How to make eco-friendly masks ?

We believe that health and safety should not be privileges but basic human rights hence we wrote this article (inclusive of a video tutorial and a downloadable PDF version) to help people up-cycle old textiles and create their barrier masks. 

Our first few mask prototypes were based on the guidelines from the CDC, AFNOR, and a research paper published by Cambridge University. To that knowledge, we added the feedback that we received after donating 2500 masks across France and we were able to compile a standard for creating a mask from old textiles. So here are the 10 simple steps to follow, but before that, let’s look at the things that you’ll need for this project!


upcycled masks

~Things you will need~

A square piece of paper 20 cm X 20 cm and a marker | Old tightly woven cotton textile like a shirt or a bedsheet | A pair of scissors, sewing needles, thread, pearl pins and measure tape | (Optional) a sewing machine and an iron.

Step 1: Cut the fabric for masks

  • Cut a 20cm X 20cm square on a paper. (This square shall serve as the pattern for all the masks)
  • Use this pattern to cut twice as many fabrics squares as the number of masks you wish to make. For example: To make 10 masks, cut 20 squares.
paper stencil for mask
cutting the textile

Step 2: Mark stitching lines for the masks

  • Take two fabric squares and place them one on top of another. (Right sides on the inside)
  • Mark a stitching lines around the four edges leaving a seam allowance of 0.5cm.
  • Leave a 5 cm gap on one of the edge to serve as a slit at a later stage. Let’s assume point X at 0cm and point Y at 5 cm of this slit marking.
layering the textile
how to make masks from old textiles

Step 3: Stitch the layers for masks

  • Secure the two fabrics together with pearl pins ensuring that all the four corners of the two fabrics coincide with one another.
  • Start stitching from point Y all the way along the edges finishing at point X.
  • At the end you will have all the four edges of the two fabrics stitched together with a small 5cm opening(slit) on one of the edges
how to make masks from old textiles
how to make masks from old textiles

Step 4: Pull the masks Inside-Out

  • Turn the stitched fabrics inside-out by pushing each edge out through the 5cm slit.
  • It is recommended to iron the stitched fabric after turning it completely inside-out. It shall help to get pointed corned and straight pleats in the next step. However, ironing is optional.
how to make masks from old textiles
how to make masks from old textiles

Step 5: Pleat your masks

  • Make a knife pleat by lifting the stitched square in the centre by placing your middle finger underneath it and then rolling it over away from you. Secure it with pearl pins.
  • Make sure that before starting to pleat, the edge with the 5cm slit is placed parallel to the direction of the pleat and not vertical.
fold to pleat
how to make masks from old textiles

Step 6: Repeat

  • Repeat twice the process to make knife pleats and create one pleat above and another below the first pleat.
  • Finally you should have three pleats secured with pearl pins, ready to be stitched.
how to make masks from old textiles
three knife pleats

Step 7: Stitch the pleats on your masks

  • Stitch the pleats together by sewing perpendicular to the pleat pleats on each of the small edge.
  • Remove the pins and iron over the stitched fabric to accentuate the pleats. It is not an obligatory step yet is highly recommended to create a a neat finish.
stitching the pleats
how to make masks from old textiles

Step 8: Prepare the fasteners for the masks

  • Cut two strips fabric fastener 80 cm each. To lean how to create fabric fastener, click here.
  • Fold each on the centre and create a crease.
  • Place it under on of the longer edge of the mask (parallel to the pleats) in such a way that the crease line is on the centre of the mask.
  • Fold over the edge and to create a piping.
how to make masks from old textiles
how to make masks from old textiles

Step 9: Stitch

  • Repeat the same process on each of the long edges and secure the fastener with pins
  • Start stitching from one end of the fastener stitching all the way brought the piping over the mask until you reach the other hand of the fastener.
  • Repeat the same for the fastener secured on the other edge as well.
how to make masks from old textiles
Image of stitching mask

Step 10: Finishing

  • Wash the mask with soap at 67 degree for one cycle.
  • Dry your masks and iron then on a clean surface.
  • Store them in a clean, dry place.
how to make masks from old textiles
how to make masks from old textiles
Congratulations on your very own handmade mask! Now that you know the basics, explore your creative side to mix and match different colours & prints on either side to make a double-sided mask. Experiment with the fastener, the possibilities are limitless. You can download a printable version and if you still have doubts, watch our ‘how to make a mask’ video!

 Like this article? Join us in creating a more ethical fashion ecosystem by spreading the word!  

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

You may also like:

Working on something interesting, got a story to tell ...?

Contribute as an author

We would love to help you share an interesting story/topic with the world by posting it on our blog and also promoting it on all of our social media platforms while giving you the credit for your article. The only thing we are looking for is great, inspiring content worth sharing with the world. So if you think that you have got it, register today!