FACE MASK Minimal Sewing Method | It’s A Cinch

minimal sewing face mask - youmakeitsimple.comMaking a face mask just got even easier! This DIY face mask minimal sewing method can be made either by a sewing machine or by hand. It’s really a cinch, literally! Instead of pleating, I teach you how to create a comfortable fitting face mask using a new CINCHING METHOD. 

This adult face mask has four protective layers and an easy to access filter pocket that is accessed from the bottom of the mask, out of the way from your mouth. The ties are made from upcycled t-shirts which makes this mask comfortable to wear. I have given the measurements for a TEEN AND CHILD MASK as well.

Recycle an old t-shirt or use a cotton piece of fabric to make your mask. I will demonstrate the sewing machine and hand sewing method in this tutorial.

video tutorial

face mask minimal sewing items neededface mask minimal sewing method Materials and Items Needed

  • FABRIC (14.91 cm) cotton fabric, knit fabric, or upcycled t-shirts (cut 16 ½  x 16 ½  inch)
  • SEWING MACHINE (OPTIONAL-can be sewn by hand)
  • BAG TWIST TIES,  CRAFT PIPE CLEANERS (If using craft pipe cleaners, cut to 4 inch
  • IRON
  • UPCYCLED T-SHIRT/ OR KNIT FABRIC (for the mask ties)
  • Safety Pin
  • Needle & Thread, if sewing by hand.

Cutting Out Mask

Cut the fabric to the correct measurement for the size.

  • ADULT: Fabric 16.5 x 16.5 inches (14.91 x 14.91. cm)
  • TEEN: Fabric 15.5 x 15.5 inches (39.7 x 39.7cm) 
  • CHILD: Fabric 14.5 x 14.5 inches (36.83 cm)

Upcycled T-Shirt

Cut off the bottom 16.5 inches of the shirt, LEAVE THE HEM INTACT!

Cut the same width.

Woven Fabric

Cut a piece of fabric square to the size you want.

Cutting Out Ties

The beauty of knit fabric, is that is doesn’t fray, and when pulled it will curl. You may be asking why do we want it to curl? When it curls it creates a little tube, like an enclosed tie, but you don’t have to sew it to keep it that way like you would a woven fabric.

If you don’t have any knit fabric or T-shirts to make ties with, I found a great resource where you can purchase this stuff already made. It’s called “FARMYARN”. This yarn is made from recycled lycra fabric that is REALLY stretchy and durable. It’s like elastic and can be used in so many ways ie: FACE MASKS! You can read more about it and buy it HERE

Read the face mask tie tutorial HERE.

Cut two strips either crosswise or lengthwise 1 inch wide. (2.5) cm

Cutting along the bottom of a t shirt, the fabric will curl and expose the wrong side of the fabric.

 (Which doesn’t matter if using a plain color, preference only).

But if you want the right side of the fabric exposed, cut the shirt lengthwise as shown in the diagram above.

Pull the strips to stretch and curl the fabric.

You can either have the ties tie over the head and behind the neck, or you can make it so you have a continuous permanent loop behind your neck. (That way you don’t have to tie it every time) I personally just like regular ties.

 CUT TWO STRIPS 32 INCHES (58.42 cm) long

CONTINUOUS STRIP  33 INCHES (83.82 cm) long

If you don’t have a strip long enough, you can sew two pieces together.

Sewing Instructions

Fold  fabric in half with Right Sides Together (RST).

(T-Shirt fabric, have the hem edge be on the side).

Using a ¼ inch seam allowance, sew along the long unfinished edge using a straight stitch or sew by hand USING A RUNNING STITCH. Backstitch at the beginning and end of all seams.

Turn inside out.

WOVEN FABRIC: Fold unfinished edges under ¼ inch and press in place. Do this on both sides.

T SHIRT/KNIT FABRIC: Skip this step. (Knit fabric will not fray).

Fold WRONG SIDES TOGETHER making a shorter tube.

Line up pressed edges of the two layers.

WOVEN FABRIC: Sew the 2 layers together, topstitching close to the edge.

You will start at one point and sew around until you meet the starting point (Sewing around the tube). Backstitch.

T SHIRT/KNIT FABRIC: Skip this step

Applying Nose Wire

Take the twist tie or pipe cleaner and insert it between the two FOLDED EDGES of the doubled tube.

(Opposite of where you just topstitched)

(If using a pipe cleaner, barely fold the ends under and crimp in place. This will keep the sharp point from poking through the fabric!).

Center it side to side and down ¼ inch from top edge. The wire will be sandwiched between the two layers. Clamp or pin in place.

Make a casing for the wire so it stays in place when washing the mask.

If sewing by hand, use a simple running stitch.

Feel with your fingers where the edge of the wire is and start stitching down from the top a few stitches. (You will be sewing through all four layers of fabric).  Leave your needle in and lift up presser foot and pivot fabric.

Sew along the bottom of the wire to the other edge of wire (feeling with your fingers where that is).

Pivot and sew back up to the top edge. Leave your needle in and pivot again to sew along the top edge. You will have sewn a little box around the nose wire.

Sewing Tie Casings

Sew down the sides of the mask ½ inch from the edge.

If sewing by hand, you can just use a simple running stitch.

Backstitch at the beginning and end of seam.

Inserting Mask Ties

Attach the safety pin to the end of tie.



Thread the tie into the casing starting at the top of the mask. Pull out and continue threading the other side from the bottom up to the top.


Thread each tie into casing.

Cinching the sides of mask to gather.

No Pleats, Yea!


Decide how tight you want the neck band to be by trying the mask on.  Once you’ve situated it and it feels tight enough, clamp in place. Remove mask.

Take the ends of the ties and hold them together. Pull to gather each side of mask until the gathered section measures 4 inches.

Repeat on the other side.


Take the ends of the ties and hold together. Cinch the fabric to gather evenly until the gathered fabric area measures 4 inches. CLAMP IN PLACE OR PIN IN PLACE.

Tacking down ties

Sew the ties in place by sewing back and forth over the end of the casings, making sure to catch the ties underneath.

Repeat on both sides of mask. (This can be done by hand or by sewing machine).

Mask Care:

Masks can be washed and dried with other clothing.


There you have it, your face mask with minimal sewing involved.  Please reach out if you have questions while making your mask.

Take care and have fun sewing!


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  • SMay 17, 2020 - 3:22 pm

    Hi Jan, have made several of your designs and really appreciate your tutorials. Now I’m seeing mention of incorporating silk into cotton masks, but I can’t find *any* info on preferred ways to do that (ie silk on the inside or outside—or even as a filter?) plus can these be put in a dryer to sterilize. I have some non-stretchy silk in my stash. Would welcome your opinions? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • JanMay 17, 2020 - 7:21 pm

      I have not heard about using silk, so not much help regarding that. However, if I have used a flannel piece of fabric as a filter. You simply cut a piece of fabric a little smaller than the mask and insert it into the filter pocket. I suppose you could do that with a piece of silk.

      As for cleaning, simply wash and dry as you would any permanent press garment. They are saying there is no need to sterilize with very hot water, soapy water will clean them just fine.

      I hope that was helpful. Let me know if you have any further questions.

      Best regards:)ReplyCancel

  • DanielleJuly 13, 2020 - 9:40 am

    Hi Jan, could the ties be made shorter & stitched to  go around the ears instead?  I’ve been trying to visualize if this would work.  
    I wanted to make these for my family including  my kids; especially my son for when he starts school (because I think these would be so much more comfortable for them than the ones they have), but it would be easier for him to get on himself if it went around the ears.

    • JanJuly 13, 2020 - 11:30 am

      Hi Danielle,

      Funny you should ask. I am currently working on a new video showing how to do this exact thing. Yes, you can just that. Try on the mask and tie a knot where it fits around their ears. Then you can cut off the excess. I will have the new measurements for the ties and have directions for sewing them in a loop without the tie. Stay tuned for that tutorial. Thanks for reaching out! Enjoy your day, JanReplyCancel

      • DanielleJuly 13, 2020 - 4:24 pm

        Perfect! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • BeaJuly 22, 2020 - 10:36 pm

    Hi Jan, In the process of making these. I’ve made a very similar one with two pieces of fabric and a pocket for a 3rd layer if desired.  Wondering if the 4 layers gets too hot?  The folks I’m making them for will need to wear them at work for about 4 hours at a time.   Also, I usually do the channels on the side too – feel like individuals can get a better fit by clinching the sides to fit their face and ties can be changed out if needed.  Your  method tacks them into place at 4 inches so they’re no longer adjustable- do you find they still fit most people?  Is there any other reason for tacking them in place?  I usually use the long loop method around the neck and then pull ties up to  top of head to tie.  This usually forces the fabric to pleat with the clinching.  PS – love your tip for making a 4 tie into an adjustable ear loop!ReplyCancel

    • JanJuly 24, 2020 - 10:35 am

      Hi Bea,
      Thanks for reaching out. There are so many ways to wear and fit the face masks. Even though I show how to tack the ties in place, I think I prefer just leaving them untacked and cinch as needed. However, some folks find it a pain to cinch every time they put it on. Just preference. As far as the four layers go, I think it depends on the fabric you use. I have one mask made this way that uses a more dense fabric, and after so long, it does get a little hot. So many factors to consider and adjust to. I’m getting ready to list another 3 layer mask that I really like. Stay tuned 🙂 I hope that was helpful. Enjoy your day!ReplyCancel

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