Sunday, May 10, 2020

Facemask, but make it fashion

Never in my wildest dreams did I think a surgical-inspired facemask would become part of my daily attire, but here we are. In the state of Maryland, it is now required by law (or is it executive order? Facemask, Fahcemask, I guess) to wear a face covering any time you will be interacting with people in public, and it looks like that's going to be the norm for quite some time.

So, since I'll probably be wearing facemasks pretty regularly for the foreseeable future, and since all my usual avenues for creative sartorial expression have been cut off, it should surprise no one that "Make fancy facemask" became a must-do project for me.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, back when it felt like the sky was falling and there was a shortage of everything, I learned that some home sewists were starting to make fabric facemasks to help out people on the front lines. I jumped on the opportunity to join them and soon found a local group that was sewing and collecting masks for distribution in the area. So I've been sewing masks for months now and have actually learned to do it tolerably well (much different from my usual haphazard DIYs!). I am by no means fast (I usually manage about 6 finished masks per week!) but I now feel quite confident in my ability to sew a face mask from scratch!

I kept several of my early prototypes and "mistakes", so I have a decent-sized collection, but they don't make me feel good when I wear them. And in these depressing days, you have to do whatever you can to feel good. If that means wearing a festive facemask to the grocery store, then so be it! I debated long and hard about how I wanted to make my own personal facemask fun—rhinestones? glitter? graphics? trims? The answer came to me in the form of a ruined pillow.

Back when my dog had fleas last fall, I packed up most of the soft objects in my house and put them in the shed so I wouldn't have to flea-spray them every week. My shed doesn't leak, so I'm not quite sure how it happened, but when I finally brought them back inside last month, I found that several items had mold and water damage—including a pretty cool quilt that folds into a pillow. The stains didn't wash out, but fortunately, only the exterior pocket (the piece that helps it become a pillow) was ruined. I was able to remove that and salvage the quilt.

The fabric is lots of fun, featuring line-drawn forest creatures peeking out from an array of graphic flowers. It's just the kind of whimsical thing that I want on my face! Here's a picture of the front of the pillow pocket after I'd already taken it apart and cannibalized some of the fabric. The larger piece was just big enough to make a double-layer facemask! This isn't a mask-sewing tutorial (there are plenty out there now!) so I won't be going into the details of how I constructed my mask, but it was based on the "Type A - Normal Face Mask" pattern from Craft Passion. I've tried several face mask patterns, but this one is my favorite based on fit and ease of sewing (especially if you don't bother with making casing for the elastic and just attach it directly!). It also has variations, so you can find one that best suits your sewing and wearing style. My one warning for this mask pattern, is it does seem to run small. I'm a woman with a fairly small head, and I wear the "man"-sized mask. For larger adults, this pattern might not actually be big enough, but I'm sure the front curve could just be extended if necessary.
With my newly salvaged fabric, I was able to make a mask with one side prominently featuring an owl, and the other side featuring a rabbit! It was reversible! [Pro Tip: Don't reverse your medical facemask without washing it first!]
But there was a problem—it was also prominently featuring the same stains that had marred it when it was a pillow. Embellishments to the rescue! Not only would they be able to hide the ugly parts, they'd also do that little something extra to make the mask a work of art!

From the remaining scraps, I cut out a few of the printed flowers. I didn't want them to fray, so I put permanent fabric glue around their outside edges on the back. You can just barely see it as a glossy sheen in the photo.

I wanted the flowers to really pop, so I hand-stitched around their centers and gathered the thread, causing the cloth to pucker.

Then, I opened up the bottom seam of the mask (if I'd been thinking in advance, I wouldn't have sewn the bottom to begin with, but we improvise here!) and sewed the flowers to the owl layer directly on top of the worst stains. I put more flowers on the rabbit layer in different positions, purely for show.

Then I repaired the bottom seam and was good to go!

Owl Side                              Rabbit Side

On the first day I wore the new "fashion" mask in public, I really pulled out all the stops! I put on eye makeup for the occasion and boots with actual heels! I don't think I've worn anything but flats since March, so it was indeed a thrill! I rocked the mask at Home Depot and the Post Office, but sadly did not get any comments. People are so much less friendly when we're all wearing masks. Oh well...maybe I'll try again the next time I venture out of my house in another 2 weeks!


  1. Hurry up and reply Deviantart!

  2. I've used this same pattern and love it. I made about 70 or so masks over about 2 weeks' time for family and friends as well as my hubby and me. I also like the elastic sewn in but made them so that it goes around the head rather than the ears. I find them to be better for longer wearing that way!