Eight masks I made for the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020.
action family pragmatic historian process projects

Making Masks for the Pandemic

I took vacation time this past week, which may seem like a strange time to take a vacation, what with a pandemic and all, but my brother was planning to visit this week and I had the time off scheduled. While he couldn’t be here for a visit, I still needed to take the vacation time or I’d lose it. Plus, given the recent stress of shutting down a museum and learning to work from home, the break provided a well-timed psychological reset.

So, what did I do during my vacation? I made masks for the pandemic.

There are loads of people making masks right now, sewers and quilters who love putting their skills to work making something useful. There are also lots of patterns to choose from for sewing masks at home. My sister-in-law shared a pattern from YouTuber homemadeonourhomestead that seemed easy to whip up in conveyor-belt fashion, meaning I could make a lot of them fairly quickly.

I am happy to report they were very easy to make. Before putting time into making a bunch of masks, I made one as a test case. The pattern calls for using clothesline cord for the tie, which I tried. While the cord ties well, it was not comfortable sitting on my neck because I am having a major eczema flare with the stress of the pandemic. (Thanks, COVID-19. 🙁 ) I needed something softer for the tie and because I was making masks for other people, I figured they’d appreciate something softer as well. So, I cut up an old bed sheet to use for ties.

By separating out each step of the process, I was able to make over 30 masks within a few days and have pieces for 20 more ready to go. First I picked out fabric from my stash and washed and ironed it all. My mother-in-law also donated fabric to the effort.

Ironing fabric and more fabric and more fabric for masks, 2020.
Ironing fabric and more fabric and more fabric for masks, 2020.

Then I cut the colorful exterior fabric. Next, I cut the interior pieces out of mostly white and cream-colored fabrics. The design of the mask is brilliant in that you use 3 pieces of fabric measuring 8 inches by 10 inches, 2 for the inside that are sewn to create a pocket for a filter. The inside and outside pieces of fabric are not meant to match so you can tell one side of the mask from the other.

Colorful exterior fabrics cut for making masks, 2020.
Colorful exterior fabrics cut for making masks, 2020.

Then I cut out the ties, which are between 55-60 inches long. I cut strips of 1 1/2 inches wide and pressed the sides to make what looks like bias tape. Then I had to sew the ties along their length to hold the folded fabric together, tying a knot in each end when I was done. Making the ties was the lengthiest part of this process, but it was worth it. I got over 50 ties out of a single flat bed sheet (I think it was a full-size sheet).

Ironing a strip of bed sheet fabric to make a mask tie, 2020.
Ironing a strip of bed sheet fabric to make a mask tie, 2020. Fold each side in and iron it down, then fold in half so the ragged edges are on the inside. Sew the resulting strip so the tie is neat and doesn’t come open.

 

Mask ties folded and ready for sewing, 2020.
Mask ties folded and ready for sewing, 2020.

 

Completed ties. Note the knots in each end. 2020.
Completed ties. Note the knots in each end. 2020.

Once the ties were done, I was ready to sew the interior pieces to form the mask backs. These had to be ironed. Then I sewed the fronts to the backs, which took very little time.

The funnest part of the process was turning the masks right-side-out once the fronts and backs were sewn together because this is the point at which you see what the mask is going to look like. I have so many fabrics in my stash I am fond of that choosing which masks were going to be mine was difficult. I also had to decide what masks I was sending to whom based on their personalities and what I thought they might like.

Sewing the seams for the ties was also a slick process and 30 masks stacked up quickly on my ironing board.

Did I remember to take a photo of all the masks I had completed? No. I was too eager to get them in the mail. I did, however, take a photo of the masks I kept for myself and my hubby.

Eight masks I made for the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020.
Eight masks I made for the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020.

The YouTuber who designed these masks makes it clear that they will only provide minimal protection. They’re a good reminder if you’re in a public space to keep your distance from others and your interactions brief.

When you put them on, you need to make sure to push the mask sides down on the ties so that they scrunch up enough to close the gap between the mask and your cheek. If the sides are too loose, they aren’t going to do any good at all.

If you are wondering what to use for filter material inside the mask, check out this ranking of potential filter materials from Business Insider.

I still have about 20 masks left to make but feel I made good progress on my efforts over the course of the week. Once I got into the groove of each part of the mask-making process, I found it to be relaxing, which is the point of vacation, right?

Materials still awaiting their turn to be made into masks, 2020.
Materials still awaiting their turn to be made into masks, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *