How to Sew a Surgical Cap - Pattern & DIY Tutorial

Our local hospital has put out a call for 1,000 surgical or scrub caps to help them respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to sewing up a storm, I made this DIY Surgical Cap Tutorial to help others join in this effort. Below you'll find a free printable pattern, step-by-step tutorial and YouTube demo (my first, awkward attempt at a video - which was much harder than it looks!).

If you're local to Guelph, you can join Guelph Covid19 Surgical Cap Sewists on Facebook - donations are being coordinated there, and you can find out about current needs and where to drop off completed caps. I know that during this crazy time I feel better when I can do something productive, no matter how small (and the fact that it can be done at home while social distancing makes sewing the perfect way to contribute).

I've also been asked about where to buy fabric and supplies locally right now. Make 1 Guelph (where I also teach classes) is a lovely local fabric shop that is open online and has a beautiful selection of high quality quilting cotton perfect for caps and masks - they are currently offering free local no-contact delivery within Guelph (and $12 flat rate shipping Canada-wide). Highly recommended!

Here goes...

How to Sew a Surgical Cap - Step-by-Step Video Tutorial

Note: This pattern is provided for personal use only - please do not make caps to sell or make a profit using my pattern!

You'll need:

  • PRINTABLE SURGICAL CAP PATTERN (Click to download - print at 100% scale) 
    • *Note: If you don't have access to a printer, I have added a scale diagram of the pattern below, which will help you to draw the pattern out yourself.
  • Quilting cotton - about 1/3 metre (13") x width of fabric (44"- 45") (pre-washed and dried)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Two buttons (optional)
  • 1/4" elastic - 3" (optional)
  • Straight pins, fabric scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
Scale Diagram of Surgical Cap Pattern

Watch my YouTube tutorial above, or follow these instructions: 

  1. After printing or drawing your pattern, cut out the pattern pieces and tape Piece 1a and 1b together where indicated. Be sure to pre-wash and dry your fabric! This ensures your cap won't shrink the first time it's washed. Give your fabric a quick press to remove wrinkles, then fold in half so the selvedges meet. Lay out pattern pieces (being sure to place Piece 1 on the fold), and cut. 
    If you cut with your fabric doubled (like on the black fabric, above), you will get one side piece and two top pieces. In order to cut two caps at once, just flip your side piece up and cut a second side piece (like on the green fabric, below). This lets you make two caps out of about 1/3 m of fabric.
  2. Double fold back of Cap Top (Piece 2) and sew: Fold over the flat edge 1/4" to the wrong side and press, then fold another 3/8" and press. Sew a straight line across this folded edge. If you are using elastic in the back for a closer fit, thread it through this opening and baste at each edge. Elastics can make for a more snug fit, but are also prone to breaking down after repeated washings in hot water (like when they are sanitized frequently for hospital use) - so you can choose whether or not to use it in yours. 
  3. Attach Cap Top (Piece 2) to Cap Side (Piece 1): With right sides together, line up the centre front of both pieces and pin, then continue pinning along the curved edge of the Cap Top all the way around each side. With a 1/4"-3/8" seam allowance (it doesn't need to be precise), sew with a straight stitch all the way around, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam. (Optional: if you have a serger, serge this edge all the way around, beginning and ending a couple of inches before and after the curved part of the side piece.)            
  4. Finish this seam with a zig zag or overlock stitch: Start and stop sewing a few inches before and after the curved part of the side piece (shown as a blue line in the photo below). Zig zag stitch all along the edge of this seam to finish it and prevent fraying.    

  5. Cap with serged edges (starting and finishing beyond the curved part of the pattern piece)
  6. Starting at the curved top edge, fold over the raw edges of the side piece by 1/4" all the way around and press (top edges with curve, bottom of cap, and ends of ties).             
  7. Fold the bottom of the cap side piece up to meet the top folded edge, press and pin in place. You can see below why we finished that seam in the first step - once the band is folded up, all raw edges are enclosed and the part of the curved edge left exposed is nicely finished.                    
  8. Beginning at the end of one tie, with the open edge facing towards you, sew along the open end of the tie, then along open top edge of the tie piece. 
  9. Start sewing down one open end of the tie. Continue along the open top edge of the tie until you get to the curved edge (see below).

    When you get to the curve, veer off and sew up the curve as far as the hem at the back of the top piece, then with your needle down in the fabric, pivot the cap to sew back down the curve until you meet your original stitching line (see photo with messy green arrows below). Pivot your cap (again with your needle down) and continue sewing around the entire hem of the cap until you get to the curve on the other side of the cap. Veer off again to sew this one the same way you did the first one. (See photo below and/or the video tutorial - this part will make sense when you see it!)

      Stitch in the direction shown by the green arrows - up the curved edge as far as the hem at the back of the top piece, then make one stitch across, then turn and come back down to meet your line of top stitching, then turn to continue stitching along the bottom hem.
      This shows what the stitching looks like on the right side of the cap. It's not the prettiest, but it really reinforces the part of the cap that gets the most stress when it's tied up. 
  10. Optional: Add buttons to the outside back of the cap - this gives medical staff a place to hook their masks, which gives their ears a break. (You can see button placement below - a towards the back of the cap, a few inches from the start of the ties.) I sew a batch of caps, then use my sewing machine to sew on the buttons all at once. To attach buttons by machine, remove your presser foot (or use a button-attaching foot if you have one), switch to a zigzag stitch with your stitch length set to 0, place your button under your needle and use your flywheel to carefully determine the correct stitch width that will sew from one buttonhole to the other. Set that width, then sew! I go back and forth about 10 times, then tie off my threads a few times by hand before clipping them short to make sure the button stays on. If you have any tips for machine-sewing buttons, please share them below!
  11. You're done!
I hope this tutorial is helpful! If you're making these to donate to local front line health care workers - thank you for doing your part while staying home and sewing. If you're a health care worker making one for yourself - thank you for your hard and selfless work keeping us all safe and healthy. Regardless of why you're making one, you're amazing. Stay home and stay safe out there. xo


Surgical Cap and Fabric Mask Sewing Patterns

After posting on Instagram about my foray into sewing DIY scrub or surgical caps and masks for donation, I got a lot of requests to share the patterns. Rather than sending a million emails, I figured it would be easier to link to the files/tutorials I used here:

Surgical Cap Pattern

Many front line medical professionals are asking for OR or scrub caps to wear to keep their hair out of their faces during long shifts, to provide further personal protection and cleanliness while at work. Our local hospital has asked for donations of these homemade caps for use in the ER as well as other departments. Here's the pattern I've used. This surgical cap pattern was provided to me by someone locally who is coordinating the donations for our hospital: OR CAP PATTERN.

The pattern instructions as written out aren't super clear, so I used this YouTube tutorial to help visualize the steps involved (DIY Scrub Cap Instructions YouTube video). I used my serger and actually serged the top to the sides prior to folding and sewing the bottom band and ties to finish the edges a bit more cleanly - but you definitely don't need a serger and could just zig zag or use an overlock stitch on a regular sewing machine (which she doesn't do in this tutorial). I've been thinking about posting my own video showing my technique (but that would require showering and changing out of my sweats which I've been wearing for about a week straight, so probably not going to happen...).

I've seen some caps with buttons sewn onto the sides to hook mask elastics around (to save tender ears), which would be a great idea. I plan on adding some buttons before I donate mine!

DIY Fabric Face Mask

I know there is a lot of debate about whether or not fabric masks are helpful (and many places will not accept or use them), but I was asked by a local labour and delivery nurse if I could make a few for her to have for community use - for her to wear around her family and when out in the community to provide some protection (which she feels like is better than none). So I used the excellent tutorial from Dana at Made Everyday here: Fabric Face Mask with Ties or Elastic. I've been told that ties are preferred over elastics, because elastics don't hold up as well to repeated washing in hot water.

I hope this is helpful! Stay home (if you're able) and stay safe!
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