Tutorial: Mass Production of Deaconess Masks

I hope you find something here that helps in your journey of mask making. I hate doing the same thing twice unless I'm doing it over and over, and then I want to be really good at it.
This tutorial page was built by our WeHaveMasks volunteer Leandra, administrative, operational, and technical support wizard.


     Construct many Deaconess Elastic Style Masks at a time.


General Guidelines:

  • Repeat the same construction step over and over on all of the masks in a set. A manageable set may be about 10 masks.
  • Chain sew as much as possible. Quilters do this to save time and thread
  • Straight seam sewing. No corners.
  • Back stitch at seam starts and ends.
  • Don’t neglect to hydrate and stretch!
  • TIP: Pin is little as possible to avoid adding holes to the masks. Use clips or hold in place with your hand. Use a pleating fork (WeHaveMasks.org/pleats) to pleat as you sew. Also, ironing is not necessary and can be skipped to save time.  



 1.  Top of masks

 2.  Sides of masks

 3.  Bottom of masks

 4.  Turning mask

 5.  Topstitch top and bottom of mask

 6.  Pleats

 7.  Final Inspection

Mass production of the Deaconess mask
A set of mass constructed masks.

Step 1: Top of masks


Two pieces of elastic are stitched into the mask corners, seam is pressed to one side.



At sewing machine:

 A.  On the long side of a mask, pin two elastics into the corners.

 B.  With right sides of two mask pieces together (elastic is pinned and sandwiched in between)

       – Backstitch start

       – Zoom, zoom, zoom to end of seam

       – Backstitch

       – Start the next mask in the set (suggest 10 masks in a set). Leave masks connected in a chain.

       – Note, it is easy to hit pins hidden under fabric so take care at the ends.

 C.  Repeat until set is complete.

 D.  After set is complete, REMOVE PINS from each mask.


At iron (optional):

 E.  Open and press seam to one side so the seam will be at or near the edge. One minute ironing here cuts down on aggravation and frustration later.

Step 2: Sides of masks


The sides of the masks are sewn, other end of elastics are secured, and seams are pressed to one side.



At sewing machine:

 A.  No pins!

 B.  With the right sides together

       – Backstitch starting with a corner with elastic

       – Sew about 2/3 of the seam

       – Sandwich the unsecured end of the elastic in the approaching corner.

       – Backstitch, pull the mask an inch or so and start…

       – the next side seam in the next mask in the set

 C.  Repeat until set is complete.

 D.  Turn the set around and repeat for the other side of each mask in the set.


At iron (optional):

 E.  With the wrong sides out, put your iron in the pocket and press the seams to one side.

Step 3: Bottom of masks


Three sides are sewn down, elastic is attached at all four corners, now the fourth side is sewn.



At sewing machine:

 A.  Starting at one elastic corner, backstitch, sew 2-3″, backstitch.

 B.  Leave a 2-3″ opening for turning.

 C.  Backstitch, complete seam, backstitch.

 D.  Pull mask an inch or so and start…

 E.  The bottom turning seam on the next mask in the set.

 F.  Repeat for each mask in the set.

Step 4: Turning mask


Masks are separated and turned right side out.



 A.  Trim the 4 corners of each mask.

 B.  Clip the threads at mask opening.

 C.  Turn the mask inside out. Our pleating forks have a tapered end to help push out corners and seams when turning the masks. 

 D. Repeat for all masks in the set.


At iron (optional):

 E.  Press each mask. They should be reasonable rectangles.

Mass production of the Deaconess mask

Step 5: Topstitch top and bottom of mask


The top and bottom of the masks are topstitched to further secure the masks and elastic.



At sewing machine:

 A.  Topstitch the top and bottom of the masks.

       – Be sure to backstitch the beginning and end of each mask to further secure the elastic.

       – I like two rows of stitching, but one may be unnecessary.

 B.  Chain stitch until set is complete.

 C.  Check and trim the set.

 D.  Clip all the hanging threads on both sides of all 4 corners of each mask.

Step 6: Pleats


Pleats are created in the mask.



Option 1 – with iron & pins

Option 2 – with pleating fork (no pins, no ironing!)


At iron (option 1):

 1A.  Fold the mask in half. Press a crease.

 1B.  Fold the bottom edge just above the half-mark crease. Press another crease.

 1C.  Turn mask 180 degrees. Fold this bottom edge just above the half-mark crease. Press another crease.

 1D.  The mask now has 3 creases.

 1E.  At each crease/edge intersection, pin the crease. Keep pins on the same side of the crease. There are SIX pins in the mask.

 F.  Turn a crease down. Move the pin to pin a pleat. Repeat with each crease. Ensure mask with pleats is 3 to 4″ final height.


With pleating fork (option 2):

Video at WeHaveMasks.org/pleats

Mark your masks where the pleats will go. Our pleating fork has notches are every 1/2″.

2A. Mark a center line with a washable fabric pencil or pen, use a clip or bobby pin, or make a crease with your fingers. 

2B. Make a mark 1″ (2 notches) above the centerline and one 2″ (4 notches) above the centerline. Do the same below the center line.

2C. Go to the At Sewing Machine steps below. Use the forked end of the pleating fork to roll the pleats as you sew. Practice with a spare piece of fabric. Once you get the hang of it you may not even need to mark the pleat locations. Roll, sew, roll, sew, roll sew. Always backstitch over each pleat to secure. 


At Sewing Machine:

 G.  Start with a backstitch, backstitch over each crevasse between pleats, and backstitch again at the end.

 H.  Pull 1-2″ and stitch the next mask in the set.

 I. Continue stitching one side of all masks in a set, turn, and stitch the other side.

 J. REMOVE 6 pins per mask.


Final mask should measure 3-4″ in height with pleats.

Step 7: Final Inspection


Make sure masks are ready to go!



 A.  Clip all threads from masks. Check both sides of all 4 corners.

 B.  Press the entire set of masks.

 C.  Peace, bless!

Many thanks to Kate Walkowski for generously sharing her method for constructing multiple masks at a time.