Making Fabric Masks With T-Shirt Ties

Finished fabric mask
Fabric Mask with t-shirt ties

Like many of you, I have been making fabric masks for people for the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, I finally ran out of elastic.  I am having trouble locating a reputable, within reason price to purchase more but still wanted to make masks for those requesting them.

While I have a lot of fabric, cutting up yards and yards of a fabric to make ties and then having to stand and fold, press with iron, fold again press with iron, fold again and press with iron, sew the strip up and then sew it to mask is very hard on my back, neck and shoulders.

A thought occurred to me, t-shirts are stretchy.

Between my husband and myself, we have several t-shirts I could use for a good cause.  (It also help us to make room and organize our drawers.)

So, if you are looking for an alternative to elastic why not try an old t-shirt?


One suggestion I will make about washing them is to wash them in a sink with hot sudsy water verses washing them in a washing machine.

I believe this will help in the longevity of the mask and keep the ties from wrapping around anything else you maybe washing them with.  Also, just a reminder, DO NOT MICROWAVE these masks to purify them.  They will catch on fire.

Please remember that these masks are not N95 protective gear.

If everyone is wearing a mask when they are out in public, these will help keep our germs to ourselves and they help as a reminder to not touch our face.

I am making my fabric masks with 9 x 6 rectangles.  (If you need larger or small sizes you can make adjustments)  I use a muslin fabric for a filter, a light or plain fabric for the back and a nice fabric for the front.  The one pictured above is a patriotic as it will be donated to the VA for people that are coming into the building.  (The VA is not having their staff use these.). I know that there’s many fabric mask tutorial on the web so please refer to the accordion folded masks for more direction.  I will be giving the basics for attaching the t-shirt strips to the accordion folded rectangle.  Here’s a link to a face mask tutorial by Jenny Down.

Cut your t-shirt strips
Cutting your t-shirt strips

Lay out your t-shirt on a flat surface and do your best to even it out and no wrinkles or bunching.  Cut your bottom hemmed band off the t-shirt and throw away.  Now cut a one inch strip across your shirt.

t-shirt strip is one inch
One inch strip

It should look something like what’s pictured above.  Your band will be circle at this point.

Preparing strip
Cutting sewn sides off

I take my scissors and cut the seam areas off this strip. You will have two sides to cut off where t-shirt was sewn together.  You want to keep as much of the strip as you can so cut closely to the seam to get rid of the bulk.

Pull t-shirt strip
Preparing t-shirt strips for sewing.

Now you have two strips about the same length.  Grab the strip one finger and thumb on each end and pull/stretch your strip.  Do this to both pieces.  They will look like the strip on the right pictured above.  You will use these two pieces for your mask.

Rectangle and strip ready to sew.
Strip and rectangle ready for next step

Go over to your sewing machine.  At this point, you can try to sew a line or zig-zag a stitch down your t-shirt strip.  The strip is curled in because we pulled it after cutting it.  I don’t know that sewing this strip helps it to wash better but for me, it made it easier to sew onto the mask.  (This part is really up to you.)

You can zig-zag stitch you t-shirt strip
t-shirt tie with zig-zag stitch.

Here is a zig-zag sewn strip.

It takes a little practice to sew it down the middle but after the second strip I was getting the hang of it.  If your machine is only a straight stitch, you can sew a line down the middle.  I found it did not always catch the edges but make it more stable for sewing to mask.

Folded rectangle

You want to sew the t-shirt strip on before putting in your accordion folds.

I fold my rectangle (which has already been sandwiched and sewn together and turned right sides out- refer to a rectangle mask tutorial for this process) in half and take a straight pin to mark the middle.  I then take one of my strips and fold it in half and pin down to the middle of the mask.  If you have clips, you may use them for this process as well.  Just find the middle of each for sew down.  Do this for top and bottom of long sides of rectangle.

Fold rectangle to find center
Finding the center of rectangle
Rectangle with t-shirt ties clipped on for sewing.
Clips holding t-strip to fabric mask
Secure the t-shirt tie to rectangle.
Sewing t-shirt tie to mask.

Sew the top and bottom strips down.  Do your best to make sure the whole strip is on the mask fabric, not just part of the strip.

T-shirt ties attached and accordion fold pinned.
Pinned folds with t-shirt ties.

Accordion fold your mask, pinning each fold on each side.

Sew down your sides.  I do my stitching in a top to bottom thin rectangle.  I believe this gives the strips and the folds a strong base that will endure being pulled for tying and when washing your fabric mask

Sewing a rectangle to secure folds.

Close up of sewn down accordion folds

TaDa!  You now have a tying fabric mask!

Maybe you wonder why I didn’t sew my strips to the short side of the fabric mask.  I did that on my first one and found that the mask did not sit flat against my face.  Remember, we want to eliminate as many ways as we can for germs to come in or out of our masks. It must fit firmly up to our face.  I also tried using the t-shirt strip like we sew our elastic on the sides.  Again, the mask does not fit tightly to your face. Everyone’s head size is a little different.To do it right, I would need the person that’s going to wear the mask right there with me so I could make adjustments.

Tied mask back view
Back view of tied on mask

I found the tied on t-shirt material much more comfortable to wear than my elastic over the ears mask I have been using when I have to go out in public.

I hope you’ve found this helpful in your mask making adventures.

Don’t forget to look at me tutorial on making a mask band extender or my post Quilters Asked To Make Masks For Medical Facilities.  As always, thank you for stopping by my blog today!


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