Making My Favorite (so far) Mask

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Not my favorite mask

Over the last five months, I’ve tried several different mask patterns. Most of them were curved to fit over your nose and come down below your eyes. But they never fit the way I wanted them to, even after putting a nose bridge wire in them. I’d bought some 3-ply, pleated disposable masks early in the pandemic, and those fit the best for me, so I started trying to find a pleated mask that was easy to sew, big enough for an adult, and fit.

I bought a Cricut Maker a couple of months back, and had been using it to cut fabric for the masks, so having a pattern that could be cut on the Cricut was a big plus in my eyes.

I found one over on Hey Let’s Make Stuff! that is an adaptation of a mask designed by a nurse and described in detail on her Instructables page. This is an N-95 mask cover, but can be worn by itself as a mask. It is NOT an N-95 mask, but is a face covering that can help stop the spread of COVID-19 when worn by the general public.

I made a couple of these using my Cricut to cut the fabric, but decided to go my own way. I used the Cricut to cut out a card stock “pattern” to use when cutting the fabric, and a pattern to use for the darts at the top and bottom. You can get the Cricut SVG here. The PDF of the pattern is available on jessica.nandino‘s Instructables page. This will make more sense as we progress.

To make one of these masks, you’ll need some cotton fabric. I’m making these masks 3-ply, so I’ve cut two pieces of white fabric to use as the inside. The fabric I’m using on the inside is actually a white Amazon Basics sheet. Its almost impossible to buy just plain, white fabric, and this 300-count flat sheet is a helluva lot cheaper than regular clothing fabric anyway. You’ll see the two inner plies for the mask in the upper right corner of that picture. The fabric in this picture is some scraps I had left from making a Hawaiian shirt (but I’ll be showing other fabric in the rest of this post).

You’ll also need some bias tape to clean up the edges of the mask. You can buy some in a coordinating (or contrasting) color, or you can make your own bias tape. I’ve made this post to show you how I do it.

You’ll want to sew the outer layer to the two inner layers. This should be just plain stitching. I sewed this one with a hem allowance of 1/4″ to 3/8″ of an inch. This doesn’t have to be professional level sewing, it’ll be covered up later, so just stitch those layers together.

Once you’ve sewn the three layers together, place the mask with the outer layer facing down on your ironing board, with the taller tip away from you (this is the top of the mask). Now, fold the bottom of the mask up, using the top most snip you cut in the edge of the fabric when you cut it out as a guide. Make sure the fold lines up with the snip that is farthest away from you on both sides of the mask (the topmost snip). Press and steam this fold. Leaving this fold in place, Fold the bottom down again, lining up this fold with the next snip below the fold you just made. Press and steam this 2nd fold.

You’re going to repeat this two more times. Fold the bottom up, lining up the fold with the snip and press and steam. Fold it down, lining up the fold with the next snip, press and steam. One more time, and press and steam nice and hard so the pleats stay in place. Your mask should look something like the picture.

Now you’re going to sew the pleats into place. Go over to your sewing machine, and pay attention to how you’re going to sew the pleats. You want the feed dogs (those toothed things under the presser foot) to pull the right way so it doesn’t pull your pleats apart when you’re trying to sew them in place! You want to sew so that the next pleat fold (currently facing upward) passes under the presser foot before the feed dogs move on to the next pleat underneath the mask. This is difficult to describe in words, but it’ll make perfect sense to you as soon as you try to do it the wrong way and your sewing machine pulls your pleats apart and politely sews them down wrong!

Now, you’ll need to sew the left side pleats. It’s not as simple as just turning the mask around and sewing it (see previous paragraph about not pulling your pleats apart while sewing). You’ll probably need to fold your mask in half unless you have a machine with a long throat, and feed it through the throat of the machine while the machine sews the pleats on the left side. Be careful to keep your stitches straight. When you finish, you should have something like this on both sides. I’ve sewn the pleats down directly over the stitching I put in to sew the layers together.

Now, grab the piece of the pattern that has the notches cut out on top and bottom. These notches will be used to put darts into your mask at the top and bottom to make your mask fit your face better. What these darts do is shorten the top and bottom edges of the mask so the mask fits snugly across the bridge of your nose and under your chin.

Place your mask with your outer layer facing down and place your notched pattern on the side facing up. You’re going to line the top edge of the pattern up with the top edge of your mask as close as you can. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the closer you can get everything lined up, the better your mask will fit. Don’t worry about the bottom of the pattern yet, it won’t line up because you made the pleats in the mask.

Take a marker (I use a ball point pen) and draw the two lines that make the cutout of the pattern on the inner layer of the mask. Now, do the same thing with the bottom of the mask. Line up the edges as closely as possible, and mark the cutout. When you’ve done that, your mask should look like this.

Now, fold the mask in half with your outside layer hidden inside your folded mask. Make the fold line up with the points of the triangles you’ve drawn on the inside of your mask. Work to make sure the lines of the triangle line up with each other. Again, it’s OK if it’s not perfect, but the closer you can get, the better the finished product will be. Now, you’re going to sew the lines. I start at the outside edge, sew to the inside edge, turn the mask 90 degrees, and sew back over the line again, just to give it extra strength. Do this for your top and bottom lines.

Once you’ve got your darts sewn in, you’re going to cut off the extra fabric. Cut the fabric about 1/4″ from your stitching. Don’t cut it too close or your stitches will pull out the edge of the fabric!

I used pinking shears, but regular scissors work too. From Wikipedia:

Pinking shears have a utilitarian function for cutting woven cloth. Cloth edges that are unfinished will easily fray, the weave becoming undone and threads pulling out easily. The sawtooth pattern does not prevent the fraying but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinking_shears

You’re getting closer! Now, you’re going to sew your bias tape to the edge of the mask. Tock Custom does a much better job of explaining how to sew bias tape than I can, so go watch this video. Now, watch it again! Keep watching it until it makes sense.

Once you get your bias tape sewn on, your mask should look like this.

You’re going to refold the bias tape now so that it wraps around the edges of your mask. Pay attention to your folds. You’ve got the creases there, make sure to fold on the creases. Now pin, or use these handy clips to hold the folded bias tape in place. Use more than you think you need, this bias tape is tricky stuff and will slide around if it’s not held securely.

Starting at the small dart that is on the bottom of the mask, topstitch the bias tape to the mask. Topstitching is meant to be seen, so stitch the bias tape to the mask with the outside layer of the mask facing up. You’ll be stitching through four layers of the bias tape plus at least three layers of the mask (many more layers when you sew across the pleats), so go slow and check frequently that you’re sewing through all the layers, including the layer of the bias tape on the inside of the mask. I used a white thread here so it would be easy to see, plus it adds a little snap to the mask.

You’re almost done! Now you just need elastic to go around your ears to hold the mask to your face. You can use 1/8″ elastic and it will work perfectly fine, but I’ve found it difficult to sew and rough on the back of my ears. I make all my masks with these baby headbands. They’re extremely soft, stretchy, washable, and I’ve had no problems with them yet. Take a baby headband and cut it in half. You’ll sew one half-loop to each side of the mask. I sew the loop using a zig-zag stitch using a thread that closely matches the color of the bias tape I’m using.

You’re done! You’ve made my favorite mask! Tag me in your instagram or twitter posts @helovestosew in both places and show off your mask!

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