Let’s Cook Something New: “DYI Bandanna Face Masks”

What? We’re cooking face masks now? No, we’re sewing them. It looks like we will be required to wear a face mask out in public due to the Covid-19 virus — at least in Louisiana. And, ideally, a person should wash his/her cloth face mask in hot, soapy water frequently. So, we’ll need alot of these face masks. Since I don’t have a “Sewing Blog,” I decided to share my original “recipe” for sewing an easy “DYI Bandanna Face Mask” on my cooking blog using a bandanna that I found in a drawer. This bandanna face mask is really simple to make. You only need a bandanna, two shoe laces and several pipe cleaners (or floral wire). Plus a sewing machine, measuring tape, pins and one safety pin. Oh yes, and an iron.

I looked on the internet for instructions on how to make a face mask. Lot’s of tutorial videos and some with complicated instructions. I need something in print and photos and easy, easy to follow along. So, I’m giving it a try myself.

One bandanna makes two face masks. I’ll show how as the instructions go along. This face mask has ties that tie behind your head. (I used shoe laces on one face mask and some chord that I had on hand for the second one.) I like this style because my glasses tend to fall off when I use face masks that hook behind my ears. It is a little cumbersome to tie behind my head so the jury is still out on this method. But making this style is quick and easy. And I included stiffening to go over your nose — pipe cleaners (which I couldn’t locate in my sewing room so I substituted floral wire).

Here we go:

You need an 100% cotton bandanna. It should be at least 18″ x 18″. Wash and iron it. You also need a pair of shoe laces – which are about 46 inches long, and several pipe cleaners. (You can use floral wire in a pinch.)

  1. Fold the bandanna in half with right sides together (wrong sides out).

2. Use a ruler to measure 8″ from the folded edge and use pins to mark this the entire length of the bandanna.

3. Sew down the entire length of the bandanna on the line you marked with the pins. Make sure you remove the pin before you sew that area to avoid breaking your sewing needle.

4. If there is one thing that I learned in high school home economics sewing classes is that you iron and press at every step of the way. That makes the difference between an amateur sewer and a professional one. And don’t we want this to look like a professional face mask? So iron and press the seam that you just sewed.

5. Now, shift the seam you just ironed so that it is centered equally on top of the other side and press it open.

6. I use a few sprinkles of water to dampen the cotton bandanna so it is easier to press rather than using a steam iron. Here is the seam pressed open. The fabric on either side of the seam will be sort of wide. Don’t cut off the excess fabric. That will serve as a third layer of fabric to filter out the virus.

The folded bandanna should measure 8″ across.

7. Now, turn the bandanna right side out. Here’s the side with the seam you just sewed. Can’t see the seam? Yes, it is hard to see. That’s because you ironed it. Let’s give a “shout out” to high school Home Economics.  Does that class still exist? It should, it was probably the most practical class I ever took.

And here  is the other side. Either side can be used as the outer side of the face mask. Just decide which pattern you like better.

8. Next, we’re going to cut the bandanna in half to make two face masks. So fold it in half.

And, yes, iron it. The pressed fold will serve as a cutting line. It is important to be accurate when cutting the bandanna in half. So press hard. (It is cotton — it won’t melt when ironed.)

9. Unfold the bandanna and carefully cut the bandanna in half on the fold you just ironed.

Now you have the pieces for two face masks. Finish making both bandanna pieces in the same manner. For fun, I used the outside for one bandanna and the seamed side for the other one.

The next step is to finish the top and bottom edges, making a pocket to guide the shoelace through. The shoelaces serve as ties. Look closely, the top edges of both of these pieces have the finished outside edges of the bandanna and only need to be turned under once. The bottom edges are the cut edges and need to be turned under twice.

10. So, turn the top edge to the wrong side making a 1″ fold. Pin it close to the inner edge.

11. Sew close to the inner edge (about 1/8 inch in from the edge) down the length of the bandanna. Back stitch at the beginning and end. Remove the pins as you go along — don’t sew over the pins. Iron the seam.

12. Now the face mask is probably longer than needed. So measure 7″ from the top of the face mask and mark with one pin on each edge.

13. Fold up on this line where you have the pin marked and iron this fold removing the pins.

14. Fold the cut edge in so that you have a one inch pocket. This also makes a finished edge. Press this second fold.

15. Sew close to the inner pressed edge down the length of the bandanna.

Now you have finished the top and bottom of the bandanna. Insert the shoelaces for ties and pipe cleaners (or the floral wire) for stiffer at your nose. These are flat, woven 54″ shoe laces which are longer than needed. But that’s all I had and they work. And you will notice in my finished photo, that only one of the face masks uses shoe laces. I only had one pair and used some chord for the second mask. I’m trying to be adaptable.

16. To thread the shoe laces through the pockets, tie the end of one of the shoe laces to a very large paper clip. Thread the paper clip and shoe lace through one of the pockets. Remove the paper clip and repeat with the second shoe lace and pocket.

Evenly divide the shoe laces on both sides of the face mask and place a pin in the shoe lace to hold it in place.

17. Okay, next measure either two pipe cleaners to be about 6 inches and cut them or 4 lengths of floral wire and cut the floral wire. Cut and turn the cut edges of the pipe cleaners back to prevent a sharp end and twist the pieces together. Thread it into the top fold and center it. I actually sewed across the top fold just past the wire (or pipe cleaners)– not on top of the wire — so the wire (or pipe cleaners)  wouldn’t shift around.

18. Now, here’s the last step — making the pleats or tucks. Fold the face mask in half — wrong sides together and iron. The ironed pleat just serves as a guide.

19. Unfold the fabric. With the right side of the face mask fabric facing up, pinch to make a 1/2″ pleat. (This photo actually shows second face — don’t get too confused.)  You need to make the pleats on the right side of the fabric. Pin to hold in place.

20. Make two more pleats (or tucks) — each pleat is 1/2 ” in depth; above and below the first pleat. Fold all the pleats flat along the face mask facing the bottom and pin them securely in place. The pleats need to be quite deep (1/2 inch) — you can always add a fourth pleat if needed.

21. Sew the three pleats down close to each edge. Make a second seam in about 1/4″.

Whew, we’re done. Just remove all the pins, cut all the loose threads and iron the face mask. Repeat with the other piece of bandanna.

Two stylish and functional face masks!  Not prefect by any means, but functional. And they didn’t cost a penny — using supplies around the house.

I hope you find these instructions to be useful.

But, but…..I don’t have a bandanna. Then, cut two pieces of 100% finely woven cotton fabric (such as quilting fabric) into two 7″ x 9″ pieces. (I also see posts that state that a 100% cotton pillow case can be used — do you remember which pillow cases are 100% cotton? I don’t.) So, with right sides of the 7″ x 9″ fabric pieces together, sew both short sides with !/2″ seams. Turn right sides out and finish as above. (The seamed edges will be the sides of the face mask and the raw edges will be the top and bottom.) Here’s one that I made — using bias binding for the top and bottom edges rather than shoe laces.

And just a note about wearing face masks. Face masks are meant to prevent you from spreading germs to other folks.  If you really do have the Covid-19 virus, then it is pointless if you are careless when wearing a face mask. If you remove the face mask with germs all over it, then touch your hands to the face mask on other items in your automobile or home, you will spread germs around — the opposite of what we intend to accomplish.

In the hospital, we used to throw disposable face masks away after one use. No more — they are used for a day or more. So these cloth face masks should be removed with your hands on the ties without touching the mask. The face masks should be put away somewhere from things that you or other folks will touch such as a kitchen counter. Then wash the face masks frequently with hot, soapy water, rinse, dry. I realize we’re not working in a hospital, but it is important to prevent the virus from being spread around by being careless. Otherwise, all this hard work is useless. Just a little preaching here.

As you can tell, I think face masks may provide a false sense of security. It is important not to go out and about if you have a fever, aches, sore throat or cough. You know when you aren’t feeling right. Don’t press your luck. And when you do go out, wear a face mask, watch what you handle, wash your hands over and over with hot water and soap. Take care to keep distance. It will be long time that we have to deal with this virus. It’s the “new normal.” Not normal by any means, but something we need to learn cope with and to adapt to. So use a face mask carefully. It’s doesn’t take the place of common sense or the face mask is just useless. Be safe!

DIY Bandanna Face Masks

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 100% cotton bandanna (at least 18″ x 18″)
  • pair cotton woven shoe laces (at least 46″ long)
  • 2 pipe cleaners (or floral wire)

Method and Steps:

  1. Wash and dry the bandanna. Press with an iron.
  2. Fold in half, right sides together.
  3. Measure and mark 8″ from center fold. Mark with pins. Sew along this line, removing pins before you sew that area. Iron the seam.
  4. Now, shift the seam you just ironed so that it is centered equally on top of the other side and press it open. You will have extra fabric on each side — leave it. This will serve as a third layer of fabric to filter the virus out.
  5. Turn the bandanna right sides out. Press with the seam centered at the middle of the fabric.
  6. Fold the bandanna in half bringing the outside finished edges of the bandanna together and iron to make a pressed line (this serves as a cutting line),
  7. Open the bandanna back out and cut the bandanna in half along the line you pressed. This makes two face masks. Finish each half in the same manner.
  8. On one piece, decide which side you want to be the outside of the face mask and which side will be the “wrong side” or inner side. The finished edge of the bandanna will be the “top” of the face mask and the cut edge of the piece will be the “bottom” of the face mask.
  9. Fold the finished edge (the “top” of the face mask) of the bandanna 1″ to the “wrong side” to make a 1″ pocket. Sew about 1/8″ from the inner edge. Press.
  10. Measure 7″ from the “top” of the bandanna (now a face mask) and mark this with pins at each side. This is the bottom of the face mask. Fold the bottom cut up at the 7″ line you marked with pins. Iron.
  11. Fold the cut edge in so that you have a 1″ pocket and iron. Sew along the inner edge of the pocket. (This is step #14 and step #15 in the photos.)
  12. Thread the shoe laces through the top and bottom pockets spacing them evenly on each side of the face mask. Place on pin on the shoe lace to hold it in place. To make threading the shoe lace easier, tie one end of the shoe lace to a large paper clip and thread through. Remove the paper clip.
  13. Add the nose stiffener. Cut two pipe cleaners pieces 6″ long. Twist them together and fold in the ends. Thread into the top pocket. To prevent the stiffener from sliding around, sew across the top pocket on each side slightly past the pipe cleaners. This will also hold the shoe lace in place.
  14. Last make the pleats. Fold the face mask in half lengthwise and iron. This serves as a marker for the pleat. Open the fabric back up. Pinch up half an inch at this fold at each side and pin to hold in place.
  15. Make two more pleats – each one should be 1/2″ in depth — above and below the center pleat.
  16. Fold all the pleats down, facing the bottom of the face mask and pin.
  17. Sew along the outside of each side from the top of the face mask to the bottom This will secure the shoe laces at each side to prevent them from coming out of the pocket..
  18. Make a second seam, 1/4″ inside the first seam. Iron across the seams.
  19. Whew. Remove all pins. Carefully cut loose threads.
  20. We’re done. Finish the second bandanna piece to make a second face mask.
  21. Try the face mask on. Pinch the nose stiffener so that it fits tightly and securely on your face.
  22. Enjoy wearing it out and around town.
  23. Remember, when returning home, remove the face mask carefully from the ties. Ideally, the mask shouldn’t touch other things in your house that other folks will come in contact with such as a kitchen counter. Set the mask aside. Wash the mask frequently in hot, soapy water, rinse and dry.

Copyright © 2020 by Maylee’s Kitchen

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