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.


  • 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


  • 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 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.


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.

Happy Father’s Day!

For Father’s Day, here’s a post in honor of the paternal unit responsible for 50% of the DNA that produces this blog.

My father visited in late March and we headed to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum south of Boston.  Dad was part of the generation affected greatly by JFK’s presidency, and I was glad to show him one of my favorite museums.  Especially striking is how the designers deftly handled the physical and emotional transitions from the campaign trail to White House years to the assassination to the large atrium with the gigantic flag hanging, leaving you feeling hopeful at the end of what could have been a sad final exhibit.

Afterward, we took a self-timer shot in front of the Boston Harbor, looking out from Columbia Point:

Father & daughter

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  You’ve been a great father; thank you for all the travels, bits of photography advice, and car repair.

A Covey of Quail

I’ve been tutoring a couple in West Marin, teaching them how to use their computer, their printer, their iPod, and their camera.  Milly has taken to gardening while listening to Pandora Radio on the iPod. Richard was so inspired that he printed out a booklet of his poetry and prose and gave it to his sister for Christmas!  His latest project has been a photo of the day blog.  A recent entry was a covey of quail, perched on the boom of a Flying Scot at the Inverness Yacht Club.

Quail perched on a sailboat

I was drawn to how they’re pointing in different directions, and the blueness of the water. Way to go, Richard!

I’m off to Massachusetts for four months to finish my master’s thesis.  Here’s to more sailing on that coast!


He didn’t know what to expect as I tapped his left thigh to signal a turn onto the narrow mountain road. It’d been years since I had last driven up the winding route to the top of the ridge, so, neither did I.

The “SPEED LIMIT 15” sign should have meant something to him, but he blatantly ignored it as he poured on the throttle, accelerating to a speed probably twice what was posted. We roared up to the first turn, a steep hairpin which lacked any sort of banking. An abrupt downshift almost threw me off the back of the bike as the curve presented more than he expected. The second hairpin, like the first, was also accompanied by a rapid decrease in engine revolutions as I clung to his waist and tried to mimic his lean. By hairpin number three, he’d gotten the hang of the curving strip of pavement and I was able to relax a bit my white-knuckle grip on his jacket.

While the asphalt wasn’t as smooth as some other roads we’d ridden, it lacked potholes and most importantly, other cars. We twisted and rumbled up to the peak, where we parked and walked around the summit of my favorite Inverness hill. Douglas irises, coyote brush, moss, lichen, bishop pine trees, pumpernickel flowers, and poppies shone in the bright afternoon light. We could see to Hog Island and Dillon Beach along Tomales Bay, as well as to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, Chimney Rock, Mount Saint Helena, and most of the hills of wine country. “Heavenly,” he declared the vista.

The descent was an entirely different matter: My sunglasses, combined with the face shield on my borrowed helmet, made the reflections from leaves appear pink, blue, yellow, or vivid green. I imagined what the oak trees would look like with indigo blossoms the size of magnolias or the ceanothus with pink foliage. As soon as we began to drop in altitude, he turned off the engine and we quietly coasted down the road in neutral, only turning the engine for two brief uphill portions. It was strange only hearing the rush of wind, rather than the usual skull-shaking throb-THROB-throb-THROB of the engine, as we silently rolled toward the main road amidst a riot of pinks, blues, and greens.