Masks for the “Sewing Challenged”

“Mask Maker, Mask Maker, make me a mask….” Yes, my hubby was trying to have a sense of humor with creative lyrics to “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match” (from Fiddler on the Roof) when he found out I was attempting to make masks.

Now, I am not handy with sewing. My grandma (deceased) was a genius with the sewing machine. She could sew anything and kept her sanity in old age by cranking out yards and yards of fabric projects my mom gave her to do. I can sew a straight line on a machine, and that is about it. So, I started the daunting task of attempting to sew face masks for my family. First, to find a pattern. I spent several hours looking at patterns and settled on a duck-bill mask recommended by a doctor. Unfortunately, I didn’t have vacuum cleaner bags to use like he did, but as I read the reviews of his mask, some concerns like fiber-glass in vacuum bags came up, so I opted for fabric.

My sewing machine is an ancient dinosaur that my grandma gave me, and for some reason I kept. This is a surprise, since I don’t sew. But I am glad to have it now. I cut up pieces of a flannel sheet, and after a crudely-made mask emerged hours later, tried it on and didn’t like it. My other issue is: I am not a magician. I cannot make elastic bands appear out of thin air. So I ransacked my daughter’s closet for anything with a stretchy band that I could use. I shamelessly riffled through my house looking for something, anything really, that was stretchy. This involved chopping up an old costume of mine that had elastic in the arm and leg bands. Jackpot! After the duck-bill mask disaster, I looked for another pattern. Simpler. I came across a simple rectangle that didn’t have pleats, folds, or anything for the “sewing challenged”, and adapted it to fit my abilities and desires. I experimented with fabrics, settled on a pillowcase with two layers, wire for the nose part, lengths of elastic, and straight stitching. Here is the machine I was using:


After several hours, I had a system going. I finally was able to complete several masks for my family. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t fun, they are boring pillow case materials and even string, but they might do the job in a pinch. They bunch up on the side of the face and cover everything, so I told myself: “Good enough!”


After I got done and stretched my weary body (sewing posture is not fun), I decided to sketch my process and my machine. I admire all the people who are cranking these out by the dozens in their bedrooms and basements, with pretty fabric and fancy straps… My hat goes off to you! I hope I don’t have to make any more of these, but at least I sketched my process if I ever have to again!



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