Sewing face masks

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This is about home-sewing fabric face masks. It is not about making medical-grade disposable masks "surgical masks", or shields.

  • Also used over N95 masks to make those last longer. (news article) (local doctor also mentioned this)
  • This is hyper-local from our base in Somerville, MA and not an encyclopedic reference.





  • Mask Match mail your masks to healthcare workers
  • JOANN stores "Make to Give", "Simply drop the masks off at any open JOANN location ... JOANN will be donating masks collected to hospitals and healthcare systems that are in need and requesting handmade masks."
  • #GetMePPE on social media
  • Join your local "Buy Nothing" or "Everything is Free" or "Freecycle" group to find people requesting homemade masks

Gather Here, Cambridge

  • Drop off at Gather Here, Cambridge. "Want to drop off your completed mask? We have a drop box available from 12-6 PM. Please place your completed mask in a ziploc (or equivalent) bag. Thank you for your assistance!"
    • Website has a video and print guide for making masks
    • Facebook has lots of q&a

Direct to Healthcare Facilities

Last updated by CG April 15. Similar info is now available across the web, CG is updating as hard-to find info comes along

  • YES, Cambridge Health Alliance (per email fwded to CG, then public email)
    • Pattern: suggest the Gather Here
    • Delivery: "Items can be dropped off with the public safety officers at the entrances of our Cambridge, Everett and Somerville Hospitals 24 hours a day, seven days a week." "Please provide your name and contact info (email) so we can say thank you. If you are unable to leave your home, we are happy to pick up the items or have them delivered. Please contact Julia Saggese at jsaggese@challiance (.) org with questions. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!"
  • YES, BMC (CG direct contact, forwarded 4/15 email to fiber-arts@ email list)
    • Use this form
    • Pattern:, later email does not specify, these will be given to patients
    • Delivery:
      • option 1, drop masks off at the community donation box, BU School of Medicine Lobby, 72 E Concord St, Boston MA 02118, if unable to access building, call Public Safety: 617-358-4444
      • option 2, can be shipped to the loading dock, the address of which is provided after filling out the form
  • YES, BWH (CG direct contact)
    • Delivery: can only accept in large batches, and no one has that set up yet. Ideas welcome.
  • YES, Tufts Medical Center (per public email)
    • Pattern: Use only the The Deaconess
    • Fabric: "Cotton fabric that feels comfortable on the skin"
    • Elastics: can make fabric ties out of cloth if elastics are not available
    • Delivery: Tufts Medical Center loading dock located at 25 Harvard Street, Boston, Monday through Friday 8am-4pm. Please label them as HOME MADE MASKS. If you need assistance getting masks to Tufts MC, please call the Command Center at 617-636-6100.
  • YES, Emerson Hospital, Concord (per Aimee Y)
    • Pattern: simple pleated mask, 2 layers of cotton woven fabric, elastic or ties are fine, needs to be sturdy enough to tolerate many rounds of laundering. no metal add-ons
    • Delivery: Drop off at front desk
  • YES, Atrius Health (per website)
    • Pattern: Download their PDF - modified version of Joann Fabric tutorial, uses elastic
    • Delivery: Call first, contact list on website
  • Yes, Lemuel Shattuck Hospital (per Abigail L)
    • Pattern: Sign up on this google sheet and you will receive a detailed materials list and instructions. The patterns have been pre-approved by BHCH and Shattuck – this is what they have said they need, in large numbers.
    • Delivery: at a Tufts Dental School location (provided with the instructions) or can be picked up by arrangement with organizer of the initiative, Nancy Marks, nancymarks31 at


Fabric types

Read about it:

Can I donate fabric?

  • Not to Artisan's
  • Not to Masks for Massachusetts (formerly Burlington/Lahey project that hit the news)
  • Check within groups you're active in for individuals willing to take your fabric donations


Popular sewing patterns

Non-woven polypropylene

Quick, no sewing




  • Fabric Corner in Arlington

They have been sourcing and preparing bundles of elastic for mask-makers. Regular updates via facebook

  • Round elastic cord sold by craft stores
  • Hair ties that are rope elastic
  • Flat elastic that is too wide can sometimes be cut thinner lengthwise between the warps (would need to test each)
  • Clothing with cap sleeves often has 1/4” elastic
  • Scrunchies often have rope or 1/4" elastic inside
  • Do NOT use elastic from swimwear - it probably contains latex
  • "I have started using a one inch strip of jersey knit as the elastic. There is a [you]tube showing jersey knit for ties but it works really well as a direct substitute for elastic." Jeanne Flanagan, fiber arts instructor, to fiber-arts@ email list (29 Mar 2020)



Groups to join/follow

Be resource-creative

Find / alter design of masks to use:

  • Straps that tie behind the head
    • Bias tape
    • Ribbon
    • Create fabric straps, sew or glue-tack
  • Drawstring-style in channels of the mask
    • Basic string
    • Cording
  • Office binder clips could be used instead of
    • Tying knots
    • Securing drawstrings

Why not use medical filter material?

    • It's scarce. Search news on melt-blown microfiber.
    • Waltham company Hollingsworth & Vose is 20 weeks out for orders of this material as of March 2020, per direct contact
    • You can research MERV-13 (used for air filters) - evolving topic, this is the current consensus


The shop is only accessible to members at this time, for limited use per policy.

  • Fabric
    • A volunteer has already sorted fabric in the shop and is working towards distributing it.
    • There are smaller cotton pieces in a "free fabric" bin marked with cotton.
    • CAUTION using ANY bolts in the shop, and very large pieces of scrap. These are likely home decor fabric, and may be chemically treated. Risk unknown. If someone can find a study that says home decor fabric is fine to breathe through, please share.
  • Supplies
    • Specific to patterns out there, the shop does NOT have thin rope elastic. See alternative ideas above.
    • Shop has 1" wide, flat elastic, not great for fabric masks that go behind the ear. But might be used for shields.
    • Please watch for and share new designs for PPE that could use other notions in the shop.
      • Webbing and 2" plastic buckles (will post pic if I can get one)
      • 75-yards of 1/2" wide velcro (member donation)

[|Image] at top provided free, no restrictions, through

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