DIY Face Masks: Cute 5-Step Reversible Masks for Travel & More

April 14, 2020

DIY face masks

Chances are that even when travel restrictions are lifted, many of us will be wearing face masks on planes, trains, subways, and in public attractions.

The question of whether or not the general public should wear cloth/surgical face masks has been confusing at best.  At first, we were told in no uncertain terms NOT to wear one, that it would not prevent anyone from contracting the virus.

Then, abruptly, the CDC told us that fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted, and federal health officials now recommend people cover their mouths and noses with cloth face masks (or even a scarf or bandana) when in public spaces such as grocery stores and public transit stations.

It is still uncertain as to whether the use of a DIY face mask will stop people from contracting the virus, but it’s claimed that it at least stop people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

Supply and Demand

With the new demand for nose and mouth covering for non-medical individuals, the supply of surgical masks is at an all-time low throughout the United States and Canada.

Face Masks vs. N95 PPE

Homemade face masks are not as effective as the N95 filtration mask recommended by the CDC but could be useful when used in collaboration with social distancing, and as a “last resort” or “emergency stopgap measure, according to the CCD Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks.

How to wear DIY face masks

DIY face masks

When putting your mask on or taking off, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth and wash your hands immediately afterward.

How to clean DIY face masks

Wear only dry masks.  When masks get wet, even if it’s just moisture accumulated from your breath, they need to be cleaned.

Wash masks regularly, with regular detergent and in a hot washing machine cycles.  Do not wear again until completely dry.

Best Materials

According to researchers at Cambridge University, the best material to use when making DIY face masks is 100% heavyweight 180-thread-count cotton (like quilters’ cotton), in double layers.

So….since you need two layers, why not make from two different fabrics so that it’s reversible? Genius, right?


  • two 9” x 6” rectangles of 100% cotton tight-weave fabric
  • two 7” pieces of 1/8″ wide flat elastic for ear loops
  • fabric scissors
  • ruler
  • straight pins
  • sewing machine and thread (duh)


  • If you can’t find elastic, you can use four 18” fabric ties. The finished mask will then be worn by tying the fabric strips behind the head instead of looped around the ears.
  • The finished adult mask will be approximately 8″ wide and 3″ tall (but can expand with pleats).
  • I have a small face, so the 7” elastic was just a bit too loose for me (you can see in the top photo that the sides gap out a bit). 6.5” provided a better fit for me. You may have to adjust the elastic size up or down so that you have a snug but not too tight fit.


(1) Cut.  Cut rectangles from 2 different fabrics for an adult size mask.

DIY face masks

Cut two pieces of elastic, each 7″ long or cut four fabric ties 18″ long.

(2) Pleat.  Create three evenly spaced 1/2” pleats.  Pin the folds in place, making sure all pleats are facing the same direction.

DIY face masks

Baste or iron down each side to secure the pleats.

iron down pleats

Note: When the mask is worn, the pleats should open downwards to prevent any particles from collecting in the fold pockets.

(3) Pin.  Pin one piece of elastic to each side of the mask, placing one end at the top corner and one end at the bottom corner.

DIY face masks

If using fabric ties, pin one tie to each corner, with the rest of the tie sandwiched inside the two layers of fabric so you won’t catch the ribbon in the seams.  You can either baste the elastic/ties or sew over the pins then remove before turning right-side-out after sewing.   Pin the right sides of both pieces of fabric together.

(4) Sew.  Using a ¼” seam allowance, sew the sides and top.  Backstitch over the elastic or fabric ties to secure them.  Sew the bottom, leaving a 3” opening in the middle so you can turn it right-side-out after sewing.

(5) Press. For a more professional look, clip the corners before you turn right-side-out, use a pencil/chopstick/scissor tip to push out the corners. Press the seams down with an iron being careful not to press out the pleats.  Sew a finishing seam or zigzag all around the edge of the mask.

And voila! Your DIY face mask is done!

DIY face masks

Have some fun finding fun and/or stylish prints and stand out from the crowd! Not even the damned COVID-19 will make me abandon my life motto:

“Above all, life should be fun!”

Don’t want to make your own? No worries, here are some cute ones you can buy!

Disclaimer: This pattern has not been industry-tested and is intended for educational purposes only.  The decision to use this device is solely your own and I advise you to continue to consult the CDC guidelines for best-use recommendations.

Click below to PIN so you can find DIY face masks again:

PIN masks mask pin

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.  She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.

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