DIY face masks during COVID-19

  • back of face mask
    University of Minnesota alum Shannon Williamson created step-by-step instructions for DIY face masks.
  • front of face mask
    Front of face mask. Step 1) Wash fabric in hot water and dry on high heat before sewing.
  • Step 2
    Place pattern on fabric and cut two outer pieces. Mark fabric where all black boxes appear in seam allowance (SA). Fold pattern on blue dashed line and cut two lining pieces. Mark fabric where all blue boxes appear in SA.
  • step 3
    Press the sides of each piece - 1/4“ and 5/8” on outer piece. On lining press 5/8,“ then press half of the 5/8” SA into seam to hide raw edge.
  • step 4
    Sew lining edges only. Do not sew outer edge pieces at this time.
  • step 5
    Place the two outer pieces right-side together and sew the middle seam. Press the seam open (edge of ironing board works well). Repeat with lining pieces.
  • step 6
    Pin nose pleats on both outer and lining pieces. Place the two pieces right-sides together and sew the top and bottom. Start and stop at lining edge (DO NOT sew over outer tie channel).
  • step 7
    Turn right-side out and press the top and bottom seams (a wool dryer ball works well).
  • step 8
    Fold the 1/4“ SA on the top and bottom of the outer piece down and re-press the tie channel.
  • step 9
    Sew the tie channel down 1/2” from the edge. Ensure outer and lining pieces are open on the side creating a pocket for the filter.
  • step 10
    Sew the wire channel down 1/2“ from the top edge. Do not sew past the tie channel seam.
  • step 11
    Insert wire into wire channel and bend to fit nose. Insert ties into the tie channel (a tweezer helps).
  • step 13
    Elastic will wrap around the ears while the string will tie behind the head. Tying behind the head results in a better fit. If using elastic, tuck knots into the channel.
  • step 13
    Insert filter material into the mask pocket ensuring it fully covers nose and mouth.
  • print pattern copy
    A cutout for copying the pattern.

University of Minnesota alum Shannon Williamson (BS ’11, apparel design; MS ’17, medical device innovation) works as a user experience designer with the cardiovascular group at Medtronic. With the COVID-19 crisis, Williamson’s background in apparel design and medical device innovation has prepared her to meet a new challenge: crowdsourcing a critical health care need by providing a DIY template for face masks.

While DIY masks are not as effective as surgical or N95 masks* in preventing the spread of COVID-19, some doctors and other health care professionals are wearing them over the top of the higher-tech masks to increase durability. And use of these DIY masks, by lower risk populations, free up N95 masks for health care professionals and others who are at high risk.

“This mask is deliberately more complex than those that are circulating on the Internet,” says Williamson. Her design provides a more secure fit and includes a filter pocket.

She created the design after consulting with everyone from quilters and seamstresses to physicians and engineers. But, she says, it’s important for people not to go out and get supplies in order to create these.

“In times of crisis, we can all step up in our own ways. Right now, that includes staying at home. For me, staying home includes working on this,” says Williamson.

She recommends people use what they have on hand, from unused fabrics to cut-up furnace filters, or even vacuum cleaner bags, for the filter pockets.

Williamson says that both she and a retired physician she collaborated with on the project have family members on staff at clinics in Willmar, MN, and the shortage is real.

“Everywhere there is a shortage of personal protective equipment. We’re trying to get ahead of it,” she says.

“Ideally, enough real masks are available for all who need them, and this design never gets used, but I wanted to share this for those who might need it.”

View step-by-step instructions of Williamson's design (PDF) as well as instructions for the filters (PDF)Note: Vacuum bags are no longer recommended for use as a filter material.

*The CDC has established strategies for optimizing the supply of face masks during times of “Crisis capacity,” which includes the use of masks far less capable than Williamson’s design.

Learn more about Williamson's educational pathway in this video.
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities