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The Rectangular Mask

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The Rectangular Mask

(Updated May 1 to include more tips on ties and nose pieces)

Rectangular Masks

Beth Eischen Call has a video showing how she makes a two layer rectangular mask with a filter pocket. She is donating these masks to medical labs and other healthcare facilities. Written instructions are now available to go along with her video tutorial. These instructions include a 3-layer version that is recommended for donating to healthcare professionals who work more closely with patients.

Another really good mask tutorial recommended by Calico Gals quilt shop is from Instructions are for a two layer mask with a filter pocket with options for different types of ties. Sizing information is included as well. These masks are good for everyday use in public. If you want to make masks to donate to health centers, use three layers of fabric in your masks as described in the written instructions above.


Ties:   Some people are reporting that the elastic ear loops are too loose on some people or cause ear fatigue if worn too long. You may want to make fabric ties instead. Four 18" long ties, which are sewn into the corners of rectangular masks, can be made from 1.5"-2" strips of cotton fabric. Fold the strips of cotton in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, press. Open back up. Fold each long raw edge towards the center fold line and press. Fold the whole strip in half again and press. Topstitch ⅛” from the long (open) edge.

Fabric ties can also be made from a 18” lengths of 1/2" bias binding. Fold the binding lengthwise and stitch along the open edge to make a tie that is 1/4" wide. It's narrower than the self-fabric ties, but still works fine. Knot the ends to keep them from raveling. Other sewists have had success using twill tape or shoe lacing for ties. Both of these would also make good choices.

Another good option for ties is T-shirt fabric. Cut 1" strips of fabric across the width of an old T-shirt just below the armpits. Pull on the strips to stretch them out before sewing them to your mask. T-shirt ties are stretchy so you can really snug them tight around the head without it hurting.

Instead of using ear loops or four corner ties, you can use one long 45" tie. The tie goes down through one side of the mask, around the back of the neck, and up through the other side side if the mask, then tied at the crown of the head. Just make sure you have a wide enough channel at the edges of your mask to thread a tie through. This makes a secure, comfortable mask that is easy to wear all day. It also requires less fabric to make one long tie rather than four shorter corner ties.

A suggestion came in from someone making masks for others with mobility issues. She modeled a tie after the slip knot "clasp" used for beading. You slip the mask with a long tie over your head as usual, but instead of tying the ends at the back of your head, you pull on the knots to tighten and loosen the mask. The wearer can easily remove the mask but leave it around their neck so they aren't trying to juggle it or handle it as much.

Nose pieces: Nose pieces are optional in a rectangular mask, but they will allow the mask to be more form fitting across the bridge of the nose. Both of the tutorials above include instructions on how to include a nose piece into a mask. There are a number of things you can use for the nose piece. Some people are using pipe cleaners or heavy twist ties (unused). Floral wire has also been suggested as a viable alternative. Others have successfully used the wire-embedded strip off of coffee bags. Another local sewist uses 16-gauge coated wire from a multi-stranded bundle used in the building trades.

Floral wire is effective, but two strands of floral wire is even better. Here is another approach to using twisted floral wire that results in a more durable nose piece.

You can use metal strips cut from aluminum roof flashing. Cut 1/4" strips and trim them to 5 inch lengths. You can use either a pair of light weight metal snips or heavy scissors. Nip off the corners so they are more "user friendly" and slide into the mask easier.

Making nose pieces for others: If you are willing to cut extra strips for others to use, try to cut them as accurately as possible since some mask designs require you to slide the strip into a narrow casing. If they are too wide, they won’t fit!  If the edges seem sharp, they can be sanded lightly, but this is probably unnecessary. Please wash your hands thoroughly and disinfect sheets of flashing before cutting strips.

Package extra strips in lots of 16 or 20 in paper envelopes or sleeves. Leave them in the donation bin at Calico Gals quilt shop, 3906 New Court Avenue, Syracuse. A second drop-off spot for extra precut nose pieces is 3220 Far Reach Drive in Baldwinsville .

To wash finished masks before donating them, place them in a net lingerie bag or pillow case to keep the ties from tangling.

Filter material: Rectangular masks are often made with filter pockets sewn into them. What do you use for the filter? The best option for filtering material is surgical sheeting. Lacking that, a piece cut from a tea towel, shop towel, T-shirt, or antimicrobial pillow case would be an option. Check out this article from the Washington Post, 4/8/20: Answers to your DIY face mask questions, including what material you should use.

Oly*Fun, the fabric that is something between paper and fabric, has been used for filtration in personal masks. It is often used to make shopping bags. Fairfield World states that Oly*Fun is similar to the material used in N95 masks. A one-ply sheet of Oly*fun is 65GSM, whereas commercially manufactured surgical masks are typically made of 3-ply 25GSM non-woven with additional filtration added. Fairfield is very careful to splash disclaimers all over their site, as is appropriate. These are unusual times, however, and if you are making masks with filter pockets Oly*Fun may be a good filter option for a personal mask. You could use multiple layers of it -- just be sure that you don't use so much of it that you can't breathe through the mask for extended periods of time (which is the problem when using a filter layer of HEPA vacuum cleaner bag material).