Do you think this mask looks good on me? Does it bring out my eyes? Does it clash with my outfit?
Who could imagine that the #1 2020 wardrobe accessory would be masks? Every day, I’m at my sewing machine for a few hours sewing for my very large family. The masks aren’t particularly stylish, and likely, do clash with wardrobes. At some point, I may be able to make ones that are fun to wear or more attractive, but for the time being, the ones I’m making are functional and no-fuss with inserting liners. The option is to get at least one in everyone’s hands and on their faces.
If you must shop for materials to make masks, be ready to hunt. Most fabrics and notions needed for mask-making are difficult to acquire due to high demand, limited inventory, store closings, and short-staff to fulfill orders. And be ready to wait weeks or months before supplies arrive, if you’re lucky enough to get them at all. Most frustrating, ordering often results in later notices that the item is no longer available after spending hours locating ones said to be in stock. If possible, order from your local family-owned sewing shops. You may have more success in getting what you want and will help to keep the business open.
Creativity with substitutions that don’t jeopardize the integrity of the masks is key. Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton quilting fabric, is recommended for the two outer layers. There are many suggestions online as to what can be used as a filter. Masks can be designed with a pocket to replace filters after every use or be fully machine washable and dryable after use. The object is to have several layers over the face without obstructing breathing.
It’s a good idea to watch a few instructional videos on YouTube before beginning. JoAnn Fabrics has several. Other videos offer ideas for substitutions.
A mask doesn’t take long to make, but it’s a tedious job. There are a lot of little stops and goes along the way. This is my favorite pattern. I use only quilters cotton fabric for the two outside layers and prefer flannel for the lining since I haven’t been able to get my hands on nonwoven interfacing.
I recently found that two layers of lining, which results when you fold your fabric in half as suggested, may be more protection but is too warm as the outside temperatures rise. I’m now cutting the flannel 7 ½ by 7 ½ and setting it in the lower half of the mask so when folded over, there is one layer plus a fold over to place the wire.
I sew a doubled piece of florist wire along the top to press along the bridge of the nose for a closer fit. I begin by folding an 8-inch piece of wire in half, then twist the two wires together, bend in the ends, and wrap the ends in a narrow quilt-marking tape that is like masking tape. The wire is placed in the crease of the fabrics folded in half and sewn around it to hold in place.
Ties allow for universal fit, but take a little longer to make, a little more effort to wear, and can get caught in long hair. The standard elastic ear loop is cut to 7 inches. 6 1/2 inches is a better fit for me and my daughters while many of the men in the family need 7 1/2 to 8, so make adjustments if you are making the masks for people you know.
If you can get them, purchase number 90/14 needles which don’t break as easily as others when top stitching. The thick, bulky pleats make it difficult for the needle to penetrate without bending or snapping. The best option I’ve discovered is to cut the liner about 1 ½ inches narrower than the outer piece, center it on the back of the outer fabric, and sew around all sides to hold in place. This eliminates having to get your needle through double layers of cotton plus the double layers of lining when pleating.
The process goes quicker if everything is pre-cut and ready to assemble before sewing. I line up my outside fabrics, liners, cut elastic, ties, and prepared wire before beginning. And I press often after stitching.
Once you do a few masks, the process is quick. I’ve made at least 50 in the last couple of weeks. I can’t say it is fun, but I also don’t mind it. The activity is meaningful, important, and like a little ministry providing a product needed by most everyone in this very unusual time.