As a textile artist, I love all things to do with fibres and yarns, including knit, macrame, weave and basketry. So, it sounds strange to admit that the thought of retrieving my sewing machine from the cupboard after several years of inactivity actually filled me with fear!
Nevertheless, the current situation meant crossing that barrier. After all, with neighbours and friends were busy sewing scrubs, I must be able to manage a mask. A google search came up with a range of ideas, from a simple t-shirt construction to a fully-fitted face covering. I decided to opt for a pleated, surgical-style design that looked relatively straight forward.
It’s surprising what you can find at home and cotton fabrics were easy to lay my hands on; old t-shirt, dresses and pillowcases can all be potential mask-making material. What was harder to source was elastic – only an odd, unmatched hair bobble was to be found in the countless drawers I checked through. Then I had an epiphany moment: what about our collection of eye-masks that we have accumulated over the years from flights, and never wanted to throw away? I remembered that I had recently thrown some of them into a Red Cross charity bag. I was in luck; thanks to lockdown the bag was still waiting to go, and I had to dig down to retrieve them. Perfect, enough elastic per eye mask for two face coverings. After that, elastic seemed to turn up in a variety of unexpected places, including the waist and gathered legs of a pair of silk harem pants from India that I was planning to make into a hair scrunchy.
Next, if you want a more secure fit around the nose, a thin wire is required. This time I found that a cable tie from an electrical purchase was ideal. Or pipe-cleaners, if you still have them like I do, from craft sessions with the kids.
Now, down to the making.
You will need:
A piece of fabric (ideally cotton or some other material with a fine weave), 16 x 8.5”
Two 6.5” pieces of elastic
Filter material: Non-woven fabric preferably, such as Vilene, but you could also use a coffee filter paper, kitchen paper, even a panty liner
Fold the material in half lengthwise, right sides together and seam the end pieces, leaving a four inch gap in the centre. So stitch 2 1/4″, gap of 4”, stitch 2 1/4″.
Press the ‘circle’ of fabric flat, with the seam in the centre and then fold each cut edge of the seam in half down its length and run a zig-zag stitch along each one. This help to finish the edges either side of the gap section, which will be used to turn the fabric right-side out and through which the filter is inserted at the end.
Now insert the two pieces of elastic, so that they are laying between the fabric on either side and pin the edge of the elastic in place at the top and bottom of each side (the fabric may pucker a little at this point). Sew a 5/8” seam along each side, reversing back and forth when stitching over the elastic, to hold it in place securely.
Take a piece of wire/pipe-cleaner, fold each end over 1/2” to avoid any sharp points and then insert it inside the upper section of the mask and secure in place by stitching around it. This will help to hold the mask securely in place over your nose.
Turn the fabric inside out through the gap, so that the right side is now facing. Press with an iron. Fold a pleat, approx 1/2” in the centre, pointing downwards.
Now fold and pin down a further two peats, one above and one below the first one. Pin in place to hold.
Stitch along each side, over the pleats and remove pins. The finished mask now measures approximate 3 1/2” deep and can be expanded to fit neatly over your nose and chin.
Place filter material through gap and press it flat inside the mask. You are now ready to venture outside! Don’t forget to place it in a plastic bag after use and wash (removing filter first) as soon as you get home. You may need to make two or three!