So far this year all my blogs have been about stash busting or the UKQU Book Club. This time I am sharing another stash busting idea, and a timely one at that in this time of lockdown – face masks.

The medical experts are not (yet) in agreement on how effective cotton face masks are, with some saying they are better than nothing, and others warning that they provide a false sense of security and should be avoided. Some countries have asked their citizens to wear face masks when out and about, whereas this has not yet been formalised in the UK (there is speculation it’ll be announced early May). For the latest official information about the corona virus, please refer to the UK government’s information, as this changes almost daily.

Selecting your type of face mask

The two main types of masks are a folded version and a more fitted version. I suggest you try both to see which one you prefer; it needs to fit securely and still be comfortable to wear! They can both be made with or without a nose wire and a pocket for inserting a filter.

To find instructions on making the folded version, please see the design and tutorial by Paula Doyle on this website. Paula uses four layers of fabric (plus a filter) for her mask.

Having tested a few other patterns, I settled on a free pattern from Craft Passion. This mask has got two layers of fabric, and a pocket to insert a filter. If you are using the same pattern as I have been doing, the designer has posted plenty of help on her website, including a video tutorial.

You need to decide if you like to wear the mask with elastic around your ears, or around the back of your head. For my masks, I have been using cotton tape which I tie behind my head (skipping elastic altogether as it didn’t work well with my glasses).

Materials

Having read various articles online, I decided to use tight woven high quality quilting cotton and batiks for the masks. I also used pipe cleaners for the nose wire as I had plenty at home (sorry kids!). To secure the mask, you can use e.g. elastic band, cotton tape, bias binding, shoe laces, etc. I managed to get some face mask filters on Amazon, but you may need to be inventive here if you like another layer; just be aware that some HEPA filters include small particle of glass fibre and may not be suitable to have in front of your mouth.

My adjustments

Pattern (free from Craft Passion)

I downloaded Pattern Template 1; a 1-page pattern with all sizes and no seam allowances included. I added 1/2″ to the lining pieces and 1″ to the outside fabric at the end. I then added a seam allowance of 1/4″ all around. Not sure if this was a hack or how it was supposed to be done, but the face masks fit us all neatly.

Nose wire

I didn’t use a nose wire sleeve; instead I pushed the wire as close as possible to the seam, in between the two layers, and then locked it in place when I did the top stitching.

Top stitching securing the nose wire (no wire sleeve used)

The photo below shows where you can insert a filter;

Brown lining showing the pocket opening for inserting a filter

My other stash busting ideas

  * This blog was drafted on 1 May 2020, so things may have change since

Responses

  1. Sue Hills

    Good morning, Nina. Thank you for doing a mask test. With all the mask patterns around on the internet it is helpful to us all that you have road tested some of them and found a final two that you like. So far I have made three masks of different designs and dismissed all of them for one reason or another. I have to make 15 for the family so want to get it right before I go into production!

    Which style did you finally choose after road testing them both, fitted or pleated?

    My only concern about Paula’s pattern is that four layers may make the mask a bit hot to wear.

    1. Nina Post author

      Not sure what happened to my previous response, but here goes again;

      Personally I can’t breath through more than three layers of fabric (or two fabric layers plus a filter), so I’m actually making the pleated with just two layers. I have filters which I’m using with the fitted mask from Craft Passion. With the pleated, I feel that any filter would shift, so perhaps use three layers when sewing, if you think two layers isn’t enough protection.

      I have made both versions for the family; but the pleated is WAY quicker to make (there are a few shortcuts, e.g. top stitching and sewing the pleats down at the same time) and the one I’ll make for others, as one size fits (almost) all. For five of us, I had to make four different sizes of the fitted one!

      After all, these face masks (or face coverings) are never going to be front line approved, but rather to protect others from us when we are wearing it.

      PS. I realised the pleated one is upside down in the photo (you can see that the channel with the pipe cleaner is at the ‘bottom’)! For me, the mask fits better (and works better with my glasses) with a pipe cleaner, so do try it, if you have some.