How to Adjust the Fit of Your Mask
(Or how to change/replace the elastic)
Some people have very wide or narrow faces that make masks too tight or loose. Others can’t stand the feeling of elastic around their ears. You might even be one of those unfortunates who are allergic to the rubber in commercial elastics.
Or if you like to bleach your masks (only doable for our white cotton ones), or if you wash and dry them frequently (especially with heat), elastics will degrade long before the main body of the mask is worn out.
If any of the above applies to you, it’s super-simple to replace the elastic or ties in your mask. We specifically designed them with wide channels so you can easily thread either new elastic or an alternative (such as ribbons, cord, shoelaces, etc) into them so you can create a custom fit for yourself.
NEW: For some mask styles, the ties are sewn on directly, not threaded through a casing. We’ve added instructions on how to replace these at the bottom of this page.
Note: Some washing machines and/or dryers can cause elastics to shrink. Do NOT shorten elastics until you’ve laundered your mask a few times (we’ve made them a touch longer than the average preferred length for just this reason).
If your elastics get too tight for comfort after laundering, you can try stretching them back out (very carefully!) or just replace them, as follows
Replacing the ear elastics
(For Styles With Elastic Channels Only)
Cut the old elastic if necessary, then pull out of the channels.
Decide the length you want for the new elastic. If the old length was good, you can use that as a guide, adding extra length depending on the method you’ll use to join the ends into a loop. If you want to make the fit looser, go longer; if you want it to be tighter, go shorter.
If in doubt, start a bit long, since you can shorten an elastic once cut (it you cut it too short, you’ll have to cut a new length!).
Pin a safety pin to one end of the elastic, and feed the pin through the channel, pulling the elastic through after it.
<Photo of process>
Once the elastic has been threaded through the channel, join the ends of the elastic into a circle. You can just tie the ends into a secure knot (make sure you allow for extra length for this when you cut your elastic! You can trim the extra, if any, later).
<PHOTO of knotted elastic>
Or for a neater join, you can overlap and sew the ends together with a sewing machine or a needle and thread. Either works fine.
Pull the elastic around in until the join is hidden in the channel. That just makes it look prettier!
Changing the elastics to go behind the head (instead of around the ears)
For this, you’ll need to measure for the length of elastic you need. Measure from the top of your left ear to the top of your right ear going around BEHIND your head, roughly where you think the elastic should sit. This is what it looks like on our Kitty friend.
Now, take that measurement and double it, then add ten inches.
So, for example, if my ear-to-ear measurement behind my head is 11 inches, that would be:
(11 x 2) + 10 = 32 inches
This is the roughly the amount of elastic you’ll need. You will probably have a bit left over after you’ve finished, because some elastics are much stretchier than other elastics.
If you’re not sure about your math or measuring skills, go ahead and add a few inches to be safe; you’ll be trimming any extra later on (if you don’t want to buy extra elastic, try out the fit with some dental floss or kitchen string so you have a good length estimate, making allowances for the fact that these materials do NOT stretch like elastic).
Now, stick a safety pin on one end of the elastic, then thread it through the channels so it forms a continuous loop as shown in the photo.
Tie the ends into a loose knot or bow, then try on for size and adjust the fit until it’s as tight or not as you like it. Mark where you want to permanently join the elastic with chalk if you have it, or a bit of soap if you don’t. Anything that makes a mark will work.
Finally, either tie a secure, permanent knot so the elastic makes a closed loop at your mark, or overlap and stitch the elastic together by machine or needle hand, as shown in the photos above under “Replacing the ear elastics.”
Changing the elastics into ties
For this, you’ll need two pieces of ribbon, cord, or (our favourite) shoelace, at least 25 inches and preferably 30 inches long. Go longer if you prefer to have long tie ends when you tie anything into a bow. If you’re not sure, try out the length with kitchen string or whatever you have handy so you know what you want.
Stick a safety pin on one end of your ribbon/cord/shoelace and feed it through one of the channels on the mask
Repeat with the other side.
If your chosen tie material tends to fray, you’ll need to do something to prevent this. You could tie a knot near each end …
…or if you chose a synthetic material that melts instead of burning, you could VERY CAREFULLY singe the ends with a lighter to fuse the loose threads. If you go the burning route, do so at your own risk, in a well-ventilated space. You have been warned! We prefer to use shoelaces (that way, the ends are already neatly finished), or narrow twill tape because it tends to resist slipping.
Changing Stitched-In Elastic or Ties
(The ones that are *not* in the casings.)
If you have a mask with the ties or elastics that are stitched on, not threaded through a casing, you will need to do a bit of sewing to change them for new ones.
To do this the simple way, just cut off the existing elastic or tie with a pair of sharp scissors, being very careful not to cut the mask fabric. Try to get as much of the old elastic/tie off as you can:
Now, measure out your new elastic or ties, then securely hand- or machine-stitch them onto the mask, enclosing the raw edges. You do this by first sewing the elastic/tie pointing in the opposite direction from where you want it in the end, like this:
Then you flip it over, enclosing the cut edge, then stitch again.
Voila! New ties or elastics with no ravelling on the cut edges. You will see the stitches on the right side of the mask if you machine-stitched this. If this bothers you, you’ll need to do a bit more work, and use the next method.
The More Complicated Method
This method looks neater, but is a little more involved than the previous one. You’ll need a seam ripper, and you’ll also need to be reasonably handy with a needle and thread or a sewing machine.
Carefully cut the stitches that are holding the old elastic/ties onto the mask.
You may also need to cut the stitches holding the mask outer fabric and lining together, if the elastic or tie had been sandwiched between them. It should look like this when you’re done (you can see the old stitching in black thread has been cut away):
Measure the length of the new elastics or ties you want. Insert one end of it BETWEEN the lining and the outer fabric, in the same location where the old elastic or tie had been:
You can now sew the opening closed with a needle and thread, catching both the lining and the outer fabric as well as the elastic. Make sure your stitches very secure. You should probably use small back-stitches, not a running stitch, but any small secure stitches will work.
Or you can do what we do, and just machine-stitch a neat line over the entire edge of the mask, making sure to catch all layers including the sandwiched elastic, like this:
This is what it looks like after the line of stitching is complete.
The new stitching (in gold thread to match the mask) goes from the top to the bottom of the mask in a continuous line. The old stitching (in black thread) was left on, so you can see where to stitch, and also to hold the mask layers in place.
You can just leave the old stitch line in place if you don’t mind it there, or you can use your seam ripper to remove it AFTER you sew your new line of stitching. If you remove it beforehand, you might have some trouble with the pleats unfolding, or the two fabric layers sliding out of place, unless you’re fairly experienced with sewing machines. I only remove the old stitches if the look of them bothers me.