I've sewn many different models (20 at least) and glasses fogging up or colliding with the mask edges were one of the reasons I finally decided to try making my own. I was actually surprised when I realised how well the nose pleat works and that it doesn't even need a wire to fit tight and keep my glasses clear!
Does this mask have ear bands or a head band? What's better?
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 one 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 a head tie. Everyone prefers a different fit, so I use safety pins to fasten the open bands.
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.
For inserting the long tie, go up on one side and down on the other. When you dress it, lengthen the closed upper part, put it over your head, pull the mask all the way to your face, then pull the open ties to your neck and bow them there.
Other options are two headbands instead of the long one, which can be tied at the top of the head and in the neck, or two neckbands, which are led under the ears directly to the back of the neck and both tied together there.
Furthermore, open earbands or headbands can be fixed temporarily with simple sliding knots or cord stoppers!
What are your materials 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!
I didn't find any neat rubber cords for ear straps, so I use elastic bands, bra straps, jersey or nylon cuts (which both roll up by themselves, even better with spandex!). For the head band, I like textile ribbon, gift ribbon or straight grain binding. Ironed to double if it's too wide. I didn't take the time to make bias tape, but I've read that works well too!
The fabric question is always interesting, and I've read about the magic of surgical cloth and how polyester may be a safer option... For the moment, cotton seemed most reasonable, because it is available, breathable and can be washed at high temperatures! I mostly use leftover sheets, tablecloths, curtains, shirts, pajamas or other old clothes.
Plus, some people are very happy to receive masks sewn from parts of their old favourite but worn-out shirts :)
I've also read exciting things about different filters, but finally thought it was safer to go with things that were actually developped to be used in / near your face: paper towels and paper tissues! As far as I read, the most important point is that they're non-woven, and I think it's nice to have a disposable layer between the front and back of your mask.
Is there some sort of trick on how to insert your filters?
I cut my filter to 16 cm / 6,3" x 18 cm / 7,1" and insert it like putting sheets on a pillow, (a) pushing the top corners of the filter into the top corners of the mask, (b) holding them in place with a pin, and (c) carefully pulling the fabric down, straightening and pushing the filter into the sides / pleats all the way down! If you want to make sure your filter stays in place, you can use small safety pins and keep them placed in those outer top corners, right next to the wire.
If you think that's confusing, lease look at the detail pictures of the insertion process I've taken for my tutorial!
My printed files are not true size. What can I do?
When I published my first PDF, I didn't think about the different EU and US formats, so if your download was before April 23rd, you may have the EU file! After I heard about this causing problems, I added a US file alongside the EU one.
If this doesn't solve your problem, you should make sure that pages are printed at 100% – and maybe measure whether 2 cm / 0,8" on the print correspond to a ruler. For some printers, it might help to activate frameless printing!
Is there a more simplified or machine-less way to sew this mask?
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!
You can find some information and details on sewing the mask without a printed pattern in my picture tutorial!
As another variant, it's possible to sew on the ties directly, without tunnels. It doesn't fit as great as with tunnels, but depending on the material available, it can be a practical solution! To do this, either proceed as described and stitch on long ribbons in place of the fabric strips in step (4), or instead of stitching the upper and lower seam from the wrong side in step (2), you can place an inwards facing tie in each of the four corners of your fabrics, then stitch all four sides except for the filter opening, turn to the right side and hold 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 DIY makeshift emergency mask, which can be made from paper towels and office supplies in under a minute, and for which I already made my first video!
Can I manufacture this mask in a more more elaborate and neat way?
If you have time, 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.
For people with particularly sensitive skin, two layers of soft cotton muslin can be used instead of the inner fabric.
Help, I'm completely confused!
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.
The small side cuts in the paper pattern are intended to help marking the folds on the fabric. I cut them out in the paper pattern and use them to neatly draw pleat marks on the actual fabric with chalk, crayon or pencil.
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.
My mask doesn't fit like yours, What did I do wrong?
After cleaning the mask, proper ironing, preferrably very hot, with lots of steam and from both sides, is not only important for hygiene, but also because it makes the nose part fit much better and keeps the pleats from bulging!
For me, the positioning of the mask is easiest when I first draw out the nose pleat, then fold the mask in half vertically (thereby bending the nose clip in advance), then put on the mask with nose first and over the lower face. Finally, I align the nose pleat, so that the upper seam with the wire shows up and sits perfectly on the nose (see pics).
If the mask still doesn't fit, you could check whether you have adjusted the bands correctly! 30 cm / 12" for ear straps is a rough measure, which you should adjust to your own needs (mine is 16-18 cm), then knot or sew it there.
If all this doesn't lead to the desired result, please check if your nose pleat is actually 2 cm / 0,8" deep!
Is there a PDF insert I could use for donating my masks?
For my own masks, I simply enclosed 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 a very detailed picture tutorial in a separate post, and a video will follow at some point as well (if I have time and ideas how to do that without any cutting and a camera holder!)... let's see how and when this works!
If you want to find out more, you can read a test of my pattern on Maskezeigen.de, a great mask portal supported by the German gouvernment, and some (process) pictures on Instagram. I've seen many video-preferring total beginners make beautiful masks with pictorial instructions, so even if you're a visual learner, I'd 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 thes Frequently Asked Questions + Hacks annotations every 2-3 days (last: May 11th). 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 [V3K | May 7th, 2020] on 3 pages (EU Din A4) oder 4 pages (US letter). Before downloading, please read the conditions of use!
* 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 be so thankful 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: You are all heroes!