There has been one sewing trend that has been sweeping the UK since lockdown. Since there was a PPE shortage in March and lots of sewists stuck at home Patrick Grant, of Sewing Bee fame, decided to galvanise us all into action with The Big Community Sew, an online platform containing advice and instructions for making your own facemasks at home as well as two different patterns. Its a fantastic community resource and means that those of us with fabric and sewing machines at home can make masks for those who can’t get one.
A lot of people will be reading my post and wondering why it has taken me four months of lockdown to make my own mask. The answer is two-fold. Firstly I am quite badly asthmatic so I have been shielding as far as possible and therefore haven’t actually needed a mask. When I go for walks in the countryside I stay far away from people and my partner goes to the shops/chemists if we need anything, otherwise, we get our shopping online. The second reason is my asthma. Masks are incredibly effective and if you can wear one, particularly on public transport or in closed spaces, PLEASE DO. However for most people with respiratory problems face masks can exacerbate their condition and cause further breathlessness and in some cases can significantly increase your risk of an asthma attack. I can manage a mask for about an hour maximum before I get very breathless and have to take it off. Until now I wasn’t going to bother making a mask as I am medically exempt from wearing one however I decided that it would still be a very useful thing to have for emergencies or short journeys and my partner definitely needs one as he goes out to the shops and interacts with more people. I though therefore as a fun sewing challenge I would try both patterns from The Big Community Sew and see how I got on.
Version 1 – Pleated Mask
So the first thing to be aware of here is that somehow, and I honestly do not know how, I accidentally used inches instead of centimetres. Literally looking back I did every step of this wrong but somehow I still created a basic mask and although it’s far too big for me it does actually fit Adam rather well. It was a good practice opportunity though!
Version 2 – Pleated Mask
This worked much better although the pattern is a little bit small and I could still do to enlarge it slightly to fit my partner’s face better. One thing I would highlight is that you need a very hot iron to iron to flatten the double sided rectangle otherwise its too bulky and hard to get the pleats to stay. Otherwise its an incredibly easy sew. You don’t even really need a machine if you are an accomplished hand-sewist. It pretty much fits Adam and doesn’t fall off when he talks and sits with minimal adjustment. I would say that this pattern gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of size.
Version 1 – Shaped Mask
This was definitely the most comfortable design and fits my face really well however I would say that it makes quite a small, neat mask so if you have a bigger face / head or a prominent nose, for example, I would enlarge the pattern to allow you the space to talk without the mask moving around. I originally made this mask for my boyfriend but unfortunately, it didn’t fit his face so I made him the pleated mask instead. Stupidly I sewed this the wrong way around originally with the right side in. This is because the pattern instructions were not incredibly clear so for the sake of clarity, start the pattern right side to right side and it will turn out the same way. Also its really hard to press open the seam curve but worth doing as the mask sits so much more comfortably and fits the face better. I will definitely be making another version of this mask for Adam so I will see how I get on enlarging the pattern.
Here I am in my shaped mask covered in Spacemen, I don’t know if I will get used to only seeing people’s eyes but for now, we can at least make the masks look fun! I know that I am by no means to only one who has made their own face mask so do let me know how you got on. What fabrics have worked well for you? Have you successfully enlarged the shaped mask pattern? If so, please let me know if you have any tips!