I’ve been watching home sewists sewing face masks for weeks and weeks on social media now with bemusement. The cynic in me couldn’t see the point at all to begin with; if quilting cotton rectangles were the answer surely we wouldn’t have any PPE issues?!
Of course now, in England, it’s been advised that we might want to wear a face covering when in enclosed spaces. Should we have been wearing them all along? Do they even help anyway? I honestly have no answers, but reluctantly decided I needed to be sewing face masks too. Just to be clear, I’m using the words mask and covering interchangeably, but technically masks are the medical-grade ones. Anything sewn at home is a face covering and not a medical device.
Why Am I Sewing Face Masks?
You might know that throughout lockdown I’ve pretty much not left the house. We’ve been on precisely three family walks and I’ve nipped out to the postbox in the next street about the same number of times. It’s safe to say that my anxiety is fairly high and I’d rather hide from the world right now. My lovely husband has been the one going to the supermarket where needed, so I decided to sew a couple of masks for his benefit.
I also decided to sew two each for my Mom and my Uncle. Both of them are going to the supermarket regularly and so they’re going to need them. Plus they both live with vulnerable people (my Dad and my Grandad) so it will help to keep them safe too. I hope.
Sewing Face Masks
I’ve been following Portia Lawrie‘s face mask/covering journey with particular interest in the past few weeks. Usually you can find her here on Instagram (and if you don’t follow her, you should!) but she’s set up a separate account for sewing face masks here. What I’m finding refreshing about Portia’s approach is that she’s approaching it from a functional and scientific point of view.
It was from reading Portia’s Facebook posts that I came across Dhurata Davies’ free face mask pattern. This is the pattern that I used for ours. The reason I chose this over the simpler ones was I liked the 3-D shaping and that it comes in different sizes for a better fit.
Huge thanks to Dhurata for generously providing this pattern for free and a full tutorial as well. She’s not the only one providing free resources though, so if this pattern isn’t your thing, don’t worry. More on that in a bit.
So how did I get on sewing face masks? Well you might have seen on Instagram already that my mask-making was a success. At least in terms of having a finished one to wear, even if not in a mental health sense!
For reference, I used some Hogwarts patterned quilting cotton for the outer layer for our masks. The ones for my Mom and Uncle are a royal blue polycotton. The inside layer is a heavier weight fabric I used for interlining my wedding dress bodice. Dhurata’s tutorial shows three layers of fabric, but as I used a fairly heavy inside layer, I omitted a third inner layer.
I took a couple of photos to show you how I did the nose wire part. My husband straightened out some paperclips for me and rounded the ends into loops.
I sewed them into the seam allowance using the zig zag setting on my Juki, and went as slow as possible because I was scared of breaking the needle!
Although the nose wire isn’t a necessity when sewing face masks, it does help to give you a closer fit over the bridge of the nose. As someone who wears glasses, I found that this is useful to stop them from fogging up!
Here’s my face mask in all it’s Hogwarts glory…
The Big Community Sew
Patrick Grant has set up The Big Community Sew, backed by Public Health England, to “help ensure that every person in every community in Britain has the face covering they need.”
Head over to the website for patterns and plenty of videos. You can even find your nearest group of sewing volunteers if you’d like to join in with sewing or support them in another way.
I would like to say that just because you can sew, it does not mean that you have to join in with this. It doesn’t make you a bad person if all you’re managing to do right now is just get yourself through each day. You might be working from home, trying to educate your kids, caring for the people around you, or you might just be in a place of such anxiety or mental exhaustion that you can’t commit to anything. That’s okay.
At the time of writing this, I have made six face masks. I haven’t joined any of these volunteer groups. I don’t know if I will. My main priority right now is getting myself and my daughters though each day; mentally, I can’t commit to anything. If I manage to sew more then great. But, if I don’t, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. At the end of the day, we’re in this shitty position because of our government’s failings, and I’m not going to take on a burden of guilt that belongs to them.
If you’ve got any links to other patterns, supplies, volunteer groups or anything, please do leave them in the comments!