My Kingdom for a Mask!
I asked Claire Diedrich, Stage Manager, cat lover and overall wonderful human, to walk me through some basics about making masks during the supply shortage. As a bonus, she gives a step by step process about making her own variant mask directions!
You may have heard that there's a glove and mask shortage for our healthcare workers (and non-healthcare workers, too) during this pandemic. Not surprisingly, theater people have answered the call to create masks. Theaters all over the country like Alliance Theater in Atlanta (read about their masks here) and Denver Center for the Performing Arts (read about their masks here) are just a couple examples of how theater artisans are using their unemployment time to help those in need.
People around the country are using their talents to produce beautiful, reusable and much-needed masks. People like Stage Manager, Claire Diedrich, are not only producing the masks but also sharing valuable feedback and information with their friends and family on social media about how they can create the masks themselves. She's provided us with step by step how-to build your own mask (scroll to the bottom if that's all you're here for).
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE WHO JUST "KNOW" HOW TO MAKE MASKS?
"This was my first time creating a mask since I never had a need for one before." - Claire
Claire spent her pre-quaratine downtime doing things like sewing and knitting. When she heard there was a shortage, she looked up a mask pattern from this site and just started. She's pivoted her hobby to a mission to provide masks for not just herself and her fiancé, but anyone who needs them.
"I offered it up to local friends who don't have access to sewing machine or materials. And my brother’s boyfriend is a doctor in Chicago, working at the hospitals. He asked me to make as many as I can for him and his colleagues because they are low on supplies."
Claire has tried 4 mask patterns overall. Here are the links she used for her second mask and third mask. But her fourth mask is a hybrid pattern between the second and third (the step by step is provided, scroll down!). Her favorite mask to fit many face sizes is the second mask or her own hybrid, but the first mask fit her face the best. She noted that fabric ties or elastic around the entire back of the head can accommodate a variety of head/face shapes. Claire has been kind enough to share her variant for her fourth mask! Scroll to the bottom of the page for her step by step instructions.
MASK MAKING BASICS
Claire uses a sewing machine, and chooses her fabrics based on the information provided on the site, here. It's good to note that simply doubling up on masks/materials only modestly increases their effectiveness.
Claire says it helps to have a bit of basic sewing knowledge to create the masks (I.e. how to use a sewing machine or how to follow a pattern). Claire actually created a mask with a pocket to allow for a filter to be placed/removed as needed. She says what to use for the filter is the trickiest part. "This is new to everyone. We’ve never needed to make our own masks during a pandemic. This article gives possible examples. It says that some people have cut up air filters for their house. Others are using non woven interfaces."
HOW TO HELP
The beautiful part about the masks Claire creates are that they are reusable. Simply throw them in your washing machine and wash with hot water. Boom! Sanitized. While that may be great for personal use, it may not be so practical for every hospital. "Call your local hospitals to see if they are accepting any supplies. Some hospitals are not accepting homemade masks because they don’t have the ability to wash/sanitize them."
As far as getting your hands on fabric...
"Contact your local JoAnn Fabrics store. They are offering free mask kits to anyone who wants to help sew. The one in Henderson, NV, near my house, is waiting for elastic for their kits." *Please, for the safety of you and JoAnn's employees, call ahead and make sure they are doing curbside pickup!
If you need any help with your mask creations, I know Claire or someone in her circle has some resources for you! Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to ask Claire a question or see her PDF version of the step-by-step.
Here is Claire's step-by-step!
*Let me know if you'd like the PDF version of this*
Visit for non-pocket version and inspiration for this pattern:
100% Cotton Fabric - 9” x 22” (for mask and side edging only. need extra for fabric ties)
Either: elastic ties for ears 2 x 7-10” (7” for small faces, 10” for larger faces) , OR extra fabric for ties (TWO 1.5” wide by 36” length PLUS ONE 1.5” wide by 7” long)
Wire/Pipe Cleaner – about 3.5-4” in length
Jewelry pliers or needle nose pliers
1.) Cut Out 1 piece of Lining and 1 piece of Outer Layer. And cut out binding (see below)
a. For Elastic Loops: You will need ONE 1.5” wide strip x total 7” length. (need 2, 3.5” long pieces for side binding.)
b. For Fabric Ties: You will need TWO 1.5” wide strip by 36” length. (you can stitch strips together to get the length you need).
2.) Fold Outer Layer and Lining Piece in half along “Center” with right side of fabric facing inside.
3.) Mark with a pen the “Stitch Line” at the top and bottom of each piece.Stitch along these dart lines.Then use pinking shears to trim excess fabric, about ¼” away from the dart/stitch line.
4.) Match up the TOP of the Lining to the TOP of the Outer, with right sides facing towards each other. Use pins or clips to hold in place. Stitch along the top edge at ½” seam allowance.
5.) Match up the BOTTOM of the Lining to the BOTTOM of the Outer. Measure 2” in from each of the sides. Mark with pen or pin. Stitch from the outside side edge to this 2” mark on both sides. The area between these points should be open for the pocket.
6.) Using your iron, press open the seam on the bottom edge (all the way across).
7.) Turn the mask inside out so right side fabric is facing outward. Iron the TOP of the mask along the seam. Then match the bottom set of side notches (to make sure it lines up), and then press along the BOTTOM seam. You should have about ½” of the Outer fabric visible on the lining side of the mask.
8.) Top stitch along the both sides of the bottom pocket (entire length of bottom).
9.) Match up all of the side notches with the Lining and Outer Layer.Use pins or clips to hold together if needed.Stitch both sides at ¼” seam allowance.
10.) Now to make the pleats.Use the notches as your fold guide.The area between the 2 close notches is your pleat.You will be making 3 pleats, each about ¼”.Use pins or clips to hold your pleats in place, then iron the pleats.Your side length should be about 3” in length after you have ironed the pleats.
11.) Stitch the sides at ¼” seam allowance to hold pleats in place.
12.) Curl each end of the wire/pipe cleaner, so it doesn’t poke through fabric.Go through the pocket opening, and center the wire along the TOP seam.Hold in place with clip or pin.Stitch across the entire top edge of the mask at ¼” seam allowance from edge.This will hold the wire in place.Also stitch perpendicular to this seam allowance at each edge of the wire to keep it from sliding.
13) FABRIC TIES:
a.) You will need your 2 pieces of 1.5” wide by 36” long fabric pieces.If you need to join two pieces of fabric to achieve this length, follow this diagram. Right sides of fabric should face each other at 90* angles, stitch across at 45* angle.Trim excess edges. Fold out along stitch, iron the seam open flat to get your long piece of fabric.
b.) Find the center of the 36” long fabric piece, and match it with the center of the side of the mask, with the Outer/Front side of the mask facing up. The right sides of the fabric ties should face down toward the right side of the mask fabric. Line up the edges. Stitch at ¼” seam allowance (just along length of mask). Do this with both mask sides and both fabric ties.
c.) Fold along the seam and iron out. You will be creating a binding with this strip of fabric. Do with both sides. Fold in the ends.
d.) Stitch the entire length of the fabric ties, about ¼”.
14.) ELASTIC TIES:
a. You will need your 2 pieces of 1.5” wide by 3.5” long fabric pieces.
Center one fabric strip along the side edge, with the front of the mask facing up.
b. Fold the excess of the fabric strip to the backside of the mask and pin/clip in place.Stitch this in place with ¼” seam allowance.Do both sides of mask.
c. Iron this seam out. Then iron the fabric strip into binding. Stitch into place with ¼”.
d. Use a safety pin to slide the elastic through this tube.
Happy Sewing! Stay home if you can, friends!