Thursday, June 25, 2020

FINALLY: Our Foam Face Mask Template & Tutorial!

Orlando is one of the worst hot spots for Covid right now, which means John and I are still self-quarantining as much as possible - and unbelievably grateful that we're able to work from home. It's definitely not fun anymore, but also a small price to pay to keep our neighbors safe.

And if we have to venture out in public, then we wear face masks.

Of course, being us, we set out to make a better, more comfortable DIY mask option for ourselves.

I'm sure you've noticed most masks aren't super comfortable. The ears straps can hurt, and all that fabric touching your face can feel sweaty and smothering, especially in this summer heat.

So we started working from an N-95 template, which holds the fabric away from your face. After several weeks of adjusting the template to fit and look better, here's what we came up with:

Of course I made it bright pink. WHAT.

It's a little beak-ish from the side - or muzzle-ish? Maybe I should paint a dog nose on one, ha.

In case the pink is throwing you, here's John's current favorite: 

Nanananananananananana... BATMAN

The foam frame holds the cotton filters away from your face, so only the very edges of this mask touch your face. It seals below the jawline (at least on me), so it doesn't move around as much or need re-adjustment every time you talk or scrunch your nose. The hidden nose wire helps seal the mask under your eyes and reduces glasses fog.

The metal grommets allow the single elastic strap to slide and tighten easily, while the double-strap design is both comfy and easy to put on and take off. To temporarily remove the mask you can pull the top strap over your head and slide the mask down to rest on your chest, which keeps it clean and close-at-hand. (That's John favorite feature; no more handling a contaminated mask while he's driving.)

Before I share the template with you guys, here comes the giant fine print: Wear these masks at your own risk. I am not a medical professional, and these are certainly not medical grade. And while you can wash these with soap and water or wipe/spritz them with alcohol, I still recommend waiting at least 3 days between wearings. So if you want to wear one of these every day, make at least 4 and cycle through.

There are some optional extra steps that can make these masks even more effective, like doubling up the cotton filters and sealing the foam with Mod Podge as well as heat. So please feel free to tinker and improve upon our design!


You will need:

- our free template 
- 2mm craft foam in your choice of color (1 sheet per adult mask)
-  contact cement* & q-tips to apply it
-  filter fabric (I'm using cotton, but I've read there are a variety of options out there)
- a paperclip (one per mask)
- 1/8 inch elastic cord, 30 inches per mask
- scissors, craft blade
- hot glue gun & glue sticks
-  iron & ironing board

[*The contact cement I'm using is less than $8 on Amazon, and contains enough to make 1,000 masks, easy. If you've never used contact cement before, prepare to be amazed. This stuff is miraculous on craft foam. Just be sure to use it in a well-ventilated area!]

OPTIONAL EXTRAS (but recommended)
- Aluminum foil
 - white craft glue
- Metal eyelets/grommets to feed the elastic through
- Metal crimps for the elastic cord & a lobster claw
- Mod Podge to seal the foam

First, download and print out our template:

 We've also made a child's size, which is 30% smaller. Feel free to shrink or enlarge the template as needed.

 - Trace the paper template onto your foam using a sharp pencil or something pointy, since the foam marks easily:

Learn from my mistakes: Do NOT use a pen or marker on the foam; it soaks in like a sponge and will stain your hands. It also tends to show in your final product.

Cut out the mask and paperclip cover, but leave the filter holes in for now. Also mark the elastic holes with a toothpick for later.

Seal the foam by quickly dragging a hot iron over it. (I set my iron to "Wool," which works great.) You'll instantly see the foam change texture and become shiny as you do this. Seal both sides.

To make your mask look like leather - which I recommend, since craft foam texture is yucky - crumple up a sheet of tin foil and quickly iron over it.

Add as much or as little texture as you like with the foil. You can see I went pretty heavy on this one, just because I think it looks cool. 

Once you're happy with your mask texture, cut out the filter holes. You can use scissors, but I find a blade is a little easier:

Use the cut-out filter pieces to trace out the shapes onto your filter fabric:

Add an inch allowance all the way 'round, so you have a border to glue down.

Cut out your fabric eggs. If you plan to double up your fabric, cut 2 sets of these.

 Plug in your hot glue gun:

(I am stupidly happy with that silicone honeycomb pad, y'all. It cost me $4 on Amazon, and now my hot glue gun doesn't slide down the table every time I put it down! Ahh, the little things...)

(Also there's a tiny bit of green moss stuck to my gun from the Labyrinth Eyeball moss, and it looks like snot. You don't really need this information, but now you have it anyway. You're welcome.)

You want your filters to be tight, so hot glue down one end of the fabric first, then stretch and smooth it with your fingers to glue the rest of the way around.

Oh yeah, and make sure you're gluing these on the BACK side of your mask. I textured both sides of mine just to practice, so it didn't matter on mine.

Open up your paperclip and shape it like this:

 I fold in the ends so it won't poke through the foam.  Tack it down with a tiny dab of hot glue.

Now add a whole bunch of hot glue over the paperclip, and cover it with your foam paperclip cover:

Don't press it down too hard, or it will malform the front of the mask.

 Our paperclip cover errs on the large side, so feel free to trim it to fit:

- Fold over the side flaps, and punch 2 small holes in each side:

For those who own a Crop-A-Dile: I'm using the smaller of the two hole punches.

Hot glue the flaps down, and now the back of your mask should look something like this:

This is optional, but at this point I like to add a thin bead of white glue all the way around the filter fabric to keep it from fraying:

Just add a thin line of glue and smooth it with your finger.

While that dries, lets make the elastic.

I make my elastic straps removable, so each person I give a mask to only needs one strap no matter how many masks they have. This conserves elastic and makes it a little easier to store the masks.

To make the elastic removable, you'll need metal cord crimps that are small enough to fit through the metal eyelets on your mask, if you're using any. You'll also need a clasp like a lobster claw. (I linked the crimps I'm using here.)

You'll need about 30 inches of 1/8 inch elastic per mask. I'm currently a mask-making fiend, so I bought this 50-yard spool, which'll make 60 adult-sized straps.

Cut off your elastic, then melt the ends with a lighter to keep them from unraveling:

Melting elastic ends is so satisfying, am I right?

Add your cord crimps on each end, then add a small lobster claw:

 Ta-daaaa, one re-usable mask strap. Remember, you only need to make one of these per person, not per mask.

Now let's make the magic happen.

Dip your q-tip less than halfway into the contact cement; you only need a TINY amount. 

Carefully apply a thin layer of contact cement on both edges of the center mask seam:

Try not to get any cement on the face of the mask itself; it's shiny and will show. Keep the cement on the thin edges.

Let your first coat dry for a minute (the shine should disappear), then apply a 2nd thin coat of contact cement. Yep, you really do need two coats. Patience, padawan.

Let your second coat dry for another minute. Test it by tapping the edge with your finger: You want the cement to feel tacky but not wet.

Joining the two edges together will take a little practice, but I've found a great trick for getting the seam as smooth as possible:

First, you're going to be turning your mask inside out as you join the two edges together. So start with the front of the mask facing up on the table like this, and push the nose seam away from you as you go.
Slide the two seam edges together, starting at the nose. Only join half an inch at a time, then roll the mask forward so the seams are flat on the table again, and repeat, sliding the two edges together. Keeping the seam edges flat on the table will keep them level and prevent any ripples or bulges.

Once you've joined the two edges together, your mask will look like this:

See how it's inside out?

Leave your mask inside out for at least 5-10 minutes while the contact cement cures. Take this time to pinch the nose piece if you see any gaps.

After 5-10 minutes, flip your mask right side out:

Awww yeaeeeeah

Congratulations. It's a mask!

Your final step is to install the metal eyelet/grommets for the elastic strap. These are optional, but they make the mask more durable and tightening the strap easier.

Sadly I can't find these grommets on Amazon and I've used up my supply, so if anyone knows where I can buy some more, please let me know! They're backless and longer than scrapbooking grommets, but fit a Crop-A-Dile perfectly.

Last thing: Do not wear your mask right away. Let the contact cement cure and air out for a few days first, just to be extra safe. You don't want to be breathing in contact cement fumes!

These masks are infinitely customizable. If you want more air flow - or to show off more of your fabric print - you can make the filter holes larger, like this:

I just traced a drinking glass to get the larger shape.

You can also trim the jawline or nose peak to better fit your face.

And of course I couldn't resist decorating some. Hey, if you have to wear a mask anyway, why NOT make it fun?

If you plan to wash your masks in water, be sure to use Velcro to add any non-water-proof elements like these flowers. Also when you wash them, don't leave them soaking in water. Just scrub quickly with soap, rinse, and set out to dry.

John and I leave the house so rarely - and only wear our masks about 20 minutes each time - that we often just leave our masks to sit 3-4 days between uses, but you should use whatever sanitation method you think best. We have washed some with soap and water, and they held up just fine and dried in a few hours.

 I added a tiny amount of gold Rub N' Buff wax to this black mask, which gives it an aged, bronze-y feel. It's another one of my favorites.

Since I'm sure some of you are wondering: yes, you can paint your masks with water-based craft paint - but I don't know how well that will hold up to washing. You can also add a layer of Mod Podge over the completed mask to make it more water-resistant. (I've also added Mod Podge just to give it a nicer sheen.)

John surprised me with this one morning:

An R2 inspired mask! I see so much Disneybounding potential with these.

John even made you guys the template:

I made this next one for my mom, since she and my dad are Harley riders:

This is using one of our earlier templates, so you can see the eye cut-outs and jaw don't seal as well.

I've made nearly 40 masks so far, and I'm enjoying it so much I have no intention of stopping. Here's another current favorite I made for a friend:

 My friend's daughter is afraid of masks, so I made the two of them a couple of matched sets. I'm hoping the pretty colors and sparkles will help the little girl feel less afraid - and matching her mom's mask might help, too? Fingers crossed, anyway.

Again, PLEASE IMPROVE UPON OUR DESIGN. Tinker away, tell me how you'd make it better!

In fact here's one idea I'm too lazy to try myself: Make the fabric filters removeable with velcro, and serge the edges so you can throw them in the washing machine. That way you could have multiple filters and less masks, though you'd still want to sanitize the foam part. Eh?

 I know a bunch of you have been waiting for this tutorial, so thanks for being patient with me. I hope it was worth the wait!


Edited To Add:

I'm sorry I didn't stress this enough in the post, gang, so let's try this again: YES YOU CAN WASH THESE MASKS. You can scrub them in the sink with soap and water, spray them with disinfectant and than rinse with water, wipe them down with Lysol wipes, etc, etc.

You can also use more layers of cotton fabric for the filters, or use better filter fabric all together. Again, please improve upon our design.

John and I spent the last few weeks working to offer this template and tutorial for free because we thought it might help someone, but obviously if you feel this design is somehow unsafe for your health, then please don't make one.

And just for a little perspective on where we're coming from: here in Florida roughly half our fellow residents refuse to wear a mask of any kind while the infection rate continues to skyrocket, so ANY form of face-covering is an improvement. So if I can provide a more comfortable mask option that maybe even looks kinda cool, and that entices someone to finally wear a mask? Then heck, that's what I'm going to do. :)

Be safe out there, my friends.



  1. Those are amazing! Sadly, it's all pretty much beyond my crafting ability (which is pretty embarrassing to admit), but luckily I can tolerate masks pretty well and just mostly avoid going out much. Are you selling some? 40 is a lot!

    1. No selling, no, just making some for friends and family. I try to make multiples for each person, so they can cycle through and always have one ready to wear.

    2. Do you know anyone who could sell these to me?

    3. Check out Brooke on Instagram; I believe she's still selling a modified version of our pattern.

  2. While the 3-4 days is solid for the relatively fragile SARS-2 CoViD virus, I have no idea what the time frame is for all the other bacteria and virii you'll be trapping in those cloth filters.

    The velcro idea for the filters is genius and might solve for that, though.

    It would also allow them to be swopped out when they've been worn for 2 hours (after too long,the fabric gets soggy and doesn't stop stuff getting in or out very well)

    They look amazing, and seem like a much more comfortable option for people required to wear them to stay employed or be allowed to visit family and friends, or just get the food & supplies they need.

    Now I just want my own "plague doctor" version.

  3. Hi Jen, these are really cool, but I'm really concerned about using them to help protect against COVID given that they aren't washable. The reason its so important to wash your mask between uses is because when you breathe through it, the mask traps large droplets from your breath which potentially contain coronavirus. If you don't wash your mask, you're building up more and more dried, potentially infected, saliva and respiratory droplets on that mask and breathing them in with every use. And of course every time you touch the cloth part, you pick that up on your hands. That's a real infection risk given we know coronavirus can survive on cloth for several days at a minimum. A mask that can't be effectively washed is actually a real hazard. I would really encourage you to think about whether this is an appropriate post to have up, given the size of your platform. Perhaps you could modify the pattern to take out the fabric parts and pop a mask over the top? That would keep it away from your face but also allow you to wash the mask and quickly wipe down the foam, keeping everything clean!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Alice. I don't think Jen stressed enough that you can wash these. For my masks, I simply spray them down with Lysol cleaner, rinse them, and set them out to dry. Because the fabric is glued, it doesn't come off in water. Granted these aren't N95 masks but almost nothing fabric is either. The other great part of this is that you really never need to touch the mask. It's easily positioned using just the straps. And, because it's shaped in a more form fitting way, you don't have to constantly pinch the nose and it won't fall down past your nose like so many fabric masks. To me, it checks all the boxes. I think unless you're using new, disposable N95 masks every time you leave the house, nothing is perfect. But if this can get somebody to put on a mask who otherwise wouldn't, I think it's a good thing.

  4. I'm sure lots of people have told you this, but you should be selling these! I would definitely buy some!

  5. The foam is not too hot? I would trust a Floridian's opinion on this LOL.

    1. Good question. I have N95 masks that I had from before and, to me, they're hotter than these foam versions. If you're mowing the lawn and it's 95 degrees, yeah, these are going to be horrible. But for normal use, they feel pretty good.

  6. We've been making the fabric filters as pockets and then putting pieces of that blue garage (paper?)towel in them. That way we can sanitize the outside and just change the filters, if we don't have time to let the mask sit. It is a little wasteful, but the inserts are so small that I don't feel too bad about it. They're also easy to carry with you for work (8 hours is too long in the same mask/filter, if you ask me). Seems like this would be an easy addition to your design and could be done with some stitch-witch for those who don't sew.

    Thanks for the fun template. I'm going to need to get some red, blue and gold foam to make a Wonder Woman one :)

  7. Thank you for this! You guys are amazing!

  8. I love these! I am an esthetician and my mask just feels wet after wearing it all day. I think you should sell them! I would buy one in a heartbeat!

  9. Hey, cool! Thank you for posting the template and tutorial - it's awesome! I've been sewing fabric masks for months now, and have a design that works great...until you have to talk. If I can get my hands on some of the contact cement I'll give this a try, along with your suggestion of velcro for the fabric. I think I'd probably cut out a fabric piece matching the foam template, though, and work on a way to attach the fabric so that the fabric edges are closer to the part of the mask that touches your face, in order to minimize airflow around/through the velcro. That'll make the fabric easier to wash, too, since small circles of fabric will go wandering in the washer. Will report back if I find something workable!

    1. That's a fantastic idea, please do report back on how it goes!

  10. what size should the templates print out? they printed out WAY too small for our adult faces ... but we so want to try these out!

    Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. Sorry for the confusion. Make sure you're printing landscape at 100% and, if you have the option, borderless printing. I think they're big enough if you click the template picture and then save from there but you may need to click "scale to fit" or something like that. Hope that helps.

    2. Hi John - I've seen some online sewing patterns that have a square box that should measure 1 inch when printed. This would be great, I'm in the UK and our printers print A4 paper, where as I believe "letter" sized is most common for you guys.

    3. That's a great suggestion! I'm not sure why I haven't been doing that for years with our various templates. Thanks! I'll try to fix these now. :)

  11. Is there any substitute glue-wise for the contact cement?

    1. That's a tough one. Contact cement just gives such a clean line and dries quickly enough that it can take the tension of the mask bending as the two edges come together. I'm not sure that other glues would work. You could try hot glue but it would be messy and dry really fast. Sorry I don't have a good alternative.

    2. Like John said, hot glue is the only alternative for foam that I know of, but it's messy and can squelch out either side of the seam. It holds great, though, so if that's all you have, give it a try!

    3. Actual stitching looks like it would be a viable option, then seal those holes (from inside, so it doesn't show) with a thin layer of whatever glue you used for the fabric inserts.

  12. Instead of white glue, try Frayblock! It's waterproof, dries quickly, and is washable! We've been using it on the satin brocade of my (eventual) wedding dress. :) (Engaged to be engaged, atm, long distance + health problems on both ends make being together impossible until the pandemic ends.)

  13. To get anywhere near WHO guidelines you'd want at least two layers, ideally three of fabric as your filters. An outer one of a polyester blend and an inner one of cotton would be ideal. I'd also be aware of how much moisture is building up inside, as soon as those the fabric gets damp you need to swap it out, which could be an issue as I can't imagine the foam is super breathable? Remember, your mask does protect you but its main purpose is to protect others.

    1. You're absolutely right. More fabric in the filters would be better. That said, of the people wearing masks, many are wearing homemade or poorly fitted masks that wrap around the ears and fall down around their noses constantly. They have to grab them to reset them increasing the chance of contaminating their hands. Then, the masks don't seal well around their nose anyway so if they cough, it blasts past their eyes. I guess what I'm saying is no, these aren't perfect. But in the absence of an N95 option, I would rather somebody wear a well fitted, relatively hands free version like this than a mask over just their mouth or, worse yet, nothing at all.

  14. Absolutely Agreed, oh John, Hubbyo'Jen! (Ha I made you a Star Wars name!)

  15. Clue! Yay. Let us out, let us out!.... Let us in, let us in!

  16. You guys are awesome. That is all.

  17. I’d anyone is making these to sell, I would definitely buy several. By the time I bought the materials it would cost me way too much for the few masks I’d make

  18. This is awesome. We've been making fabric masks for a friend and all his coworkers (nursing home) and to me they are smothering. Id love something that kept the fabric off my mouth and nose. I

  19. These are a cute design but need more fabric in the filter part and maybe use Velcro to remove the fabric piece to be able to machine wash it.

  20. My only suggestion would be to make a pocket of fabric where you could insert HEPA AC filters and could switch them out.

  21. Hey Jen, could we can an Amazon Affiliate see if links to your supplies? I'm about to order all of them and would love to make it wortg your while.

  22. As others have mentioned, I have HORRIBLE crafting skills. As in, none. If you ever decide to sell these, I'm for sure buy one!! They look great!

  23. Leave it to you guys to take an unfortunate necessity like masks and turn it into something so fun and beautiful! Amazing job.

  24. Do you think craft felt would be a reasonable stand-in for the foam, in terms of being structurally able to hold the shape of the mask away from your face? I don't have any craft foam on hand, but I do have craft felt, and I could essentially sew in the fabric filters and the seam... If I could find the time to do any sewing, sigh.

  25. Thanks for this - these looks great - I think I may try one. But I'm missing something with the strap - how exactly do you thread it through the mask to make it so you can tighten/loosen it? Maybe if I had one in front of me it would be obvious, but I can't picture it in my head.

    1. Hi C! Um, that's a tough question. I guess if you're looking at the mask, you would thread the strap in through the top right, out through the bottom right, then in through the bottom left and out through the top left. Then simply attach the two ends and you'll have two straps out of one long elastic. I don't know if that helped at all but here's hoping!

    2. That makes sense (to me) for the threading. But how would you adjust/ tighten the elastic?

    3. Hi-I had to follow the video a few times. I finally got it. Jen’s a fabulous instructor. I’m not much of a student. Oh well. Mission accomplished!

  26. Do you remember the brand or measurements of the eyelets? Or, alternatively, do you think standard scrapbooking eyelets would be long enough in a pinch? I am trying to come up with my shopping list haha

    1. Hi Molly, standard eyelets will be fine. Honestly, Jen is just concerned that the eyelets will either pinch the foam too hard to not close correctly but I think you can probably make them work. And there's always the option of not using eyelets if they give you too much trouble. And sadly, we have no idea the brand name. As will so many of our crafting supplies, we've had these for many years in a simple container. Ah well. Best of luck!

  27. have you checked out for grommets? I don't know if they work with the cropadile, but if you email their contact page Judy is amazing at answering questions (and they have fun and geeky plastic snaps too!)

  28. Neoprene instead of craft foam would enable it to be machine-washed a lot easier and more reliably. Soap and detergent is far more reliable at destroying coronavirus than time or using lysol on a porous material like fabric.

  29. These are great! Thanks for sharing all your hard work. I can actually talk and breath without fabric sticking to my face. Thanks!

  30. Hello! I rarely comment, but I just had to say what a genius idea this is! I made the first frame according to your most recent instructions (no glue required) & added the grommets. My grommet tool is fairly old & I had some difficulty with it, so I switched to using plastic snaps with the KAM snaps tool (there are other plastic snap tools too). It worked like a charm. I tested a snap on a piece of folded foam first to make sure it installed properly, and I got a nice tight fit. I placed the pronged snap cover on the inside of the frame and the stud piece on the outside of the frame. I then placed the pronged snap cover on the outside of the mask with the socket piece on the inside of the mask. It doesn't really matter whether the stud or the socket are on the frame or the mask but you definitely want the covers on the inside of the frame and the outside of the mask. I extended the pattern by about another 1/2" on the mask pattern casing edge so that I would still have enough room to thread the elastic through along the casing fold without the snaps being in the way. I didn't sew the casing in. The two snaps are enough to hold the elastic in place. The elastic can be threaded through using a very large needle or a bent paper clip. I use the same type of elastic as you recommend and it is very thin, stretchy and easy to thread. By using the snaps, one doesn't need to worry about making the elastic removable from the mask. I just unsnap the cloth mask from the foam frame and can toss the mask into the washer and wipe the frame down with a disinfectant cloth. It also allows me to make the mask with ear elastic which some of my family prefer. I like the neck elastic and I use a plastic spring-loaded cord lock to make it adjustable. I also use silicone cord locks for the ear elastic to make those adjustable & not have to worry about sizing for someone's ears. Your design also allows for a filter without having to make a filter pocket! I used the frame pattern to cut a filter that fits over the nose and about 1/2" beyond the air openings. I use a small piece of scotch tape on the outer edge to hold it in place so it's easier to sandwich it between the mask and the frame. For the nose wire I used a metal nose bridge I had in my stash for mask making. It's about 3.5" x 1/8" and straight with an adhesive backing. I was worried because it doesn't really bend in an arch so I couldn't form it to follow the pattern. I was able to sew it on straight across instead and it fits well across the nose when bent. I did enlarge the mask pattern just slightly so that the frame is not visible. This really helped me because I wear glasses and the nose coverage is high enough that my glasses fit over the mask & no fogging! I find it is a great fit for both me and my husband who has a completely different face shape. Besides the fit, I REALLY like the breathing room inside of it and it does not touch my mouth area at all. I've worn it for a couple of errands, and it will get a bit warm the longer I wear it, but not any more so than my previous masks. I have found that both the frame and mask pattern are easy to make and have an excellent fit. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. This is now my favorite mask!


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