So I need to start this post with a heavy disclaimer…. these masks are not for the prevention of COVID-19. They’re more of a last resort. I am horrified by the lack of personal protective equipment for medical professionals. Absolutely horrified. I started to see different cities posting on Facebook and social media for a “call” for handmade masks. I didn’t jump at first for a few reasons: 1) I am just getting back into sewing and didn’t know if I was even capable of it and 2) it didn’t seem like there was a need locally.
Then our town’s Facebook group announced that there was a need and a collection had started. One of my issues with perfectionism is that it leads to paralysis– I’d rather not attempt than attempt and fail. I waited a few days and then just decided to go for it. Of course, I ran into an issue straight away with my sewing machine. It took me a while of going through the manual and Youtube videos to switch it back over from the embroidery set up I had last used… and then the stitches were messed up still. Guys. It triggered a huge breakdown for me. I’m not proud. But then one of my followers of Instagram, literally, walked me through troubleshooting and she got me back up on my feet. I was having an issue with tension and I couldn’t figure it out! I don’t know if she knows how grateful I was but it meant so much to me. (She said I could share her handle– if you’re starting to do this yourself, she can answer any questions you have over DM.)
I took a break to walk the dogs so I could come back to the machine with a clear head and…. VICTORY!
I wanted to share on here the patterns and instructions I used but first a few thoughts:
1. Again these are “last resort” and “better than nothing” masks. A lot of hospitals are running short on supplies so they’re using handmade masks for people less at risk (and saving the real guys for those most at risk) and some are even using the handmade masks to protect the masks they’re having to reuse.
2. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL HOSPITAL (or whatever organization is collecting) FOR REQUIREMENTS. I did a lot of digging around to find patterns and watch instructions online and one thing became very evident: every hospital wants something different. It would be a shame to make your masks only to have them rejected because they’re not what they need/want. Before you begin, do your research.
3. If you can’t sew but have random materials laying around (elastic, fabric, a sewing machine you inherited but have never used) try reaching out to your local Facebook group and see if they can be put to good use.
4. Don’t forget to prewash your fabric.
5. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and instructions. I was really trying to not buy anything new and just work with what I had which required a little bit of creativity to make the patterns work.
The straps! It took me forever to fold, iron, and sew them… but they look so cute!
HERE IS WHAT I DID:
I used the pattern from Lingua Franca (size medium) and watched the video instruction from Sweet Red Poppy for instructions. Because I didn’t have ribbon or elastic, I had to make my own straps using this tutorial, though I made the straps longer. (I had gotten a tip that some people prefer straps or ribbons– the elastic can hurt their ears after an extended period of time– and that they should be long enough to tie a bow.) This was the most time consuming part for me and I know, I know bias tape and a bias tape maker would have been easier but I was really working with what I had. Having ribbon would also make this even easier– the actual pinning and sewing of the masks took me four minutes (I timed it).
I had previously purchased a bunch of cotton fabric for another project that I never got around to, so I diverted the material to this new mission.
This really boosted my confidence (once I got the help for my machine!) and I really got into the process. It felt so good to get lost in a project and to have something super physical to show for it at the end. It wasn’t what I ever envisioned sewing while I learned and practiced, but here we are. I have felt so helpless just sitting at home (even though staying home is doing good!) and I’m happy I was able to help even if it was in a super tiny way.
I even have Meesh making masks down in Florida. They’re a few days behind us in fight and I told her it was only a matter of time before they were asking for masks too. And then, sure enough, 24 hours later her friend who is a nurse, said they were looking for handmade masks.