How to Make Face Masks Out of T-Shirts

To combat the national shortage of face masks, people got creative with making their own gear. After just a few steps, you’ll learn how to make a face mask from a t-shirt.


Melissa Chiarella

Melissa Chiarella wears an old T-shirt that she repurposed into a face mask. As the scarcity of PPE persists, this quick craft could be a helpful addition to your list of quarantine activities. (Photo by Melissa Chiarella)

Nicole Chiarella, Deputy Copy Chief

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks carried a different meaning: when someone suggested making one, it was typically from dark chocolate or honey, not a t-shirt. However, with the worldwide shortage of face masks, people have found unique ways to provide themselves with protection.

The scarcity of face masks has affected a range of professional fields — even the military isn’t immune to this unprecedented shortage. The Department of Defense released new policies on the distribution of face masks: all personal protective equipment must be allocated to medical personnel

The Air Force enacted guidelines in addition to those of the DOD; airmen must wear a facial covering that conceals their noses and mouths, while still complying with current uniform standards. My sister, currently stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base, had to figure out a way to adhere to this regulation. She found her inspiration in an old t-shirt from bootcamp: with a few alterations, this t-shirt would be repurposed into a buffer between her and the virus.

During a recent FaceTime call, she let me in on her process of making a face mask from a t-shirt. In three simple steps, you’ll be able to make your own face mask too!

What You’ll need

  • Shirt
  • Scissors
  • Marker (Optional)

Step 1: Lay the t-shirt on a flat surface, and turn the t-shirt sideways. This will make it easier to cut the fabric.

You will need an old T-shirt and a pair of scissors. (Photo by Nicole Chiarella)

Step 2: With the t-shirt sideways, measure about five inches (or a hand) from the bottom left corner of the shirt. Then, cut straight across the t-shirt. Next, cut open the newly cut piece of fabric into a long strip.

Cut a strip of fabric from the bottom of your T-shirt. (Photo by Nicole Chiarella)

Step 3: Put the strip of fabric over your face — seam side up — and make a small mark where your ears are.

Make a mark on the strip where your ears are. (Photo by Nicole Chiarella)

Step 4: Next, lay the fabric down, and starting from each end, cut three equal strips up until the mark, on both sides. 

Cut each end into three strips. (Photo by Nicole Chiarella)

Step 5: Once you cut the three strips, braid them. My sister recommends placing some weight on the opposite side of the strip to provide tension — it’ll make for a tighter braid. After you’ve braided both sides, tie a knot at the end of each braid. 

Braid each of the three strips together. (Photo by Nicole Chiarella)

There you have it: tie the braids together around your head, and your face mask is now ready for use! My sister suggests placing the hemmed side of the face mask on your nose, as the edges typically curl in; this will help secure the mask over your face. 

The finished mask, repurposed from an old T-shirt (Photo by Nicole Chiarella)

To best protect yourself and others from the virus, follow CDC recommendations and practice social distancing.

Email Nicole Chiarella at [email protected].