Creativity in Challenging Times: Making Masks

With the CDC’s new guidelines , and the outbreak intensifying; many cities and towns are instituting ordinances that require mask use in public places. This means demand for ready made masks has often out stripped the supply. So now is a good time to learn how to create a basic face covering that will help keep you and your neighbors safe. And the library has access to some helpful resources to get you started.

 Getting Started with Creativebug

There are many options but most require a basic knowledge of sewing, or at least a crafty friend willing to help you out. So, if you are wondering how to start sewing your first mask or you would like to remind yourself of the finer points of your sewing machine then the Creativebug database provided by the Malden Public Library is a good place to start.

Creativebug offers a helpful video format that guides viewers through step by step lessons. You can learn how to hand sew, thread a sewing machine, sew seams, or make complicated patterns and even clothing! And while it doesn’t provide specific mask making instructions, the videos will help you feel more confident navigating the techniques needed to make one.  And once you have tested out the sewing tutorials, there are a number of other craft lessons and inspirations to help you keep busy. There is even a helpful pattern section for more advanced crafters looking to take on new challenges.

Mask Making Basics

If you have tried to look up mask information in the past, there are a number of suggestions for the best shape and materials for face coverings. The CDC provided a FAQ to help introduce the concept with the do’s and don’ts of facemasks. But there are also many other options provided by hospitals and designers that have features that may meet your long-term needs. With the rapid change in expectations and the use of masks as a new social normal, being able to choose and create your own mask is a viable and necessary skill. And sorting through all the information is certainly a difficult task. So here is provided a few reliable options and some information that will help you get started on a mask for wearing in public.

If you are now interested in making your own mask there are a lot of options based on your skill level and materials available. Most masks will work as long as they are a design that is comfortable for you to wear and that fit your face properly. The CDC recommends that the mask should fit over the bridge of the nose and down to the underside of the chin. This is essential to prevent the spread of disease.


Fabric type in important to the mask’s filtering capabilities. The most commonly suggested fabric is cotton for its wicking properties and for its tight weave. A recent study in ACS Nano and available on NCBI provides information on the effectiveness of different materials and layers. And with the addition of a filter and a wire nose piece many of the patterns filter very effectively. Most patterns recommend two layers of fabric (sometimes more or with a filter pocket) to help increase filtration.

Once the mask is completed you can attach it with either elastic behind the ears or ties around the head. This will help make sure your mask fits appropriately and that it will not be uncomfortable when you are out running errands and cannot adjust the fit. So when deciding on a pattern, take into account your comfort and the types of materials you have access to and can reasonably assemble.

The CDC recommends the following for how to wear a cloth face mask. The mask should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape


In making your mask there are a number of things to consider. Form will definitely help with function and there many options to choose from for your construction. Here are some of the most common patterns available for home and institutional use. The patterns range in complexity from no sew to novice level technique. Most of these masks can be hand sewn if needed but ideally are designed for a sewing machine. The CDC website offers several patterns for simple masks that require little or no sewing. But there are also several patterns here created by hospitals and professionals that require various levels of skill. Ultimately choose a mask that will fit and is possible to make with the skill and materials available.


No Sew Facemask–CDC

Additional Resources

Hand Sewn–New York Times

Hand Sewn with Reusable Grocery Bag–Popular Science

Basic Surgical Mask with Ties–Johns Hopkins

Deaconess Mask Instructions

Simple Curved Mask– Instructables

Curved Mask with Ties–Craft Passion

Free-Sewing Curved Mask

Video Curved Mask–Youtube video

Original Olson Mask PDF–Unity Point Health

Olson Mask in Multiple Sizes–Instructables

Unity Point Instruction Video Olson Mask–Youtube

Surgical Mask with Filter Pocket- Youtube Video

Step by Step Surgical Mask with Filter Pocket–Instructables

Gather Here with Elastic Loop Through

Need a Mask but Can’t Craft?

Should making your own mask seem too much of an undertaking, Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors has a Facebook page where you can ask for assistance whether you need help finding a mask or need resources like shopping assistance or food. They also have a website where you can apply for help or look for ways to volunteer. They are a great resource for anything Covid-19 assistance related and they are strictly volunteer.

Want to Help Out?

But if you are excited to take on the new challenge of sewing and think you might want to volunteer your new mask making services the best way to help is to sign up with an organization like Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors or the Boston Area Mask Initiative. They will have all the information on what is needed, who needs it, and how to get involved. They also have great tips and tricks that can help you make the most of your volunteering. So check them out.