On masks and ties…

Elastic, when we can find it, is what many of us have been using for mask ties. Most wearers like elastic but I do want to point out that it bothers some people’s skin. In that case, fabric ties might be better. When I run out of elastic, I will go back to making fabric ties. More on that below.

I use a wire “tie-threader” to pull ties through the mask casing, shown in my original mask post. But I realized that people who want to replace ties won’t have seen my bent-wire threader, so I added that information to the instruction sheet I give out with my masks.

If these instructions work with the masks you are making, you are welcome to use my instruction sheet. Here is a link to the instruction sheet: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5m7rognqml7s2mx/Mask%20Instructions.pdf?dl=0. There are 4 to a page.

More on making ties…

If you are on Instagram, @Messygoat came up with a really great way to make fabric ties quickly. Here’s a link: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-knJGiHv7l/.

You have to be an Instagram user to see Elaine’s post and it’s worth joining Instagram, even if you ignore it afterwards. Although, just so you know, I use Instagram more than Facebook.

Elaine’s basic idea is to tape a bias tape maker to the bed of your machine in front of the needle and, as the fabric strip feeds through, you manipulate the outer folds together, over the raw edges, and sew the tie closed. There’s more to it than that, and her pictures and video are good.

I love it! No more turning the sewn tube inside out! FYI: I use straight-grain strips.

May you be healthy, and happy, and may you have many happy stitches!

Making masks, because we can! Updated 3/29/2020

I said not long ago that quilting is our super power, and it’s true. We can sew, we have fabric and thread, and we can make masks! Just to be clear, these masks do not provide 100% protection against viruses. But some protection is better than zero protection.

You don’t have to look too far to find medical institutions who will be very happy to have any masks you make. My masks are going to my friend Helen’s family practice. She, the other docs in her practice, and all their staff need masks that can be washed and reused. My first batch will be tested tomorrow.

Here is a link to the site where I found the mask pattern by Jennifer Murphy: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Cloth-Face-Mask/

There is good information on that page and you might want to read some of it. I made Mask 2 which does not have a filter pocket because what, exactly, are we going to put in there to be an extra filter? [It has been suggested that fusible interfacing might be a good filter. I have no idea of this is true or not.] This mask has two layers of woven cotton and should stop 50% of droplets in the air. 50% is better than 0%, right? Helen thinks so.

Here are links to the three mask sizes found on the site above. Again, you should probably go there to read what they have to say.

Regular Size

Large Size (not that much bigger than Regular)

Child Size (I haven’t made this so have no idea how big or little it is)

The instructions with the pattern are fine, but I would have added more details. Here is what I would add:

1. The pattern tells you to wash your fabric before you make masks. Please do that. Cotton fabric shrinks more than you think it will AND there are chemicals in the masks that need to be washed out before someone breathes through it.

If the front and lining are different, it will be easier for the user to tell which is the exposed side.

2. I made templates the way I always do for hand applique. I covered the paper with peel and stick laminating sheets to make them stiff and easier to cut around.

I made the Regular size masks. The large is not a whole lot larger. If you need a much bigger mask you could enlarge the pattern by 5%, etc.

3. Measure your pattern and find the size square or rectangle that it fits on. The Regular pattern fits on a 6 1/2˝ x 6 1/2˝˝ square.

Cut 2 strips 6 1/2˝ wide. Each strip makes 3 fronts or 3 linings. Two strips = 6 masks.

Place your strips right sides together and cut 6 1/2˝ x 6 1/2˝ squares. You will need one pair for the front and one for the lining.

Stack pairs of squares as deep as you can comfortably cut. I cut 4 layers of fabric at once.

4. Place the template over the stacked rectangles. I cut around the template carefully with your rotary cutter. Try not to cut your pattern.

5. Sew cut pairs together along the long curve, for both the front and lining pieces.

6. Press the seam allowances to one side, not open.

7. Place a lining and front right sides together. Sew them together along the top and bottom edges.

8. Clip the deeper inner curves on the top, on either side of the nose peak.

9. Turn the masks right side out and press the seams. I used the pointy tool to reach inside and push the seam into place.

Here’s quick video showing the pressing and how to turn the ties (bottom of this post) right side out:

10. Top stitch 1/8˝ from the pressed seams, top and bottom.

11. You must put a 3-4˝ wire in the nose peak so that the mask fits snugly. I am using 20 gauge electrical wire. It is copper covered with plastic that is easy to shape, washable, and the cut ends are not sharp.

12. To make a casing for the wire, sew from the outside in about 1 3/4˝ from the nose peak and then turn to sew a 1/2˝ casing parallel to the curved outer edge. When I got to the far end I inserted the wire, then turned the mask to sew the casing shut. Be sure to begin and end with knots or back stitching so the seams stay sewn.

13. Press the raw ends on each side of the mask to the inside 1/4˝, and then in another 1/2˝ to make a casing for the ties. Sew the casings.

14. 1/8˝ elastic cord works but if you don’t have it, make your own ties from 1/2˝ x 17˝ strips. You need two for each mask. FYI: if you have a serger, serge strips together to make ties that you don’t have to turn.

Sew the strip right sides together lengthwise. Sew one end closed, place the fold next to your seam guide… I made 3/8˝ tubes.

Once sewn, trim away excess fabric from the seam allowance.

15. If you have one, use a Bow Whip or Turn It All tool to turn the tube right sides out.

16. Cut a piece of heavy wire 15˝ long. Bend it in half and, if you want to be fancy, tape the cut ends together to make a threader.

17. Stick the looped end of the threader through the mask casing. Insert a little bit of one strap through the loop.

Pull the strap through. Repeat for all mask casings.

18. The straps can be tied together behind the head, or…

…loosely tied together to make ear loops. Do not tie the ties too tight and untie them before washing or you will have a forever knot.

The mask might fit better if it is gathered a little bit over the tie.

I am going to set myself a daily goal and churn these out, 10 or 15 at a time, until there are enough. I would make more but there are steps that make my hands hurt. It may be the same for you… the important this is to do what you can if for no other reason that if we all do what we can

PS: This is serious stuff but I when I see the masks together, I think: nose bras. Am I crazy or do you see it too?

Stay healthy and happy sewing.