Sewing in the time of COVID-19: Facemasks

I’ve recently made some facemasks at my mom’s request. She’s going on a couple cruises soon with my grandma and my nephew, so she wanted to see if I could make some (non-medical) facemasks for the trips. She provided some fabric and told me about a youtube tutorial she had watched, which I then viewed myself. It looked relatively easy so I just jumped right in.

Hoot and Holly are ready!

I mostly used quilting cotton for the outer layer and flannel for the inner layer. There’s no inner filter as it’s not an airtight fit so it wouldn’t really be helpful. I used pipe cleaners for the nose piece on the adult sizes since Mom and Grandma both wear glasses. I used 1/8″ elastic as I didn’t have any 1/4″, but also used some pieces of fold over elastic topstitched together for coordinating elastic on a few of the masks.

Measurements: (All fabric is width x height.)

Toddler size:
– 6″x6″ quilting cotton for outer layer
– 6″x6″ flannel or quilting cotton for inner layer
– Two pieces of 5″ long 1/8″ elastic

Child size:
– 7.5″x6″ quilting cotton for outer layer
– 7.5″x6″ flannel or quilting cotton for inner layer
– Two pieces of 5.5″ long 1/8″ elastic

Adult size:
– 9″x7″ quilting cotton for outer layer
– 9″x7″ flannel or quilting cotton for inner layer
– Two pieces of 6.5-7″ long 1/8″ elastic

The easiest way to go about assembly is to do each step for all your masks at once.

  • I cut all the fabric first then the elastic. I used ziploc bags to keep the sizes separate.
  • Press all fabric. I used my new toy, the EasyPress 2, since the squares are…square? And because it was new and I hadn’t used it before 😀
  • Sandwich elastic between layers, right sides of fabric facing in.
First I pinned the elastic to the outer layer, and then put the inner layer over it and replaced the pins. I did it this way so I could make sure they were angling in from the corners correctly.
  • If the outer fabric is directional, mark the bottom of the mask, as that’s where you’ll turn it right side out.
  • Sew around mask, leaving a 1-2″ gap on the bottom. Be careful to keep the elastic in the corners (I reinforced each corner with some backstitching) and also out of the side seam.
  • If you are inserting a nose piece, fold the ends of a pipe cleaner towards the center and twist to secure. Align pipe cleaner along inside top seam, centering it on the mask. Change to a zigzag stitch, as wide as possible, and shortened a bit. Sew OVER the pipe cleaner, on the seam allowance.
Mask still inside out, pipe cleaner centered.
My original settings for zig zag. I ended up shortening it to 1.0 for subsequent masks.
Try to sew OVER the pipe cleaner, to avoid potentially breaking your needle.
  • Turn masks right side out. I used a tube turner thingy:
Batch sewing at its best.
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  • Press masks again. I used my super steam iron for this so I could get in the corners without pressing the elastic.
  • Fold the pleats into the masks. This isn’t an exact science, I just eyeballed it!
I found that two pleats worked better than three. I tried both, but the 2 seemed to move less when top stitching and had less bulk since I could make the pleats not overlap each other at all.
  • Topstitch around mask. I started at the bottom left corner, so I could close the space on the bottom where I turned them right-side-out first. Then up along the pleats, across the top, and back down the pleats on the other side.
  • For masks with nose pieces: Topstitch further away from the top seam so you can avoid sewing over the pipe cleaner. It also creates a visual effect to show which side is the top.
Take a final picture wearing it, realize you have a giant forehead… (Forehead realization optional)
Finished mask pile!!

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