When I first travelled overseas in my previous work with an aid organisation, one of the cultural differences that was immediately noticeable was how it’s common practice in many South-East Asian countries for people to wear a face mask. Donors and volunteers who had travelled and seen the same thing would sometimes include home-made masks with the items they gave to our charity project.
I never thought then that wearing masks would become commonplace here. And it looks like face masks are here to stay, for the foreseeable future anyway. Given the ongoing and unpredictable nature of Covid19 outbreaks and how suddenly measures like lockdowns and mask-wearing are being implemented, it seems wise to have a mask or two on hand, even if you don’t currently need one or have any plans to travel anytime soon.
If mask wearing is now mandated in your community, or you choose to wear a mask while we’re still at risk during this pandemic (or you want to be prepared just in case), you might be interested in making some ear-savers or mask extenders/adapters as they’re sometimes called.
These handy little crochet bands are designed to hold the elastic from your mask in place at the back of your head so it’s not pulling on your ears all day.
Most patterns use buttons to hold the elastic mask straps in place, but I’ve also found some that use crochet techniques to create strap holders, removing the need to buy and sew on buttons.
These easy crochet patterns should be quick to whip up in no time.
Crochet face mask extender patterns
1. These Mask Mates Ear Savers by Sarah Berens of Lotus Bloom Designs look great. The free pattern on Ravelry also links to a YouTube tutorial. Like most of the patterns I’ve found, this pattern uses US crochet terminology but you can use my stitch dictionary to translate into UK terms if needed.
2. This video tutorial by Custom Comfy Crochet by Dawn Marie is promoted as an easy beginner friendly pattern for a face mask extender.
3. If you don’t have any suitable buttons to use, this No Buttons Required Ear Savers Free Crochet Pattern from Once Upon A Yarn features crochet buttons.
4. For a more elegant look I really like the crochet buttons created by Unique Stitch Designs in this YouTube tutorial. It’s a longer video with a bit of set-up for the first 3mins before the actual crocheting starts on the extender piece. If you don’t need the demonstration for the main part of the band and just want to see the pretty buttons being made, skip to the 15min mark.
5. Fans of Tunisian crochet might like this pattern by Knitter Knotter. You’ll find written instructions and video tutorials for both right-handers and lefties!
6. If you want a more decorative piece than the straightforward designs above, I like the look of this braided design by Rich Textures Crochet which uses puff stitch. The pattern was created by a care home worker who experienced firsthand the toll on her ears of wearing a mask for extended shifts.
Face mask ear saver designs for kids
I think most places where residents are required to wear face masks for Covid-19 have exceptions for younger children, but if for whatever reason you know some little people who will be wearing masks, these fun designs might make mask-wearing less of a chore.
7. Willow Crochet has created ear savers for children in fun animal designs including cat, owl, sloth, and giraffe. Some of the patterns cost a couple of bucks but you can also find the free pattern for cat design here.
8. You might also like this frog design by Joni Memmott / BriAbby.
Adjustable mask adapter
9. Most mask extender patterns are likely designed to fit across an adult sized head, but if you’d like one that can fit both kids and adults, or if you’re not sure about the length needed for your ear saver, this one is adjustable. It has a button hole in the middle to make it shorter if needed. I’m not sure if that makes it too bulky to be comfortable, but if you’re after a mask adapter that can be more than one set length it might be worth giving it a try. It’s probably more comfortable than having elastic tugging at your ears and making them sore.
DIY elastic crochet pattern
10. And finally, while I think it’s not as difficult to get your hands on elastic now as it was early in the pandemic when mask-making became A Thing, this pattern by Left in Knots includes DIY elastic, a crochet replacement in case you can’t find normal elastic (or if you just prefer to make it yourself anyway).
Making face mask extenders for essential workers
You might like to make some for yourself and your family, for friends, or even to give to essential workers who are required to wear a mask all day, like ICU nurses and doctors, healthcare workers in care homes, and some transport and hospitality workers.
Many of us were struck by the experiences shared by medical staff of the discomfort and even injuries caused by wearing masks for long periods of time, and I know some crafters were inspired to make ear savers for essential workers.
I highly recommend though that if you intend to make these to donate to your local hospital or care home, that you check with them first to make sure they’re actually needed, and if they have any specific requirements for the materials used.
What type of yarn to use
I’d think mercerised cotton yarn would be best to make them nice and soft and easy to wash, with the added benefit of being resistant to mildew. I’d probably avoid acrylic yarn for fear of the scratch factor, but I’ve seen others recommend acrylic for ease of washing, so you’ll have to make up your own mind about that. Pure wool is best avoided as it will shrink or felt up in hot water. (Unless you want them felted, in which case, go for it!)
Most of the patterns will say which specific yarn they use, but why not experiment and find which materials you like best.
Will you be making some crochet ear savers for yourself or others? Which pattern will you use? I’d love to see your crochet mask extenders. Leave a comment below and let me know how you go.
Stay safe! Xx
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