Well, maybe “fail” is too strong a word. Maybe I should just say the final result wasn’t what I expected. . .
To be clear, the problem had nothing to do with the pattern. It’s a very good one.
I’ve been intrigued by the three-dimensional face masks I’ve seen some folks wearing. The boxy shape seems to fit the face well and allows for plenty of breathing room. I decided to make a new mask for the Dear Husband using the 3D Face Mask from SewKateSew, billed as “the most comfortable face mask.” I picked this print from Andover Fabrics that I bought last year to make the DH a new apron (which hasn’t happened yet):
He’s the gardener of the family and I thought this fabric would make a fun mask for him to wear when he’s outside working in our yard or tending our community garden plot.
I did make one adjustment to the pattern:
That’s my freezer paper pattern in the foreground, with extensions on the side to allow for a generous ¾” casing for the ear loops rather than the narrow ⅜” casing the pattern provides. The freezer paper pattern can be used over and over again — no pinning because the freezer paper is pressed directly onto the fabric, where it is easily peeled off after the fabric has been cut.
The printed directions by SewKateSew are very clear, as is her video tutorial. The mask came together very easily. Here’s what it looks like from the front:
Here’s a look at the inside . . .
. . . and here you can see I added a sleeve at the top for a removable nose wire:
When the mask was done I could tell it would be too small for my husband. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll adjust the pattern to make a bigger mask for him. I’ll keep this one for myself.”
Then I tried it on:
Do you see what I see?
Those peas! They look like teeth . . . and the peapods? They look like lips. Green lips.
Haha! Just kidding. That’s actually a sleeve for a face mask nose wire. It’s for the mask I made for myself yesterday and goofed on.
The mask looks just fine from the front:
It’s the same lemon fabric I used to make a mask for my twin a couple weeks ago. (We have a thing about lemons.)
Here’s the inside of the mask:
See that line of stitching about 3/4″ down from the top of the mask? That’s where the bottom of the nose wire sleeve is supposed to be . . . on top of the lining fabric, not sandwiched between the lining and the mask where it will never see the light of day. Oops.
My solution was to make a new sleeve and attach it by hand. The sleeve is made just as if it were for the back of a quilt . . .
. . . except it’s miniature. It’s not necessary to turn the sleeve inside out because the seam is going to be on the underneath part of the sleeve when it’s stitched on, forever out of sight.
Oh, there is one other difference from a regular quilt sleeve: this sleeve is cut on the bias rather than the straight of grain so that it molds nicely around the curve of the mask:
I’m using my wonderful little red sticky thimble (official name: Poke-A-Dot by Jillily Studio) to push my needle through the layers of fabric:
It took just a few minutes to stitch the sleeve in place. (I could have stitched it by machine but then the stitching would show on the front of the mask.)
Here’s what the mask looks like from the inside now:
I didn’t want to attach the new sleeve on top of the old one — too much bulk — so I stitched it to the opposite side. The bottom of the mask is now the top.
And looky here: I found the perfect place to store my Poke-A-Dot until I need to use it again:
Tomorrow the Dear Husband and I will go on our first social outing since we began sheltering in place in March. The big event is a Happy Hour with good friends at their home. We’ll rendezvous on their spacious deck where we can chat (and eat and drink!) while maintaining proper social distance.
Here’s what I’m bringing as a hostess gift:
I never thought I would be bringing face masks as a hostess gift. On the other hand, I never expected to be living through a pandemic.
Here’s a look at the inside of the masks:
You can see each one has a channel at the top to hold a nose wire.
I made a new mask for myself and added a channel for a nose wire. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and attached it to the wrong side of the mask lining. When I sewed the lining and the main mask piece right sides together and turned them, the channel was nowhere to be seen. Silly me!
I’m not going to take it apart. There’s an easier solution, which I will share in my next post.
I’m shifting gears in my mask-making endeavors. Since mid-March, when the Dear Husband and I started sheltering in place at our Portland White House, I’ve made several dozen face masks using one of the first tutorials I came across, that of ER nurse Jessica Nandino. Between then and now, I’ve tried a few other patterns and haven’t found any I liked better.
This is PJ Wong’s design. (I haven’t met PJ yet, although we both teach for Montavilla Sewing Centers. She’s an expert on designs and projects for machine embroidery and leads several clubs at Montavilla devoted to sewing, serging, and machine embroidery.) On the Montavilla website I came across this link taking me to instructions for two masks PJ has designed: one with a vertical center seam and one with three pleats. Both designs include instructions for an optional filter pocket, and the pleated mask also includes a casing for a nose wire. The site includes pdf patterns, written directions, and video tutorials.
I tried PJ’s design for the mask with the center seam (often called a duckbill mask) and proclaimed it a winner. What I like most about her design is the inclusion of a facing, separate from the mask and lining pieces, that gives the mask a beautifully finished look — inside and out. What’s more, the facing creates a casing at the sides that allows the mask to be secured with ties or elastic or — a new discovery for me — “t-shirt yarn.” (More on that below.)
As you see in the photo above, I used quarter-inch double fold bias tape on my first mask. All I had to do was stitch the tape closed and thread it through the casing. I cut my lengths of bias tape 36″ long, leaving a length of 18″ on each side at the top and 15″ at the bottom. That leaves plenty of tape to tie at the back of the head and the base of the neck. If you look carefully at the casing, you can tell that I stitched a little bar tack in the middle of the casing to maintain those lengths.
Here’s my first effort:
PJ’s duckbill pattern comes in four sizes, small through extra large. The one I made first is a medium and felt a bit large on me so I decided to try making a mask in the small size. And while I was at it, I wanted to try a different method of securing the mask in place. To be honest, cutting bias strips and sewing fabric ties was the one thing I found rather tedious about the other mask design I’ve been using, although it certainly has other features I really like.
I had seen several references on Instagram to using t-shirt fabric to make ear loops for masks. It is said to be softer than elastic hence more comfortable around the ears. All roads pointed toward a tutorial by craftpassion.com on making t-shirt “yarn.” It was a breeze to make and now I have a small ball of yarn made from one of the DH’s t-shirts, enough for a few dozen masks. (I haven’t told him yet about his sacrifice.)
Here’s my second effort, with t-shirt yarn for the ear loops:
The ear loops are very comfortable. And look how cute the mask is on the inside:
See what I mean about the nice finish? PJ’s directions call for the facing (green fabric) to be stitched down right next to the lining (yellow dotted fabric), which is left open so that a filter can be slipped into the center of the mask. Since I’m not using a filter, I stitched the ends of the lining closed.
The next version I made was for my twin sister, Diane, who needs a mask to go with the dress she is planning to wear to a wedding later this month. The dress is a navy knit wrap with a gray leaf design on it. She wanted a mask that would complement her dress, and she asked for a mask that would hold a nose wire. I made this one for her:
Take a look at the inside:
How cute is that lining fabric? Even with the addition of the gray leaf strip at the top, which holds a nose wire, the mask is nice enough to wear inside out:
Kidding, of course. But now I may have to make a mask for myself with the lemon fabric on the outside because it goes so well with my top!
Do you ever buy a piece of fabric that you have no idea what to do with but you just know you have to have it? A couple years ago I was in a quilt shop in Bend, Oregon and spotted a succulent print in greens from the “Canyon” line designed by Kate Spain for Moda. I had to have some!
It sat on a shelf in my sewing room cabinet until a few weeks ago when I pulled it out to make this test block from a new pattern by Margot Languedoc called Pretty Little Baskets:
The pattern is definitely on my “to do” list but I only made one block with that fabric.
Then very recently Sew Kind of Wonderful released a new pattern called Curvy Bow Tieusing the new Wonder Curve Ruler and I used a bit more of the fabric to make this test block:
Such a cute block but I wondered if the fabric would look better as the background of the block rather than the focal point. I made another block to see:
Oh yes, I like that better. But I’m not ready to make an entire quilt out of it just yet. (I love the Curvy Bow Tie pattern, though, and do plan to make a quilt when I’ve decided on a color scheme.)
What I really wanted to do with that fabric was make a pair of pillowcases for the Portland White House (using my own tutorial). So I did:
And I used some scraps to try out a new mask tutorial:
Now I can’t stop thinking of ways to use this fabric. Wouldn’t it make a great camp shirt?
Isn’t it darling? The block is a new pattern called Pretty Little Baskets from Margot Languedoc of — how appropriate — the Pattern Basket:
I’m a big fan of Margot Languedoc’s designs and downloaded the pdf version of the pattern last week as soon as it became available on her website. The block measures 8″ square so it will finish at 7½” square. The green floral fabric is from the “Canyon” line by Kate Spain for Moda.
I don’t know if this block will wind up in a quilt someday. I just know that I needed to make it today.
The face masks I’ve been making over the last several days are finished with fabric ties. For the most part I’ve been following the tutorial of ER nurse Jessica Nandino but I departed from her instructions by pressing my strips of straight-grain fabric in the manner of double-fold bias tape before sewing them onto the mask rather than after. This allows me to insert the raw edges of the mask into the center of the binding strips and stitch once through all the layers. The finished product is very neat looking (as in neat and tidy) but the ties aren’t as flat as I would wish. In addition, the process of pressing three separate folds into those fabric strips is time-consuming and tedious. Oy, is it ever!
I have a bias tape maker on order that converts strips of bias fabric into ⅜”-wide double-fold bias tape but it will be several days before it arrives. In the meantime, I decided to try something different: I cut ⅞”-wide strips of fabric on the bias, pressed them only once in the middle, then encased the raw edges of the mask in the folded strip, leaving the raw edges of the bias strips in plain view. I chose batik fabric for the bias strips because it’s very tightly woven. My assumption was that when a mask made this way goes through the washer and dryer, the raw edges of the straps won’t fray and the finished product will still look neat and tidy.
Friends, it worked! Granted, the finish isn’t as fine but I think it looks pretty darn good. Here’s my first attempt:
This mask has been through the washer and dryer.
Here’s a close-up, looking at the inside of the mask:
If you look carefully you can see that the raw edges of the binding are just the teensiest bit fuzzy but there is no raveling. That stitching you see on the inside mask fabric is the nose dart. The nose and chin darts in Jessica’s design give the mask its close fit. It’s a feature of her tutorial that I really like. No need to make a casing to insert a pipe cleaner or floral wire to shape the top of the mask, as I’ve seen in some face mask tutorials.
For my second attempt at a raw edge binding finish I used a zigzag stitch:
I think it gives a neater finish and may prove to be more durable than a single line of stitching.
Here’s a photo of the mask after having been laundered:
Again, no raveling of the raw edges, just the slightest bit of fuzziness.
Here is the same mask being modeled by moi:
These masks are not medical grade but they’re certainly better than no protection at all. And you can add an additional layer of protection by inserting a coffee filter in the mask:
I did have to trim the top and bottom of this 12-cup coffee filter to make it fit.
Thus far I’ve been making one mask at a time because of my tinkering with the construction method. Now I’m at the point where I can move to assembly-line production. A very low-key assembly line, to be sure. I’m not a speedy seamstress but my output should increase significantly.
I did figure out a faster way to cut fabric. Jessica’s pattern represents half of the mask. It was designed to be pinned in place with the center of the mask on a folded piece of fabric and cut out one at a time. To speed up the cutting process I made a full-size freezer paper pattern and pressed it to the top layer of fabric. With a sharp blade in my rotary cutter I can easily cut several layers of fabric at a time.
Then I simply peel off the freezer paper pattern and it’s ready to be used over and over again.
When my next batch of masks is done (I’m still sewing for friends and family) I’m going to reward myself by taking a break from maskmaking and sewing something new.
In my last post I showed you some face masks I made following ER nurse Jessica Nandino’s tutorial posted on a craft website called instructables.com. Jessica’s pattern calls for cutting strips from cotton fabric but I made my first few masks using packaged double-fold bias tape in ¼” and ½” finished widths. I wanted to give ⅜”-wide tape a try, thinking it might be more suitable — less bulky than half-inch wide tape but more substantial than quarter-inch — knowing I would have to make my own. I don’t think ⅜”-wide tape is made commercially. Even if it were, I wouldn’t be going to the store for some. This is all about making do with what’s on hand.
Some of my readers were interested in my experiment so I’m showing you the result.
This is what Jessica’s mask looks like when the two layers are stitched together:
Next step is pinning and stitching three pleats on each side of the mask. Normally when you sew, the fabric you are handling is to the left of the needle. In the photo below, the fabric is to the right of my needle. This enables me to sew with the pleats rather than against them:
(When I sew the other side, the mask will be to the left of my needle, the normal way, and I will also be sewing with the pleats rather than against them. And just so you know, I remove each pin before stitching the folds in place.)
To make my binding strips I cut several strips of fabric 1½” wide, cutting on the crosswise grain (from the fold to the selvages). I could have cut bias strips but I wanted to try it first with straight grain fabric, which would give me at least 40″ lengths (no need to piece the strips). Another plus: no struggling to iron folds in stretchy bias strips.
Double-fold tape is pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. When fabric is inserted into the fold of the tape, the wider side of the tape, underneath, is caught in the line of stitching from the top.
Here’s a piece of double-fold bias tape opened up:
You can see three press lines: there’s a fold in the middle, then each end is pressed toward the middle. That’s exactly how I folded my strips, with one long edge pressed a full quarter-inch and the other side a scant quarter-inch, giving me the result you see below:
My finished binding actually measures a little over ⅜” wide. Next time I’ll cut my strips 1⅜” wide.
Now I’m ready to encase the left and right sides in my binding. The raw edges of the mask are snuggled up to the center fold of the binding:
The binding is folded over the seam allowance and pinned in place:
This is how it looks from the back:
The binding is stitched from the front through all layers. You can see how the stitching caught both layers:
The ends have been trimmed . . .
. . . and now it’s time to add the top and bottom strips, which measure about 40-42″, depending on the width of fabric after selvages are removed.
I mark the middle of one strip and match it with the dart in the center of the mask (remember, there’s a nose dart and a chin dart in Jessica’s pattern). I put in three pins only: one at the dart, one where the side of the mask meets the top strip, and one between those two. The pins go through all the layers:
Now I’m ready to start stitching at the far end of the strip, holding the binding in place as I stitch very close to where the two folded edges meet. When I get to the center dart, I insert the next section of mask fabric into the center of the binding fabric and continue stitching, stopping as often as I need to adjust the layers of fabric. My stitch length is short — 2.2 on a computerized machine or about 12 stitches to the inch — because the binding strips are going to get some stress when they are tied behind the head.
I don’t bother finishing the ends of the strips because I’m going to trim them at a 45 degree angle when I’m done . . .
. . . and it’s quite likely that someone winding up with one of my masks will find the strips too long and want to trim them anyway. As long as the ends are trimmed on the diagonal, they shouldn’t ravel, even after being washed multiple times.
My experiment turned out pretty well although the straps still feel just a tad bit bulky. For the next mask I might try making bias binding to see if it makes a noticeable difference. By the way, I like the fabric on this mask so much — it’s from an older line called “Birdie” by Pam Kitty Morning for Lakehouse Dry Goods — that I’m keeping it for myself. The mask I was wearing in my last post was laundered and mailed to my twin sister in Georgia.
I hope you are all staying as safe and protected as you possibly can and maintaining social distance. It’s the least we can do . . . and it’s so terribly important. As I continue to shelter at home, I have some great advice to follow: Keep Calm and Sew On.
Like so many other quilters, crafters, and those who sew, I am making face masks, initially for close friends and family, then to meet the growing need for first responders who may not have access much longer to official PPE (personal protective equipment).
After looking over several tutorials this week and trying a couple, I settled on the pattern you see above. It was designed by Jessica Nandino, an emergency room nurse, who posted her tutorial here.
She points out that research on the efficacy of fabric masks is conflicting and stresses that nothing homemade will ever compare to medical grade PPE. These masks are not sterile and they’re not medical grade. But they’re better than nothing. The fact that our first responders will most likely be wearing homemade masks because of a shortage of PPE is downright scary in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notice that the mask above has nose and chin darts, and it covers the entire face. The top straps go over the ears and tie in back. The lower ties go under the ears and are tied at the back of the neck. It’s designed to fit in two ways: first, directly over the face, and second, over an N95 respirator as a way to provide a protective barrier in hopes of extending the lifetime of the respirator.
Here’s my first batch:
Although mask-making is a sobering enterprise, I can find some enjoyment in choosing complementary fabrics from my stash for the inside and outside of each mask:
Jessica’s pattern calls for the straps to be made from strips of fabric. I thought I might be able to make masks faster by using commercially made double-fold bias tape I already had on hand. I tried both 1/2″-wide tape (on the pink mask in the middle) and 1/4″-wide tape (the remaining masks). Both sizes work but the half-inch wide tape seems bulky to me and the quarter-inch wide tape was difficult to work with in terms of fully encasing the raw edges of the mask in the fold.
I’m feeling a little bit like Goldilocks. Will 3/8″-inch wide (homemade) be just the right size? I’ll give it a try today and let you know.