I have finally started making masks! I don’t know why I didn’t start making them sooner; it’s not as if I don’t have fabric for it! I even prewashed and dried fabric that I thought would make appealing masks. And then Colorado, where Haley lives, started requiring people to wear masks outside so then it was a necessity! It still took a few days to get started because A—I was sick for a few days and B—I was kind of intimidated. In quilting, it is sometimes easier to hide mistakes than it is with clothing and while yes…I’ve sewn dozens of quilts and more than a few pair of pajamas, I wasn't sure my quilting skills would be enough to make a little piece of clothing.
But today I decided: enough. I’ll just try one and see what happens. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I mess up and make something unwearable out of a piece of fabric?
That is acceptable risk!
There is no 1/4 inch elastic to be found anywhere near me, so I went with this pattern:
It is designed to be worn either just on your face or over an N/95 mask. It uses ties instead of elastic and two layers of quilting cotton. It seems intimidating because there are a lot of steps and it looks complicated…but really the steps are well-written and make sense if you follow them carefully.
And it was really pretty fun to make!
I know there are a million mask tutorials floating around right now and I’m definitely not the person to write another one (remember: my clothes-sewing skills are pretty unremarkable).
But I do have some notes I thought I would share. These are just notes I made as I went through the steps, and maybe they will be helpful for someone else who is also making the same pattern.
So here are my notes on each step. You can also download a PDF of the notes at the bottom of this post. And if you are thinking about sewing masks, my biggest advice is this: just do it. If they aren’t perfect, who cares? Have fun. Use bright fabrics or fun fabrics or whatever you think fits someone’s personality. If you don't have big enough pieces of fabric, use a different color for the ties. Mostly, don’t get too worried about your mistakes. Perfection isn’t the point, right? It’s protecting and caring for each other!
First things first: before you start making masks, you should preshrink your fabric. Wash it in the hottest water your washing machine has and rinse twice. Wash light fabrics separate from darks. Use a color catcher because that hot water will stream out a bunch of dye. Dry on hot, too. Trim the strings and then iron. In theory the masks should be washed once a day so you want to get the shrinking done first.
Also, if you have a fabric marking pen or pencil, find it. It'll come in handy!
Notes correlate with each step of the original pattern and are named the same thing as the patterned named them, for clarity.
- Print the pattern. I had no problem with this, except I should’ve printed on cardstock instead of printer paper, just for durability.
- Fold fabric. Quilting cotton stretches more on the width side (selvedge to selvedge) than it does on the length size (cut edge to cut edge), so if you are using odd sizes of fabric, see which side stretches the most, and fold so the stretch goes across the width of the mask, rather than the height.
- Cut binding and ties. I cut my binding strips 1.75 inches instead of 1.5. I know…a quarter inch doesn’t seem like that much but for me it made it much easier to make the ties. Also, if you can use larger yardage so you can cut width of fabric strips, it does make it easier!
- Refold and cut mask face. I folded my fabric twice so I could cut four pieces at once. You can use scissors or a quilting ruler and a rotary cutter, up to you. I skipped the step of cutting out the notches. I marked it with a marking pen instead.
Also, I have no idea what the difference is between a “taco” style fold and a “burrito” style fold…tortilla shells are all round.
- Stack and sew. I have a hard time knowing exactly where to turn at the points, so I just marked a line 1/2 inch from the edge.
- Iron in pleats. I have no idea if I’m doing this step right. I THINK the fold should go up, toward the top point, but if you look at the picture of the folded pattern, it seems like they
point down. I’ve made it both ways…I continue to think the fold goes up. But I am happy to be corrected if I’m wrong. UPDATE!!! I found an updated version of the tutorial that states
"Pleats should be facing downward when looking at outside fabric of mask face." OK, got it wrong! Luckily I've only made a few so far. Maybe no one will notice? The updated version also includes instructions for a pocket for a wire. I haven't tried it so I can't speak to that part of the process, but HERE is the updated version.
- Sew pleats in place. Careful not to hit the pins with your sewing machine needle. Just saying.
- Mark and sew darts. When you sew the darts in, use the denim stitch on your machine. This is the stitch that does three stitches close together; on Bernina machines it is stitch #6.
- Trim excess. The tutorial photo shows these cuts being made with pinking shears. If you don’t have those, regular scissors are just fine! (I might really now want to buy a nice heavy pair of pinking shears. My mom used to have a pair that fascinated me when I was a kid. Wonder what happened to them.)
- Prepare the binding. If you cut width-of-fabric strips in step three, you don’t have to sew seams! Also, the smaller pieces (the one you cut in half) don’t need to be 10 inches, only about 4 inches long.
- Attach side binding. Sew toward the folds of the pleats to avoid sewing them down the wrong way.
- Finish side binding. When you sew it down to the front, again sew toward the pleats; that way your presser foot doesn’t get caught in the folds. Try to make sure the fabric edge covers the stitching lines you already stitched (also, if it doesn’t, don’t sweat it).
- Attach top/bottom binding. Fold the binding strip in half (end to end) and iron the fold. Then, line up that fold with the dart from step 8. This way your ties will be even.
- Finish top/bottom binding and ties. If you folded in half on step 13, you can skip trimming the ties to make them even, as they already will be. However, I trimmed the corners off the edges of the ties because it makes sewing the ends easier.
When you sew the binding strips on, make sure to back sew once over the dart spot, just for added strength. Take this step slow at first, because it’s kind of tricky to get such a small strip in the right spot. Double check that you didn’t miss sewing both edges once you’re done; if you did, just sew it again.
The first mask I sewed took me almost 45 minutes from start to finish. By the third I was down to 30 minutes!
Let me know if you are sewing masks, have questions about sewing masks, or are also, like me, utterly panicked at the thought of wearing masks...
Happy sewing, friends!