Making Facemasks from socks & tshirts

Facemasks: What to Use and How to Make Them

The hot fashion trend in 2019 was bike shorts (for some reason). The hot fashion trend for 2020? Facemasks! Of course, the emergence of these coverings has nothing to do with style and everything to do with survival. As a pandemic circles the globe, you don’t want to leave your house without wearing one.

But finding a facemask is easier said than done - they’re selling like hot cakes (or toilet paper) and several companies are - understandably - limiting purchase to medical staff and those working the front lines.

Yet not all is lost. It turns out making a facemask at home is easy, even if you lack sewing skills. But - first - you need to know what fabrics to use………


The touch, the feel of cotton - it’s the fabric of our lives (even when our lives are dictated by a curious contagion). In other words, it’s the most popular material for homemade facemasks. This is a good thing as cotton is among the most effective fabrics, full of tiny fibers that keep the virus out.

Still, this doesn’t mean you should take a pair of scissors to your closet and render your best casual outfits powerless - different things provide different levels of protection.

For example, denim, pillowcases, and bed sheets (that have at least a 120 thread count) offer excellent filtration. A basic t shirt? Not so much. A silver lining, perhaps - you don’t want to cut up your cute graphic tees. You look awesome in those!

Thick cotton - the so called “quilting cotton” - used for heavy blankets makes a great mask as well (in fact, it’s much better than regular cotton). So does canvas, as long as it is cotton-based (some canvas is made from linen and some is made from hemp).

Other Materials

In a way, it’s kind of fun to find materials for your mask - imagine yourself an archeologist, scavenging the grounds for treasure: Indiana Jones and the Last Crew Shirt. But just because you can make a mask out of something, doesn’t mean you should.

Materials to avoid include:

  • Nylon (nylon offers good filtration, but it’s not breathable which means you probably won’t wear it)

  • Thin cotton t-shirts (poor filtration)

  • Wool (poor filtration)

  • Cashmere (poor filtration)

  • Linen (poor filtration)

Here’s a helpful hint - shine a flashlight behind the fabric. That’s a good way to gauge how porous it is. Baseball t-shirts will be more permeable than a drawstring hoodie, for instance.

Materials to use include:

  • Nylon stockings (these are much more breathable than other nylon-based materials when added as an exterior layer)

  • Coffee filters

  • Vacuum bags

  • Shop towels

For the latter items, you need something else - walking around with a Hoover bag taped to your face isn’t advisable. Many do-it-yourself facemask designs include a pocket where you can insert extra filtration.

Making a Facemask

So now that you know what you’re working with, it’s time to actually make your mask. There are numerous ways to do this without a sewing machine (there’s also numerous ways to do it with a sewing machine).

In fact, in recent months, it seems that mask making is why YouTube was created (previously, it was created for cat videos).

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Making a mask with hair ties: This involves material of your choice (such as a pillowcase) and hair ties used to fasten the mask behind your ears.

Making a mask out of a sock:  White athletic socks have never been as fashionable as they are right now!

Making a mask out of a t-shirt: Different t-shirts will provide different levels of protection. The thicker, the better.


Aim to make the best facemask you can but, remember, any facemask is better than none at all.

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