Thursday, July 2, 2020

Masked Hexagons, Part II: A English Paper Piecing Variation

Help!

I'm going nuts making masks! 
These are a few of my new masked hexagons, made from the scraps of face masks I've been sewing since March. In my last installment, here, I described how I made these hexies, using conventional English Paper Piecing techniques. At the time, I had only made about 35 hexagons. 

Since then, I've made many more masks to donate - I'm closing in on 1,000 masks - and about 40 more masked hexagons. So here's the finished quilt, with a total of 73 masked hexagons, all socially distanced. My free, revised pattern for this quilt is available for download from Dropbox, here  (Version 3b, July 2, 2020).

Midway through making the hexies, I switched over to a much easier and faster hybrid English Paper Piecing/conventional piecing method to create each divided hexagons. The pattern has complete directions.

Here are some of my new favorite masked hexagons. The "faces" are cut from assorted solids; and the "mask" prints are from my vast stash of mostly novelty fabrics that I used in actual masks. Here's a bit of casino fabric that a friend gifted me.
The (mostly) round button eyes give them a startled look, appropriate for a pandemic. (Pandemic Pat?)

While making masks, I discovered that I own TWO radish fabrics. 

And numerous cat fabrics. This cat looks bored. 
Mighty Mouse intends to triumph over covid. The patriotic buttons almost look like eyes with red-and-white eyeshadow.

The red vintage paisley below is only nice in small doses.
Yes, that's matzoh fabric. 
Rainbow triangles go with everything.


A dandelion print reminds me that things more benign than viruses can blow in the wind.  
This awesome fabric features quilters' rulers:
My Harry Potter fabric made wonderful children's masks, and he is recognized universally a symbol of anxiety as well as courage in the face of catastrophe.
A truly horrible brown rose print made a remarkably nice mask for a hexagon. 


Bars - horizontal, or on an angle - keep the hexagons socially distanced. 
This next fabric -  the star - was from a print featuring Spongebob. 
A 1970s era flannel. So soft  and comfy. 
For quilting, I surrounded the masks with quilted covid viruses, and pathogen-laden swirls



On the white area, I made more emanations
What am I going to do with this quilt? I had planned to submit it to Houston's upcoming quarantine quilt show then I discovered there was a limit of 60" wide, and this quilt is 66" wide! Bummer! So I guess I'll just enjoy it and hope one day I can find a show for which it qualifies! 

For a variation of this quilt on a smaller scale, check out my previous post, here.  That post shows more closeups of masks and hexagons, and has the material list for the pattern. 


Of course, I have hexagons and English Paper Piecing on my mind because my new book was just published by Landauer, Hexagon Star Quilts: 113 English Paper Pieced Star Patterns to Piece and Applique, available from Amazon (here) and wherever fine quilting books are sold! 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Masked Hexagons, Socially Distanced: An English Paper Pieced Mystery Scrap Quilt

If you are one of the thousands of quilters giving time and fabric to make lifesaving masks, thank you. For me, making masks is not only a good deed, but a powerful way to reduce anxiety in a tragic  time. 

You may also be putting mask scraps aside, to someday make a  quilt. Here’s one idea that you can work on as you continue to make masks: 


And here's what it would have looked like on white:

It's not finished - it's just a top - because as I continue to make masks, I will grow it. The mystery, of course, is how all this will turn out - not just this quilt, but our lives.

UPDATE, 7/2 - I've grown this quilt significantly, and written up new, simpler directions. Find the blog post with lots of photos, hereThe free revised pattern includes full-size templates. Download it from Dropbox, here  (Version 3b, July 2, 2020). If you have any trouble downloading it, email me at cathy.perlmutter@gmail.com, and I'll email it to you. Your suggestions, comments, and feedback are welcomed. 


Here's one fabrics I used in lots of masks - a purple batik featuring lots of birds: 

...And the hexagon I made from a scrap:
Button eyes are optional. Next, masks I made for border collie parents:
 And its hexagon: 

A different purple batik mask:


The hexagon
A stylish saw-blade fabric mask:
The condensed version, with button eyes, appears sweet but startled:
After making a pile of masked hexagons (most without button eyes) I decided to to socially distance them. I was heavily influenced by lines marked on store floors, and social media photos of kooky/brilliant people wearing hula hoops, pool noodle hats, inner tubes, and even wildly-oversized Burger King crowns, to keep their distance. So I gave some of my hexagon rows protuberances.  
No need for big decisions yet about the ultimate size of the quilt - you can grow it as you make more masks and hexagons. 

Solid colors on the upper portion of each hexagon represent faces; the prints on bottom are cut from my mask scraps. Button eyes are a good choice if you’re making an anxiety-reducing quilt for a youngster. We've all heard of Sunbonnet Sue - how about Pandemic Pat? 




Below are the materials you'll need to get started.
Of course, I have hexagons and English Paper Piecing on my mind because my new book was just published, Hexagon Star Quilts: 113 English Paper Pieced Star Patterns to Piece and Applique, available from Amazon (here) and wherever fine quilting books are sold! 

Materials 


HEXAGON FABRICS - Scraps of print fabrics - one side should be at least 4” - plus similar-size scraps of assorted solids for the “faces.”

BAR AND EMBELLISHMENT FABRICS  A variety of scraps, especially in shades of grey and black-and-white for the bars. Assorted colors for star points and squares that surround hexagons.

BACKGROUND FABRIC Black: 2 yards. White: 2 yards or, if you don’t mind a seam, 1 yard cut in half vertically, with one half stitched above the other.

BORDER FABRIC: 1 yard if you don’t mind a seam and the print doesn’t have to be accurately matched. Buy 2 yards if it’s a print with a motif that needs to be matched and/or you don’t want a seam. Top and bottom borders are cut about 4.5” x 67” wide; the two side borders are cut about 3” x 69” long.

SEWING THREAD For hand or machine sewing.

GLUE STICK or PEN To “baste” fabric around cardstock or interfacing templates. Any washable non-permanent glue, like Elmer’s purple stuff in the photo, is fine. Glue pens - far right - cost more, but their narrow tip creates less mess. Alternatively, stitch-baste.

CARDSTOCK The kind that goes through a printer; or, scraps like file folders.

BATTING and BACKING Slightly bigger than your top. This finished quilt is 67” x 76”.


Hand stitchers only:

HAND-SEWING NEEDLES  EPPers favor Hemmings Size 11 Milliners, but you can start out with any slender, long small-eyed needle.

THREAD CONDITIONER Option, to reduce spontaneous thread knotting.


Machine stitchers only:

DÉCOR BOND PELLON INTERFACING 809 Option. I love it for machine EPP. This inexpensive medium-weight interfacing has fusible glue on one side. It’s easy to fold fabric accurately around it. It stays in place permanently - after machine stitching, you won’t face problems that ripping out cardstock can cause. If you cut 8.5” x 11” pieces, you can even print the template pages directly onto it. (If you don’t have Décor Bond, use cardstock templates instead.)

INVISIBLE MONOFILAMENT THREAD Option, for joining pieces, machine appliqué, and/or machine quilting.

Again, the complete and newly revised pattern is a free download, here  (Version 3b, July 2, 2020). Contact me with any questions or comments at cathy.perlmutter@gmail.com. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Easy & Versatile Face Mask, Updated!

A free printable PDF version of this tutorial is available from Dropbox, HERE. (Version 2a, 5/1/20). If you can't download it email me at cathy.perlmutter@gmail.com, and I will send it to you. 

If you want to make a snug, well fitting, fast mask, consider this one. Like a quilt, it's all rectangles and squares - no pattern to trace. It's built a lot like a quilt, with three layers (but none are batting), and (two modified) bindings on the sides.

My first tutorial for this mask went on my blog in early March. Since then, I've made hundreds more to donate. Other people made it too, and provided feedback. So this new version is faster, more fun, and more user-friendly.

This design is not officially doctor-approved, but it has features that the scientific research says are  important to a mask:
  • Good coverage
  • A snug fit, if you include the nose wire, in a casing on top of the mask. The wire is easily replaced if necessary. 
  • Multiple layers, to increase the mask's ability to trap particles, including one layer of a non-woven material inside, if you like.
  • Breathability, if  you use quilter's cottons; and/or nonwoven polypropylene; or some of the fabrics suggested by research listed on my resource page, HERE

This is not the fastest mask in the world - that would be the Deaconess - but after I ran out of elastic, I turned to this design and found I can churn out about 20 a day.

But the real strength of this type of mask is that the wearer can decide what kind of ties they like best (narrow elastic, wide elastic, woven fabric, tee shirt cord, rope, shoelaces, etc.), and how they want to wear them (behind the ears or the entire head). And then they can very easily change their minds.

As a quilter, I am having a blast using my stash of fun and/or beautiful prints and batiks, and contrasting scraps for the sides and back. I hope you enjoy this pattern and your feedback and suggestions are important to me.  Email me at cathy.perlmutter@gmail.com.

Materials
Launder fabrics on hot. Press cotton fabrics on high; if using polypropylene, lower iron to "acrylic."

- Featured fabric: One 9" wide x 7" high piece for medium size (10" wide x 8" for large). Featured layer shows on the front. Quilters' cottons are ideal, especially if you have batiks which have the highest thread count!

- Lining fabric: One 9" x 7" for medium (10" x 8" for L). This layer will be against the face. I use cottons here. Flannel is also a good choice.

Optional: Third, hidden layer inside the mask. Most hospitals are not asking for a third layer, but for personal use, you might want it. One 9" x 7" piece for medium (10" x 8" for L). Quilter's cottons are fine. Some research suggests mixing it up - a piece of cotton/poly fabric, thin synthetic chiffon, or even thin silk. Whatever you choose, test it first to make sure you can breathe through it! In this tutorial, I used inexpensive polypropylene (cut from grocery bags, or purchased brand name OLY-fun yardage, which is now out of stock). More suggestions for this layer are on top of my resource page, HERE. Choose whichever highly-rated fabric that you have on hand.

- Binding/casing fabric - More featured or lining fabric; or, for fun and contrast, something completely different. Cut two 4" x 4" casing squares.

- Nose wire sleeve - Approx 2" x 5.5" fabric strip cut on the straight of grain or bias from quilter's cotton; or, a 5" x 2” piece cut from a polypropylene tote bag.

- Ties or elastic. Anything you like; you can always change your mind. My directions for using elastic or making tee shirt ties are in this tutorial.

- With elastic only: Fray Check - Or other fray-stopping liquid (or nail polish, or non-water-soluble glue). Some elastics fray.

- Wire, about 5". Grocery ties are almost adequate - two are better than one. Stronger, longer ties, like those for produce, gardening, or trash bags, are better. Pipe cleaners work, but rust eventually. Since the wires are removable, the recipient can replace them. My favorite: 22 gauge floral wire (center of photo). With any wire, use small pliers to put loops at the end, so it doesn't poke anyone.

- Small binder clips or sewing clips To minimize holes in the mask. I am using 3/4" metal binder clips. My silver ones open more easily than my black ones (but that could be unique to the brands I bought).
I am also using my dwindling supply of sewing clips, which are cuter, far more expensive, open more easily, and break more easily than metal binder clips. These are now as hard to get as toilet paper and elastic, because of the demand from mask-makers. 

Cut the Fabric

1. Cut the three large panels for the body of the mask: One featured side (pretzels), one lining (green) and optionally, one hidden piece (purple polypropylene in these photos.) And cut the two 4" binding/casing squares.

2. Place featured and lining panels good sides together. If you will have a third layer, place it behind the pair. Line up edges and corners, and pin or clip together. Stitch horizontally across the top and bottom, with a 1/4” seam allowance. Sides remain open.

3. Turn good sides out.

4. At the ironing board, push out top and bottom seams (I use the edge of a thin metal ruler), then press. If polypropylene is inside, set iron to "Acrylic."
Topstitch the upper and lower edges, 1/8” in. If you're mass producing, while topstitching, you might also want to add the sleeve (for the wire) along the upper edge. (And then along the sleeve's lower edge.) Directions for making the sleeve are toward the end of this post, under "Add a sleeve..." But if this is your first time making this mask, you can wait to the end before adding the sleeve.
5. Press the two casing squares (left) in half vertically, wrong sides together, good side out (right). Here, raw edges are pressed to the right.


Pleat it
I have a relaxed attitude towards pleats. Precision matching on each side not as important to me as the overall height of the sides. When you wear the mask, all the pleats in the central area will open, and only quilt police can detect disparities at the far ends.

6. This is like folding a paper fan, but slightly offset each fold. In the photo below, in my hand, the left corner, before the first fold, will be the top right corner of the mask. The first flap (between that corner and the first fold) should be about 3/4"-1".
Now, working down the side, make a couple more folds. With a medium mask, I can fit in a total of three or four  folds like these; with large, four or five folds.
Here's what I'm aiming for (on a different, large mask), and sometimes looking at the side like this helps me achieve it. The corner on the far left points left; the corner on the far right points right. It's okay if some of the folds are backed by other folds.
For your first masks, you may need to clip the pleats at this point, or just hold them securely.  Either way, put it on or near a grid or ruler. 
With a large mask, aim for 3.5” high or less. With a medium size, go for 3” or less. My theory is that the shorter the side, the better the fit (because the mask curves more.) Practice helps, but it can still take me a couple of tries to get the fold right. And then, to compound the brain exercise, you’ll have to do a more-or-less matching set of pleats on the other 

7. When the height of one side is right, you can go to step 8 right now, without even clipping the folds in place; or, if you prefer, fold the other side now, so the pleats more-or-less match.

8. Center one mask end on top of the folded casing, lining up all the raw edges (on the casing and the mask body) on the far right. Double check that the binding square has raw edges right.
9. Wrap the two casing ends forward around the mask. It should look something like this. You don't have to use clips if you just hold on tight! I needed the clips to take this picture!
10. Place into the sewing machine, and stitch about 1/4” in from the right edge. Stitch from top to bottom. No need to backstitch.
 Here's the seam in green thread.
11. Evaluate the right edge. If there’s more than 1/4” beyond the seam, and/or if it’s messy, use pinking shears or regular scissors to neaten it up and trim the seam allowance closer to a scant 1/4”.
Here it is, all neatened up.
If you don’t have pinking shears, another option is a zigzag to cover the edges. The cleanup means that when you or your recipient sends an elastic or cord through the casing, it won’t bring along a big clot of stray fibers with it!

12. Pull the folded edge of the casing all the way out to the right. Check the back to make sure that none of the inner layers are accidentally exposed because they didn't get caught in the seam. (If you find a gap, you’ll have to unsew the step 10 seam, trim the edges straight, then do step 10 again.)
It's pulled out as far as it can go. There are two slightly angled flaps.
Although this is the inside of the casing, which will not show in the finished mask, we must stitch the flaps’ long edges down. If not, when you send a tie through - or when your recipient does - it will get stuck under a flap, which is incredibly frustrating!

13. Slightly slant the flaps just enough to move the top corners just below the folded edge. Not having those corners protrude will give it a neater look on the front.
14. Sew the raw edges down, forming a U. Start at a in the diagram above, 1/4”down, and 1/8th” to the right of the raw edge. Backstitch a few stitches to the top of the flap. Sew down to b. Swivel and stitch across to c. Turn. Your presser foot will try to push the d corner up. Fight back, by using a finger to push back directly in front of the foot. If you have to stitch a tiny pleat into this edge, between c and d, to keep the corner below the fold, do so. End at d, with a couple more back and forth stitches.

The stitching at the base of the U serves no purpose except to travel from one flap to the other. Here’s a finished U. The upper horizontal green line is the base of the U; the line of stitching under it joined the casing to the mask.
15. Still working from the mask's front, pull the fold down and inward, just past the seam ridge underneath.
 I usually don't pull it taut - instead, I try to leave a little room to get a cord through.
16. To fasten, start sewing at the top, 1/8th inch to the right of the fold, with a few back and forth stitches. Stitch down to the bottom, ending with some more back-and-forth stitches.
Here’s the reverse side. The lower stitch line is the last seam you sewed.
18. Repeat steps 8-16 with the other end.

Add a sleeve for the nose wire

You can do this any time in the process. I often do it last, but when mass producing these masks, it’s easiest and fastest to do it after Step 4.

A wire allows the wearer to shape the mask over their nose, It makes a huge difference in achieving a snug fit. And because the sleeve is open on the sides, a broken or rusted wire can easily be replaced.

I make almost all my sleeves out of polypropylene fabric cut from a tote bag or from my OLY-fun bolt. Not for any scientific reason - I just love that it doesn’t ravel (much), so I don’t have to turn the short edges under; and the texture is different from cotton, making it a snazzy accent -  it looks almost like leather, or a grosgrain ribbon. Here's my method:
N-1. Polypropylene: Cut 5” x 2” strip. Fabric: cut 5.5" x 2". A bias strip curves a little better, but straight-of-grain works too.
N-2. Fabric only: Fold the short ends inward 1/4". (No need to do this with polypropylene.)
N-3. Fold in half the long way, to create a crease in the middle. Unfold.
N-4. Fold both long edges inward.

N-5. Fold along the middle crease.
N-6. Option for fabric only: Sew up the short sides to seal them (so someone doesn't accidentally slip the wire between fabric layers and get stuck on the short seam allowances). In the next photo, I used white thread to seal the ends.
N-7. Find the center of the mask and the strip by folding both in half and placing pins. Clip or pin the sleeve to the mask.

N-8. Stitch two straight lines, one along the top of the strip, and one along the bottom. Backstitch at both ends of both these lines. Here I used large pink stitches, but you should use a normal or tight stitch.
If you like, you can topstitch the entire top edge of the mask (instead of just the strip), by starting to the far left, just after the binding ends, and finish at the opposite end, just before the binding starts on the right.

N-9. Hold your wire next to the sleeve.  Cut it so it's the same length or a tiny bit longer. Use small pliers to shape the ends into a loop, for safety.
N-10. Slide the wire into the mask. Tell the wearer (or yourself) to try on the mask, and press to shape the wire to their nose.

Just for fun, when I use polypropylene, I sometimes cut my piece from a polypropylene tote bag's handle - it already has nice folded edges on top and bottom. I space my two stitching lines 1/2" apart, and then trim the excess along the bottom of the sleeve with a pinking shears. Too cute!

Choose straps & configurations
Arrange the straps and/or elastic any way you (or your recipient) likes, including:
- Short loops over the ears;
- Behind-the-head stretchy straps;
- Behind-the-head non-stretchy ties.
For me, this decision depends entirely on my supplies, especially of....

1/8” - 3/8” Elastic - The new toilet paper! In short supply, especially 1/4”. 

For ear loops: Test for size by sending a 14” piece of string or yarn through each casing (tie it to a safety pin and work the pin through.) Tie ends to the approximate length that goes around the ears, plus a couple more inches for a knot. That’s your raw estimate of elastic length.  For adults I don't know, I cut 12" per side (and send the mask with the elastic only loosely tied, so they can tie it tight to the length they need.) Cut two elastic pieces and drip Fray Check on the ends. Take the string out, and send each elastic piece through the casing, again by pinning it to a safety pin that you can feel and inch through.
Once it’s through, use safety pins to close the loops’ ends, try it on, and fine tune the overlap. Then, use extra strong thread (if you have it), hand-stitch from the center outward in both directions.
For behind-the-head straps made from narrow elastic, follow the procedure in the section below. 

Wide elastic - More than 3/8”- Too wide to fit behind ears. But you can send it around the back of the head. Below, we’re looking at the back of a mask. 
Thread the elastic down through down one casing and up the other, so cut ends are on top. The wearer slips the bottom loop behind their neck, pulls the mask up over their nose, then pulls the top ends together to tie or fasten on back of the head, possibly resting on ears.
It’s no fun to tie wide elastic, so after you (or the recipient) determines the fit, they can hand stitch the ends together, or knot them tightly, safety-pin or even staple them together.

Again, if you’re making the mask for someone in your household, you can estimate length by sending string through the casing and measuring. For adults I don’t know, I cut one yard of elastic; 20”-25” for kids and smaller people. 

Make tee shirt cord

Also known as "tee shirt yarn." Cut it from old (or new!) shirts. Cheaper than elastic, more available, comfortable, colorful and non-allergenic (elastic can trigger latex allergies; tees don't). 

T-1. Cut off a tee shirt's bottom hem (which itself can be used as a behind-the-head strap). Use a ruler and rotary cutter to cut off a 3/4” or 1" strip from the shirt body; or mark a 3/4” or 1" strip and cut through both layers with scissors. Here it is partially cut. 
The strip looks unassuming enough; but when you pull on both ends....
..it magically turns into a wonderful, stretchy cord that's ultra-comfortable behind the ears!
If you want more information and tips on tee shirt yarn, look for them on Youtube. There are easy ways to cut a single shirt into a yards-long continuous piece. 
For ear loops: (Above) Cut short pieces, about 15” each, thread them through the sides; then tie into knots. No need to sew ends together; just keep the knots. (When worn, slide knots below the ears; if they’re directly behind the ears, they slip off.)

For head straps: Make two pieces approximately 25” long, or one piece about 50” long. Thread as shown below. The bottom pieces can be tied together in a knot permanently, which will go behind the neck. The top ends are separately knotted and tied in a bow on back of the head.
If you prefer non-stretchy ties, there are zillions of tutorials online. You can use straight-of-grain cotton quilting fabric, bias-cut cotton fabric, cotton or polyester clothesline, twill tape, anything you like - providing it can be laundered repeatedly in hot water. 


Almost finished! Now, if possible, try it on. You may find you need to take a dart under the chin. You may also find that long ties make the mask fit better than over-the-ear loops. Try different things to custom-fit the mask to the wearer!

Need a Dart or Two?
When you try it on - especially if you used ear loops instead of tying behind the head - you might find a gap under the chin. It's easy to fix this with one dart centered under the chin, or two smallish darts on both sides of the center. I sew them through all the layers. For one central dart, fold the mask in half, wrong sides together, as shown, to find the center. Stitch one little seam, backstitching at both ends; it's the single line of stitching to the bottom right of the red happy face mug below:
The reverse side of that same dart looks like this (in red thread). 
Or, make small two darts the same way, each 1.5" to the right and left of center. Two darts are less conspicuous than one. 

And finally,

  • My tutorial for a fun to make, roomier mask is here.
  •  My Covid resource page, with information for maskmakers, databases of groups looking for donated masks, and links to many different tutorials, including hospital-approved patterns, is here
  • Suggestions? Information? Photos of the masks you made from my tutorials? Please email me at: Cathy.perlmutter @gmail.com.