Make face masks, face wipes, draught excluders and more with spare fabric
10 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 England, and with many people opting to wear them while shopping or when out walking, sewing your own could save you money. I'm going to show you how to do it, plus 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...
Making a simple face covering is a lot easier than you might think – you can even use an old T-shirt. The below video shows two ways that you can make a face covering, based on Government instructions. You'll need a T-shirt, scissors and a ruler for the simplest method, or for another way to make it, you'll also need two pieces of elastic and a needle and thread.
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 not going out unless you need to, and self-isolating if you have symptoms.
- Wash your hands before putting on your face covering, or taking it off
- Wash your face covering regularly
- Store in a plastic bag if you're done wearing it, but before you can wash it
- 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
- Touch your face covering unnecessarily
Alternative face mask options
Of course, if you're a little more proficient 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.
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'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, 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 mask looks smoother than the crinkled mask above, and you can make it with an inner layer to make it thicker 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.
Now you've made your face covering, what do you do with the rest of the material? Here are a few ideas:
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.
Patch holes in old clothes - save £10ish
If you've used an old, black T-shirt to make your face covering as in the video above, but you've a favourite black 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 do this 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.
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.
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 can also use old scraps of yarn leftover from knitting, if you have any, to add extra colour.
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