Masks. We've been making them now for over a month. We've gone through machine breakdowns, pattern failures, supply shortages, and more. Not to mention trying to do this under emergency measures closure!
What does that mean? Well, it means we have some tricks and tips for you to help making your own mask easier. We'll share them below!
1. Use ties instead of elastic
Elastic is hard to come by right now. We have 3/8" elastic that we've used for some of our masks, but many of our customers have said the masks that have ties are more comfortable to wear, especially over a period of time.
We've used the following items for ties, with varying degrees of success:
- seam tape (tie the ends in knots or stitch them to avoid fraying)
- 1/4" grosgrain ribbon (works really well - burn or tie the ends to avoid fraying)
- 3/8" grosgrain ribbon (works really well - burn or tie the ends to avoid fraying)
- Bias tape, sewn shut
- 1" fabric strips, folded and serged into a strip (great use of all those quilting strips you've got left over!)
- twill tape
You'll need four, 16-17"/40-44 cm ties to replace the elastics.
We made our fabric strips by running a 1", chained and folded fabric strip through our serger, finishing the raw edge. If you don't have a serger, you can zig zag the edge, or fold and press the edges to the inside like bias tape, and sew it down with a straight stitch.
2. Pre-wash your fabric
You will want to know if your fabric bleeds colour, if it's going to shrink significantly, and how soft it's going to be before you make a mask out of it. Prewash it in warm water and dry it in the dryer before you cut it. This also has the bonus of making a lot of fabrics more dense, which is better for stopping droplets.
The fabrics we use in our masks are yarn-dyed and don't bleed colour. That's a good thing, because you don't want the colours from your fabric leaking on to your face! They are also OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified, which means they contain no harmful substances - great to know, since it will be on your face and you're breathing through it. If you'd like to buy yardage of our fabrics, let us know!
3. Add a filter pocket
We use a modified version of the free pattern found at Bra Makers Supply.
In our fitted masks, we use a serger to serge the curved front seam and the bottom edge of the lining and outer fabric pieces. We don't topstitch the seam allowance down, as that's another layer of holes we'd be adding right where you're breathing.
We then serge the top seam of the mask together. Now all the interior edges of fabric are finished, so that they won't fray. This is important, because you make the inside susceptible to wear and tear by turning it into a pocket.
4. Easier ways to put in a wire
Topstitching a channel into a mask and then trying to insert a pipe cleaner is an exercise in frustration.
When you're making a pocket like we do, you can simply flip the mask to so the right sides of the fabric are out. Topstitch close to the seam line across the top of the mask only. Open up the mask, lay a pipe cleaner in position, and then carefully topstitch another line of stitches, closing the wire in. Even if you hit the wire with your needle, we haven't yet broken a needle (knock on wood.)
5. Serge more. Sew less.
Sergers are magical tools that save us so much time. Yet so many of us let them gather dust in the corners of our sewing rooms!
Serge the sides of the mask closed. Then all you need to do to complete your mask is place the ends of your ties on the mask, fold the edges over them, and stitch them down. We like to stitch a line over the fabric and tie twice, pivot and stitch down the finished edge of the mask, then stitch on the other tie.
6. Work in batches
We work our masks through in batches of 10. That is enough to let us be efficient at a task, but stops the work from becoming too monotonous. It's also great to be able to add some to the "finished" pile! For whatever mask pattern you use, you can break it down into steps that can be done in batches. This also helps to avoid repetitive stress injuries - when you complete 10, take a moment to stretch!
That's it! These are tips we think will help, particularly if you're making more than one mask at a time, or if you'd like to make masks to sell. Do you have any tips that you've developed from making masks? We'd love to hear them!