Let's talk about reusable cotton facemasks!
In today's ever evolving world, Canada is starting to slowly open back up, but with many establishments insisting on the use of a face covering. They aren't being super picky about what kind of covering, so there are many different kinds being used.
If you are a longtime follower of Spack Craft (the handmade side of my business), you will know that I have been making masks for sale (and charity) since about April, although I started my research on the topic early March.
After doing extensive research on the available material at that time, I came up with a pattern that may not be the most simple in the world but I feel that it has all of the features that I was looking for! I originally shared it on my personal blog for free, read the whole post (including the pattern) here.
These masks are pleated (no holes down the middle of the mask for a center seam), have a pocket for an extra layer/filter, have a bendable nose piece that can be replaced when it fails (any metal bent back and forth enough will eventually break) and have a single loop cotton twill tie that can also be replaced! As the sides of the mask are secured by a binding casing, the ties can be removed, adjusted, and replaced as required. (If they are sewn on, you can only fix if you know how to sew!)
Many people are asking about elastic. While I originally avoided elastic due to both supply issues as well as the overall comfort and washability factor, its got its place in the mask world. If you know you will be washing with high temperatures frequently, the ties will last you longer.
For adults, I recommend having elastic go behind the head instead of around the ears for comfort. Elastic is better suited for kids who would struggle with the ties and are not as likely going to be required to wear them for long periods of time.
Please note: I don't recommend having anything that goes behind a child's head without having a quick release for choking reasons. For kids, I recommend ear loops with a converter/ear saver. (in a pinch, a paperclip can work, but I don't recommend it for long term use)
What should you make them out of?
For those thinking about entering the world of mask making, woven cotton has been identified as one of the better materials (vs a knit fabric for example) that you can use that is also easily available. Not all cottons are created equal, I would recommend avoiding broadcloth and sticking to the "good stuff", most quilting weight cottons are suitable.
Conveniently, that's what we sell! (Hey, this is a shop blog, I do need to promote the shop :) )
How much fabric do you need?
Well that depends on your pattern! If you are using my pattern, a half yard yields 10 pieces (enough for 5 masks, you need 2 pieces per mask) but if you want matching binding, you will only get 6-8 pieces per half yard (3-4 masks).
A note on the binding: you can use 1/2" binding (2" strips), but I like to do 2.5" wide strips for 5/8" binding, I find the extra little wiggle room makes it easier to feed the ties (or elastic) through the casing with a healthy 1/8" seam.
I have drawn up some rough cutting maps that show you how I make the most of of 1/2-3/4 of a yard!
My go-to is to use two different fabrics to easily identify which side is which. I personally like a fun print for the front and a coordinating print or solid for the back and binding. In this case, I use a half-yard of the main print and about 3/4 of a yard for the inside and binding. This will yield 10 masks and 2-3 strips full width of binding for the masks (to be economical with the fabric, I don't cut the binding on the bias).
While we don't sell 3/4 of a yard, I am sure most sewists I know could find a use for that extra fat eighth you end up with!
Main colour - 10 piece cutting map, no binding (1/2 yard)
Inside colour - 10 piece cutting map with binding (~3/4 yard)
Main colour (or inside colour) with binding (1/2 yard)
The original pattern notes and the reasoning behind the decisions for the modifications that I made can be found on my personal blog, The Crafty Equestrian, here. For ease of access, I have duplicated the instructions below.
This pdf is not a complete pattern, but I have drawn up a template that includes both the adult and kids sizing as well as marks the pleats (along one edge since there are two different sizes so you will need to mark both edges).
The sizing and pleating points for both sizes are included in the template.
The kids size fits an age range of approximately 5-14. If you find it is too long or wide, start by subtracting half an inch off the bottom or side as appropriate and go from there.
Spack Craft Face Mask Pattern:
- Cut 2 mask pieces 7.5" wide by 8.75" tall - I use different prints to easily identify which side is which - If you have a directional print, watch which side is "up"
- You will need approximately 11-12" of 0.5" double fold binding. I actually cut my binding at 2.5" to get a slightly wider than 0.5" binding for a little extra wiggle room.
- 48" of 0.5" (ish) cotton twill. I say ish because 0.5" inch is a tough size to source right now, depending on where you are, but 5/8" has been working well. You can substitute bias binding for cotton twill. (Add an extra 6-12" for larger head sizes)
Optional substitution: 2 pieces of 1/8" elastic 13-16" in length for ear loops or 1 piece of 1/4" elastic approximately 30" in length for behind the head attachment
- 5-6" coated twist tie for the nose piece.
- Mark a line with a removable ink (I like to use frixion pens which iron off, but there are water soluble options as well as chalk) 0.5” from the bottom edge of the mask.
Use the line that you just marked to fold up from the bottom to the line. You should now have ¼” folded up. Fold that ¼” again so there is no raw edge showing, there should now be three layers and two folds along the bottom edge of your mask piece. Repeat for the other piece, again from the bottom.
Sew along the bottom edge, 1/8” (down the middle of your folded edge, you should catch all 3 layers to secure your seam.
- Take the two mask pieces and sew them, right side together, with a ¼” seam along the top edge of the fabric.
- Open up your piece, press the seam open, then fold the mask wrong sides together (right side out) and press the top seam flat. We press it open first to help make the next seam nice and straight. This is the top edge of the mask so we want it as straight as possible. You can use this step to make some minor alignment tweaks if you have any crookedness.
- Top stitch along the top side of the mask 1/8” from the edge.
Pleating: I like to use 3 pleats for adults and 2 for kids.
You will want to start with the top pleat facing down. I use a pleating “jig” that I made from a file folder.
Pleat measurements for adults: 1.5” from top, fold up 5/8” WST, 1.375” down RST (this should look like 3/4" from the first fold when pleated), up 5/8”, down 1.375”, up 5/8”, remainder down. (See template for kids pleats)
I clip the top of the mask to the jig, carefully fold the mask around the file folder, press the whole thing using the iron with no steam (to preserve the paper jig), gently remove the jig and press again, clip the pleats.
Check out this youtube video I posted for how to use a pleating jig to make your pleats.
If you are doing this in front of the tv like I do sometimes, I clip the mask to the jig, fold the mask around the jig, finger press (or use a seam roller) and then clip the pleats before sewing.
- I baste my pleats, sew the bottom edge of the mask and sew my nose piece all in the same step to save some time in batch sewing. I sew with the back facing up just because my machine does a little nicer stitching on the bottom for some reason during this step. Either side up works.
There are three starts and stops in this step, backstitch at each.
(1) I start 1.5” in from the bottom of the mask and sew the edges together 1/8” from the bottom towards the side of the mask, in theory this lines up with the stitching on the bottom edges. Backstitch when starting as this is the inside bottom edge where a filter may be added. Turn your work when you get to the end with your needle down and continue sewing 1/8” along your pleats, removing your clips and carefully feeding your pleats as you go (so they don’t get folded funny). Backstitch at the top.
(2) With your needle up, carefully turn and start 1.5” in from the edge of the mask 3/8” to ½” from the top edge. Backstitch when starting, sew to 1.5” from the edge, backstitch to secure your stitches.
(3) Repeat what you did for the first set of pleats in reverse.
- Time to apply the bias binding. I use 2.5” wide strips to make slightly wider than 0.5” double fold bias binding. If you don’t know how to make it, you can usually buy it but its been in short supply lately.
I clip the bias binding on the edges of the mask, since I do a separate replaceable tie, I only apply it to the edges of the mask.
Optional modification: Use two longer pieces of bias binding and sew them along the open edge with the mask centered in the longer piece. I can't comment on length of tie as I don't make them this way, a quick google search should yield some good results though!
I apply the bias to the mask, folding the edges at least ¼” under and sewing it on with 1/8” seam.
- At this point, I fold the ends of the nose wire back on itself about 3/8" and insert the nose wire (through the filter pocket).
- Then thread the single loop tie through the gap in the bias binding. I use a plastic yarn needle to thread it through.
- Finish the ends of your cotton twill tie by folding it under itself twice (same idea as in step one) and stitching to secure. You are done! Good job!
Well, there you have it! I hope this helps some folks with their mask making endeavours!
A note on care instructions:
These are machine wash and dry, however take care with the coated nose piece and hot temperatures. I recommend washing in a garment bag and in smaller loads. I would avoid really hot temperatures in the dryer.
As I fold the ends of the nosepiece, that should help it from poking through the fabric.
The nose pieces that I use are plastic coated, they can not be ironed over!!! If you want to iron the mask, either take the nose piece out (fiddly, I know) or carefully iron up to the bottom of the nose stitching line.
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