Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The ultimate mask tutorial, I think

Over the last couple of weeks I have made several masks, each time changing the technique and approach to make the process easier and faster.  Here's my perfected technique for making a mask, although it may improve even more as I do it again.  If so, I'll share my new plans.

Cut two pieces of tightly woven fabric -- I like batik because it's really dense.  If you have a choice between two different kinds of fabric, hold them both up to the light.  The one that blocks the most light is the one you want.  One piece will be 9 inches by 8.5 inches.  The other will be 9 inches by 7.5 inches.  Cut a piece of interfacing 9 inches by 7.5 inches.

Sandwich the three pieces with the large one on the bottom and  the interfacing in the middle.  You will turn the top and bottom edges up and over the other two layers and stitch them in the next few steps.

Fold one edge of the taller piece over the other two and stitch a neat hem.  This will be the bottom side of the mask, under your chin.  If you're feeling obsessive, go back and stitch the seam again, a little ways closer to the edge to really hold that sucker down in place.

You will note that I left the raw edge of the fabric open.  Because batik is so tightly woven, I'm not worried about it raveling.  But if you're worried about your fabric, feel free to turn a tiny hem before you sew down the edge, or zigzag the seam down instead of straight-stitching it.

Find a piece of wire approximately 3 inches long that you can bend to fit tight over the bridge of your nose.  I used a six-inch length of 30-gauge wire doubled in two, but any weight of wire that can bend easily will do.  A twist tie or telephone wire would also work, and I see no reason why any of these can't go through the wash.  If by any chance your wire rusts, so what? 

Turn the mask around and fold over the top side to hem it, just as you did with the bottom side.  Mark the center, which will fit right over your nose.  Hold the wire against the edge and eyeball where the ends will be -- about an inch and a half out from the center.  Mark those places too.  You are going to make a pocket to slip the wire into, just a little bit wider than the wire itself.

Stitch along the folded edge until you get to where the pocket is going to start.  Stitch in and back to make one end of the pocket, then do the same for the other edge.  Keep going to the end of the seam.

Slip the wire into the pocket.  Push it snug up against the top seam.

Stitch the top side once more, this time farther away from the edge.  When you get to the pocket, slow down and be careful that you don't sew into your wire and break your needle.  If the wire has been pushed way up toward the edge of the mask, it shouldn't be a problem.

Pleat the mask so the side is about 3.5 inches tall.  You can use three or four pleats, whichever seems easiest to make.  It doesn't matter if all the pleats are the same depth, but they should all point in the same direction, and try to keep the two sides symmetrical.  You may want to mark the pleat lines in the margin, or you can just eyeball.  You can gently iron the pleats in place, or finger press them, or just pull them taut, whatever makes you feel most secure.  You can pin them in place (pin heads toward the center of the mask, pin points toward the edge) or stitch across the pleats to hold them in place.

I am fortunate to own a lot of one-inch bias binding from the previous century.  If you don't, you should cut some fabric 2 inches wide and make your own binding.  If you have some fabric that's lighter in weight than the batik you used for the mask, it will be easier to work with. 

You will need two 40-inch strips of binding.  If you don't have a piece of fabric that long, you can seam two pieces together.  You can cut straight across from selvage to selvage, or parallel to the selvage; it doesn't matter.  But don't cut on the bias.

Fold the strip in half and press it. 

Open the strip flat.  Now fold each of the edges in again, almost touching the center fold, and press. 
Cut two ties, each 40 inches long.  Mark the center with a pin or pencil.  Fold the two sides together and stitch from one end.  When you get close to the center mark, insert one side of your mask.  Eyeball it so the center of the mask is at the center of the tie.  Fold the binding/tie so it encloses the raw edges of your mask and stitch.  After you clear the mask, continue stitching to the end of the tie.

The mask will fit better if the ties don't extend straight up and down from the mask edges, so pleat the ties and stitch them at a better angle.  The top ties should extend slightly upwards at an angle.  The bottom ties should extend straight out.  Just scribble-stitch across the pleats to hold them in place.

Flip the mask over and look at the front side.  Make sure the line of stitching has caught the entire binding firmly.  You can run a second line of stitching inside the first line to make it stronger.

Inspect the rest of the mask, front and back, and if you see any places where your stitching veered off the edge go back and stitch again to reinforce.  Clip off any dangling threads.  But don't be too precious about it.  These masks are not going to be entered in the state fair where the quilt police would tut-tut your construction techniques.

If you didn't have two colors of fabric, write "inside" on the inside of your mask.  That way if you have to take the mask off and put it back on, you can be sure to put the clean side next to your face.

Now comes the hard part -- you and your loved ones have to WEAR IT!!  Wear it when you go to the store.  Wear it when you go to work, if you still have a job.  Wear it when you go to the park, unless you are absolutely sure there's nobody else in the park with you.  Wear it when you drop groceries off for your mom.  Wear it when you ride on the bus.  Wear it when you pick up hamburgers at the drive-through window.  Wear it when the grocery-store girl brings your stuff out to the car.  Wear it when you open the door for the pizza guy. 

You are protecting yourself and you are also protecting your co-workers and your mom and the bus driver and the pizza guy.  And you should probably even wear it when you read my blog, because I don't want to catch it either.

Wear it in good health!!



  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial. There are so many sets of directions out there, with so many inconsistencies. Yours makes sense and sounds do-able. My family has asked (told?) me that my task for today is to make one or more for everyone.

  2. Thank you so much, this looks quite easy to do, I have the past 2 days made head bands and caps for the surgical unit of our hospital tomorrow I plan on masks. I will use your plan I am also going to make for myself and my husband the more fitted one by craft passion, we went shopping yesterday and wore one of my dying masks and spent some time pulling on the elastics behind my ears to position it (being very careful not to touch the front). I also have a good supply of those clear gloves that I can peel off to inside out and drop in the bin when I leave the store before I get in the car. We also need good supplies of hand cream for those much washed hands.

  3. Man, I should have read your tutorial before I started some of my mask-making....