You know that friend you have who puts together incredible Halloween costumes, or can create terrifyingly realistic cosplays, or has even turned up to a birthday drinks and just casually said “Oh this? I made this!”? That’s not me. I’m clumsy, have big ideas and am often TERRIBLE at completing something in a way I’m happy with when it comes to crafting. Jessica Day I am not. However, I am enthusiastic. As a note, these masks are not for medical or surgical use.
In the UK we were sat watching the rest of the world be either instructed or advised to wear face coverings or masks for weeks and weeks before our own government started even lightly suggesting we might want to follow suit. By that point I had already decided masks would make my friends and I feel more comfortable in enclosed public places so had placed an order for some fairly affordable fabric (I actually got mine from Aldi!) and had hunted down all the scrap fabric and elastic we have in the house, and looked up how to make a fairly simple face mask.
Initially I had hoped to use the sewing machine that we’ve had sitting in the house for several years. However, once we got it set up we soon realised that the belt had broken (it’s well over 50-years old, so I won’t complain!) and we will need to get it fixed up before we can use it again. So as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so, we will be investing in some new bits and pieces to fix the sewing machine! This little hiccup did mean I had to face the prospect of hand sewing masks, which initially was a bit daunting but I wasn’t a Girl Guide for nothing, folks. I began planning my masks, using a piece of A4 paper as my starting template (nothing fancy and Great British Sewing Bee about this I’m afraid!) and then worked through how I would piece them together. It took a little trial and error as my coordination did not appreciate trying to create the pleats but we got there in the end and now it’s second nature!
For these masks I have used two pieces of fabric, each a tad smaller than an A4 piece of paper (specific, I know! Essentially, if you’re buying fat quarters, it’s a quarter of a piece of that fabric). I then measured out the straight lines of the mask and flipped the fabric so that I sewed together the two longest edges inside out.
I then turned the fabric the right way round, tucked in the shorter edges, sort of like I was wrapping a present, and popped a couple of tiny stitches to hold this in place. Then came the fun part!
Using a careful combination of pins and my iron, I formed a couple of deep pleats in the fabric and pinned these in place before ironing over them several times to really make them stick. I then set about hand sewing the pleats and fabric edges together before then ironing once again. Finally, I cut two short pieces of elastic and sewed each in a loop at either end of the mask. It’s not as fancy as some of the ones you can buy online, but it’s a double layer mask that even I could make. I’ve ended up making several and posting them to friends. If nothing else it has been an excellent way to occupy my time, and I really recommend giving it a go if you fancy it. I used nothing more complex than a running stitch really and just some common sense to make sure the elastic pieces were very securely attached. Before sending these out to friends I gave them a wash and iron, as they’ll definitely need ironing regularly to keep those pleats nice and neat all the time.
These masks do run quite large, but I thought it was better to be safe than sorry when it came to size, and offer people maximum coverage. If you wanted to make one for a child you could probably even halve the size of these depending on how old they are!
I then sent these out to a bunch of my friends (luckily they are almost exactly the size of a DL envelope, which we had plenty of at home already!) who proceeded to all send me back their best mask selfies once they arrived on their doorsteps. The whole process is quite calming to be honest with you, it’s like taking back a little control during a period that has at times felt very much like control is a thing of the past, at least for the little guy. The masks aren’t easy to make but to be patient when stitching in the pleats as by that point you’re sometimes sewing through more than six layers of fabric! It has been, and continues to be, a fun project to keep us all in touch, feeling a little safer than we might have done otherwise, and also who doesn’t love receiving actual post? Especially now! On that note I do of course need to say a very big thank you to all the postal workers who have continued to keep us all connected throughout all of this.
Stay safe x