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The Shaped Mask

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The Shaped Mask

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(Updated May 1 to include comments about using Cricut and Silhouette cutting machines, plus more tips on ties and nose pieces)

SUNY Upstate has released their instruction sheet for a close fitting, shaped mask which they prefer. There were some points in these original instructions that needed clarifying and the patterns were a little off, so I have an alternate version of these instructions (uses the same pattern pieces), along with a redraft of the pattern. For reference, the original instructions are here.

The "Upstate" shaped mask is based on the design created by Joanne at CraftPassion has updated her design and assembly methods several times since Upstate's initial release. If you have trouble with the instructions here at the Syracuse Mask Project, check out her website. You might like her instructions better. Keep in mind that our local hospitals are asking for a three layer mask with a layer of cotton flannel sandwiched between two layers of tightly woven quilting cotton fabric. They are not asking for masks which include a filter pocket.

SUNY Upstate will be distributing any extra of these sewn masks to other hospitals in Syracuse.

Instructions with pattern: Alternate Assembly with Pattern (.pdf)
Instructions only: Shaped Mask Instructions (.pdf)
Pattern only: Shaped Mask Pattern (.pdf)


Pattern: There has been a lot of confusion over the patterns included with the original Upstate instructions. The Medium-sized LINING FABRIC pattern piece was drafted incorrectly. I have drafted a new set of pattern pieces to eliminate confusion. If you need more size options, check out the patterns at

I have found that the size Large shaped mask fits most adults well. In order to produce masks faster and eliminate confusion in my sewing room, I will be making only large masks to donate to hospitals.

Here's a great tip -- If you have either a Cricut or Silhouette cutting machine, Joanne at has downloadable SVG and STUDIO3 files that you can use to cut out the pattern pieces on quilting cotton.

Layers: There was a question about whether the original Upstate instructions for the shaped mask included two layers of fabric or three. I confirmed this with them, and the request is for three layers -- cotton outer, flannel middle, and cotton lining.

Ties:   You can use a number of different ties on the shaped masks. My alternate instructions feature 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 of 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.

Fabric ties can also be made from a 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 or threading them through the side channels. T-shirt ties are stretchy so you can really snug them tight around the head without it hurting.

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.

Instead of using one long 45" tie, you can use elastic ear loops. Some people, though, 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 four fabric ties in liu of elastic. These ties are 18" long and are sewn into the corners of rectangular masks

Nose pieces: There are a number of things you can use for the nose pieces on the shaped masks. 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. They are a sturdier alternative to pipe cleaners, heavy twists ties, or floral wire. 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.