Hello everyone! Wanted to jump back on the blog and share what I have been working away on recently to try and do my part during these surreal and trying times in addition to of course staying at home.
I saw a real need for DIY face masks in my community like the Handmade Face Masks WANTED post made by The Toronto Humane Society as well as The Michael Garron Hospital Foundation call out for 1000 Masks a Week, challenging east Toronto sewists to sew up 1000 masks a week. Being a Toronto Sewist I knew my skill set and efforts could help contribute and as I was sewing away I thought I would document my process to show how to make two different styles of handmade face masks.
At first when I was getting ready to cut into my seemingly endless fabric stash (seriously, this is a fabulous fabric stash buster for a good cause) I was curious about patterns – but my advice is to first look at what the asking party is exactly looking for in terms of specific fabrics, details, colors, etc. I found that both initiatives I wanted to support linked to separate mask tutorials with different specifications, so before cutting into the stash I would suggest seeing exactly was is suggested. Of course there is lenience, as most fabric stores are shut down and to also prevent unnecessary visit to shops for supplies – so just best utilize what you have! As I was stitching together mine I wanted to document the process in case it helped anyone else with larger images and variations in one post. Hope you find this helpful.
Sewing a Simple Pleated Face Mask
The Toronto Humane Society is donating the rest of the their supplies to the front line healthcare workers so they are looking to replace their own reserve. They linked to these instructions in their social posts to be dropped off outside their facilities to be washed and ready for use in the shelter. These are physical barrier masks (not for disease prevention) for sheltering and public need that free up precious N95 masks that our human health care workers more desperately need. They can also be used to make yourself as a physical barrier mask to prevent hand to face touching, but please also read all necessary information and precautions here. Note: In my tutorial I slightly adjusted the wire nose strip application.
First cut two pieces of cotton fabric 6 1/2″ x 9″ (I cut mine slightly wider since I was using a larger seam allowance width). For my masks going to The Toronto Humane Society I just knew I HAD to use this fabric.
If you are bulk making masks I suggest making one first all the way through without cutting a bunch more of elastic pieces up. Every elastic stretches differently so you want to make sure it isn’t too tight. Don’t use elastic larger than 3/8″. I found that 1/4″ elastic worked great or even elastic cording. Do a test cut at 5 1/2″ and adjust if necessary depending on your elastic. Since these will be worn by a range of individuals with different size heads (if donating and not making for friends and family) always venture on the side of elastic being slightly longer as the individual can knot the elastic or trim and knot to a custom size, but it’s hard to add. Alternatively you can use strips of stretch fabric or long pieces of bias tape for tying.
For my masks I cut two pieces of 1/4″ elastic at 5 1/2″ long.
Lay one of the pieces of elastic between the two cotton layers angled at the corner.
Use a pin through all the layers to hold the elastic in place. Pin the other end of the elastic the same way on the corner directly below. Also repeat for other side.
At this point you will have all four corners pinned of your mask with elastic. I like the mark the top of the mask with a parallel pin to the seam and the bottom (where I’m going to leave an opening) with a perpendicular pin so I remember not to sew all the way through.
Starting at the bottom to the left of the perpendicular pin (about 1″), start stitching and back stitch.
When you reach the corner keep the pin in place so the elastic stays positioned and carefully pivot over the elastic back stitching a couple times to make sure it is secure.
Stitch around the entire piece repeating pivoting and back stitching well at the elastic corners and stop stitching about 1″ away from that bottom perpendicular pin to leave an opening for turning.
This is what the mask looks like from the wrong size with the bottom opening. Just enough space to turn!
Flip the face mask out through the opening being careful not the rip the stitching – this is why the back stitching is important. Tip: Once you grab hold of the elastic, use that as leverage to pull out the corners.
Once the face mask is flipped to the right side, press all the edges and the seam allowance around the opening to the inside.
Starting at one corner, top stitch around the entire mask about 1/8″ from the edge pivoting at the corners.
This top stitching helps further secure the elastic and closes the opening along the bottom of the face mask.
Now you need to sew a channel for the nose wire, and this goes along the top of the face mask.
I like to lengthen the stitch length for this stitch.
Stitch a straight line approximately 1/4″ away from the top stitching line through both layers of the face mask.
The face mask ready for the nose wire!
You can use different things for the nose wire like a twist tie, pip cleaner, or in my case I flattened out a paper clip and I thought that worked really well. Since the wire has a sharp point I was able to actually insert it through the fabric fibers and up through my longer stitch length channel in between both face mask layers. If you cannot poke it through, make a small clip into the just back layer of the channel and insert – you can see that done here.
Another neat way of stitching in a nose wire is to use a twist tie and at the point of stitching the face mask layers together, center the tie along the top edge and switch to a zig-zag stitch on your machine stitching on either side of the wire on the paper part. Then once you flip to the right side, top stitch starting and ending at either end of the twist tie – no need to stitch a channel!
For my inserted wire, once inserted I used pins to mark the ends once my wire was centered. If you clipped a small hope to insert, pin at the clip mark.
This is the shaped paper clip. Works really well! At the pins on either side of the wire, topstitch to prevent the wire from shifting. If you clipped into the layer use a zig-zag stitch to close the clipping and repeat on other side of the wire.
Now you need to make the side pleats. I first pleated the outer two equal distance from the top and bottom edges – then pleated the fabric in the middle. Use pins to keep pleats in place.
Pleat other side of mask in the same manor and stitch pleats in place.
Once the pleats are sewn, remove the pins and your mask is complete!
Cut and stitch a bunch more if making for your community or as a donation. Here are some good bulk sewing mask tips that you can use. These are ready for drop off! If you are donating to a local center make sure you read their drop off protocols. In my case I’m to leave them in a bag outside their doors to be collected and washed for use. Off to the Toronto Humane Society I go!
Sewing a Face Mask with Filter Opening
Next up are the masks for the 1000 Masks a Week initiative from The Michael Garron Hospital Foundation. Ready their call for help and what they want in terms of masks, they linked to these instructions which specially ask for masks with open sides to insert a filter. So here are my sewing steps to these type of masks. Again, hospital healthcare providers will not use these masks as they have certified masks that they are required to wear – these are meant for visitors, discharged patients, and distribute to the community to help prevent disease transmission.
For these masks you will need two different sizes of pieces, one for the lining and one for the outer layer. They asked specifically for the outer layer to be a darker color than the inside. They also asked for either polyester or 100% cotton (whatever you have on hand) for the outer layer and 100% cotton for the inside layer against the skin. This is what I had on hand in terms of 100% cotton in light and dark colors – and yes that is a popcorn printed fabric.
Since the sides are open and these masks will be washed regularly, you should finish the fabric edges either with a serger like I did, or just using a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine. Finish all sides of both the outer and lining pieces.
Working from the wrong side, turn over the edge about 3/8″ and top stitch. When approaching the corner I flipped out the edge I was stitching and then flipped up the other edge to created an overlapped corner.
When you approach the corner, pivot and continue stitch along all edges.
Also repeat for the lining piece.
Now they are ready to put together!
On just the outer piece, create three pleats on each side using pins.
Also pin cut elastic (5 1/2″ – 6 1/2″ depending on stretch ability of elastic) and pin to the top and bottom edges of the side right next to the pleats.
Change the stitch setting to a zig-zag setting on your machine.
Zig-zag stitch starting at the top, over the pleats, and then to the bottom of the elastic again. Back stitch well on the elastics.
Straighten a paper clip or grab your nose wire of choice / on hand.
From the wrong side on the outer mask layer, insert the wire through one of the top stitching into the channel created by the top stitching.
Place the inner / lining piece wrong sides together with the outer piece aligning the top and bottom edges and pin at the corners.
From the outside or the inside, stitch the layers together over top of the previous stitching, or just to the side of it closer to the edge.
When stitching the edges with the wire in place, make sure not to hit it with your sewing machine needle.
The loop from the top right side of the face mask.
The view from the inside with the opening for a filter.
I have been stitching as many as I can a day of each style.
If you are inspired to make some masks for yourself, your friends and family, your neighbors or to help out a local healthcare initiative – please do your local research, utilize what you already have in your studio and of course have fun sewing! Sewing these in batches was honestly soothing and stress relieving for myself. Also gave me good sense of accomplishment and happy to utilize my abilities to help in any way, even just a bit.
Need some bulk sewing tips? Check out this handmade mask roundup on Sew Daily here!
1000 Mask a Week for The Michael Garron Hospital Foundation
Toronto Humane Society call for handmade masks