Adjustable side face mask

I am working with my local hospital network that serves the 800,000 people living in my valley and beyond to galvanize the sewing community to make cloth face masks that they plan to use to cover their limited supply of N95 masks. As the national need and desire for a homemade mask has increased over the past several weeks I have received a lot of feedback from around the country on the subject. The important thing to remember is there is NOT “one right mask pattern”. And there is not one authority on what is preferred or desired. Each area hospital is assessing their needs and may have specific requests.

Some areas of the country are completely out of N95 masks and other PPE gear. They may be asking for more elaborate masks with wire nose pieces or pockets into which they can insert re-purposed HEPPA filters. The best thing to do if you want to work on masks is to (Google) the volunteer page of your local area hospital. As folks are getting organized, hospital networks are creating resource lists that include links to the kind of masks they may want or need. Lots of places don’t care at all…just make them. The lists may also start to include drop off locations. Also, many outlying medical outlets like EMT groups and volunteer fire stations are sending their certified PPE gear to the larger hospitals, leaving them with only these homemade versions. Look up your local squads on their FB or web pages. Many of them have a donation page and you will find they are asking for these masks.

Finally, as the recent news is now saying, every individual should consider wearing a personal mask for any trip outside the home. You may even become a community resource for your own small neighborhood. However you choose to help, thank you. We are all one ant in a huge army and together we can to amazing things.

This is one of the specific masks requested by my hospital network. They want the adjustable sides, because it can be made to fit all size faces with fewer gaps. The pattern is for either 1/4″ elastic or long 40″ fabric ties, so the only real supply you need is good quality, freshly washed, tightly woven breathable fabric and a big heart. This design is a N95 mask cover, used to extend the life of a legitimate N95 mask. However this design is excellent for personal use as well for simply keeping your own germs to yourself, and keeping your hands off your face.

Yes. I definitely made octopus masks

There are lots of face mask patterns out there and a lot of awesome people making them. A word of caution however before any well meaning sewer starts these.

  1. Do not make them until you know where they are going and what is specifically needed.
  2. Do not overwhelm your local health centers with each person with a sewing machine calling them. I assure you, they have MUCH better ways to use their time. Instead, call your local quilt or sewing guild. They likely have a point person already. One email from the single community service chairperson is all that is necessary. Alternatively look up the “volunteer coordinator” for your health system.
  3. If you do not have a way to help locally but still want to make masks, then you are welcome to send them to my hospital. My area is in the next major metropolitan ring outside of the NYC area. The anticipated need will be high here. My hospital wants the network to start rationing the limited N95 masks by covering them with fabric masks, effective immediately .

EDIT: TIP!! Several makers have had trouble using a safety pin with the pleats. Instead, they are threading the tie through the holes, pinning it out of the way, THEN pleating and adding casing seams, making sure the tie can still “slither” in the casing before the tack stitch, as in the video below.

This video also shows how to use a clean T-Shirt as ties, because as you may have noticed, elastic is now in short supply and making ties by hand is not really very fun at all.

Here are the written directions:

Following some public feedback, I would like to point out that you can make the 2 pleats as shown, or 2 or 3 pleats facing the same direction. It does not matter, the goal is the expansion. Germs do not “get caught” in upward facing pleats. They aren’t sand….a mask is completely contaminated every time it is worn, and should be washed by tying the strings together and laundered.

Hopefully all my quilt friends are staying healthy with their families all around them, safely. For those of you on the front lines, thank you.

For helping the Lehigh Valley Hospital Network in Allentown Pa, You may SHIP or DROP OFF directly to : LVHN – Covid 19, 2024 Lehigh Street, Allentown, PA 18103

To help the Children’s Hospital of Philladelphia please mail to : Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Attention: Robert Silverstein, PPE Donations
3401 Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Be safe everyone!



these are additional tutorials of mask designs accepted by Infection Control at LVHN:

And here is the official CDC wording. They note adjustable fit is key to success. As such, I personally feel the mask pattern given originally is the best universal option.

Here is information specific to Lehigh Valley residents about additional donations you can make to LVHN:

13 comments on “Adjustable side face mask

  1. Thanks so much for the mask pattern. I think it will help more people than you can imagine. If noting else brighten their world with bright fabrics. Fat quarters should be useful for this little project. Vikki Clower

    • Yep! you just have to seam two strips together for the tie to get it longer. If you have elastic…then a FQ is PERFECT.

    • Thanks for another great mask link. This may help folks in lots of areas. the LVHN network in the Lehigh Valley has expanded their criteria and I think this one is fine too

  2. Hello there, Bethanne in Allentown! Kutztown grad here. There’s lots I like about this mask, though I had trouble with the threading too. I wound up folding another casing so I guess I could make the width 8 1/2 inches instead of only 7 1/2.

    • Hi! One of my guild friends prefers to put the tie in before pleating, pin it out of the way, then pleat and do the final stitching, making sure the tie can still “slither”. I originally tested the longer width and made all the pleats a second casing. It works, but it is a bulky edge and not as flexible. I posted additional approved patterns at the end of the blog recently that you may prefer. Thank you!!

  3. Thank you for posting! Question: is using dry heat important? I’m having trouble getting a good iron without steam, but I don’t want to do anything that would compromise the quality/cleanliness of the mask. Thanks from Philadelphia!

    • You don’t need to worry. The hospitals are planning to run these through an autoclave from what I understand. Just do your best. And thanks!

  4. question on the fabric ties. I have a Bernina bias binding foot that would make a 1/4 ” wide tie. Is it all right for me to use that for the ties. Second. how do you want the end edges of the ties finished, folder inside . or sewn closed. (satin stitch ,straight stitch lock.)

    • Hi Paula. You can make the ties in any way with any supply you like as long as it is not satiny or slippery. It could be covered cording, bias tape, twill tape, hand made double folded binding…anything. The ends can be left raw, just with a backtack to keep them from coming apart. Keep it simple and fast, but sturdy. Thank you for all you are doing!

    • In the video, yes. However as more and more of the masks are made, some medical staff are reporting in and preferring the ties because they are getting ear sores.

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