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How to Make a Pull-on Virus Mask With No Ties and No Elastic

Updated on April 30, 2020
LADS Family profile image

All the mask patterns I have seen require ties or elastic. I thought there had to be a different way. I modeled this after our diving masks.

Crystal models the side view of mask having a split head strap.
Crystal models the side view of mask having a split head strap.

Basic Fitted Face Mask

There are lots of fitted face mask tutorials out there, so I won't be going over the basic pattern. Generally speaking, they look like a shortened axe head having a curved, seamed front that extends from mid-nose to under the chin with short sides heading towards the ears. The tutorials also indicate using a liner, and an optional pocket for a filter.

The major differences will be the fabric and the straps.

Note: This mask is not PPE compliant. The best it can do is help contain your own coughs and sneezes and help prevent you from touching your own face. Also, because of the stretch fabric and types of wires used, these cannot be sterilized at the temperatures required by hospitals.

1. Choose Your Fitted Mask Pattern and Fabric

There is an abundance of patterns and tutorials available online. I used the pattern from the site "Sweet Red Poppy" and adjusted the dimensions and angles for myself and for my husband so we would each have a better fit. I then used my pattern for other ladies and his for other men.

Your fabric and lining choice is important. For this pull-on style you will need a stretch fabric and a stretch lining as opposed to the woven fabric usually suggested. I used an 'active wear' stretch fabric for the front and a never worn t-shirt which I cannibalized for the lining. This active wear has a good stretch and then returns to the original shape. Think of how dance wear and swim wear behave.

These fabrics should be washed beforehand. After the fact they can be washed by hand, sprayed with rubbing alcohol, or steamed with an iron (don't press down, just shoot steam) or clothes steamer. The wire for snugness prevents machine washing and ironing after it is completed.

2. Cut the Mask Front and Lining

Cut the mask pieces, two from the front fabric and two from the lining. Make sure the 'ear-to-nose' pattern piece is cut on the stretchiest grain of your fabric, usually crosswise, selvage to selvage.

This pattern already has a 1/4" to 3/8" seam allowance. If you are working from a 'finished size' pattern be sure to cut extra around the perimeter for the seams. Pin or clip right sides of each together.

Please see thumbnails. Each caption has additional information.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rough dimensions of mask.  There are many exact sizes if you search for 'fitted mask'. Cut for the stretchiest grain, usually crosswise.  Cut out two pieces for the front, and two for the lining, also on the stretchiest grain. Sew each curved center seam. Pin right sides together.
Rough dimensions of mask.  There are many exact sizes if you search for 'fitted mask'. Cut for the stretchiest grain, usually crosswise.
Rough dimensions of mask. There are many exact sizes if you search for 'fitted mask'. Cut for the stretchiest grain, usually crosswise.
Cut out two pieces for the front, and two for the lining, also on the stretchiest grain. Sew each curved center seam. Pin right sides together.
Cut out two pieces for the front, and two for the lining, also on the stretchiest grain. Sew each curved center seam. Pin right sides together.

3. Sew the Curved Front Seams, and the Top and Bottom Seams

There are now four pieces. Sew or serge the center curved seam together for the front, and also the curved seam for the lining. These are the seams from nose to chin. You now have two full face pieces.

Fit them right sides together and pin. You can see the serged center seam of the lining in the thumbnail above. Again, if you have a tutorial online it will explain it in more depth. That's not exactly the purpose of this article.

Sew or serge the top seam of your mask and the bottom seam of your mask pieces, right sides together. You will turn right sides out through the ear seams, which are currently unsewn.

4. Decide Wire Size and Application.

At this point you will make a decision concerning the wire that will span the top of the mask for a tight fit. Cut the length for your preference, either to span from the middle of the eyes or to span to the outer corner of the eyes.

There are several options to secure the wire based on your choice and machine abilities. Please see all four thumbnails about this section.

  1. Before turning right sides out, use the seam allowance to anchor your wire. Beading wire and some floral wire is thin enough to zig-zag directly to the seam. I use double for the beading wire and leave floral wire as a single piece.
  2. For fatter or flatter wire, turn right sides out and sew a 1/4" casing or channel. Fatter wire could be a doubled pipe cleaner. Flatter wire could be unstripped garbage bag twist ties.
  3. For any variety of thin yet sturdy wire, turn right sides out, push the wire against the seam, and sew a very close casing with your zipper foot.
  4. For a colorful touch or to retrofit an existing mask, sew an external casing to the top of the mask having right sides out. This can be bias tape, grosgain ribbon, or any fabric you have on hand.

If you look at the top edge of my mask, you will see I started with a casing for a wider wire then changed my mind and used a zipper foot to use a smaller wire close to the seam. This gives an appearance of two rows of top-stitching which is fine.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
With wrong sides out, attach wire to the seam. Use beading wire and zig-zag directly onto the seam allowance. I doubled the wire and this made a very successful fit.To use a fatter or flatter wire - such as boning - sew a 1/4" casing or channel with right sides out to fit a pipe cleaner or even a doubled pipe cleaner. Insert the wire after the casing is sewn. I've done a doubled pipe-cleaner successfully.With right sides out, use a thin floral wire or wire from the workshop. Push it right up against the seam and sew a straight seam with a zipper foot very close to the wire. I started with a wider casing, then switched to the zipper foot to be closer.With right sides out use a homemade casing or bias tape to create a channel near the top. This can be for decoration or to  retro-fit an already finished mask that won't stay up.
With wrong sides out, attach wire to the seam. Use beading wire and zig-zag directly onto the seam allowance. I doubled the wire and this made a very successful fit.
With wrong sides out, attach wire to the seam. Use beading wire and zig-zag directly onto the seam allowance. I doubled the wire and this made a very successful fit.
To use a fatter or flatter wire - such as boning - sew a 1/4" casing or channel with right sides out to fit a pipe cleaner or even a doubled pipe cleaner. Insert the wire after the casing is sewn. I've done a doubled pipe-cleaner successfully.
To use a fatter or flatter wire - such as boning - sew a 1/4" casing or channel with right sides out to fit a pipe cleaner or even a doubled pipe cleaner. Insert the wire after the casing is sewn. I've done a doubled pipe-cleaner successfully.
With right sides out, use a thin floral wire or wire from the workshop. Push it right up against the seam and sew a straight seam with a zipper foot very close to the wire. I started with a wider casing, then switched to the zipper foot to be closer.
With right sides out, use a thin floral wire or wire from the workshop. Push it right up against the seam and sew a straight seam with a zipper foot very close to the wire. I started with a wider casing, then switched to the zipper foot to be closer.
With right sides out use a homemade casing or bias tape to create a channel near the top. This can be for decoration or to  retro-fit an already finished mask that won't stay up.
With right sides out use a homemade casing or bias tape to create a channel near the top. This can be for decoration or to retro-fit an already finished mask that won't stay up.

5. Make the Neck Strap

Cut a length of fabric that is close to two inches wide and about fifteen inches long for an adult male. Be sure to cut on the crosswise grain for maximum stretch.

Sew this lengthwise, right sides together. Then turn inside out.

Holding the mask section to the front of your face, hold the new neck strap from ear side to ear side in order to determine what the finished length should be, leaving 1/4" seam allowance on both ends. Mine ended up being 10 inches long.

Turn your mask right sides out and fold in 1/4" at the ear sides for a smooth edge. Sew each end of your neck strap to each ear side at the bottom edge of the mask. Please see the thumbnails. This neck loop needs to stretch over your head. See the first photo in this article. Test it out.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cut your strip longer than you need and twice the width you want the neck strap. Sew right side together and turn right side out forming a flat tube.Determine the stretch of your fabric, the size of your neck, and cut your stretch tube the needed length.
Cut your strip longer than you need and twice the width you want the neck strap. Sew right side together and turn right side out forming a flat tube.
Cut your strip longer than you need and twice the width you want the neck strap. Sew right side together and turn right side out forming a flat tube.
Determine the stretch of your fabric, the size of your neck, and cut your stretch tube the needed length.
Determine the stretch of your fabric, the size of your neck, and cut your stretch tube the needed length.

6. Make the Head Strap

This is the best part! This split strap is based on our scuba masks which stay in place very well. Each thumbnail has a further description in the caption.

  1. Cut two stretchy (crosswise) lengths of fabric around 18 or 20 inches long, each about 2 inches wide. See the first thumbnail.
  2. Sew these two lengths right sides together, then turn right side out. See the second thumbnail below.
  3. Join the two strips together from one end to about 3 or 3 1/2 inches. I joined these two straps for 4 inches and this should be a little less. My machine has a 'feather' stitch made especially to join fabrics, but a zig-zag with a short length could work also. See the third thumbnail.
  4. Sew this joined strap to the top side of one of ear edge, with the edge that is already folded because of the lower strap. See the fourth thumbnail. This shows the connected neck strap, one connected top strap, the top-stitch down the ear side, and the loose ends.
  5. Determine the final length of your head strap. If you don't have a model like my friend Crystal, drape the straps over your head and pull for a snug but not too tight fit. Mark where the head strap should be sewn to the mask front and where the joined portion is to be sewn. See the fifth thumbnail.
  6. Join the portion of the two straps into one strap as you measured. Cut away the extra strap material. See the sixth thumbnail.
  7. Notice the extra strap fabric looks like itty bitty pants. See the seventh thumbnail.
  8. Put the itty bitty pants on a wire man your son made two decades ago. See the eighth thumbnail.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cut two stretchy strips about 2 inches wide and up to 18 inches long.Sew wrong sides together and turn right sides out.Join the two strips for about 3-4 inches using a feather stitch, zig-zag, or another designated joining stitch on your machine.Sew the newly joined strap to the top edge leaving the long double-strap free.Crystal models the head strap for me. She is so patient. Decide where the head strap should end and be joined to the second ear piece. I marked the areas with pins.Join the two straps into one strap according to the measurements of your own head. The split portion of the head strap is towards the top of this photo. The portion below the presser foot is extra strap fabric.Cut off the extra double strap. Notice that this piece looks like itty bitty pants.Put itty bitty pants on a wire man your son made years ago.
Cut two stretchy strips about 2 inches wide and up to 18 inches long.
Cut two stretchy strips about 2 inches wide and up to 18 inches long.
Sew wrong sides together and turn right sides out.
Sew wrong sides together and turn right sides out.
Join the two strips for about 3-4 inches using a feather stitch, zig-zag, or another designated joining stitch on your machine.
Join the two strips for about 3-4 inches using a feather stitch, zig-zag, or another designated joining stitch on your machine.
Sew the newly joined strap to the top edge leaving the long double-strap free.
Sew the newly joined strap to the top edge leaving the long double-strap free.
Crystal models the head strap for me. She is so patient. Decide where the head strap should end and be joined to the second ear piece. I marked the areas with pins.
Crystal models the head strap for me. She is so patient. Decide where the head strap should end and be joined to the second ear piece. I marked the areas with pins.
Join the two straps into one strap according to the measurements of your own head. The split portion of the head strap is towards the top of this photo. The portion below the presser foot is extra strap fabric.
Join the two straps into one strap according to the measurements of your own head. The split portion of the head strap is towards the top of this photo. The portion below the presser foot is extra strap fabric.
Cut off the extra double strap. Notice that this piece looks like itty bitty pants.
Cut off the extra double strap. Notice that this piece looks like itty bitty pants.
Put itty bitty pants on a wire man your son made years ago.
Put itty bitty pants on a wire man your son made years ago.

7. Finish Strap and Mask

Sew the newly joined end of the split head strap to the remaining top edge. Topstitch all edges when all pieces are joined.

Please see all four thumbnails.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Finished, joined head strap sewn to top of ear piece and topstitched.View of split strap.This fits Crystal nicely. Isn't she pretty?It fits me too! Pulling on over my head, no ties, no elastic!
Finished, joined head strap sewn to top of ear piece and topstitched.
Finished, joined head strap sewn to top of ear piece and topstitched.
View of split strap.
View of split strap.
This fits Crystal nicely. Isn't she pretty?
This fits Crystal nicely. Isn't she pretty?
It fits me too! Pulling on over my head, no ties, no elastic!
It fits me too! Pulling on over my head, no ties, no elastic!

Alternative Components to Consider

Elastic may be hard to come by these days, although it would be perfect for the head and neck straps. Many craft stores are completely closed and stores that are open are often low on supplies. I also didn't particularly like the purchased bias tape for ties and making my own ties is annoying and time consuming. You may not like the idea of this pullover style so I will talk about substitute components and techniques.

The first thumbnail shows many possible wire and closure possibilities. Floral wire, pipe cleaners, beading wire, and garbage bag or bread twist ties, sew on velcro, stick on velcro, and synthetic clothesline,

The second thumbnail shows parts of t-shirts. Sleeve hems can be cut in half to make the ties that go around the neck at the bottom part of the mask. Shirt hems can be cut into two strips for the ties around the top of the head. Ribbed neck bands may be used for the neck strap. Even shopping bags may have nice cords to use as ties.

Not shown are things I just thought of. For closure at the neck you might use a snap buckle from a purse or dog collar, a small carabiner clip, a D-ring that can be looped and tightened, a large hook and eye, a button and either a loop closure or button hole, even the back closure from a baseball cap. There are lots of things to utilize whether you are making a new mask or remaking an existing mask in order to gain a more comfortable or closer fit.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lots of options if you don't have access to what you want. What you really, really want. Crystal is wearing a denim mask with canvas colored bias tape.Look around to see where you can cannibalize items you need. Crystal looks on with approval.
Lots of options if you don't have access to what you want. What you really, really want. Crystal is wearing a denim mask with canvas colored bias tape.
Lots of options if you don't have access to what you want. What you really, really want. Crystal is wearing a denim mask with canvas colored bias tape.
Look around to see where you can cannibalize items you need. Crystal looks on with approval.
Look around to see where you can cannibalize items you need. Crystal looks on with approval.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 The Sampsons

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    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      2 weeks ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      If you like sewing with this type pf fabric, check out this article.

      https://feltmagnet.com/textiles-sewing/How-to-Make...

    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      2 weeks ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      BTW... if you need to cut your own hair, or a family member's, check out this article on hair tools for use at home.

      https://bellatory.com/misc/Scissors-and-Snippers-a...

    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      4 weeks ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      Thanks Dora! I appreciate the feedback, and I appreciate YOU!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Very helpful. Thanks for sharing these instructions. I do like how the strap fits.

    • LADS Family profile imageAUTHOR

      The Sampsons 

      4 weeks ago from The Ozarks, Missouri

      Thanks for the feedback.

    • Rebecca Scudder profile image

      Rebecca Scudder 

      4 weeks ago from Upstate New York

      I think your split strap is very clever.

      For alternative strap materials, as well as what you've mentioned, people could cut ties from t-shirt materials. A one inch wide strip of t-shirt material will curl and roll itself into a narrow band. Don't cut it much narrower than 1 inch, so the knit does not unravel. Sew 10" -12" strips at the 4 corners of the mask, and tie them to fit around your head. The stretch in the t-shirt material works much better for me than the commercial bias tape, which you mentioned didn't work as well as you'd like.

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