Do-It-Yourself Face Mask with Scrap Fabric

Wearing a mask when leaving your house has become the norm now. While disposable masks are convenient, they are a single-use item and can often be found littered on the streets, meaning they can travel through waterways and storm drains and eventually make their way into the Bay and ocean. Many brands have come out with stylish masks, but making your own is an easy way to use up fabric scraps that you may already have at home, while preventing unnecessary emissions from shipping a new mask.

DIY masks are most effective when made from a tightly woven material. Examples of this are bedsheets and t-shirts with minimal stretch. Other components of the mask, such as the nose-bridge piece, can be made from craft pipe cleaners, twist ties, or other flexible materials. The mask can be made with either ear loops, which are typically elastic, but can be made with other stretch materials, or a long string.

If you are using a reusable mask, it is imperative that it is washed after use with warm water and sent through the dryer OR put out in the sun to dry.

The DIY method below is being shared by a friend of RethinkWaste, Gail Oshima, and written by Dr. Katie Fry and Emily Knapp, RN.

You will need…

  • A sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Fabric for the mask
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Iron (optional)


  • Right side: The side that you would like to show when the project is finished
  • Seam allowance: How far away the stitches are from the edge of the fabric


Step 1. Cut fabric into a 7.5” x 15” rectangle (see “You will need” section above).

The print should be in the direction that you want going the 15” way. If you have a thin fabric that you like, consider doubling up by using a sheet or other tightly-woven fabric.

Stack the rectangles on top of each other.

Step 2. Fold in half width-wise (hamburger style) with right sides together.

Step 3. To make a 3 in. filter opening, mark 2.25 in. from both right and left raw edges. Sew from the edge to the 2.25 in. mark.

Step 4. Flip right side out.

Step 5a. Fold and pin down the raw edges of the filter opening.

Step 5b. Sew them down

Step 6. Adjust the mask so the filter opening is where you would like it.

Step 7a. Measure your pipe cleaner (or other bendy material) for width and length. From the top of the mask, mark a line that is the length of the pipe cleaner and 1/8 of an inch wider than it.

Step 7b. Sew 2 out of 3 sides, insert the pipe cleaner, and sew the 3rd side closed.

Step 8. Make your mask pleats. There should be a total of 4. Pin them in place. If you are using an iron, use it to press the pleats down.

Step 9. Sew the pleats down with a ¼ in. seam allowance form each side. This is around the edge of the foot. Be sure to catch all folds.

Step 10. Measure the width of your mask (most likely around 3 inches wide). Cut 2 rectangles of fabric that are 3 inches wide and ¾ in. longer than the mask width (ex: 3 ¾ in. x 3 in.).

Step 11a. Pin them to the front of the mask with right sides together. 

Step 11b. Sew down at ½ in. seam allowance.

Step 12. Fold this over and outward, then fold the 3 remaining edges in at about ¼ in. Press.

Step 13. Fold this to the inside of the mask, leaving plenty of room for your elastic or other fabric strips to slip through. Pin down and sew at ¼ in. seam allowance.

Step 14. Press again if desired, and thread your chosen attachment method (elastic or fabric strip). Enjoy your homemade mask!

Now you can start making your own face masks! Remember this is a great way to use up things like ripped sheets (you don’t need to buy new fabric), while creating something you’ll need! It also is a creative way to practice one of the 4 R’s – Reduce. There are also so many other simple projects – such as rags, bags, and scrunchies that can utilize old clothes or sheets too!

We would love to see how you practice reducing and creative reuse. Take a picture of your action(s) and tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!