As you are probably aware, last week the CDC issued new guidelines to recommend all Americans wear cloth face masks in public settings, and on Wednesday, the Mayor of New York ordered all residents to do so as well. As of tomorrow, masks are required for all Dallas residents over the age of two. While staying at home is certainly the safest place for all who can, we will need to be cautious as various states roll our their plans for lifting the quarantine. As much as it pains me to say it, wearing protective face masks at various times throughout the year may become part of our lives for the foreseeable future. This includes our children.
If you've been following Little Goodall for long, you may know that I started this business after solving a health problem my toddler had by making a unique piece of clothing for him (read more about our origin story here). And now we are all in a situation that is not so different - for the health and safety of our children, to allow them more freedom, we may need them to wear a mask sometimes. Except that masks can be scary. And uncomfortable. And adult masks don't fit children, and if a mask does't fit, it won't do it's job. So we have some challenges ahead of us as parents.
But I love a good challenge, don't you? Let's tackle this one together.
If you can sew a straight seam on a sewing machine or even by hand, you can make a simple non-surgical cotton face mask for a child. I've created a simple tutorial with a free printable pattern for you to sew at home (no elastic needed). From start to finish you can sew one mask in less than 30 minutes.
Ready to sew?
This Free Pattern (click to download and print)
100% cotton fabric for the front of the mask** (a little smaller than a sheet of paper)
100% cotton fabric for the lining of the mask** (a little smaller than that front fabric)
An old pair of tights or leggings or an old knit t-shirt
Sewing machine or hand sewing needle
Iron and ironing board
Thread to match your fabric
Small safety pin or loop turner
**If possible, machine wash and iron your fabric before you begin.
Step 1: Cut the Fabric
Position the pattern for the mask front on the right side of the fabric on the straight grain. Pin in place and cut.
Position the pattern for the mask lining on the right side of the fabric on the straight grain. Pin in place and cut.
Step 2: Sew lining to front of mask.
With RIGHT sides together, center the mask lining on the mask front and pin in place.
Using a 1/4" seam allowance (stitching 1/4" away from the edge), sew the lining to the mask along the two long edges of the fabric. (do not sew over the pins, remove each as you come to it) Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam.
Step 3: Turn the Mask Right Side Out and Press
Reach through the tunnel you made with the stitching, grab the far end, and pull it right side out. Press, pressing the extended edges of the long sides in 1/4" in line with the seam.
Following the markings on the pattern, fold each short end of the mask in 1/4" and press. Then fold in another 3/8" and press. Pin in place perpendicular to the edge.
Turned, folded, and pressed.
Right side pinned, ready for sewing.
Both sides pinned, ready for sewing.
Step 4: Sewing the Side Seams
Stitch close to the inside edge of the folded ends of the short sides of the mask, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam. This creates channels in which to insert the ties.
Looks good! Let's make some ties!
Step 5: Create the Ties
For this mask, we are using knit tights to create the ear ties. You can also use a strip of fabric cut from an old t-shirt or leggings, or hair ties - whatever you have handy. I recommend these soft knit fabric loops instead of ribbons or elastic because they are soft and gentle on children's faces. Comfort is key.
Use fabric scissors to snip off the toe of a pair of old tights or leggings (children's or adult's tights both work). Make a second cut about 3/4" from the first, so you have a loop of knit fabric. Repeat for a second loop.
Snip the loop open:
You now have two soft, stretchy ties. It is not necessary to finish the edges.
Step 6: Insert the Ties
Pin the safety pin through the end of one of the ties.
Insert the closed safety pin into the channel you made on one end of the mask. Use your fingers to work the pin through the channel and out the other end.
When it is through, remove the safety pin and repeat on the other edge. you mask should now look like this:
Step 7: Close the Loops
This instruction is to make closed loops to go around your child's ears. We like this mask style because it is easy to get on and off and comfortable. However, you may prefer to tie the loops closed to get a better fit for your child. Experiment to see which you prefer.
Using a hand sewing needle and thread, sew the ends of the ties together and finish with a tight knot.
Repeat for the other side.
Gently pull the ties through the channels so that the sewn together ends are encased in the fabric channels. This will also gather the edges of the mask, which will allow for a better fit on your child's face.
Voila! The mask is finished and ready to be worn.
Seven Tips for Effective Masks
As on an airplane, put on your own mask before you help your child put on theirs. Not only are you setting the example, but it's more fun to match! Talk about heroes that wear masks (like doctors and nurses, or Spiderman), and why you are wearing them when you go out or spend time around other people.
Make sure the mask fits correctly and your child can breathe easily. Check on them frequently. Never put a mask on a sleeping child. We do not recommend masks for children under the age of two, or those who cannot easily remove the mask themselves. I prefer the masks with soft knit loops that go over the ears because they go on and off easily and do not wrap all the way around the head.
It can be difficult to recognize people in masks out in public, especially if everyone is wearing bulky winter clothing. Do something to make your mask easily recognizable to your child, even if it's as simple as pinning a rainbow button to the side of whatever mask you are wearing that day.
If you are making a mask, get your little artist involved in the design and customization of theirs. Talk to them about what they want it to look like and what fun details to add. Words, appliques, and drawings can be added before assembling - just make sure whatever you add can go in the washing machine!
Carry a few clean masks in a baggie in your handbag so you always have them at hand. If you can make them, pack an extra one to give away - you might meet a mama who would be extremely grateful for the gift.
Try different ways of keeping the mask on. Don't be discouraged if the first one isn't a good fit! Some children might find long ties around their head or stiff elastic uncomfortable. Experiment with different styles until you find one that meets their particular needs.
Wash the mask after each wearing. Having different colors and prints will help ensure that they do not put on one that was just worn previously.
If we all work together in the short term, hopefully our children will soon be outdoors playing with their friends again, and the only things on their faces will be smiles. I am looking forward to that day with all my heart. I know you are too.