Thursday, March 26, 2020

Passover Masks; I Couldn't Help Myself

Passover is April 8. With the world in the throes of the COVID epidemic, public health authorities and rabbis agree that people should stay home, and connect with farflung loved ones at the seder via Zoom, Skype, or whatever. 

I don't have any matzoh in my house yet - but of course, I always have plenty of matzoh fabric. So this morning, I broke away from making (somewhat) normal masks for friends and family; and I made these, just to make myself laugh.  First....

(I buy matzoh fabric here.)

The next mask covers two plagues: Frogs and hail. 
(The dots could also be boils and/or cattle disease; the black area could be darkness. That's five plagues in one mask!)  

The third mask, dancing skeletons, is good for the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn; not to mention the new plague we are enduring.
And finally, if your virtual seder guests don't see eye to eye on politics, send these to the loquacious ones in advance.


  • My easy pattern, which I used to make the masks above, is HERE.
  • My roomier mask tutorial is HERE
  • My resource page with hospitals around the country asking stitchers to make masks for them, and links to many more  patterns, is HERE
And whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or anything else, please, listen to the public health experts; stay home; don't invite guests, except the ones you already live with. That's the best way to save the world. 

More Passover and matzoh fabric projects are in the word cloud on the upper right. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fancier Face Mask, More Work, Maybe Better, from Your Stash

This tutorial is for a lined mask that I find roomier, more comfortable and less claustrophobic than the simpler masks I've made. Here's one in a quilting fabric:  

...and another in an African print, with fusible interfacing between the inner and outer layer, and tee shirt cord substituting nicely for elastic...
And third, a mask I made from two cut-up polypropylene tote bags, which, according to a group of scientists and engineers working on the DIY mask issue, combines breathability with better filtration and water resistance than cotton. (Evidence HERE. Their website is 
Whatever material you use, this mask design assumes machine sewing supplies and confidence. If you've ever made a simple lined tote bag, you can sew this. I've made probably 80 masks from many different patterns in the last couple of weeks, and I am still finding this one the most comfortable.

However, there may be a better pattern for your needs. Like most mask patterns out there, my pattern has never had rigorous medical scrutiny.  

So before you go ahead with this project, consider these:

  • Never sewn any kind of mask, and want science-backed  protection? I suggestion's  SURGE mask, and easy pleated mask with ties, made from non-woven polypropylene, which you almost certainly have in your house, in the form of old tote bags. I do find this mask heavy, but the extra protection may be worth it. Find it HERE
  • If you have no sewing supplies, and you need a mask NOW, a three-minute disposable mask, made with rubber bands and a paper towel, is HERE.
  • If you're sewing for a hospital or other agency, they usually specify the pattern they want. One of the most popular patterns among hospitals now is the Deaconess', HERE.

  • Find many more choices, including doctor-approved mask tutorials, on my resource page HERE.

If you still want to make this roomy mask - and I do think you will like wearing it - the first one takes 40 minutes, and after that it will go much faster. For a printout, this tutorial is now in a free 6-page document, downloadable from Dropbox, HERE. (Version 3, as of 3/22).  If you are unable to download it, email me at, and I'll send it to you!

This size fits me; I have a big head. If you're a small person, or want to make one for a child in your household, email me and I'll shrink it a bit for you. 

1 8.5" x 10.5" piece of featured fabric, plus enough to cut two 4" x 4" squares. [Use cotton or nonwoven polypropylene, from a cut up tote bag)
1 8.5" x 10.5" piece of lining fabric, plus enough to cut two 4" x 4" squares.[Use cotton or nonwoven polypropylene) 

If you're using cotton only (not for polypropylene masks): 
1 8.5" x 10.5" piece of light or medium weight fusible interfacing. Note: If you don't have interfacing at home, you can skip it).

20" of quarter inch-wide elastic. With elastic, it's a good idea to also use Fray Check or other fray-stopping liquid (or nail polish, or non-water-soluble glue.)  

Don't have elastic? Cut up a tee shirt!  You can substitute a 1" strip cut width-wise, from an old tee shirt, then pulled on both ends, to make it strong, soft and stretchy. Illustrated directions are towards the end of my last post, HERE.

Wire or twist ties - To fit over the nose. Makes a big difference in fit. Short grocery store ties (like the bright green one in the photo below) are the last choice; longer and stronger is better, like the purple one, which came with broccoli; or trash bag ties, or garden ties. Another option is 22-26 gauge rubber-coated floral or craft wire - but only if you can twist loops onto the ends with small pliers, so the wire ends don't poke you!  

1. Download or recreate the pattern. Again, the Dropbox link is HEREIf you don't want to print out the entire tutorial, just the cutting pattern (also below), print out only page 1 of the 6-page tutorial. After you print it out, check that the outer red box measures 8" x 10." 

If you can't download or print it to size from Dropbox document, the green markings in the drawing below show the dimensions, so you can draft it yourself onto copy paper or cardstock.
  • Start by drawing an 8" high by 10" wide rectangle - it's the outer red rectangle. 
  • Referring to the green measurements and the green dots, one by one mark dots, and connect the lines, until you have the hourglass shape. Also draw in the two darts next to the nose area, along the top of the pattern.

2. Cut the pattern from paper or cardstock. Here's mine, cut from a file folder. Cut away the two darts from the top nose area. (You will NOT cut away those triangles from the fabric.) If you think you need a smaller size, trim a bit off each edge, but not the darts.
3.  Cut featured and lining fabric to 8.5" x 10.5".  If you're not using polypropylene: Cut one piece of fusible interfacing to 8.25" x 10.25". I used featherweight interfacing only because that's what's in my stash - I suspect medium would be better.  
4. Center the (optional) interfacing on back of one fabric  (I put mine on back of the featured side, but now I think the lining side would be a better choice, for keeping fabric from lips). Press in position, following manufacturers directions for steam and time.
(If you're using one or more polypropylene layers - iron on a low, acrylic setting. Don't adhere interfacing.)
 5. Place the pattern on the back or interfacing side and trace the pattern. 
6. Draw two short horizontal lines to close up the two triangle darts on top. 
 7. Trace the pattern again, onto the back of your other fabric, also closing the top triangles.  
8. Cut out the patterns ON THE LINES. Leave the inside of the darts. 
9. One by one, working from the wrong side, fold each dart in half (backwards, up through its center), pin, and stitch on the lines from outer edge, heading down to and off of the point. 
10. Try to sew on the darts' lines, but micro-precision is not required here. 
When you've done all four darts, the wrong sides look like this. 

Adding twist ties or wire to the top/nose area helps the mask fit much better. Start with the lining darts up. 
Cut one or two twist ties to 5" - 6".  Two ties hold their shape better than one. Below, I placed two purple twist ties on top of each otherIf you only have shorter twist ties, twist several together, each a little lower than the one before it, until they reach 5". But if you use floral wire, don't double it. 
Clip in position, or just hold. Its edge is directly over the fabric's raw edge. Underneath the ties, the nose darts are pointing outward. 
 Zigzag the ties in position. Twist-tie wire is so lightweight that if your needle hits it, nothing bad is likely to happen, but if you used thicker wire, you could break a needle (I've broken several). At the beginning and end, turn the hand wheel to zig-zag the needle into and out of the end loops, to hold it in position. 
 Here's the back. 
 Now we'll continue sewing as if it isn't there. 

11. From the wrong side of the lining, fold the fabric in half up along its horizontal mid-line. Match the two raw edges on the right.
12. Using a 1/4" seam allowance, stitch from the top of the corner, down and off the bottom corner. Repeat on the opposite side.
13. Do the same thing to the wrong side of the featured fabric. After stitching, here's the nose side....(There may be a twist tie between the darts)...
...And how it looks flipped over to the chin side....

14. Cut two 4" x 4" squares from featured fabric, and two more from lining fabric. I did not put fusible interfacing on these pieces, because they're going to be doubled into 8 layers in the finished mask; you can add a square of interfacing to two of the squares, if you like (and if they're cotton.)
15. Place featured and lining fabric right sides together, line them up, pin, then stitch two opposite sides with a 1/4" seam allowance. 
 16. Turn right sides out, push out seams, and press. 
 17. At one raw edge, fold in half to press a crease into the fabrics. 
 18. Open again. The crease marks the middle. 
19. Fold the rectangle in half the other way, so that the finished edges are to the left and right, and the raw edges are along the top. Match the four raw edges of panel to the raw edge on the  right side of the mask. The middle crease will help you center the flap. (Also note - to make these photos clear, I folded the pink lining to the outside. But you, of course, can put your featured fabric on the outside.) 
 20. Center and pin the other side piece to the opposite edge. 
21. Baste/stitch in position if this is your first mask.  You may decide later that you want these flaps to be shorter. This basting will be oversewn in a later step, when you're sure the size is right.
22. Insert the lining - good side puffed out - into the featured side, good side in. Make sure the nose darts are on the same side.
23. Arrange darts on top of each other. I pinned the lining darts' flaps outward, and the featured darts inward. Line up the side seams, and push those seam allowances in opposite directions.
 24. Pin raw edges, along the top and bottom edges of the mask. 
25. In the next picture, on the right side, you can see two little black "x"s on the top and bottom edge - those mark the spots immediately before and after the side panel starts and ends. (Marking dots there can help you.)
26. On the left edge of the mask, in the  picture above, I put little Y's above and below the side flaps.

27. Sew the long seam between x and y - once along the top, and once along the bottom - with a 1/4" seam allowance. (Once you've made one of these masks and you know it fits, you can also sew one of the side openings now, meaning you can stitch in one continuous line along three sides. Be sure to leave one side seam open, or you won't be able to turn it!) 

Here's how the stitching looked with the mask that has a twist tie.
There's a line of straight stitching just under the purple twist tie. And here's how the mask without a twist-tie looked. 

 28. Turn through one of the side holes. Bend the wire as gently as possible.
29. Massage everything into position.  Push out the seam and press the top and bottom seams.  Here's one pressed edge. 

The side flaps will look like this:
 30. Tuck it in; press and pin with a safety or straight pin.
Now you're here. 
31. Cut quarter inch-elastic to 10" and drip fray check substance, nail polish, or glue, on the ends. Let dry. Slide it through the side flaps. Tie or use a small safety pin to hold the ends, and carefully try on the mask. Readjust until you like the elastic length. Measure the finished length of the elastic size you liked.

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE TEE SHIRT CORDS:  Directions for making tee cords are at the bottom of my last blog post, here. Basically, cut two 1" x 15" strips from the width of an old tee shirt. Pull the ends till they curl up into a cord. Tie ends in a loose knot and try the mask on.  

If the side flaps are way too long, you can rip the earlier basting stitches. and then place them deeper inside. If the elastic or tee shirt cord is too long, you can adjust that now and figure out the length you need. Write down the measurement you like, then pull the cord or elastic out for the next couple of steps. We'll reinstall them  later.

32. When you're happy with the fit, hand-sew the inner seam, keeping a finger on the outside to try to make the folded edge on the inside even with the flap seam on the reverse side, for neatness' sake. 
Above, I used a running stitch, and below, a whip stitch. Both worked fine. 
 Here everything is stitched in place. 
33. Topstitch from the outside, 1/8" in from the edges. I started just above a flap here.
 Stitched down to the opposite corner....
Swiveled there, and continued, all the way around. Here's a the bottom edge afterwards. 
How did you do? Here you can see that on one side, my machine stitching was fairly close to my handstitched edge! Good enough for me! 

Below, on the opposite side, I did worse - the white machine stitching is wandering around lost, below the hand-stitching.  If I were making this mask for, say, a quilt show judge, I would take out this stitching out and try again, matching folded edges more carefully so the topstitching would be closer to the seam. But this mask is for me, so heck, I'm leaving it like this!
34. Add Elastic, Tee Shirt Cord, or Ties for Good.  Re-cut elastic to the length you want with at least a 1/2" overlap. Drop fray check on the cut ends. Tee cord doesn't need any kind of end treatment.
Slide it through the side panels.
35. With ELASTIC ONLY: Hand stitch the ends together. I use upholstery or other heavy thread, and stitch from the center outward, in both directions. Then I drip a little more Fray Check on the knots. When dry, pull the loop so the stitching is hidden inside the side piece. If you send this mask to someone, you can tell them about the stitching, so if they need to, they can cut the stitches, make it looser or tighter, and restitch. 
If you're using tee shirt cord, all you have to do is tie  the ends into  small knots. The knots shouldn't go behind the ears slide them either to the bottom of the sleeve, like in this photo, or to the inside of the sleeves. 

If you need a tighter fit, you can also put a dart in the bottom, under the chin. 
Before anyone but you wears it, launder it in hot water, and dry it on high, and/or set it out in the sun, if it's cotton. (And a  polypropylene mask can literally be boiled for ten minutes.) If you're sending it to someone, and you don't know if you are carrying the virus (which most of us don't) tell them to wait three days before opening it, and empty it directly into the washer (hot water), then the dryer, or outdoor sunny spot, to ensure any bad stuff has died. (They should immediately wash their hands, after handling the envelope as well as the mask.) 

And the mask won't be helpful unless the wearer uses them correctly. Everything you need to know about mask-handling is in a short video from the World Health Organization, HERE

Tell me how it went - your comments and suggestions are welcomed. I am improving this pattern as ideas and more information comes in. Make as many of these as you please, feel free to share this pattern with friends. 

When this nightmare is over, I'm looking forward to converting the masks into tiny purses, perfect for holding a lipstick, when the time comes that we can show our lips again. 
Looking for more patterns, more science, or where to donate home-sewn masks? My new resource page is here.