If you could only see my kitchen table right now. But you can’t, because it’s buried under a mountain of pipe cleaners, 6″ wire pieces, elastic, thread, hand-drawn patterns, and enough fabric that I could easily make a Covid Quilt from it all if it wasn’t already earmarked for these simple face masks — masks that you can make in minutes.
My granddaughter, Maddy, wanted to make a mask for one of her mom’s Instagram friends who is a nurse. So a few nights ago, we got together and did just that. We made the one I’m going to share here, but I’m also planning to share another pattern later this week.
This first pattern is quick and easy, and if you have a bunch to do, this is the one for you. Once you’ve made a few, you’ll be able to make them in your sleep. I’ll link to a downloadable Google Doc as soon as I can figure out how to do that, but in case you don’t have access to a printer and you want to get started right now, the dimensions are noted and you can easily make a pattern on a piece of cardboard or just paper.
A number of my clients are nurses (two work in the ER), so I spent the last two weeks making masks for them. During one sewing session, I took pictures of the process. When Maddy came over to make hers, she happened to choose the same mint fabric I used, which is why you see that in both of our pictures.
If you use a piece of cardboard for your pattern, it’s very easy to trace around it onto the wrong side of your fabric. For the several patterns I’ve been experimenting with the last two weeks, I’ve used the back side of a Costco lasagna wrapper, part of an Amazon box, and the wrap from my Jiffy seedling pot package. When you’re desperate to get sewing, you’ll use whatever you can find, right?
Once you’ve cut out two 7 1/2″ pieces, take one and pin a piece of elastic on the two “A” marks (6 1/2″ piece for children, 7 1/2″ for women, 8 1/2″ for men) and one piece on the two “B” marks. Make sure the pieces hang toward the middle of the mask because you don’t want it them to get caught in the sewing.
Place the second piece over the first, right sides together, and with the elastic pieces sandwiched between the two layers. Along the top, leave a gap between two pins that will be big enough to pull the fabric through when you’ve finished sewing. (See photo on left)
Using a 1/4″ seam, sew all around the square from the right side of the gap, stopping at the left side. **Sew back and forth over the elastic a few times to secure it.
Carefully clip the four corners close to the stitching, but not so close that you accidentally cut into the stitching. This will help to eliminate some of the bulk from those corners so it looks neater when you pull those corners out..
Pull the fabric out through the gap you left, and using the eraser end of a pencil or some other object that is long enough but not too sharp, push the corners out as best you can. Press the mask with a warm iron, being careful not to iron over the elastic, because it will melt. While you’re pressing, fold in the fabric in the gap and press it so it lines up with the rest of the fabric along the top. You can see in the picture of Maddy ironing that the raw edge of the fabric is tucked inside the square and the edge is a nice straight line.
That may not make sense just reading the words, but when you’re ironing and you get to the gap at the top, you’re going to understand exactly what to do. I promise. 🙂
Top-stitch the top and bottom of the mask about 1/8″ from the edge. **When I first made these, I top stitched all the way around, but I’ve learned that I don’t want to top stitch the sides until I am sewing the pleats.
Now that the square is completely sewn with both elastic bands sewn in, line up the pattern along the same sides that have the elastic bands. Now make a mark at 2″ down from the top, 3″ down, 3 1/2″ down, 4 1/2″ down, 5″ down, and 6″ down. If you have a washable marking pen, use that to mark the pleat placement, but if your fabric is too dark and/or you don’t have a washable pen, you can just mark those spots with a pin. On the example below, I was experimenting with a different way to make these, which is why you’ll note that the edges are topstitched. Please ignore that. 🙂 This pattern has evolved and changed with every sewing session.
**Having said that, I’ve noticed in many of the videos I’ve watched that people often just grab the fabric and eye-ball where they think the pleats should be. That is completely acceptable! Do whatever pleases you. Maybe all this marking will drive you crazy. What drove me crazy was winging it … I wanted to know that the pleats were the same on both sides. Plus, the center is the part that needs the most pleating — not the top and bottom, since, you know, we tend to keep our noses in the center of our faces. And when I looked closely at a mask I had in my emergency kit, those pleats were clustered in the center too.
Once each side is marked, take the first pin and bring it down to the second pin. Touch the two and pin between the four layers. Then move to the next two pins; then the last two pins. In the picture below, I was matching dots instead of pins, but it all works out the same.
Now that your pleats are marked and pinned on both sides, press the pleats and top-stitch through all layers as close as you can get to the edge while still catching each layer (about 1/8″).
You’re done! All that’s left is trimming all the thread and smiling for the camera.
In the spirit of honesty, Grandma may have adjusted the seams now and then.