Recess / Make Your Own Mask

Face mask-envy may be the latest trend among fashionistas. Whether you prefer store-bought fabrics with intricate designs, or an upcycled handkerchief bearing your favourite motif, it is really quite easy to fashion your own face mask using materials available at home. To help you get creative, here is a step-by-step guide contributed by Dr Johannah Soo from the Natural Sciences & Science Education (NSSE) Academic Group. Share your finished designs on NIE Instagram using the hashtag #myNIEmask!

What You Will Need
  • Cotton handkerchief of at least 25 cm in length e.g. batiks or plain weave “quilter’s cotton” with a thread count of 180 or more.
  • Non-woven material e.g. kitchen paper towel or dried wet wipes.
  • Pliable strip about 10 cm in length e.g. salvage the metal strip from a disposable mask, or tape two pieces twist-tie together.
  • Two pieces of elastic bands, each about 20 cm in length e.g. sewing elastic bands or hair-tie.

Step 1:

  1. Mark the centre (Position C) on the printed side of the handkerchief.
  2. Make a crease about halfway between the top edge to the centre of the handkerchief (Positions A and B).
  3. Iron on the folds to make a good crease.
  4. If you have a lining/filter, place it on the reverse side of the handkerchief.

Step 2:

Fold A and B towards the centre.

Step 3:

Turn the handkerchief over, and fold the excess fabric backwards.

Step 4:

  1. Turn in the ends of the folded handkerchief.
  2. Loop an elastic band around each folded end, and secure in place using a peg or safety pin.
  3. How much to turn in depends on the size of your handkerchief and the desired length of the finished product.

Step 5:

Keep the bands in position using running stitches.
You may also use glue, a safety pin or stapler to fasten the fabric together.


  1. To make adjustable ear bands, position two pieces of elastic bands as shown.
  2. Make a knot on the exposed end of each band.
  3. Tie a sliding knot over the other band.

Size Chart:

Finished sizesMinimum height (cm) after stretching out the pleatsLength (cm)
L (men)1925
M (ladies)15.521
S (teens)1218
XS (kids)10.517
XXS (babies)7.512