The Beginning

After the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, also known as the Covid-19 pandemic, the CDC recommended many measures to reduce the rate of transmission. Included was the recommendation for the general population to stay at home as much as possible and to wear masks while out getting groceries and the like. This was quite the challenge to overcome, since there was not a mask to be bought, and I had only 3 disposable masks at home (meant for yard work allergies and dry wall dust). I also don’t own a sewing machine. Add in a very low skill or tolerance for craft doing and making, and I really wanted to find the easiest solution I could.

The local grocery store

My oldest child started working his first job very recently at the local grocery store. They implement many measures for cleaning and safety for their employees. One included making cloth masks available for employees. So of course when my son came home with one to wash and reuse, I immediately wanted to see if I could make some of those myself.

Solution One

Materials needed:

  1. couple of old shirts
  2. manilla folder
  3. black permanent marker and/or chalk
  4. scissors


1 - Cut the manilla folder in the correct shape to use as a guide for the shape needed on the shirts.

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2 - Cut the shirts along seams and into rectangles of 13 inches by 7 inches.

3 - Outline the folder on the shirt. Use chalk for black or dark material. Use permanent marker for anything else. Remember to put down newspaper under if you are using the marker. You are welcome!

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4 - Cut the shirt just inside of the outline.

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5 - Cut the ear slits. I did this by visually guessing approximately where they should go.



This was not quite as good as the store provided ones, but not terrible. The bottom wasn’t as snug.

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Solution Two

Materials needed:

  1. couple of old shirts
  2. scissors


  1. Following a youtube video I found, start by cutting the shirts along seams and into 2 squares of 16 inches by 14 inches.

  2. Cut along the seams and save the strips.

  3. Cut the sides every 2 inches into 3-4 inch strips for tieing into knots.

  4. Tie all the strips into knots except the corners.

  5. Using the seam strips, tie from one corner to another. Watch the video so this makes sense. Repeat with the other side.

  6. Flip inside out and adjust on face.


The end result looked like a diaper on your face. Not my favorite solution and no one in my family was on board with this one.

Solution Three

So despite the not ideal results, the previous solution actually did give me an idea. I really liked using the seams for the ear pieces.

Materials needed:

  1. couple of old shirts
  2. scissors


1 - Cut the shirts along seams and into rectangles of 14 inches by 5 or 6 inches.

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2 - Cut along the seams and save the strips.

3 - Cut seam strips to 8 inches.


4 - Tie ends in a knot and trim. Repeat.

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5 - Pull one side of the rectangle through the loop and fold over to the middle. Repeat with the other side.

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6 - Put on your face and adjust.



We have a winner. The mask here looks most like the masks other people are wearing and using in the stores. This is the easiest and quickest solution. Also it is the best fit of the three in my opinion. This option can be very quickly and easily adjusted for different sized faces. I do have to note that one member of my family still prefers the first solution since it is single layer instead of doubled.

I decided to hang them on the key rack on the way out of the door as a great way to remind someone (me) to grab one when grabbing the keys to leave the house.


Lessons Learned

  1. Use shirts that are cotton. Even athletic sports jersey material wasn’t a good material for breathing for any length of time.
  2. Put down newspaper underneath the material if using the marker.
  3. Use alcohol prep pads or alcohol soaked cotton balls to remove marker from finished wood. :)
  4. The best stretchy breathable cotton was incredibly hard to cut smoothly unless using a really sharp pair of hair cutting scissors.
  5. Try a few different ideas. You might come up with your own solution based off of previous attempts.
  6. The best solution often is the simplest.