Sewing cotton medical masks: Hospitals call for contributions

Due to mask shortages, hospitals and other medical providers are putting out a call for handmade sewn cotton masks. They should be of tightly woven cotton, like quilting cotton. The link above has more details as well as a database of providers which are currently accepting donations.

This is truly an emergency measure. The CDC does not recommend cloth masks under normal circumstances, as modern designs are superior in fit and filtration, but acknowledges that they are much better than nothing when there is a need.

Here’s what my local hospital says about their needs:

All sizes - as many as we can get. We have thousands of employees with no protection at this time.


Here are some more specific guidelines from Owensboro Health:

We aren’t worried about looking stylish – but we are concerned about functionality. Non-matching fabrics, thread, binding strips are just fine – but a well sewn mask with no frayed edges or missed seams or “holes” is important.

In order to make sure the masks are safe and as effective as possible, we ask that you consider the following points.

  • Recommended fabric for the outer portion of the mask includes heaver, non-stretch fabric such as denim, duck cloth, canvas, twill, or other tight woven fabric.
  • Recommended fabric for the inner lining and filter pocket can be other cotton, cotton-blend non-stretch fabric. It can be thinner and softer, but again recommended minimal or non-stretch.
    • [B]Must be laundered in HOT water prior to sewing to prevent future shrinkage.[/B]
  • Polyester or other less breathable fabric will not work as well, due to moisture produced when breathing.
  • If using denim or other fabric that is being “recycled”, please be sure it is clean and in good shape. Worn or dirty fabric will not be protective.
  • Elastic should be in good shape, with plenty of stretch and of an appropriate size to fit over the ears. 1/16 inch round cord or 1/8 inch braided work best.
  • If elastic is not available, fabric ties can be sewn on the mask. There will need to be 4 ties (one tie on each of the 4 corners). Ties should be approx. ¼ inch in width, sewn in such a way that there are no frayed edges, and long enough to be tied into a bow on the top of the head (for the top corner and behind the head for the bottom corner). [/LIST]

    Cross-posting this to the Sewing area for visibility.

  • @Heather Athebyne Admin - Thank you so much for sharing this. I searched on the database at and found a local caregiving organization in need of masks. I have a stash of appropriate fabric so I’ll get sewing.

    No one in this area is listed there yet, but I’ll check back again to see.

    Here’s my progress for today. I spent most of this morning washing fabrics and doing other area prep work, and this afternoon I made a couple of trial masks (on the right) for our personal use to check fit and construction. I’m using the Craft Passion large/“man” face mask pattern with the Instructables directions. On the left, I have six more masks pinned up for the next step of construction.

    A note on noses: I’m using 16 gauge copper wire for the bridge of the nose to provide shaping and fit. I’ve taken 3.5" of wire, folded over the ends, and gently hammered the loops to help keep the ends in place. Instead of a built-in wire channel, I’ve added a pad of four layers of thick flannel on the inside (the grey strip at bottom right) and slipped the wire behind the pad. This significantly improved comfort for me and helps to get a better seal around the nose area.

    The elastic goes around the back of the head for more comfort and because I don’t have any elastic fine enough to work behind the ears. What I do have is yards and yards of plush back lingerie elastic :wink: For the two finished masks I’ve used 24" of elastic and knotted the ends, but for the rest I will likely use 22" and stitch the ends together.


    These are wonderful!!!

    I bet the lingerie elastic is really comfortable. I was wondering how elastic would survive being washed repeatedly in hot water. It seems like fabric ties are more durable but not as convenient to use. I do know that hospital sanitization procedures are pretty brutal. My local knitting group stopped making knitted items for the hospital because they didn’t survive the required sanitization.

    I hadn’t thought about the longevity of the elastic vs. sanitization. Since the elastic is just passed through loops on the sides, it’s really easy to replace if needed.

    That’s good the elastic can be replaced.

    I just saw on the news last night that a hospital came up with a reusable mask that hospitals can make using supplies they have on hand. They use an anesthesia mask, a filter and elastic. They can wipe the mask or wash it.

    I made a couple of the rectangular masks with pleats and wasn’t happy with them and my machine struggled to get across those pleats. I also wanted a design that had a pocket for a removable filter. I looked at so many patterns online and finally found this one. I added a nose wire to the design. Here is one that I made for my four-year-old grandson. I made tubes on each side so elastic or ties can be threaded through. I didn’t want permanent elastic because I don’t think elastic will survive a lot of hot washes.

    Link to pattern with filter pocket:

    Youtube video on how to make these:



    With rolled t-shirt material for ties. Super easy to make and they are soft and flexible. Take a big t-shirt and cut 1" wide strips going around the width of the t-shirt. Hold both ends and pull on material. Shift and pull again so all material is rolled. I did prewash the tshirts in hot water so they could be washed in hot with the mask.



    Finished up a batch of 16 for the local hospital!

    The grey strip on the inside of the bottom one is a folded flannel piece to hold nose wire. I tried stitching it directly into the mask, but I’m using round wire and it was pretty darn uncomfortable to wear. Now I fold a piece of flannel over four or five times and stitch it on, putting the wire in before the last edge. The padding helps with comfort and with maintaining a seal.


    They look great.

    These are fabulous.

    Someone sent this to me on Facebook.


    This is beautiful.

    If anyone is making masks for nurses and other valid causes - just a heads up. I am sewing with a friend of mine (we usually split the orders half and half so workers have a variety) and we were approached by a gentleman wanting masks for a nursing home north of here. We are
    verifying our requests, and his didn’t pan out. The following day we viewed his FB profile and he was selling the masks donated. :frowning:

    So sad.

    That was sent to you, because this identifies you, Dear :heart::heart:

    Truly sad.

    I’m glad you checked it out.

    Yes, very sad indeed. :pensive: