DIY Face Mask & I’m Still Smiling

DIY Face Mask

(Please hit the jump to recipe button above to head straight for the DIY Face Mask pattern. Pattern, recipe, same difference, right? Especially when it comes to skipping over all of my endless sewing chatter…)

That Time

It’s officially that time of year again. You know, that crazy time when, all of a sudden a dozen spring projects need to be done–like, yesterday–and you can barely catch your breath in between the doing. That’s the current non-stop (and surprisingly blissful) state of things in my life right now. And sure, my back is screaming at me to stop already, and my hands are dry and blistered (as you can unfortunately notice in the following photos), but you know what? It’s all good. Better than good, actually.

Admittedly, this busy season usually thoroughly overwhelms me, like I want to lie down and cry because there are definitely not enough hours in the day. But this year? This year, I’m loving it. There’s just so much cleansing and movement, blue skies and fresh air. And plans–so many plans (mostly of the garden variety) that I’ll fill you in on soon enough. But today is slotted for something else because I’m finally getting around to sharing a post that’s been in the works for at least three weeks now.

It’s been slow (very slow) going and I should probably just apologize now for what might be a sporadic couple of weeks here at Follow Us Home. (Sorry, guys, you can blame spring-fever!) But I’ve been steadily working, snapping pictures and writing in the spare minutes I can find when I’m not stacking wood, hanging fences, relocating plants, or building gardens. But this tutorial is done, finally, so how about we get to the business of sewing, my problem with masks, and whether or not I have a smiling disorder. (The jury’s still out on that one…)

Zero Interest

My mom bought me my first sewing machine back in 1996 when I was pregnant with Taylor. It was a collective gift from my family, and I remember her being really excited about giving it to me. Shamefully, I was far less excited about receiving it. In truth, I was actually kind of ticked off because what I’d really wanted was for my mom to fashion me a couple of loose and comfortable maternity dresses. But instead of unwrapping a neat little bundle of summer frocks, I unwrapped a big and shiny-new piece of equipment. My mom never actually said this, but the birthday card might as well have read: Sew your own, kid.

But I had zero interest in sewing my own. Zero. I wanted the dresses made for me, not by me. I was getting plumper by the day; did I look like I wanted this ridiculously heavy machine and all of the work that came with it? Of course, twenty-four years later, I realize it was one of the most useful gifts I’d ever received. And while I can’t say that I’ve ever really loved the act of sitting at a machine (I find it severely brain-numbing), I did/do love the final product. A lot. So much, in fact, that over the years I became something of a sewing maniac. Seriously, I went crazy–making anything and everything that could be pieced together with fabric and thread.

Quilts Galore

The first real project that I remember tackling on that underappreciated birthday gift was a set of curtains; I’ve sewn massive amounts of curtains over the years. I’ve also fashioned table runners and place mats and napkins. Pillowcases and wall decorations. If I wanted something and it could be sewn? I sewed it. Then there was the Christmas when each family member (and I’m talking extended here) received a handmade quilt as their gift. Overly-ambitious? Perhaps.

Eventually, instead of just winging things, I progressed to reading patterns and taught myself how to make clothes. This was a whole new level of creating and somewhat more interesting than the straight lines of quilts had been. Each family celebration would find the girls sporting a new dress in festive holiday prints. Their joy only increased when the package also contained a matching miniature version for their doll. With bonnets. Because the discovery of tiny adorable doll clothes was as close to fun as I ever got when working on a sewing project. And before I knew it, I was drowning in all things mini: doll quilts, doll tablecloths, doll napkins, probably even a doll curtain or two. If it was tiny, and I could sew it? Yup. I sewed it.

I Don’t Believe It

But then I got lazy. Or busy. Or…something. And if I could instead buy the thing that I wanted and save myself the hassle of stitching it from scratch? More and more often, I did just that, and over the last several years, the machine has appeared less and less frequently. I wasn’t exactly upset about this; it was something more like relief. Maybe I just figured the time had come to bequeath the machine to Jordan; let her swear over errant stitches, tangled bobbins, and seam rippers for a while. Maybe she could just sew me things from now on. A matching dress and bonnet, perhaps.

And even more than the machine, I was thrilled to bequeath her the enormous mess, too. Truthfully, I’d be thrilled if I never had to clean up a post-sewing-project mess again. Ever again. Because if you can be neat while sewing–if your work area can look like something other than a nuclear (thread) explosion site–well, I’m not sure I believe it. At the very least, I definitely don’t possess that skill, and as it turns out, neither does Jordan.

Just As Happy

But then (and you’ve heard me say this before…) a pandemic strikes. And here I am, once more (how many mores are left?) dusting off old habits and getting back to my roots. Because when you’ve been working hard for weeks now to minimize your waste, but then your state mandates face masks, disposables just don’t seem like an option. So the machine is dusted off, the multitude of necessities are collected, the mess breeds, and the sewing commences. And it never seems to stop.

First, I fashioned the husband a couple masks to get him through his twelve-hour work shifts (he was probably just as happy about that gift as I was about my machine all those years ago). Then, obviously, I needed one. And the girls each needed one. And since the machine was already out (and my neck already hurt), I might as well see if the family needed any, too. (They did. All sixteen of them.) And then do my friend and her husband need some? They sure do, thanks. And 30+ masks later, the machine and I are friends again. Kind of.

But while I was willing to get cozy with my machine and temporarily embrace the thready mess again, I’m not feeling quite the same about the masks. I understand the value of them, somewhat. I mean, it’s not like they’re sealed around your face or anything, but maybe they do help. And I definitely feel like wearing them gives the more anxious among us a slight sense of safety, and I’m perfectly fine with alleviating any of the pandemic stress. So I was okay with pulling out the machine. And I was okay with making masks. And I was even okay with wearing them. But…I think I hate them.

A Parallel World

Not because they’re uncomfortable, or because I feel silly wearing one, but because they make me feel like I’ve stepped into a parallel world. A cold and unfriendly world. Everyone walks around–faceless. No smiles, no laughs. And if they’re wearing a hat in addition to a mask? Well, now their eyes have disappeared, too. Even the greetings are muffled and sometimes hard to hear.

And surprise, surprise, but it turns out that I smile a lot. Maybe excessively. Smiling’s nice and my face just wants to do it, whether I tell it to or not. But now, all I’m left with are averted eyes and mouth-less humans, and I’m just wondering if anyone besides me is grinning like a fool behind their mask, too.

But it’s temporary, I know that. It just seems like during a time when smiles would be really helpful, we’ve been forced to eradicate them. But I’m done complaining now, really, because it’s not so big of a deal. And if I have to wear a mask, it might as well be a comfy one. With flowers and/or some pretty colors. Because who says you can’t be cute while under attack from a viral invader? So adorable mask it is.

Slight Alteration

And now I’ve got a picture tutorial for you today, just in case you’re in need of a mask yourself. It took me forever to pull this silly post together. Tutorials are usually Jordan’s specialty, but with her pet portrait business booming, the blog has primarily become my baby. I didn’t realize just how much work a tutorial actually is, but hundreds of (not-so-great) pictures later and now I know…and we’ll see if it ever happens again. (It will, haha. That’s just me in my overly dramatic way, because I’ve already got a new one in mind–tea staining! Stay tuned…)

But before I get to the “fun” stuff, all credit for this fabulous pattern goes to Monica over at the Button Counter. (And let’s face it, her pictures are way better than mine!) In my quest for a mask that seemed like it would actually fit comfortably, look halfway decent, and be simple to fashion, I stumbled across her blog. I’m not at all interested in stealing her clever idea (thanks for the super tutorial, Monica!), but have simply made a slight addition to her creation and wanted to share that with you all.

Foggy Mayhem

Her masks were originally made for combating allergies, not pandemics, and so I’ve added in a piece of wire across the nose for extended wear. My first outing with a mask was to Lowe’s in need of vegetable garden supplies. The chilly air, coupled with my hot breath, caused foggy mayhem on my glasses. It was extremely frustrating, to say the least. A wire insert seems to help alleviate this problem, and I’ll show you how I’ve slipped that in there.

I’ve also made a slightly smaller version of the pattern to accommodate my almost 11 year old niece and 8 year old nephew who each needed a mask of their own. (Please see below the pattern for cautions and disclaimer.) It’s made following the same instructions, and all differences have been noted along the way.

So gather your countless supplies, kiss your machine hello, grab that seam ripper (you know you’ll need it), and let’s get to work…

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DIY Face Mask
Gather Your Supplies:
  • adult mask pattern (found here) or child mask pattern (found here)
  • main mask fabric (one 8″ x 14″ rectangle for the adult size) (one 7″ x 13″ rectangle for the child size)
  • edge mask fabric (2 pieces, each measuring 1¾” x 6″)
  • matching thread
  • one piece of ⅛” inch elastic (13″ for the adult) (12″ for the child)
  • one 2½” piece of jewelry wire (I’m pretty sure it was 20 gauge, but our roll was no longer labeled!)
  • jewelry pliers
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • fabric pencil
  • pins
  • sewing machine

Let’s Get Started!
  • Cut one main fabric piece (8″ x 14″ for adult) (7″ x 13″ for child)
  • Cut two edge fabric pieces (1¾” x 6″)
  • Cut two pieces of ” inch elastic (6½” for adult) (6″ for child)
  • Cut one 2½” piece of jewelry wire

Fold your main piece in half (right sides facing) and sew along the 8″ edge using a ¼” seam allowance.

Turn the piece inside out and press. The right side of your fabric is now facing out, and the side with the seam will now be the bottom of your mask.

Wire Pocket

Now it’s time to sew the pocket for our wire piece. Remembering that the seam will be the bottom of your mask, stitch along the entire top edge of the mask using a ⅛” seam allowance . (The raw edges are the two sides of the mask.)

Using your fabric pencil, mark where the edges of the wire pocket will be.

On the adult mask, make the first line at 2⅝ and the second line at 5⅜.

On the children’s mask, make the first line at 2¼ and the second line at 4¾. (Please see my warnings below the pattern regarding the wire in the child-sized masks.)

If you haven’t already cut your 2½” wire piece, do so now. Using the tips of your jewelry pliers, curl each of the ends around to make a blunt edge.

Sew a couple of stitches down either one of the two marked lines. (If you have the option, you might want to set your sewing speed to slow here. In my overzealous way, I stitched much farther down than I needed to on several masks before I learned my lesson!) Insert the wire through the tube until it hits the end of your “pocket.”

Being careful not to hit your wire (I made the pocket slightly larger than the wire to avoid this), sew on the second marked line to complete your wire pocket. The wire should now be safely nestled inside.

Pleat Marks

Grab your ruler and fabric pencil, because now we’ll be marking where the pleats will go. There is only one difference in the adult versus child’s mask, and I’ll make note of that as we go. Decide which side of the mask will be your front, and which side will be your back. We will be working on the back of your mask for the next several steps.

Beginning at the back bottom of the adult mask, clearly mark your lines with a fabric pencil:

  • Line 1 is 1½” inches up from the bottom seam
  • Line 2 is 1″ above Line 1.
  • Line 3 is ½” above Line 2
  • Line 4 is 1″ above Line 3
  • Line 5 is ½” inch above Line 4
  • Line 6 is 1″ above Line 5

If you’re making a child’s mask, Line 1 is only 1″ up from the bottom seam (instead of 1½”). All of the other line measurements are the same.

Working from the bottom of your mask, bring Line 1 up to meet Line 2 (there will be a 1 inch “pocket” in between).

Fold and pin on both ends. This will make the bottom pleat.

Bring Line 3 up to meet Line 4 and pin both ends to make your second pleat.

Bring Line 5 up to meet Line 6 and pin both ends. Now you have all three of your pleats.

Elastics

If you haven’t already cut your elastics, do so now. For the adult mask you will need two pieces, each measuring 6½” in length. For the child mask you will need two pieces, each measuring 6″ in length. Still working on the back of your mask, pin one end of the elastic to the top of your mask and one end to the bottom with the loop of your elastic heading in towards the middle of the mask. Do the same to the other side, making sure that your elastics don’t twist.

Please note: While the 6½” lengths seemed to work fine for all of the women’s masks, a couple of the men told me that their elastic was too tight. If I were to make any more, I would lengthen the men’s elastic to 7″.

Now sew along each pinned (raw) side, using a ” seam allowance. Make sure to catch both the elastics and the pleats securely in the stitches. Press your mask, being careful not to melt any of the elastic (like I did, in one distracted moment…).

Edging

Iron both of your edge mask pieces in half, lengthwise. Still working on the back of your mask, we’re going to pin the edge mask piece to the main mask piece. Bring the the 6″ raw edge of the edge piece to the raw edge of the mask (the elastic will be sandwiched in between the main piece and the edge piece). Take note that the side of the edge piece that you see now will not be the side you see on the finished mask, so plan accordingly.

Fold about ½” of the edge piece around the mask (remember you’re working on the back, so the folded edge will be on the front) and pin it in place.

The edge piece is longer than necessary, so cut off about an inch, leaving an extra ½” to wrap around to the front of the mask as you did with the first side.

Pin the second side. This is what the back of your mask should look like at his point:

And this is what the front of your mask should look like at this point:

Sew along the pinned, raw edge using a  ” seam allowance. This is what the back of your mask should now look like:

Finishing Up!

Pull (or unfold) the bottom of the edge piece up until it’s standing upright. This is what the back of your mask will look like:

And this is what the front of the mask will look like:

Flip the entire edge piece over the front of the mask, neatly tuck in the folded corners, and pin it all in place. This is what the front of your mask will look like now:

And this is now the back of your mask:

We will now be working on the front of your mask. Sew along the entire perimeter of the edge piece using ” seam allowance. This is usually the most frustrating part for me because as hard as I try, I can never get those lines quite straight. On the plus side, it only matters if you’re a perfectionist like me, because the mask is now perfectly functional!

This is what the back of your mask should look like:

And your mask is now complete!

Additional Notes

A couple of additional notes about the mask you just made:

  • I wash my masks by hand (after each outing) and leave them to air-dry overnight. (This is to preserve the life of the wire since I’m not really sure what it’s made out of!)
  • Use caution with children and masks. Masks are not recommended for children under the age of 2. If your child is wearing one, make sure that it fits properly and their breathing isn’t at all restricted.
  • You may want to completely eliminate the wire for smaller kids. My niece and nephew are old enough to know when they can’t breathe easily, but younger kids would probably be better off without the wire. (Even if it does fog their glasses!)
  • Children should be supervised by an adult at all times when wearing a face mask to ensure safety. It is the responsibility of the parent to gauge whether or not their children are capable of wearing masks.
  • Be extra careful when wearing masks if you suffer from health conditions like emphysema or chronic heart disease. Remove your mask immediately if you notice difficulty breathing while wearing it.

Disclaimer

Even though I’m not actually selling these masks, I feel like this should be clearly stated: Homemade face masks are not a replacement for medical grade Personal Protective Equipment. The decision to use a cloth mask is solely your own.

And that’s what I’ve got for you this time. Hope that you have a beautiful week. Stay safe and keep smiling (mask or no mask!). Blessings ~ Melinda

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