How to make a no-sew face mask from an old T-shirt

With mask orders taking effect to combat the coronavirus — and some major retailers requiring them for entry — it’s important to have a face covering when you are outside the home.

If you find yourself low on disposables, or with your regular cloth masks awaiting a wash, don’t fear: You can make a pretty nifty mask in just a few minutes — no sewing skills required.

There are a few different techniques, but all of them require a good-quality, short-sleeved cotton T-shirt. As one writer for the Los Angeles Times noted, if you can see through the fabric when you hold it up to the light, it’s probably too thin to offer much protection. Opt for a heavier weave.


Grab some scissors and you’re good to go. Below are a couple of easy mask patterns you can make in a pinch.

A version shared by the AARP creates an adjustable mask in just 8 steps. The basic rundown is: Cut off the sleeve of a T-shirt (after making sure it’s large enough to fit over your mouth and nose). Cut off the bottom hem of the shirt so you have a large loop; snip the loop to make a long strip of fabric.

Arrange the strip just so in the sleeve and you have an adjustable mask that you tie around your neck and tighten as you please.

Here’s a video, by University of San Francisco researcher-in-residence Jeremy Howard, that I used to make a bunch of masks when our quarantine started:

It’s super-simple as well, with just a few snips here and there to make a two-strap mask. You can also add an extra layer of protection by pinning a paper towel between the layers of T-shirt.

I’ve gotten so good at making these that I can bust one out in less than five minutes — including a minute of rummaging for the proper shirt. They’re pretty comfortable, too, which is a bonus.

For more ideas and info, including another no-sew mask style, check out the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s mask guidance site.