Make face masks, face wipes, draught excluders and more with spare fabric

Make face masks, face wipes, draught excluders and more with spare fabric

Nine easy ways to save money and waste less re-using old T-shirts, leftover fabric etc

Face coverings are now mandatory on public transport in the UK, as well as in shops, so sewing your own could save you money. I'm going to show you two ways to make masks, or alternatively where to buy the cheapest ready-made versions.

I'll start with face masks, and then I've got other ideas of what you can make with leftover fabric scraps instead of binning them. These will save you money, and get you crafting a new skill – and sew it begins...

How to make face masks

Making a simple face covering is a lot easier than you might think – you can even use fabric from an old T-shirt, as most cheap T-shirts are cotton-polyester mixes and not 100% cotton, which is not recommended. If you've two pieces of suitable fabric 25cm by 25cm, and elastic, you can even follow simple Government instructions.

If you don't fancy the simple face covering and you're handy with a needle and thread, you can use small pieces of fabric you might have – either from a T-shirt or previous project – to make a more mask-like face covering, without a sewing machine. Don't worry, I'll show you how I made my two-ply masks, with options to add filters or more fabric for three-ply masks

  • Do:

    • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering, or taking it off
    • Wash your face covering regularly
    • Store in a plastic bag or reusable container if you're done wearing it, but before you can wash it

    Don't:

    • Use a face covering as an excuse to break social distancing rules
    • Use a face covering if you are unable to, eg, a small child, disabled etc. See when you may not have to wear a face covering on the Government website.
    • Touch your face covering unnecessarily 

Reusable pleated mask - save £5ish

This mask looks just like the disposable masks you've seen, but as it's made from fabric it can be washed and reused. You can also add a filter layer, if you'd like, between the two-ply design to make it three-ply.

    • You'll need a piece of fabric about 32cm x 22cm – approximately double the width of a regular disposable mask. If you already have one of a type that fits you, it can be useful to look at as you make your mask.
    • Fold the fabric in half, and pin it together while you sew together. This is the middle on the back (check the second-image right side out if this doesn't make sense) – either leave a gap of about 5cm to turn it out later (and insert a filter layer when it's done), or you can leave a gap on the last elastic edge you sew.
    • If you're using old stretched hair ties as the elastic, cut them in half (trim if longer than 18cm) and check for fit before you sew – tie a knot in each end to give you something to sew into. Remember, when you're sewing wrong-side out, the elastic should be on the inside – then pull through the hole you leave (see below left) for right-side out and to stitch the last corner.
    • Now it's time to add pleats – the pleats are about 1cm wide (see below). Put a stitch in to get them to line up on each side, then fold over so they touch (fold up from the bottom pin, with the fold at the top pin). Stitch the pleats down when you're happy with them.
    • My hair elastics were a bit old, so I had to tie a knot in them to get the mask to fit, but you could also use a shorter length of elastic if required.
    • You could add wire to the nose bridge if you want (I didn't for this one, but did for the mask below) – use a piece about 6cm long and sew tightly in place.

Reusable two-section mask - save £10ish

This two-ply mask looks smoother than the crinkled mask above, and you can make it with an inner layer to make it three-ply if you like.

    • Trace around the shape of a clean 19cm diameter plate to get the contour for your face right. I used kitchen roll so I could check it against my face and ears for fit. I used a 15cm x 15cm x 15cm triangle with the edge of the plate on one side, but your face might be different so check before you cut your fabric.
    • You'll need four separate pieces, two for each side (two for the front, and two for the inside). Pin and sew the curved sides together for each of the two pieces, wrong-side out.
    • Place together, again, wrong side facing out, and sew along the long sides, leaving a gap at each end of 3.5cm. When you've sewn the two pieces together, turn right-side out by pulling through one of the gaps at the end.
    • You can fold over one of the end pieces over your elastic or old hair ties, then fold the second piece in and sew across (see below), or you can fold both sides over and sew across that way if it's easier for you.
    • It's optional to add metal wire to use as the nose bridge pinch – have a look in your junk drawer for an old twist tie, or take the wire out of a disposable mask (this is what I did). Insert the wire before you finish, or through the seam, and stitch tightly around to secure.

Important: Do remember that these face coverings are not 'medical-grade', and when using a face covering or mask you should still follow Government advice on social distancing, and self-isolating if you have symptoms.

Can't sew? Cheapest reusable face coverings from under £1.50

If you've arthritis, no sewing tools, or just really don't fancy your chances at mask-making I found the following reusable masks/face coverings from less than £1.50 each:

  • Reusable fabric face cover – £1 at B&M Bargains in blackpink, or blue (available in store only)
  • Beige reusable face covering – £1.29 at Home Bargains (available online)
  • Fabric face covering – £1.29 at Home Bargains in black, or pink (available online)
  • Reusable fabric face covering – £1.30 at Lloyd's Pharmacy in blackpink, grey, or blue (available online)
  • Pack of three reusable double-layered face coverings – £3.99 at Aldi (available online)

I also found the above stores stocked reasonably-priced disposable face coverings, however since they're not reusable they work out more expensive per wear than those above, or making your own. If you choose this option, please dispose of them responsibly in a bin.

We've listed the cheapest face coverings we could find to be inclusive, as not everyone can afford to spend £10+ on one mask. You can also find more expensive face coverings eg, with filter inserts, so the style you choose is up to you. 

Now you've made your face covering, what do you do with the rest of the material?

Kitchen wipes - save £2ish

This is the simplest option, and you don't even need to do any real sewing! Simply cut any leftover fabric into 20cm x 20cm pieces, or use pieces of that size. Basically, you're going to want a similar size to kitchen roll, which you're going to replace with these re-usable alternatives.

Use your fabric wipes to mop up spills, dry fruit or veg, or for whatever else you'd usually use kitchen roll for. Then when they're dirty, either pop them in the washing machine in a bag, or handwash in the sink before drying and using again.

Reusable face wipes - save £7

Face Halo reusable face wipes are a lot of people's go-to reusable product, however they cost £7ish each, so they're a bit pricey if you need more than one. Here's where your fabric scraps come in handy – simply cut two squares the same size, about 9cm x 9cm, and sew together the edges. That's it, you've saved yourself close to a tenner. 

Remember to put your face wipes in a washing net if you put them in the washer after use to avoid them getting stuck behind the drum – not MoneySaving.

From the sleeve of an old t-shirt, with a few stitches, I've saved myself £7 on the cost of another Face Halo

Patch holes in old clothes - save £10ish

If you've used an old, grey T-shirt to make your face covering as in the instructions above, but you've a favourite grey T-shirt with a hole – you can patch it and start wearing it again. You can either match the thread to the colour of the top you're fixing, and sew the patch inside for a less obtrusive look, or pick a contrasting colour and sew the patch on the outside to make a feature.

If you're feeling particularly skilful, you could even do a bit of embroidery to make it a fancy feature. In learning to patch clothes yourself, you'll save about £10ish on the cost of finding a tailor to do it for you, so it's a good skill to practice.

Use as 'rag hair curlers' - save £10ish

Before curlers were invented, what was a Victorian girl to do to get that spiral curled look? It's simple – roll up damp hair around any leftover bits of fabric or 'rags' (depending on your hair, you'll need about 10-20 strips of fabric 5cm x 20cm), tie when you reach your head and sleep on it. In the morning, you'll have lovely curls with no heat – meaning less damage to your hair plus you can avoid a hot curler – a bonus when the weather's warm. If you were to buy no-heat curling kits they'd set you back a tenner, so it's worth a try, right?

Stuff a draught excluder - save £7ish

This one's pretty self-explanatory. If you've an old, long pair of socks then you won't need to actually sew anything. Stuff your scraps into one sock, then roll the other sock over the open end to create a draught excluder.

I use mine in my kitchen, so it does sometimes get a bit grotty – but unlike a store-bought draught excluder which would set you back around £7, you can simply take off the outer sock and give it a wash to freshen it up.

Yes, I should've washed it before taking the photo, but I was writing this blog instead!

Stuff small crochet toys - save £7ish

If you or your little ones are making small toys at this time, amigurumi is the Japanese art of crocheting small cute toys, but you might be lost on how to stuff them. You can use yarn offcuts, but also fabric offcuts to breathe life into your chunky cute creations, and it'll save you buying toy stuffing which is normally £7ish.

Minarai the bunny has kapok-stuffed arms, but a brain and heart of old T-shirt and fabric scraps

DIY hair scrunchies - save £5ish

If you like to rock a 90s hair scrunchie, more power to you, and you can easily make one if you're pretty handy with sewing. But what if you don't have enough material, and only have small pieces of fabric or ribbon left? Well, you can still make what I call a 'rag scrunchie' and you don't even need to sew!

Simply take an old, plain elastic hair tie, and tie whatever scraps of fabric you like to it. I like to use leftover lengths of ribbon from other projects, or pieces of T-shirt, or whatever I can find (you'll notice I've used scraps left over from making my mask above). You can also use old scraps of yarn leftover from knitting, if you have any, to add extra colour.

Call it 90s, call it lockdown chic, it's a fun project for kids, too! I like the style and I wear this, but you do you.

Have you been sewing in lockdown? Let us know about your sewing successes in the comments below, or on Twitter.