Stay home, save lives, sew masks

You’ve probably seen the slogan, “stay home, stay safe.” But that’s not strong enough. It’s not all about us. “Stay home, save lives” is a stronger statement, and addresses the greater good.

But what if you *have* to go out for that rare trip? Grocery shopping? Pharmacy pickup? Or if your work has been deemed essential? I think a face mask is in order. Even if it doesn’t protect *you* from everything, it helps protect *others* from us. And it makes us all remember to keep a distance, and not touch our faces. I’m in.

Face masks

I spent a recent afternoon sewing masks using this pattern. It’s simple, and it works. They’ve added a version with ties, since elastic is in short supply these days. Also, people who have to wear them for long periods say that the elastic can be irritating behind the ears. I experimented with elastic and ties.

Face masks

Top to bottom: Elastic, beading cord, ribbon ties.

Elastic: I cut 1” elastic lengthwise to make 1/4” strips. It frayed a bit, but I think it’s done fraying. I’ll put a few drops of Fray Chek on the edges, but not all over because it has to be able to stretch. This is the only elastic I had in the house, and now it’s all gone.

Beading cord: I have a small supply of this. If you make knots at each end, there’s a better chance it won’t slip out of your seam. And if you cut the pieces a little long (7.5” between knots) the wearer can tie a loose knot in the cord to shorten it up to the right size. Too short, and it will be uncomfortable, so it’s nice to be adjustable.

Ribbon ties: I tried this before the second pattern was added to the website, so I just put ties at the corners. I used 14” lengths, but 16” is going to be better as far as having enough to comfortably manipulate the ties. I don’t advise lightweight ribbon like this, though; it wants to tangle. This ribbon was from when Son1 went to camp, 24 years ago. I had to put his name inside his clothes!

Singer sewing machine and catHow do you use this thing?

I don’t think Bisquee had ever seen the sewing machine before! I don’t sew much.

Face mask model

Success! But my sewing machine is having tension issues, so I’m going to have to figure out what’s going on inside the tension knob. YouTube to the rescue!

More on this lovely old sewing machine in this blog post here.

Edited to add: the 6” x 9” masks are fine on me, but short on DH, so I’m increasing the size to 6.75” x 9” for a little more coverage. Onward!

17 responses to “Stay home, save lives, sew masks

  1. Bisquee is lovely, and so is your sewing machine. Is it a 301?

  2. When was last time you had it serviced? 😁 May need lube &/or belt changes, etc. Work at Joann – selling materials for masks like crazy; been OUT of best elastic option over a week. Some “coming” they tell us. When? 🤷‍♀️

    • I don’t sew much, so it’s been a long time! I called Montavilla about service; it would take about 2.5 weeks to get it back. And I’d have to bring them the whole thing, in the cabinet, because the cord that hardwires the pedal to the cabinet is threaded through a small hole with no way out! So I’ll baby it through a few more masks. I saw a YouTube video for taking apart the tension dial; that may help but I’m not ready to peek behind *that* curtain yet! Pretty sure it’s an issue in the tension dial; it suddenly gets tight and the thread breaks. I poke at the dial for a bit and it works again.

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  3. Dana Jaszczult

    Beautiful machine! It looks just a bit older than the one I grew up with. Thanks for the info on ties/elastic. I’ve mostly used elastic, but it’s true I wouldn’t want to wear them for very long!

    • I’d rather make them with elastic than ties; ties slide right down my hair! I haven’t had to wear them for long periods of time, so it’s been ok.

      Have you seen the ribbon or crocheted tabs with buttons sewn on each end? They’re 3-5 inches long. You wear them at the back of your head; you can then hook your elastic around the buttons and save your ears. Not sure if this would also slide down my hair, but it’s an ear saver! You can also sew buttons on a headband, same idea.

      Carry on!

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      • I just knit & crocheted some “Mask Bands” last night & plan to do more tonight & tomorrow. Wrote up pattern for both knit & crochet – great audiobook listening/video watching projects! Go REALLY fast & use up left over worsted #4 “big box” yarns. Will sew buttons on en masse on breaks at week this week.

      • Excellent! All these bits help so much!

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  4. Good for you Michele! I’m making masks too. I really liked using- not sure what it’s called — 1/2″ binding tape- those strips that you buy in a package that are pre-folded – seam binding? Anyway, you can sew it along top and bottom of the mask and extend it into ties. My pattern called for two strips 40″ long. I only had enough for one mask. Hoping to find more on line, could get expensive. The alternative is to cut 40″ long strips. OY! I see tearing fabric in my future….
    On another note, I have been working on the perfect project for this stretch of strange sad time – your Syncopation Shawl. Its going to be called “My CoronaShawl”. I’m doing the middle size. Was going to take your class but we all know what happened there!
    Anyway, it was real fussy in the beginning. I’m glad I had already learned “basic” brioche and made a cowl and a hat and learned to increase and decrease! I had to rip out my very first 1 to 16 rows and start over. But now it is going well and I appreciate that it IS slow going. Well I’m getting faster, but brioche makes one humble. If I get too full of myself I have to tink back, which as you know is not fun.
    I have a question: How many 1 to 16 row repeats should I complete before starting the last section? I want to do the leafy edge, and I’m doing the middle size.
    Thank you, -and I hope you and your family are staying well!
    Deb Samuels

    • Instead of ribbon, cotton (or polyester) twill tape is a better choice as it is less likely to untie while in use. I use it for drawstrings in historical reproduction clothing.

      • Yes, it makes sense that something with a little more texture would work better. I don’t have a lot of sewing supplies at home, so I’m just working with what I have.

        So cool that you make historical reproduction clothing!

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    • I’m not much of a sewist, so I don’t have much in the way of supplies! No seam binding or bias tape here. I do have a cutting mat and rotary cutter, so I could cut 1” wide strips and iron them in half lengthwise, and then edges in to the fold line, and then sew it all down. But that seems tedious.

      Syncopation Shawl: I did 17 repeats before going to the final edging. There was enough yarn to go further, but I didn’t think it would help the shaping any, and it was long enough! Have you downloaded my updated pattern on Ravelry? It has notes for all three sizes, and a picture of the finished middle size.

      Take care, Michele

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  5. You’re a champeen, Michele ! 😀 Your masks would please so many people, I know: but whence came the fabric ? – it’s gorgeous ! I mean, a baby grand ???

  6. Crikey ! – guess I’m going to have to .. 😀