Welcome back! Last week we talked about finding the helpers. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, we are going to collectively learn about making masks. I know…don’t get too excited! Why is it important to learn about making masks? Well, for one thing, the government has advised us to wear one when out shopping. In Loredo Texas, you can receive a $1,000 fine for not wearing a mask in public. Ah, the financial incentive…NOW you’re listening…errr…reading…right? OK, let’s do this.
When the local Portland hospital put out the all-call for masks, I didn’t think I’d be capable of helping. Simply put, I am horrible at anything that requires needle and thread. SO if I can do this, you can do this as well. Trust me on that one.
Your first mask will look like you used scrap material and just kinda played with it a lot. A test model, if you will. After your 100th mask, you will feel like you were born to sew. You will feel like the Superman/Wonder Woman of masks. Nobody makes masks as well as you do at this point in your journey. Live there. People will mock your masks. You will need to have a thick skin and the determination of a Boston Terrier whose ball has rolled behind the refrigerator. Keep making them.
The first thing we should talk about is that sewing is like cooking. There is a recipe that you follow. This idea made things much easier on me, as I love to cook and could relate. You will want to start out by writing down these steps, then watching the step by step videos throughout this blog, recorded by my husband. Ignore the snorting in the background. Three Boston Terriers all looking for something they have lost. Who knows. It’s much worse at night when they sleep. We need CPAP machines for dogs. ANYWAY…moving on…
The first step is getting a sewing machine (if you don’t already have one). Get acquainted with the machine. I have found they are as user friendly as a copy machine that keeps jamming. Don’t give up. This is what they do. It’s not personal. If your machine starts making funny sounds, just ask Google. It could be as simple as lint in your bobbin. I know this from experience. Just say, “Listen, Google…why is my machine making a clacking noise?” and Google will tell you…”there’s lint in your bobbin you buffoon“.
Next, you will want to pick out your fabric. It should be tightly woven (think scratchy) 100% cotton. One yard makes around seven masks. Next, you want to pick out your elastic. You will need ¼ inch white or black elastic. You will need to order this online as the stores are all out, and when they do get a shipment in, you stand in line for your ration. I’m not kidding. They are now rationing elastic. You don’t want to be in that line. It gets ugly.
While you are buying your fabric, you will want to purchase a moisture barrier. An ER RN recommended Pellon Tyvek 10. Buy as many yards of this as you do your fabric.
Lastly, you will need to buy some floral wire. This will be used over the bridge of the nose to pinch the mask so it seals and fits your face.
If you don’t have a tool to cut the wire with, I recommend getting one. It’s just too hard to cut it with scissors.
The next thing you will want to do is to create a cardboard pattern to follow. I used a cereal box. Repurposing is my thing. Your pattern needs to be 9 inches by 8 inches.
You will want to cut your floral wire at around 15 inches, and the elastic at 7 ½ inches. For each mask, you will need two pieces of elastic, and one wire. The floral wire will be bent in half and twisted to make one, stronger wire at 7 ½ inches.
Okay! Now we have our fabric, our elastic, our Pellon, our floral wire, and our pattern. We are ready to start!
Cut out one Pellon and two pieces of fabric per mask, using your cardboard pattern. Most fabric already comes doubled over, so just smooth it out and cut one piece from the doubled fabric. This assures both sides are equal.
Next, separate the fabric and replace it with the dull side out. On top of the two pieces, add the Pellon. Pin at the three corners, leaving the top right corner open to attach your elastic. Make sure you are using the corner of the longest side, and at first, you will need to measure it against the pattern to be sure. It’s easy to get the sides mixed up.
Once it’s pinned, you can insert your elastic in the top right-hand corner. I sew over it and backstitch over the same elastic a couple of times to assure it stays put. Then, straighten everything out, make sure the rest of the elastic isn’t in the way, and sew straight down the side to the next corner.
Reach inside, grab the elastic, make sure it’s not twisted, and attach it the same way at the next corner. Pivot and continue sewing, repeating the process with the other piece of elastic at the next corner.
On the last stretch of sewing, leave two inches of an opening to turn the mask right side out. Once this is completed, stitch the two-inch opening shut, while assuring that the last elastic piece is firmly in place.
Congratulations! You are almost done!
Next, you want to install the floral wire. At the top of the side you just stitched shut, place the wire and fold the fabric over the top, pinning it in place. Now, sew down the edge of that stretch, being careful to keep the wire tucked behind your finger so you don’t snap a needle or jam your machine. Remove the sewing pins as you go.
The last step in the process is to create pleats. Fold the fabric over your thumbs and pin. Repeat this two more times. There should be three pleats in total. Now, stitch down each side, both left and right.
Remove the pins and you just made yourself a mask! You rock! Now, join a mask-making Facebook page (yes, they are out there) and start donating to the cause! Not sure who to give your masks to? Start with family, then friends. Then neighbors and community facilities like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, senior centers, and the local fire departments. Also in need are group homes, hospice/doula agencies, and veterinary clinics.
Be sure and include cleaning instructions with each mask. They can be machine washed on delicate, but AIR dried ONLY. Preferably in direct UV light. Also, instruct people on how to wear masks. I was shocked at how many people didn’t understand what the wire was for and put the masks on upside down. Include an instruction sheet with each mask delivery. Be prepared to make alterations because some people have larger heads than the pattern calls for, others have much smaller heads. Children and toddlers need a completely different pattern and size of the elastic. If you get brave, you can Google children’s patterns online.
Congratulations...you too can now be a mask maker!
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