Tuesday, April 7, 2020

How I Sew Re-Usable Fabric Face Masks

I HATE sewing these re-usable fabric face masks, and I hate seeing my family wear them. 

I mean, they're not hard or unpleasant or tedious to sew or anything, and the designs look fine and fit well and everyone says they're comfortable, but I hate everything about this pitiful, uncertain shot in the dark in the face of a global pandemic.

Or, in Syd's case, when she's chilling on the couch reading the instructions for her new DIY screenprinting kit:

I deliberately sewed Syd's fabric face mask to match the main character in the cartoon series that she created. Zenia has been wearing a face mask for funsies long before it was the dubiously safe thing to do!

I'm not going to tell you how to sew these face masks, because I don't want to be responsible for you. Instead, I'm gong to tell you how, when I wasn't busy reading every book ever written, *I* sewed these face masks, roughly following the tutorial printed in my local newspaper, since this is also the type of re-usable fabric face mask that local medical establishments, nursing homes, and non-profits that serve the community are asking for. 

For each mask, I used two pieces of 100% cotton quilting fabric, cut to 6"x 9", and two pieces of elastic around 1/8" to 1/4" wide, cut to 6.5" long. I later learned that although Syd is taller than me, she has a petite face, and her elastic probably should have been 5" long at the max. She shortened her own elastic to make her mask fit her well.

I've used both 1/8" elastic and 1/4" elastic, and found that the stretch matters more than the width. For a couple of family masks, I used 1/4" elastic that I pulled out of a super old fitted sheet as I was ripping it up for kitchen rags, and the super old, super soft, super stretchy elastic worked great. For a friend, though, I made another four masks using new 1/4" elastic, and it turned out to be too stiff and uncomfortable to be practical.

I put the two pieces of 6" x 9" fabric right sides together, then pinned the elastic to the corners. I started by folding back the top piece of fabric, and placing the elastic where I wanted it against the front of the bottom fabric:

I wanted it to be at an angle like that so that I didn't catch more than the end of it when I was sewing the fabric pieces together.

I pinned one end of the elastic just to the bottom fabric--

--straightened it out, because twisted elastic would be NO fun behind the ears--

--and then pinned the other end to the corner below it:

I repeated this with the other elastic on the other end of the mask, and then I pinned the top fabric down, sandwiching the elastic between the two fabrics.

I sewed around the perimeter of the mask, leaving an approximately 3" opening for turning and backstitching over the elastic at the corners:

I clipped the corners to reduce bulk--

--and then turned the mask right side out. I finger-pressed the raw edges of the opening to the inside to match the seam, then ironed the mask flat.

I edge-stitched along the top and bottom of the mask only, once again backstitching when I stitched over the elastic. Those little buggers are not coming off!

Because I used a 1/4" seam to sew the mask together, I was left with a flat mask that was approximately 5.5" tall. From the bottom, I pinched the mask at 1.5", then brought that fold down to the .5" mark, ironed it to crease it, and pinned it:

Next, I pinched the fabric at the 2.5" mark, folded it down until this second fold butted up to the first fold, then ironed and pinned it:

I never did figure out how to get my tucks perfectly even, so for the third tuck, I just pinched the fabric 1" from the top, brought it down until that fold butted up to the second fold, then ironed and pinned it:

Eh, they're not totally noticeably uneven, and you can't see the tucks when we're wearing them, anyway.

The only remaining task was to sew down both sides, stitching those tucks in place:

With my fifth mask, I started backstitching every time I sewed over a fold, and I think they look a lot sturdier.

Here are our family masks in all their glory:

And here's me about to low-key risk my life and the lives of my family for a trip to the grocery store!

At least we bought enough food that, barring emergencies, we shouldn't have to shop again for a month.

And by that, I mean that we bought a bunch of delicious food that we'll eat all of in a week, and then we'll go back to the rice and beans and cheese that we already had in the house for the three weeks after that.

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