Creative articles about sewing

Sewing self-made face mask – Sewing tips from the BERNINA Education Team

TIPS and TRICKS for Self-made Face Mask Sewing

Dear Readers,

My name is Sarah Caldwell I am team leader of the Education Team at BERNINA International in Switzerland.

I have been sewing since childhood, as in New Zealand where I was born we made many of our own clothes as there wasn’t the shopping opportunities as there is today.  I have gained much of knowledge about all aspects of sewing from all the wonderful creative people I have had the opportunity to meet during my 29 years with BERNINA.

The word on everyone’s lips at the moment is masks. We have never seen such a phenomenon where it seems that everyone is getting involved in sewing face masks, which is great.  This started as a help for health workers where people are having small production lines at home and are searching for the quickest construction methods. This is helping with the mask shortage and is a chance to keep busy and to do their part in the community, which is wonderful.

I also started sewing self-made face masks. Fortunately a close family member owed me a favor and posed for me:

Behelfsmaske – genäht nach der Anleitung von Gaby Seeberg

In every sewing blog and Facebook group, there are endless discussions about all aspects of mask creation, from fabrics, design, ties, pattern and decorations. BERNINA is active around the world and we are in regular contact with trainers from all over the world, so we are close to this international discussion.

Here are some tips I have gathered from the Education Team at BERNINA International AG and from our market organizations.

Our tips and tricks for sewing self-made face masks 

Effectiveness of the self-made face masks

There seems to be conflicting information from countries about what masks are accepted for medical use – please check with the rules in your country to know what is correct. We recommend looking at the guidelines from the WHO.

Click here for information from WHO

Which material should be used when sewing a self-made face mask? 

We have received the following additional tips from our partners around the world: 

  • Fabric should not be a blue as to confuse it with the official masks. It must be pre-washed in warm or hot water as we expect the masks to be laundered many times over.
  • Exterior fabric is recommended to be a mid-weight good quality cotton or jersey.
  • Lining fabric should be a lightweight cotton or cotton/poly blend as it is close to the skin.
  • Having a different fabric for exterior and lining allows the user to quickly identify the front of the mask.
  • Consider upcycling fabrics for this project: for example, bed sheets work well for lining fabric. The closer the weave the more protection but you need to be able to breath.
  • Ties are more comfortable for longer use rather than elastic for over the ears.
  • Elastic is at a premium as many sewing supply stores are closed. This does not stop the production with ties being fashioned from strips cut from old t-shirts or self-made bias binding, cut and folded with a hair straightening iron.
  • I fashioned the piece for the nose from a wire tie for bags (that is all I had here at home), pipe cleaners and the metal bit from paper fasteners are also good.

Simple instructions for sewing self-made face masks 

On our overview page you can already find a lot of instructions. Rather than repeat too much what has already been said on social media we would like to offer you links to some of the best videos and instructions we have found.

Classic pleated style 

Gaby Seeberg, BERNINA Switzerland. This is in German with English subtitles and it is very easy to follow the instructions. This is the pattern I used for the mask in the pictures and it was very quick. I used ties as didn’t have elastic at home.

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is one of the world’s leading institutes in research and communication on COVID-19. The JHU medical faculty also has a manual for pleated self-made face masks. You can download it here as PDF:

Form fitted style 

Gayle Schliemann, BERNINA Naperville, Chicago USA presents a video for a form fitting style with no pleats and goes into detail of stitches and feet to use.

BERNINA South Africa have posted instructions for non-pleated mask and if you go to the Fu Mask link, you can produce a custom fit mask to suit any size:

The following functions of our sewing machines are especially helpful when you sew a mask:

  • BERNINA Free Hand System: if you have one – use it. You save so much time keeping your hands free and do not forget to use the slide-on table.
  • Needle up/down function
  • BERNINA Dual Feed
  • If you are in mass-production of masks, it is well worth programming some of the automatic features like the securing function or the thread cutter.

These accessories make your sewing life easier

We recognize that many of you have to use what you have at home, but here are some recommendations.

Height compensation tool

The height compensation tool is the small three-part fan made of plastic plates, which you received with your machine. It prevents the presser foot sole from tilting when sliding over thick seams and is ideal for sewing over bulky parts, e.g. when attaching the elastic band.
Behelfsmaske nähen mit dem Höhenausgleich

The Straight stitch plate

For use with straight stitch with the needle position in the center position, do not forget to select it in the security screen.

What kind of needles?

Use a jeans needle size 90. If not a 90 universal is also good. Do not forget to change it after 6 – 8 hours of sewing. In addition, at the same time clean your machine.

Through thick and thin with the jeans foot #8 

The jeans foot #8 is especially suitable for sewing with straight stitch through thick fabric. 

Other presser feet that are good for sewing self-made face masks are the patchwork feet #37, #57C, 57D and #97D – depending on which machine you have. You can also use the overlock foot #2A if you decide to neaten any seams.

BERNINA Bias Binder Attachment 

The most popular accessory now is the BERNINA Bias Binder attachment #87 for pre-folded or #88 for unfolded.

The video focuses on the binder for pre-folded tape #87 but the principle is the same. If you are planning to do a many corners, pre-folded tape is easier.

When I don’t have matching pre-folded tape, I like that I can quickly make my own by cutting strips and I the used the Bias Binder Attachment #88 for the mask  features in the picture.

Bindebänder für Behelfsmasken selber nähen Sew tapes with the Edgestitch Foot #10

If you are attaching bias binding and you do not have the attachment, the next best foot is the Edgestitch Foot #10, #10C or 10D. The Blindstitch Foot #5 is also great for edge stitching. You just need to move the needle position. So easy with BERNINA.

Behelfsmaske nähen – mit BERNINA Zubehör gelingt das leicht

Do not forget that an Overlocker is also a great tool for mask making. It is wonderfully quick for neatening and making ties especially if working with knit fabrics or woven fabrics.

Mask Decoration

If you are looking for some glamor at this time, and there seems no point with lipstick with a mask, we have come up with the perfect solution.

Behelfsmaske mit Stickerei Lächeln, trotz allem – Behelfsmaske mit Stickerei

Here is the link to two freebie lip designs, which Franziska Ovono, our Embroidery Software Pro, has produced for you.

Download embroidery motif “Lip Embroidery” for self-made face masks for free

The following tips for embroidering your self-made face mask also come from Franziska.

Embroidery tips

  • Mask patterns that do not have a center front seam are best. Some patterns have small panels for the nose and chin, which is ok. For masks with pleats, it is necessary to ensure that you position the pleats so that the design is seen, (as the embroidery cannot be folded) only the outer fabric layer is embroidered.
  • This is not only better for the protection of the mask, but also ensures that the inside of the embroidery is hidden and does not interfere with wearing.
  • Cut the fabric a little larger than necessary and use the appropriate hoop for the embroidery size. Then the fabric can then be cut to the required size – so the embroidery can be optimally positioned.
  • A medium, tearaway stabilizer is suitable for these designs.
  • If you use spray glue, use it sparingly or wash the mask after finishing. It is also helpful to use the machine basting stitching before starting to secure the fabric even more. This function is featured on most BERNINA embroidery machines


Happy Sewing and greetings from my home office.



Herewith we explicitly advise you that all masks sewn according to instructions in the BERNINA Blog are to be considered as self-sewn face masks. They are neither medical products or protective equipment.

You will find more information here: ‘Self sewn face mask everything you need to know’


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Comments of this post

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    • Sarah

      Hello Rahul,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      All the best with your mask making.

      Kind regards,


  • Sue Thornton

    Is there a utube video showing how to use the tool for thick fabric ( like the pleats on the face mask)?

    • Sarah

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks you for your question.
      You can use the compensation plates to level the foot behind when stitching up to a bulky seam as in the following video. I also use it at the start and end of thick seams.
      You simply choose the number of plates to suit the thickness.
      Such a simple tool but it is so useful for so many applications.
      Happy Sewing!


    I am having trouble opening the “Lips” file.  It does not give me options for opening in ART

    • Sarah

      Hi Barbara,

      I checked the file and the art format is included in the zip file for both designs.  You don’t mention which machine you are working with but if it is an older model and you have the  free artlink software you can save the designs in a lower verson which is compatible with your machine. I hope that helps.

      best regards,


  • Paula Taylor-Gencer

    Hi thank you for your tips and tricks, I am busy making masks and especially like the free embroidery pattern. I have a Bernina Artista 630, but (now this will sound awful!!) I have never used the embroidery as I couldn’t get my head around how to do it. Now I have a lot more spare time my challenge is to learn!!. Can this pattern be used on my machine and will I need to purchase any software/memory stick etc (I use MAC). If there are any videos with step by step on how to use my machine for embroidery can you point me in the right direction. Many thanks Paula

    • Sarah

      Hi Paula, Great to hear you are surely making a lot of people happy with masks. Did you know that there are video tutorials included on a CD-ROM with your machine. Check out your equiptment, maybe you still have it tucked away somewhere. I have a CD-ROM in my office at the factory and if you are still interested I could copy the files for you but it might be a few days before I am there again. I would also try You Tube – I noticed there is a posting from a Dealer with an introduction to Embroidery on your machine.

      Good Luck.

      Best regards,



      • Paula Taylor-Gencer

        Hi Sarah

        thanks for your reply, I don’t recall having a cd in the box, so if you are able to copy the files that would be great, whenever it suits you. I have also looked on the Bernini site and I notice you have free software, does it work with Mac ? As I don’t have windows, I think I’m able to purchase windows for Mac but would prefer not to if I don’t need to. Many thanks for your help. Paula 😊

      • Sarah Caldwell

        Hi Paula,

        Our full digitizing software is compatible with Mac using boot camp or parallel. Then yes you need windows. Or alternatively we have a editing software called Toolbox with is compatible with Mac. Check it out on the BERNINA website.  Will get back to you about the Videos. Sarah

      • Paula Taylor-Gencer

        Hi Sarah

        following on from our previous correspondence I wonder if it would be possible to forward to me the V6 software as I have now got hold of an old laptop with windows 7. Many thanks


      • Sarah

        Hello Paula,

        Maybe I am wrong but we talked about CD’s with the  630 embroidery info – which unfortunately I have not been able to find. I am so sorry.  You need the V6 software and a dongle to activate it.  It is not just a matter of a files. Maybe ask your Dealer,  maybe they have an old version they would sell you? They might also have embroidery videos you can use.

        Kind regards,


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