I don't know about you, but I've been feeling kind of overwhelmed by the number of mask designs out there for this Coronavirus pandemic! I want to help, but at first I had no idea where to start. The best thing is to know who you are making them for, and see what requirements they have. Fairbanks has a fb group to coordinate requests, which has been really helpful!
This post will by no means cover all the options, but hopefully it will help. I was going to do several design tutorials, but then I realized that the parts are kind of 'mix and match'able, so I will just show the parts separately and you can choose each one according to your needs. (That's how I try new recipes too, look at several and take what I like from each 🤣) All of the masks have a main body, lining, ties or elastic to hold it on, different ways of attaching the ties, and some have a pocket for adding another filter layer. I will cover each part separately, because for the most part they can be used in any combination. There's lots of "if this, then this" in here, so I will sum them up at the end!
First let's talk about the main body of the mask. Most of them are either the pleated version, or the shaped one. But I also like the one that has neither (blue in the photo above) and the sides get gathered up with the cord to give it some shape. I also saw one that has the shaped front, but with darts instead of two pieces, AND pleats at the sides.
Pleats (coral one in above photo):
For the pleated front, start with two rectangles. I've seen anywhere from 6-8" tall, and 8-10" wide. Mine is 7 x 10 cut size. Put right sides together and stitch the top and bottom edges with approximately a 1/4" seam. Turn right side out and press. Fold three little pleats in the sides, about 1/2" each, making sure they are at least 1/2" from the top and bottom. This doesn't have to be exact, just make sure it ends up about 3 to 3 1/2" tall, and that the two sides are at least close to the same! You could mark them, or make a paper folding guide, but I just fold and pin. We'll cover the rest in the tie section!
Shaped version (pink in above photo):
The pattern for this came from a website called Craft Passion, https://www.craftpassion.com/ so please go there to get it, it's a free download with four sizes. (I modified mine, which I will explain below) Cut out four pieces, two each for the lining and the outside. (Fold your fabric in half before cutting so they are mirror images of each other) I tried a lightweight interfacing on this one, but I've heard mixed reviews on that. Stitch the center front seams, right sides together, and make a few notches so it presses better. Press the seams open. (A pressing ham is great for that, but a rolled up towel might work?) Decide on ties before proceeding, you may need to add them now. (Only if you are using elastic or ties stitched into the corners.) If not, put the lining and the front right sides together and stitch the top and bottom. Clip the curves a bit and turn right side out. Press. On mine I did the casing method (see below) for attaching the tie. So I had extended the sides of the pattern by 1 1/2" so I could do about a 5/8" rolled hem. (Technically only needs 1 1/4", but I didn't want the stitching to go too far into the mask.)
Flat version (no pleats or seams, blue above):
For this version, cut two rectangles, mine were 11 x 7 (outside) and 8 1/2 x 7 (lining). I made a pocket on this one, so I will explain that. First mark the center of the top of each piece (by folding in half). Then do a narrow rolled hem on one side of the lining. If you don't want a pocket, simply skip this step. Put right sides together, matching the pins you used to mark the center, otherwise you can't tell where to put the lining piece... Stitch across the top and the bottom edges with a 1/4" seam.
Turn right side out and press (I took the pic before pressing😅) Starting with the side that does NOT have the hemmed lining, fold the outside 5/8" toward the lining, it should just meet, then fold again over the lining and stitch close to the edge. This is your casing for the tie. (This is the only tie method that works for this design since it is what creates the gathers at the sides)
For the other side, do the same 5/8" rolled hem, but this time it should just meet the lining after BOTH folds, and not overlap it at all. (first pic below) Stitch close to the edge. This is so you can access the pocket. I found the pocket got kind of gappy when the sides were gathered up with the tie, so I made a pleat in the middle of it to minimize that.
Ties and attaching them
Most masks I have seen have either elastic or bias binding for ties. Elastic can be uncomfortable, less durable, and hard to find at the moment, so I'm doing binding on mine. If you do use elastic, usually it gets stitched in between the lining and the outside, approximately 5" pieces. If you do the pleated version, you will have to pleat at the end. I have also seen some like the second photo below, with a continuous piece of elastic going through a casing.
I think most people are going with binding now. Since premade binding is hard to come by now too, you will probably have to make your own. It doesn't have to be cut on the bias, straight across the fabric is fine. I like about 1 1/2" strips to start with, but I've seen anywhere from 1 1/4" to 2". Length needs to be a minimum of 36-40", I just do the WOF (width of fabric, or 42-44") If you have a bias tape maker, that helps a lot. There are some paper ones out there too, I'll add that if I can. I rigged one up out of foil! You can do it without any of those things, they just help. Fold the sides to the center, and then press in half. If you don't have a tool, pressing in half first helps you see where to fold the sides.
If you are using the binding to also finish seams on the mask, you will finish sewing the long side of the binding and attach it at the same time. Find the center of the binding, pin it to the center of the side of the mask (unfolded).
I find it is worth stitching across the mask section first, (if you start a bit before and go a bit past the mask body you don't have to backstitch and it will still hold together until the next row of stitching) then go to one end of the binding and stitch the whole side.
The ends of the binding can be tricky, so here are a few tips. Guess what, my favorite beginners and enders tip works here too! If you stitch across a folded scrap before starting at the end of your binding, you have more to hold on to. At first I was folding the ends under, then I switched to satin stitching the ends, now I just do a straight stitch back and forth. It helps to do a few stitches along the side you will be sewing first, then back up to the end, then pivot and go across the end. Then pivot again and go along the whole side, making sure you catch the other half by the mask edge. Another option is to start at the mask section, stitch to one end, then go back to the middle and do the other side. (Some masks have the binding on the top and bottom instead of the sides, those had the sides sewn first instead. Either way works, you just need a bit more if it goes the long way. In the purple one below, I used binding for all of the sides)
If you are using the casing method, as shown earlier, you need to make a casing to put it through. I like a 5/8" rolled hem, so if your pattern doesn't allow for that, you will need to add it. It's not ideal for the pleated version, it would be more work than the previous way. But for the other two styles it's great. For that you need more like 45-48" of binding, (so will probably have to be pieced) but only one, so overall it's less binding and only needs to be tied once to put on.
I think any of these designs can be modified to add a pocket for people to add another filter layer if they want. Basically, you just need to finish one side of the lining before putting it together, and make sure it doesn't get caught in whatever way you finish the edge of the outside on that side. Usually a small rolled hem will do both at once, since it makes it shorter also. I did that on the pleated one below, but you could also use a small piece of binding to finish that edge. If so, you may need to trim a bit off so it doesn't get caught when you finish the edge of the outside. (With that one I finished both side pieces first, then joined them with binding on the top edge. I think that was my first experiment 😅)
Hopefully that wasn't too confusing... Basically, these all have main body that has an outside and a lining. They get shape either from a curved seam, or pleats or gathers at the sides. The four edges all have to be finished in some way, either by a 'right sides together' seam, binding, or a rolled hem. Then they all need a way to keep them on, elastic or ties. Still no way I could cover all of the possibilities, I see new ones almost every day!
Some of the "ifs":
If you do all four sides with seams instead of binding, you need to leave a hole for turning it right side out, and you usually need to catch the elastic or ties in the corners.
If you want a pocket, finish one side of the lining, and make sure it doesn't get caught when you finish the edge of the outside.
If you use binding stitched to the sides, you need 36-40" each side, probably a few more inches if you go across the top and bottom. If you do a continuous strip and a casing, you need one piece that is 45-48" long.
If you want a casing for binding, you need to make sure the pattern has an extra 1 1/2" on the sides for that.
As I'm sure you know, these are not meant to be as effective as the 'real' ones, but they have to be better than nothing. And it helps us feel like we can help when so many things are outside of our control these days. I hope you are all well and healthy during these crazy times! And I pray that you know Jesus, the One who IS in control, no matter how crazy it looks to us. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5
Happy Sewing, Beret
Feel free to add your tips and ideas in the comments!
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Beret Nelson's On The Trail Creations Blog Page
I am a homeschooling mom of three fun kids, who are now old enough that I have a little time to pursue my passion for sewing! After several years of making quilted cards and art quilts, I'm now designing kits and patterns. Some of them have even been in Keepsake Quilting! I teach classes at local quilt shops, and am starting to do more traveling and teaching. I also have many tutorials, including some on YouTube. I am blessed to live in Alaska where I am surrounded by the inspiration provided by the beauty of God's creation!
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