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Who Is That Masked Man?

Friends, I know I’m a little late to mask making.

To be honest, I just didn’t want to deal with it and scarves and bandanas seemed good enough.  But since it now seems we’re going to be wearing masks for a long, long time, at least here in New York City, I figured I might as well give it a try.

There are a ton of mask patterns available in PDF form that you can download for free.  There are also countless YouTube tutorials and blog posts about sewing them.  I wasn’t trying to make anything here that was as protective as an N95 mask, but rather something that I could wear that would keep me from touching my nose or mouth.  Nearly everyone outside is wearing a mask these days and my building requires you have one on when you leave your apartment and share public spaces like the lobby, elevators, and laundry room. 

There are many ways to make a mask more protective, but they often make the mask harder to breathe through, so it’s a trade-off.  Many of you may have strong opinions about what kind of masks we should be wearing or even if we should be wearing masks at all.  I encourage you to do what works best for you.  In New York City masks weren’t even recommended for non healthcare workers until April.  You could argue these homemade masks are a bit of security theater but at the very least they are an expression of social solidarity, something lacking in many parts of this country.

I tried two different patterns and both have their virtues.  Both are the contoured-type mask as opposed to the pleated style, which doesn’t really appeal to me.  The first I found on a blog called The Crafty Quilter.  (TBH, I just did a Google search for free mask PDF’s and this one looked good.)  It’s a very basic design; you may have seen something similar elsewhere.

There’s pattern sheet and a few pages of instructions to print.  It comes in just one adult size.

I whipped up a sample using a piece of an old sheet: nothing fancy.  I did not add a pocket layer but I’m pretty sure the instructions show you how to, as well as how to add a metal piece you can shape over the bridge of your nose.  I didn’t try that but I may down the line.

The result is a pretty good-looking mask.  I added elastic to fit around my ears; you can also tie it around your neck and head.  It fit me pretty well but was too big for my mom and little too small for Michael.

Now apparently having a stitched center front seam makes the mask less effective, but again, I’m not wearing this to treat hospital patients. I will continue to social distance (is that a verb now?) even with a mask on.

The second mask pattern I tried is by a woman named Dhurata Davies.   This mask has a somewhat different shape and no center seam.  To fit your face it has a dart above the nose and dart under the chin.

Measurements are in centimeters: the seam allowances are approximately 3/8 inch. You can add a filter pocket.  You can also simply add a third layer of fabric or interfacing.  Again, the more layers, the harder it is to breath through and the more likely you’re going to draw in air from the edges of the mask. 

Just like with the first mask pattern I tried, you basically are sewing two (or three if you’re adding a pocket) layers of fabric together (right sides together) along the top and bottom, and then turning the mask right-side out through the ends. You then fold the ends and stitch to make a casing through which you can thread a piece of elastic or some sort of tie.  In this first sample I made a tie out of a piece of commercial double-fold bias tape, simply folding it and stitching down along the edge.

You can loop the the mask around your neck and then tie the mask behind your head, or loop it behind your head and tie it at your neck.  After trying both methods, I found I preferred to tie it behind my neck so there’s not a bow hanging off the middle of my head.  I started with a size Small: that size fits my mom best.

Next I made a Size Medium for myself and one for Michael.  Each one takes about 20 minutes or so.  The one I made for myself is reversible: red polka dots on one side and blue on the other.

Michael’s is blue chambray on one side and fine cotton plaid shirting on the other.  The tie is vintage double-fold bias tape.

What I like about this design is:

a) there’s no center seam, just darts at the nose and chin; 

b) There’s a horizontally stitched chin line improving fit; 

c) the pattern is multi-sized XS, S, M & L and instructions for choosing the correct size are included; 

d) there’s only one pattern piece. 


And that’s it for mask making so far.  I plan to make a few each day since you really need more than one since they need to be washed regularly.  Plus it’s nice to mix and match them with your outfits!

I’m betting a lot of you have been making masks for some time.  If you have a particular pattern you like or other tips you’d like to share, please do.

Happy sewing, everybody, and stay healthy!

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