Make your own face mask with these simple step-by-step guides

With face masks sold out in most shops, these DIY masks are a handy backup

Kit Kriewaldt
Written by
Kit Kriewaldt
Deputy Editor, Time Out Tokyo
Face mask, DIY craft, ruler
Photo: Kit Kriewaldt

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has made finding face masks at drugstores and supermarkets so difficult, the government has stepped in, announcing two cloth face masks will be sent to every household in Japan.

Of course, not everyone can wait for their special mask delivery – and plenty of households have more than two people. So Japanese netizens have been getting crafty, sharing tips and tricks on making DIY face masks from paper towels, handkerchiefs, or even old bras. 

To be clear: no homemade mask is as effective as a proper surgical face mask, but if the store-bought kind isn’t readily available, and you're staying in due to the recently declared state of emergency, then grab a ruler and some scissors and try making one of these.

Paper towel mask (no sewing required)

Maskless Tokyoites were quick to share this super simple technique for turning a paper towel into a face mask. Originally tweeted by the Disaster Response Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, this mask requires no sewing skills and very few materials. Take a sheet of paper towel, fold it into a concertina shape, then staple a rubber band to either end and you’ve got yourself a single-use paper mask.

Handkerchief mask (no sewing required)

This five-minute mask design, courtesy of Japanese chain Muji, is a remarkably creative use of a handkerchief and two hair ties. Using a clever folding technique instead of sewing, this handkerchief mask is another good option for anyone who feels a little threatened by needle and thread. Just make sure to get some large-sized hair ties, otherwise the mask might be a bit tight.

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Fabric mask

Japanese craft magazine Cotton Time published this timely (and free) sewing pattern just as the mask shortage began. To make this mask, you’ll need some fabric, elastic cord or string, scissors, and something to sew with. The pattern is in Japanese, but the measurements are clear and the steps are pretty simple to follow, even without the help of Google Translate. Glam it up by using a flashy piece of material. We recommend making a few of these – that way, you always have a clean mask to wear while one is in the wash.

Bra mask

Winning the award for thinking outside the box, some Japanese women have posted instructions on how to make a face mask from a bra. It may sound strange, but by cutting off one cup and sewing the bra straps on as ear loops, you can make a durable, reusable mask. It’s not just Twitter users who are turning their bras into breathing boxes, either – workers in an underwear factory in Toyama prefecture have started sewing unused bra cups into masks as well.

Of course, as some women have discovered, the difference between the size of your cup measurement and your face can make this mask...less than ideal for outdoor use.

Now you know how to make your own masks, be well, stay safe, and please, stay home.

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