Mask sewing and donating

My roommate (a former Broadway costume sewist) and I have been sewing masks for ourselves, our friends and family, and to donate, both to nurses at local hospitals and the Tohono O’odham Nation. We’ve used a variety of patterns and techniques; this is what is working for us. I’ll update in the coming months, as those of us living in the United States will be wearing masks for quite some time.

Sewing masks aligns with my values of community- and cooperative-based thinking: wearing a mask protects the people around you. It shows you value caring for society broadly. If sewing masks with a ridiculous unicorn-cat-rainbow print makes mask wearing that much more enjoyable, bring it on. Plus, it’s improving my pressing skills and incorporation of pressing into my sewing workflow.

Patterns

  • NurseMade: my go-to favorite mask. Fits over an N95, has cloth ties, and a filter pocket. We’ve figured out how to add a removable nose bridge wire to the top binding: when stitching the binding in place, leave a gap of about ⅜–½” roughly 2½” from the center of the mask on one side of the top binding. Lockstitch on each side, then slide in your nose bridge wire. If you find the tutorial lacking in information, the original Instructables AB Mask 2.0 for a nurse by a nurse instructions are a little more detailed.
  • Japanese pattern book 3D contoured mask. Excellent fit, doesn’t get sucked in while breathing. The sizing is very tiny for someone of European descent. I don’t think I’ve a particularly large face, but the XXL fits me, and the XL fits but is less roomy. I wouldn’t sew smaller than an XL for an adult in the US. I’ve made a nose bridge pocket cut on the bias to sew into the liner, using techniques similar as shown for the Craft Passion mask. Update January 2021: this mask shrinks interestingly in the wash unless it’s been lined or you use a very stiff fabric. Either non-fusible interfacing or silk or a third layer helps prevent shape changes.
  • Craft Passion: roommate has been busting out these, and I’ve been topstitching them as she puts them in front of my loaner sewing machine. These fit people with very narrow faces, or a short distance between their nose bridge and their chin. Modification #6 by Jesse Killion is my current favorite, as the extra fabric beneath the chin makes this mask more versatile in terms of who it fits. Some modifications allow for side channels for replaceable ear loops. We’re now sewing the Zippy modification and I’m pretty happy with that one.
  • Emily’s Mask: Emily Lakdawalla’s mask, involving some pleating, but not a lot of pressing overall. I learned how to do box pleats! Can accommodate filters and removable nose bridge wires. I’ve had problems with inhaling the fabric while speaking, but maybe a silicone mask bracket insert would help.
  • Todaro: similar to NurseMade, but no binding required, and no restrictions on selling the resulting mask. Easily modified to add binding similar to the NurseMade mask

Techniques

  • Fashion Incubator has some fabulous videos and links for efficiently producing masks with a minimum of pressing or pinning.
    • Particularly keen on the binder attachments she links to in the first video. If you’d like to buy us one, let me know in the comments 🙂
    • Some friends have had success taping a simple metal bias tape maker to their machine to minimize pressing and expedite the binding process.
    • For NurseMade masks going to friends and not nurses, instead of adding 42″ of binding to the top and bottom for straps, I extend the binding 1″ on the top and bottom of the mask, fold over these tabs, and vigorously zig-zag stitch in place to create four loops on the corner of the mask. I then string 54″ inches of some sort of pre-made strap material (shoelace, elastic, cords or ties pilfered from other garments, etc.) through the loops as shown in this diagram. Saves a lot of time and effort at the ironing board making ~90″ of binding overall for one of these masks. With elastic material, I shorten the length to 44″ and add a cord lock or pony bead.
  • Some folks have been adding zip ties to provide a frame structure to masks to prevent it from being inhaled while breathing. You can cut up plastic bottles for a similar support structure effect.
Black and white mask tie design from fashion-incubator.com with tabs on the top and bottoms of the sides of the mask, and one continuous 54
A better mask tie design (including attachment tabs) from Fashion Incubator.

Vendors

We’ve been using coffee bag crimps for nose bridges, but you can make your own out of two pieces of wire between strips of masking or painter’s tape.

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