Face Masks From Fabric Stash

Someone joked on Instagram last week you haven’t been a sewer in 2020 until you made a face mask. I won’t go into the debate if they should be compulsory or not. In Australia depending where you live they aren’t mandatory, in NSW where I live it is only recommended you wear them. In some health facilities it is a requirement on entry to wear them. We started wearing them whenever we left the house after Mr StitchNSew came home from surgery in July. Wearing a mask is just another way for us to protect ourselves. I now wear them at work, at the gym, even if I go within areas of own building.

In terms of patterns and styles there are loads to choose from. Thornberry has a brilliant blog post reviewing the different styles with loads of links. If you’re going to make them at home I think you really need to try out a couple of styles to find out which is more comfortable for you or whoever you’re making them for as each persons face shape is different. Also there is the option to add nose wire or not. If you wear glasses you might need to experiment with a few, trialing with nose wire to see which is best and stops fogging. One tip I did learn is that you wear your glasses or sun glasses further down a little on your nose than normal to prevent fogging. That tip has been a game changer.

I initially tried out 2 styles, a 3D box style which if your familiar with masks in a medical setting are like duckbill masks and a curve style mask. The box style (from Japanese Sewing Books) was my first attempt. We both found it comfortable. It doesn’t feel restrictive on the face, you can talk and move your jaw easily. I freak out when they put the anaesthetic gas mask on you for surgery as I don’t like anything on my face like that but I can easily wear the 3D masks as they sit away from your face. I was going to make all our masks in this style but I thought I’d try out a curved style masks. The above photo was my first unfinished attempt. As soon as I put it on I felt more comfortable and that is the style I made all the our masks in. Mr StitchNSew also preferred the curve style but does wear the blue box one a lot. I even without knowing the fogging tip I found the curve style I fogged less between the 2. The pattern I used was a free one Erin (Dog Under My Desk) wrote. You need to join the mask Facebook group to get it. It come in sizes from small children to adult male with beard. The tutorial she has written is fantastic, having all the different options with clear instructions with photos. She also has a 3D style pattern as well.

You can make them with various fabrics, have removable filters, pockets for removable nose wires. I opted to make them with 3 layers of cotton fabrics and not to put the nose wire in. Some masks I did make the channel for the nose wire but upon wearing them I realised I didn’t need the wire for my face. The nose wire is to help prevent them from fogging. I have used prints for the outside and inside fabrics. For the inner layer which you don’t see I just used ugly fabrics in my stash. It would have been nice to go through fabric stash and find really cool prints or have them matching different outfits but to be honest I was time poor when I made these. I was making these between caring for Mr StitchNSew, working and doing all the chores around the house. I used whatever fabrics I could grab, some were already washed and ready to go from previous projects in recent times, others I quickly rewashed after being packed in boxes. In a zip lock bag I found a heaps of fabric squares cut for a quilting project which never eventuated so I used those for a lot of them. For the prints I wanted kind of fun ones as I would be wearing them at work in a paediatric hospital (I’m non clinical so I don’t have direct patient contact) I’m happy with the fabrics I used. For the ear elastic there are many options you can use. I opted to use strips of knit fabric that you thread through the elastic channel and tie off. I went through my knit fabric scraps and found a piece I think was keeping for undies. You pull the strip so that it rolls in on itself. Some of the ear elastics are on the print side like the ones above, others are white. The knit fabric doesn’t pull on your ears like regular elastic or mask elastic you can buy. It doesn’t fray in the wash. They aren’t too hot to wear even when exercising. I am making sure I drink plenty of water at the gym (sanitising my hands before touching my drink bottle each time) In Australia it has been our Autum/Winter pretty much during the pandemic so far. As we’ve moved into Spring I haven’t noticed a difference wearing these and feeling hot and I have done periods where I have walked for a couple of hours in them. As these are comfortable to wear I found I don’t touch my mask like others do wearing the disposable type.

When making these I discovered that the narrow end of a pressing ham is perfect for ironing your seams to one side on the curve style masks. I never thought I would be using my pressing ham to make masks but it made making these so much easier. I had a production line going where I was batching making each step. The pressing ham made the ironing portion of each one quick.

Our masks are stored in plastic crate on our side table. After they are washed and dried they are placed in the crate. They are near when I keep my keys so I grab one whenever I’m about to leave. After they are washed they do appear crinkled a bit as they are made from cottons but they don’t worry us. I guess if you wanted you could iron them but I’m lazy. Life is too short to worry about a few wrinkles.

Sadly it seems surgical masks are becoming the new cigarette butt in terms of street litter. We live across from a health precinct and see discarded ones on the streets around us all the time. Even outside our own building entrance. They are being found in parks and waterways world wide. Not everyone has access to reusable face masks and if I wasn’t a sewer we would most likely resort to using disposable ones ourselves. I just don’t understand why people can’t dispose of them correctly. They are a health hazard and environmental hazard when they are just discarded.

Many people have asked if I am making masks to sell. The answer is no, I am going to make some for my dad and maybe in some other prints I have cut out for us but that is it. There are many wonderful people making them to sell and good on them for doing so but not me. I didn’t enjoy making them. It was out of necessity not fun. If don’t enjoy making something then I am not going to unless I have to.

For a laugh I will warn you to be careful of fabric placement when sewing masks. My intention was to use the above mask as the outside layer until I stitched it up and looked at it. Just double check your prints before sewing! This became the layer which went against my face so no fabric was wasted here. Oh another little point don’t chew on mints with your mask and glasses on as your eyes will start watering.



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