Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit the US, I’ve had an eager wanting to help. As a social distancing student and teenager, my options were limited. However, I found a way to put my sewing skills and an abundance of fabric to use. I’ve been a protective mask making machine, donating bunches every few weeks when I’m able to get more supplies. I haven’t done a sewing post in a while, but I wanted to share how I made these masks and also how to donate them. That was the tricky part for me. Overall, I want to show you all how easy it is to help and maybe even support some local businesses at the same time.
materials. I recommend using thin, 100% cotton fabric (1/2 yard makes 6+masks). It has been recommended by coronavirus experts and is affordable. Also, it’s easy to use (and easy to seam rip if you make a mistake). You are also going to need interfacing or regular masks filters on line. The last “mask-specific” item is a 1/4 inch elastic. Here’s a quick tip, you should buy elastic in bulk because you can run out of it quickly and it’s also cheaper.
small businesses. This is a great time to find small or local businesses that sell these materials or online shops. That’s what I’ve done and even small purchases like elastic can help. I was also really surprised at how much cheaper it is, compared to Joann or Michaels. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that big stores like those do have employees that are also suffering, so either one is a good choice.
pattern. There are many types of masks you can make, but I’m just going to go over the standard “surgical mask” form. You can make your own pattern or print one, but the one I use is 8.5 inches by 6 inches rectangle. I’ll go over the pleating later in the post, but you can see in the image that the marks are there too. The elastic can be altered but I think a good length for each elastic is 6-7 inches.
cutting. Use your pattern and place it on the fold. The long side should be on the fold. If you don’t have enough to cut it on a fold, you can cut two pieces and sew them together at the top, along the long side. If you need to, you can cut multiple pieces of fabric and sew it together to make it big enough for the fabric.
interfacing. If you are going to make a mask with a filter pocket, you don’t necessarily need interfacing. I use interfacing as a filter because it’s a little easier and still works. When you cut interfacing, make sure it is smaller than the pattern. This helps make sure that the seams aren’t too thick for your machine and also look better. You can follow the specific instructions of your interfacing by ironing or sewing it onto the wrong side of the fabric.
before sewing. After you have attached the interfacing to your fabric, iron it down along the top fold (like the picture above). Make sure that the good sides are touching and that the interfacing side is outside. Now you have to pin your elastic. I pinned my elastic about a half-inch from the edge on both sides, but it doesn’t matter too much as long as they are even. Make sure that the elastic is in the inside of the mask, so you can’t see all of it. It helps to pin all around the mask and also to mark the section that you are going to leave open.
sewing. Sew around the mask, backstitching over the elastic to secure it in place. Sewing over the folded edge isn’t necessary but it’s also okay to do that. Make sure to leave an area at the non-folded long side open, so that you can flip it right side out.
pleating. Once you flip it right side out, make sure to push out all the corners using a pencil or scissors. Then you can start making the pleats/ fold on the sides. This is probably the most difficult part. Make sure that all of the pleats are in between the elastic on each side. Also make sure that they are in the same position on both sides of the mask, because that’s how you make it the most efficient as protection. The way I pleat is by marking three equal sections with a pencil and then folding them. I do two pleats facing one direction, and the third facing the other. I feel like the picture explains it better, but I recommend doing one side first and then matching it on the other side to make sure they are equal. Pin them in place to make sure they don’t slide when you sew.
final steps. The final is to sew all around the mask. This is also when you can close the hole you left earlier by folding it in so that it matches the seams. If your fabric is too thick or the interfacing was too big, sewing on top of the pleats may be harder, which is why it’s important to keep everything as thin and ironed down as possible. You can use a simple straight stitch and if you are using a machine, widening the stitch make also helps.
how to donate. I donated mine through Joann fabrics, by calling the store and confirming that they accept masks and then dropping it off. This does take time because you have to wait in line to get in the store, but it also does make things a little easier. Another option is personally reaching out to hospitals or stores to see if they are looking for masks. It also might be a good idea to check on at-risk neighbors or friends, that might be in need of some masks. Here’s a link to the Joann information.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me or leave a comment. The main point of this post was to make sure that everyone knows how easy it is to help during these times. Even one mask can make a difference, whether it’s perfectly sewed or not.
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