Tried and tested: the best homemade face masks, the easiest and most stylish patterns

Bethan Holt
best homemade face masks stylish patterns - Courtesy of PrettyhandyGirl

As lockdown measures begin to ease, our thoughts are turning to how we can best protect ourselves and others as we begin to visit shops, return to work and meet friends and family.

The government has announced that, from June 15, face coverings will be mandatory when using public transport. We will not be allowed to travel without one and fines will be issued if passengers do not comply.  We are also advised to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces.

There are many masks now available to buy but you can also make your own at home. There are numerous patterns and methods to try - including this guide by Isabel Manns - but which ones are easiest to make and will work best for you?

We asked five readers who have made their own masks to review the process...

If you're thinking of buying a mask rather than making one, our editors have reviewed the best options available, with prices starting at £7.

Penny Nixon, using the PrettyHandyGirl pattern

Face masks made by Penny Nixon

Which pattern did you use and what did you need?

I did a lot of research and watched a lot of YouTube tutorials on the different mask patterns that people are using.  I looked at the different patterns available and they all use basically the same stuff - two layers of cotton, elastic (two feet for each mask), an aluminium nose strip and then I’ve added a non-woven layer too. Most patterns have the option to add a filter pocket, which initially I was going to do, however, the filters weren’t that easy to get hold of when I first started making them so I started looking for other options that were actually accessible.  

The general advice was to use a non woven layer in-between two layers of cotton.  As this is washable, it doesn’t need to be removable. You can also use an iron in-between washes, as the heat will kill anything nasty caught in the mask. I added an aluminium nose clip to allow for a better fit.  The better the fit, the greater the coverage and the better the protection offered by a mask.  

A face mask made by Penny Nixon using the PrettyHandyGirl pattern

With this in mind I decided to follow a pattern I found on YouTube. The Better Fit Face Mask designed by PrettyHandyGirl, which you can see here.  The CDC and WHO produced some interesting information regarding the best fabrics to use - this is worth a read if you are making your own masks. Quilters cotton was one of the better fabrics listed to use - they also suggest bedding sheets and t-shirts, but be mindful that this needs to be 100% cotton and not a blend or a polycotton. The article by the CDC weighs up efficacy of fabrics vs breathability, which is an essential feature!

How easy was it to follow?

It was extremely easy to follow. I would think that anyone with basic sewing skills could replicate this at home without any troubls.  Anyone nervous about doing so should find a YouTube video tutorial as they make it incredibly easy to follow. 

How long did each mask take to make?

Each mask takes about half an hour to forty minutes, depending on my caffeine intake and level of sleep deprivation (we have a 9 month old!).

What's the fit like?

The fit is very good, although I did adjust the pattern of the ladies’ size to make it slightly better fitting. I like the way that the mask wraps right under your chin to your throat.  They are very comfortable to wear and there are no problems breathing through them.  I have found that for anyone wearing glasses (like myself), an adjustable nose strip is an essential feature to stop your glasses fogging up! 

Julia Terrey, using a pattern and pack provided by Christopher Kane

How easy was it to make?

It was quite easy to make, although I did have to Google/ Youtube some of the terms in the instructions to make sure I was doing it correctly. It was 8 steps in total and the kit had everything you needed, bar a needle and thread. Getting back into using my sewing machine was not like learning to ride a bike and took some time for me to re-teach myself how to set it up. To be honest, I hand sewed the ties as I got fed up with my lack of talent with the machine!

What did you use to make it?

I used a kit from designer Christopher Kane who used past season fabrics and sent out a face mask sized swatch and a little instruction pack to your house. Considering I am living in a village in the middle of nowhere with no access to somewhere that would sell a face mask was a blessing! I was sent the spring/ summer 2020 Molecule print  of which I was an avid fan - I used to intern at the brand during university - so it has brought me great joy having a piece of the new season!

How did it fit?

It fits well and the ribbon ties are very chic! Wearing one is quite hot on the face but I guess that’s something we all will have to get used to.

Any other thoughts?

I like knowing that I made it myself. Now that I know how to do it I would be more than happy to make some for friends and family.

Laura Baggott, using the Craftpassion.com pattern

Laura's face masks, made using Craftpassion.com's pattern

How easy was it to make?

I looked at a range of YouTube video and Pinterest for the most simple way of doing it and settled on this pattern by craftpassion.com.  At first it was a bit tricky to follow as to make it lined you needed to get the right sides facing. Also I wanted the elastic to go around the head as the ear straps can hurt after some time and if you wear glasses that can also affect it. 

Laura's face mask, using a pattern from craftpassion.com

What did you use to make it?

I used cotton on the inside layer as that’s better for the face. Firmer fabrics will hold shape better but also you need to be able to wash them at 60 degrees. 

How long did it take to make?

It took me over an hour when I first started making them but now around from start to finish it takes about 40 minutes. 

How did it fit?

The sizes on the pdf were clearly a little smaller so also needed to add in seam allowance. After one total disaster, I managed to get a fit that worked well. 

Caroline Lewis-Irlam, using Fashion Rebellion’s pattern

Masks made by Caroline Irlam-Lewis using Fashion Rebellion's pattern

How easy was it to make?

The Fashion Rebellion pattern was really easy to follow (click here for the pattern) - especially as there is a YouTube video - I guess with all of these things though if you have a basic background in sewing it makes it easier. The drawing out of the pattern took a little bit of time but again straightforward and once you have drawn it once you can just copy it. 

How long did it take?

The first one probably took about 30 minutes but the more you do the quicker you get. I got quite a production line going - for the bulk of the sewing I changed to an overlocker as you get a much faster result and just used the sewing machine for the channel for the wire and to attach the elastic. 

What did you use?

 Elastic became very difficult to obtain but I had a light bulb moment and bought hair ties from Poundland - 50 for £1 and they are the perfect length.

I work as a school administrator so have been working from home for the past few weeks. I have been making these for friends and family in my free time. I was making scrubs bags and did about 80 of those and had been donated a few duvet cover and sheets from friends, so used all the off cuts to make the lining for the masks - waste not want not.

How is the fit?

The fit is really good. I really like this pattern as it uses minimum fabric but with maximum result.  The pleated facemasks use so much more fabric but are possibly easier to make if you are a real beginner. 

Heather Bache, also using Craftpassion.com’s pattern

Masks in different sizes made by Heather Bache using a pattern from craftpassion.com

Which pattern did you use and what did you need?  

I used this pattern from Craftpassion.com. I had plenty of cotton fabric already (mostly fat quarters). I used the plain fabrics for the men’s masks and found pretty patterns for the women’s. I also needed elastic and some wire. I only had wired ribbon so used that instead, a pipe-cleaner would work well too. I use a sewing machine so had all the necessary threads, and just used a neutral pale colour for them all.  

How easy was it to follow?  

It was very easy to follow, the pattern also comes in sizes so I could make smaller masks for my grandchildren.  

How long did each mask take to make?  

It took me about 20 mins to cut out and sew.  

What's the fit like?  

It was a good fit and comfortable to wear.

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