Friday, April 03, 2020

An Unusual Need for our Nation

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Facemasks ... have become a necessity for every one of this nation's 330 million residents.  Just a month ago, I could never have imagined the need, the panic, the worry, the deathly respiratory virus, that would attack so many American's and leave thousands upon thousands more in gripping grief as loved ones pass away quickly, unexpectedly, grasping for one last breath.

This pandemic has become the war we are fighting against, and praying it never finds its way into our respiratory system, or that a family member is ill and taken from us.  How do we fight?  I find myself washing my hands 5 times in 5 minutes at times, and only because now, my brain keeps telling me to disinfect everything - the mail, packages, groceries coming in from the store, prescriptions.  Will we ever be normal again?  Whatever normal was before, it will never be that way again.  If it is, we are asking for trouble and playing Russian Roulette with our lives and the lives of our loved ones. 



I got busy the minute I heard that our medical personnel were lacking protective gear.  Since the first of March, I have made about 250 masks.  Not nearly enough, but they have been going to grocery store employees, health care workers, family and friends, the mail carrier, the UPS driver, Home Depot's manager, Lowes Home Improvement's Manager, and I have over 200 orders in production in my home sewing studio.  As I said earlier, I never could have imagined this.



At first I struggled looking for mask patterns and videos.  Over the first 3 days of last month, I created about 11 prototypes, until I came up with one that I am very very happy about.  The instructions for making the mask that I am making in bulk now are below.  I hope you will find the instructions easy to follow.  It was important to me NOT to make a mask of cotton that had very little chance of offering the protection we all need from this virus, and other bacteria, pollution, germs in general.  I wanted my mask to be made of soft dense cotton, yes, but to also have a pocket on the backside of the face mask, that could hold a filter, either one you buy off the market, or you can make one of your own.  My masks include one filter, and I also will give you instructions on what to purchase to make your filter in the same grade as what I found to be virus protection filter cloth. 

If my family, especially my son and daughter-in-law, are going to work at Harris Teeter Grocery, facing customers for hours at a time each week, by God, they are going to have the best protection I can give them short of buying them an N95 mask.  Personally, I think mine may be just as efficient as the N95.  No kidding.  You'll see why in the instructions below.

But first, let me show you how I am making these masks, and if you would like to make some for your family and friends, I encourage you to do so.  If not, I am here, and making them daily until I drop, because you - yes you - are important to me, and I want you to have all the protection you can find when going to the grocery store, the pharmacy, while you take a walk, go to a doctor's office, or to a hospital.  Anywhere you go, I hope this mask will provide protection from the elements.  I do have to make one concession though, I have no studies to show that my mask will protect you from the Coronavirus or any virus or illness.  The test will be over time.  Still, I cannot make claims that have not been sufficiently tested.  That said, I hope you will find my design to be protective. God knows I hope it is all that.  My heart and souls have gone into the making of these masks.  I hope they provide you and your family the protection they need to stay healthy.



Sewing Machine
Rotary cutter
Rotary mat
Rotary rulers
Small regular ruler
Sewing pins and/or Sewing clips
Clover Easy Loop Turner Part 472
Ironing board or mat
Kloud City Twist ties - I purchased the 328 feet round roll.  (This coated wire tie is used in gardening)
1/8" elastic
Filtrete 1500 Advanced Allergen filters for the home (can be purchased at Lowes)
Wire cutter
Pattern for cutting out the filters from the filter cloth
A trash can nearby (or your floor will be an absolute disaster)
And PLENTY of patience!!!


First step, you are going to want to choose your fabric.  I am using soft, dense, quilting cotton fabric.  I'm a quilter, so I have quite the stash, but I am going through it fast.  By dense, I mean, you should be able to hold it up to a window where daylight is coming through, and not see through it.  You will have "some" light shining through it, but it should be fairly dark.  You shouldn't be able to see the tree in your backyard, for instance.  Thicker is not necessarily better when it comes to cotton.  It will make it more difficult to breathe and also hotter on the face of the person wearing the mask.  Bottom line, go to your local fabric or quilting store, or look online, and find the finest, softest cotton fabric you can find.  Moda is a great brand by the way.  I love Moda fabrics. You can find them online at 



At the moment, I am using Moda fabrics I have on hand, as well as scraps of other soft, dense, cotton.  You have your fabric.  You are going to want to press your fabric and cut out rectangles (for multiple masks) that are 7.5" x 15" as shown above.  After you cut them out, press them again. 

You will also need to take some of the fabric left, and cut out 2" strips (as shown above).  These will be used for the binding pocket on the sides of the mask for the elastic or ties.



Serge the short sides of the rectangles.  This cleans up the edges nicely.  Then, fold the rectangle in half, serged ends together (right sides together), and stitch 1.5" from each end.  DO NOT SEW ALL THE WAY ACROSS!  This leaves an opening for the pocket in the back of the mask, and a place to put your wire for the nose wire. Be sure to back stitch and the start and end of your 1.5" stitching on both sides of the folded fabric.



When you are done sewing both sides of the short serged ends, press the seam open, being careful to make the open seam as even as possible all the way across.  Remember, the seams in the middle are not stitched.  The opening will be your pocket.



Return to your sewing machine, and with the fabric still wrong side out, carefully stitch about a 1/8" or less edging across the seam of one side of fabric where you stitched for the pocket opening.  Stitch until you reach the end of the edging stitch on that one side.



While you are stitching on the right side of the fabric, you will want to use your hands to control the fabric as it bunches up during sewing.



This is what it will look like when you reach the end of the edge stitching along that one seam.  (Never mind my 60y/o hands)



When you are done, be sure you backstitch to lock the seam, then pull the fabric out the back of the sewing machine, under the presser foot.



Turn your fabric right side out and take to the ironing board.  You are going to want to fold the seam with the pocket down 1-1/2 centimeters (cm) from the top as shown.



The top of your fabric should look like this with a 1 - 1/2cm fold from the top as shown. Press your fabric so it lays nice and flat.



Serge the open sides together.



This gives your soon-to-be mask a nice clean edging



Your mask square should be nicely pressed and the open edges serged.  This is what you now have to work with



Back at your sewing machine, stitch about a 1/8" edge stitching along the very top of your mask, near the pocket as seen in the image.  Be sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.



After your top stitching, cut a 4" piece of your coated nose wire (Kloud City Twist ties), and place inside the 1-1/2cm pocket fold at the top above the pocket.  Use your fingers to center it in the pocket ...



then pin the wire to the top of the pocket to keep it in place temporarily



Stitch across the entire top fold, again, a 1/8" top stitch, closing off the top opening of the pocket for the filter. Again, back stitch at the beginning and end.



There you go.  When you are finished, your coated wire will be in place, and you will have a nice pocket for your filter.



Your finished top stitching should look like this



Back at your ironing board, with small ruler in hand, place your mask face down.  The pocket is on the back, and will be next to your face.  Fold the top over 4cm as shown. (UPDATE: Make that 3.5cm instead.  I find it makes for a better distribution of folds) Press. Make sure both sides are equal.



Press this 3.5cm top fold as shown.



Open your fold as shown



(I turned my fabric around) Grab the fabric just below the pocket, and fold it up to just below the visible pocket.



Turn your mask over.  Your first fold will look as show, and should be 3.5cm.  Press.



Pinch your fabric. the fold underneath should be reach the bottom of the first fold.  Your fold should be 1-1/2cm as shown. Press.  Pin in place.  Make sure the folds on the back are as neat as the ones on the front or your mask will be short on one side and look awkward.



Your first two folds are in place.  Pinch your fabric in half at the bottom and make a pleat about 1-1/2cm, and should be about equal with the remaining fabric on the bottom, as shown. Pin all pleats in place. Measure both sides of your mask.  They should be 3" or 8cm on both sides.  Press all the pleats in place, back and front.



Stitch a 1/4" seam across the folds on each side.



Your folds are stitched in place.  Grab your 2" strip of fabric for your binding pocket on both sides.



On the backside of your mask (where the pocket is located), lay your 2" strip right sides together across the mask as shown, leaving about 1/2" - 3/4" extra on the side as shown.



Fold the edge around to the front as shown and pin in place.  You will have extra on the other side.



Using your rotary cutter, cut off the extra 2"strip as show, leaving a little extra to wrap to the front side.



Pin in place as shown.  This is the back side with the pocket. 



This is the front of your mask



Stitch a little more than a 1/4" seam across the side



Repeat for the other side of your mask



Open up the bindings, and with the pocket side facing you, it should now look like this.



Back to the iron, turn your mask over and press the folds in place



Then fold and press down about 1/3 as shown



Fold the binding to the front as shown, and pin in place.



When you are done, it should look like this on the front of the mask



At your sewing machine, top (edge) stitch in place as shown



Cut 2 pieces of 1/8" elastic to 11" each



Using my Clover Easy Loop Turner, I put it through the pocket of the binding, insert the elastic ...



And pull it out the other end



Your elastic is pulled through the pocket, and now you will tie it ...



Grab the two ends and put them together ...



And tie the ends together in one knot close to the top



Bring the knot around to one end of the pocket and pull to the inside



Repeat for both sides and you will have a great face mask!



Grab your Filtrete 1500 Advanced Allergen filter.  Remove the cardboard frame around the filter, and with wire cutters, remove the wire mesh.  Careful, it is easy to cut yourself on the wire.  This home filter is made for virus protection and many other things too.



When you pull out the fabric from under the wire mesh, you will have this accordion fabric



Cut as many filters from your fabric as you can.  They will look like this to fit nicely inside your mask when it is expanded.  The purpose of this design is to give you maximum filter protection with your mask on



I stitch two filter patterns together for extra protection.  As you can see in the picture before this one, the filter is stitched together to another filter.  This protects breathing out, and breathing in.  At least I would think it would!!



Stretch open your mask



Insert your filter, curved side up towards your nose



And there you have it!  A nice mask, comfortable with a nose adjustment wire.  It fits under your chin, and the 1/8" elastic is more comfortable than the 1/4" as I have discovered.



You will be so happy with your mask!  If you don't want the elastic behind your ears, you can always, put bias tape (sewn together on the open side) inside the side binding pocket, and have it tie behind the neck or on top of your head.  You will need 51" of bias tape.



My son Matthew (The Carolina Cowboy Bandit), and his fiance' Danielle, donned with their masks and protective gloves.  Love them so much!! <3


NOTE: Please do not share the instructions to this post as your own.  I worked hard to design this mask with features that I hope provide more protection.  I would appreciate that if you share these instructions, you do so by sharing this post, here on my blog.  I am very grateful!!


DONATIONS:  I am accepting donations for the continued creation of these masks!!  They are going to medical personnel in various hospitals, EMTs, Grocery store employees, and personal family and friends, and their friends, across this nation.  Your donation will help tremendously to pay for much needed supplies, filters, elastic, shipping, and packaging. 

I call these masks MSV Face Masks

PayPal can be used for donations at my email [email protected]

Stay safe.  Stay well.  Stay strong.  Stay home <3





Monday, October 22, 2018

Backpack Bonanza


I've had a busy week making Sarah's backpack for school.  We headed on over to Hancock Fabrics and she picked out some fabric for the exterior and interior lining, while I picked up the notions - zippers, webbing, etc.  I hoped this was going to turn out sturdy, spacious, and nice for my girl, because the last 2 bookbags she has used for school have been terrible.  That said, I got busy designing my own bag, inspired by bags on the market and various backpack patterns.  The result - a great backpack and one that I modified a bit in size and function for my own pattern. 


Sarah picked out some heavy fabric from the upholstery, home decor section - the brown plaid.  This is the type of fabric you want to use when making your own bag, unless you quilt it, then you can use regular cotton fabrics.  Still, heavyweight cotton and cotton blends like you find on large rolls (60") are the best choice for the exterior of the bag because of the sturdiness of the fabric.  Sarah also picked out a bright Batik orange cotton fabric for the interior lining of the bag, a heavyweight 30" double-zipper for the top of the bag and another 14" zipper for the pocket on the front, and webbing for the straps.


I cut out all my pieces after I made some adjustments to the pattern I was using.  TIP: Always label each pattern piece - what it is and the dimensions if you cut it for size and not directly from a pattern piece.  That way, you're less likely to mess up when piecing the bag together.


When sewing in a zipper, it is a good idea to leave a little extra on the end with a safety pin until you are sure you've got it put together right and are ready for the next step.


This double zipper had to be turned around so that the zippers faced each other and the bag would open from the center out.


The difference between making a backpack and making a purse is that the lining does not sit freely in the bag.  When making a purse, you make the exterior first and then make the lining and place in on the interior of the bag.  In this case, the lining is applied to each and every piece of the puzzle individually from the start, then you sew each piece together.


I made tabs for each end of the zipper.  It makes it easier to zip and unzip the backpack.


I made a little pocket for Sarah's iPod or cell phone on the interior of the bag.  I thought Sarah would like that.  After I got the backpack done, though, I thought I should have added a similar pocket to the exterior side too.  I think I'll do that for my next bag.  After pressing on the heavyweight interfacing to the back of the bag, I pinned on the lining.


I've seen a lot of backpacks with stitching designs on the back, so I added this one that was part of the pattern I was using.  I liked it, but I didn't stop there.  I worry about my child's spine, so I added cotton stuffing to the spine of the bag so that when she has heavy books in the bag, at least something soft is against her spine.  Don't make it too stuffed though, or it will be a hard knot up against your child's spine!  You want it to be soft and fluffy.


For the shoulder straps, I added 2 layers of cotton batting for comfort as well.


When you are making your backpack, remember where the stress points are and add extra stitching.  I sewed back and forth over the webbing about 5-6 times for stability.  I don't want the straps ripping out.


I could have left the straps alone after the first stitching, but I thought I would tuft it more with 2 more lines of extra quilting.  The straps came out nice.


After I got the straps done, I pinned each to the top of the bag, but only after I measured a few inches from center on each side for placement onto the back panel of the bag.


I had looked around for adjusters and every place I looked had those black plastic buckles and sliders.  I didn't want those.  I wanted some nice metal adjustable sliders.  I found them at


For the handle at the top of the bag, I used the interior cotton fabric for contrast, but because I knew that the handle would have a lot of stress on it carrying 532 lbs of books, I used 2 layers of heavyweight interfacing on the inside of the strap before stitching it together.  Also, don't forget to go over the handle and the shoulder straps 5-6 times at least for stability and strength.


On to the top of the front pocket ...


and messing up the zipper.  I knew I couldn't get through this entire project without my seam ripper.  I stitched the zipper on backwards on the top of the pocket.  I hate that when that happens.


Next was the placement of the front pocket.  I eyeballed the positioning before stitching it to the front of the backpack.


Now for the fun part - Not.  Stitching in the gusset (that's the part that gives the bag depth.)  I found my centers and marked them with a safety pin.


I did the same for the front and back sections of the bag too.  You find the centers by folding them in half and then marking them with a pin.


Not just North-South centers, but East-West centers as well.


I stitched on the gusset with the zipper to the front and back of the bag.  Then I added bias binding to the exposed seams.  I made the bias binding out of the left over cotton fabric from the interior of the bag.  The binding in the original pattern was too narrow.  So, I made a 1" bias binding with 2" of bias tape instead.  It fit much better.


Nice handy handle.


Double stitching and ribbon pulls.


I added back triangles for the adjustable straps.


And I curved the shoulder straps so that they fit comfortably around the side of the bust and under the arms.  I made an adjustment to the original pattern for more comfort on the shoulder straps and less stress on the side and under the arms.


See how comfy?  It's all in the design.  Pay no attention to poor Ethel here.  Ethel is my dress form and she has pins in her neck. 


Sarah will have a good 6.5+ inches to the depth of the bag and another 2 inches to the front pocket.


The interior is spacious.  I added a pocket for folders on the back of the bag. I didn't add a pocket to the interior front of the bag but I think I will do that next time.


And there is the iPod / cell phone pocket tucked away in the corner.  


And here it is!  The finished bag.  I even added a little orange pull-tab ribbon to the front zipper and green ribbons to the top zipper.  I suppose I could have matched the pattern for the front pocket, but I didn't think about it when I cut it out.  Oh well. 

So what do you think? 

(This post was originally posted on July 26, 2010 in "School Days!")



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