Master Guide to Maskmaking




Our community's recommended pattern is



This pattern is a pleated rectangular “surgical-style” face mask that is easy and quick for new sewists and combines the best elements of well-known patterns such as the Deaconess, A.B. mask (For a nurse, by a nurse), We Can Sew It, the Cynthia, and the Erin.


Check out the tutorial:

Full Pattern Library

Click to download!





Recommended Fabrics

  • 100% Cotton Woven (bedsheets, towelling, quilter's cotton/fat quarters, broadcloth, flannel)​

  • 100% Cotton Jersey (T-shirt fabric)


  • Pellon Light or Medium-weight sew-in interfacing can be added to improve sturdiness and filtration. (Do not use fusible interfacing, which will break down during sterilization)

  • The tighter the weave and higher the thread-count, the better the filtration. Hold fabric up to the light to see how much light penetrates, double up if needed.

  • Comfort and breathability are also top priority. Stiff fabrics like canvas or duck might injure skin across 12-hour nursing shifts. Impermeable/synthetic fabrics like cordura might accumulate moisture and decrease airflow.

  • Always pre-shrink cotton fabrics by washing hot and machine drying if possible. 

  • Cotton blends are also acceptable as long as they can be washed with hot water. Boiling the fabric is a good test!

  • Used fabrics are OK so long as they are freshly laundered

  • Two distinct colors on top/bottom layer allow the wearer to easily know what side is inside/outside when taking off, putting on.

  • Do no use materials that can easily melt or fray

  • We are not recommending that you try and source N95-grade material


Some notes: ​

  • There is currently insufficient research on the efficacy of various fabrics for filtration in cloth masks. These recommendations are the best we have given limited information, but we will update this if/when more information arises. (We do have a sewist whose public health buds are doing a systematic review of all the research… so that’s something!)

  • Cloth masks are never meant to be used as substitutes for medical-grade PPE. These masks will be going to facilities that have need for a stop-gap during this extreme mask shortage: either to be used alongside N95s or for vulnerable populations who are not at the front lines.

Alternative Materials

With the current ‘mask craze’ many well-intentioned groups are intent upon identifying better DIY alternatives to cotton masks for the general population. As interest continues to grow and expand, we do our best to stay abreast of what materials are trending and conduct our own research into their safety and suitability. If a manufacturer cannot stand by the efficacy of their own textiles in terms of filtration, chemical/heat resistance, and durability, then neither can we. There is nothing wrong with cotton masks, they will always be better than nothing.


To that end we have a short list of alternative materials that have either passed our sniff-test or lead us to advise caution to those makers who want to explore other possibilities.


Materials that appear to be safe for DIY masks include:


Materials with which we advise sewists to proceed with caution:


  • Melt-blown polypropylene reusable shopping bags

    • Breathability compromised as denier/weight increases

    • Wide variation in composition, coatings

    • Suitability cannot be assessed unless origin is known

    • May be suitable as a disposable or limited-use mask


  • Blue Shop Towels

    • There are two types that have been investigated:

      • Cellulose fiber towels will break down with repeated washing, have not been tested for effectiveness. May be suitable as a disposable/limited-use mask or filter

        • Brands: Scott Blue Shop Towel

      • Polyester knit towels have been tested in a non-laboratory setting for filtration with promising but inconclusive results

        • ZEP Industrial Blue

        • Toolbox

        • WypAll x60

    • Some brands of shop towel come impregnated with degreasers/detergent, be very cautious

    • Some brands use a latex-based bonding technique

    • Not endorsed for face mask use


Tried and tested notions for attachments (i.e. the thing that secures the mask to the face):

  • 1/4" or 1/8" soft elastic

  • Elastic hair ties

  • Bias tape: 1/2" pre-packaged or made by hand

  • Cotton twill tape (may need pre-shrinking)

  • Shoelace or athletic lacing

  • Strips of cotton jersey/t-shirt fabric (no hemming required)


  • We have received feedback from facilities that elastic, while more convenient than ties, can injure the skin on the back of the ears when worn for long nursing shifts.

Nose Wire

Nose wires help shape the top edge of the fabric to fit the wearer's face and prevent unfiltered air from entering the mask from the gaps around the nose. If your pattern creates a nose wire pocket, here are some materials that our community has found useful.

  • Pipe cleaner

  • Twist-tie

  • Disposable aluminum pans (cut to size, with sharp corners rounded off

Package any nose wires separately, do not insert into the masks. This will allow the recipient to wash the masks first then insert the nose wires.


Filters are designated as removable and can be either single-use or reusable depending on what they're made of. If your mask includes a filter pocket you are not obligated or expected to include filters in your shipping. If you do include filters, package them separately from the masks so they do not accidentally get ruined during sterilization at the facility.




Ways of Working

  • Follow the golden rule: wash your hands often & don't touch your face!

  • Wear one of your own masks while you sew, and gloves if you can

  • If you feel sick, stop work! Take care of yourself, and keep any made masks with you at home.


Take breaks, hydrate, nap, get sunshine. The world needs you healthy, don't try to save it alone!




Jump to: US Shipping Guide | UK Shipping Guide

Once you've finished a batch of masks,  ***submit them using the inventory form***, and wait for an e-mail from the Matchmaking Team with your assigned facility. You should hear within 24 hours. Don't forget to check your Spam Folder!

You’re amazing. Thank you so very much for your hard work.


Prior to mailing, please do your best to follow our friend Shanna Atchley-Shafer, BSN’s instructions: 


  1. Wash your masks in warm or hot water and machine or line dry.

  2. You can also boil in water and air dry (in a clean location) if there is no washer/dryer available.

  3. Use freshly washed hands or gloved hands to transfer clean dry masks directly from drying into an impermeable, sealable bag (e.g. a ziploc bag)


Note that we will be instructing all of our recipients to sterilize these masks per their facilities standards on our packaging (see below for shipping label one pager!), so if you are unable to sanitize masks yourself, that’s OK. Please always practice good flu hygiene in the construction & mailing of your masks. Wash your hands frequently. 


Place your ziploc bag into a mailing envelope (for example: padded envelope, manila envelope, or plastic shipping envelope). ​​

Please use whatever shipping method you are most comfortable with. The following are tips that we are gathered from our community.  Please remember to always practice proper social distancing and follow the CDC’s guidelines for protecting yourself.

Other Packing Goodies:

Don't Forget!

  • Procure a tracking number and respond to your order assignment e-mail with it so that your contribution can be marked as shipped!

USA Shipping Guide​



  • You can go to a post office location to calculate postage and ship your items, which will be most accurate in terms of how much to pay.

  • If dropping off at blue collection mailbox, you must:  

    • Use a USPS branded “If it fits, it ships” box or envelope. You must print a shipping label using their Click-N-Ship website.




  • Use the correct size and weight of your own packaging. 


  • If simply dropping off at the post office with postage already on the package, in addition to above, you can:

    • Use larger dimensions and heavier weight (these can be as large/heavy as you would like). Use the Click-N-Ship website to determine how much postage to add.


  • 3/4 thick is the magic dimension. From one of our sewists: “I placed my 10 masks in the ziplock back in a 9x12 white envelope. We dropped it through the post box’s magic ‘slot’ and it was a bit too fat so it was $4.50 to mail. I unsealed the ziplock, rolled it to get the air out like I do for packing, flattened it back out, closed the seal and tried again. EASY, less than 3/4"... so $2.00. In other words -- vacuum sealing (or my method :)) when sending a dozen masks may save on postage.”

  • If you rely on blue collection boxes for sending mail, the cheapest option is to send 10-12 masks (must weigh less than 10oz) in a plastic envelope using the vacuum seal technique for $2.80 using stamps. 

  • If you have Forever stamps, they are currently $0.55.

UK Shipping Guide

The price will depend on weight of materials and packaging so you must weigh and measure your own batch or take it to a post office. See here for post office list of size and weights, or here for their price finder. 


  • As a rough guide, you can expect batches of up to 20 masks to fit as a “large letter” IF you pack them correctly. The package must be less than 35.3cm long, 25cm wide, and 2.5cm deep (i.e. approximately the size of a thick A4 envelope). It must weigh less than 750g. For example:

















Arranged properly (inside Ziploc bags), 20 masks may fit inside an A4 manila or padded envelope or a jiffy bag (depends on exact size and weight of fabric and pattern). 10 masks may fit inside an A5 envelope, but will still need to be posted as a “large letter” rather than a standard size letter (because it will be thicker than 5mm).


Watch out if the package is thicker than 2.5cm. If it is, you might want to follow our sewist’s advice “I unsealed the ziplock bag, rolled it to get the air out like I do for packing, flattened it back out, closed the seal and tried again…. In other words -- vacuum sealing (or my method :)) when sending a dozen masks may save on postage.”

For posting larger batches, you may need to post as “small parcel” (45cm x 35cm x 16cm, weighing less than 2kg) or “medium parcel” (61cm x 46cm x 46 cm, weighing less than 20kg).



From (correct as of 05/05/2020)


Volunteer Riders

If you are unable to post your masks using Royal Mail or if you have a large order to send, the Volunteer Riders may be able to help.


For more information see their Facebook Group: 

Or contact them via their email: 


Don't Forget!


  • Respond to your order assignment e-mail so that your contribution can be marked as shipped! If you have a tracking number, please provide that in the email as well. 

Thank you again for doing your part to protect our health workers and other vulnerable populations!