Box Pleat Skirts – What I’ve Learnt In A Year

Back in April 2019, after four years of living in the south, I found my self missing my sewing machine more than I can explain. With a stressful job and a long commute I felt I was lacking my own mental space. I needed a calming outlet for my stress and something constructive I could do at home. After long discussions with my partner about my stress levels and how we could manage them, we decided it was time to get my sewing machine sent down from Scotland. I had previously thought that this would be impractical and expensive but my mum, presumably glad to get some more space in the new house, happily complied and sent me not only my machine but the rest of my equipment and my sewing books as well.

As to why I didn’t do this much earlier, up to the summer of 2018 my partner and I had lived in shared houses and as we all know, sewing machines are not exactly quiet and I didn’t think it would be fair on my housemates. Fast forward then to April 2019, I had 10 days of leave booked, my sewing machine was ready to go, all I had to do was pick a pattern. And I picked this! A box-pleat skirt from one of the Sewing Bee pattern books. It took me a few weeks because I really wanted to take my time and get it right but on the 19th May 2019 I finally finished my first entirely me-made garment. There are definitely a few things I could have done better but it’s precious to me and despite its flaws I wear it all the time. It’s a work-appropriate length and incredibly light plus the shape given by the box-pleats means the skirt doesn’t flip up in the wind – what’s not to love?

I feel like my sewing has improved a lot since that first make, well I hope it has, but I wanted to do an experiment to measure the difference. To see just how much I have learnt in the last year and a bit. Initially I wondered about aiming for a really complex make to show how far I’ve come but I wanted a direct comparison and I didn’t think just making a more advanced garment would provide that. Instead I decided the best way would be to make the same skirt again and observe the differences. I dug out the pattern again and I chose to make the skirt out of a lightweight navy blue gingham from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn. The fabric has a good amount of structure to it and it’s opaque while still letting some light through. The big thing I’ve learnt about gingham is that it frays incredibly easily so I used my pinking shears quite a bit and tried to use lots of enclosed seams.

Today’s blog is not going to be a ‘how-to’, instead I want to reflect on the changes in the garment and how I felt making it. I’m going to start with material changes in the garment and move on to the overal changes in how I felt making it.

Material / Physical Changes

I’m so much quicker at cutting and stitching.

This is a big one for me. I remember just pinning the pattern took me about half an hour the first time and cutting it out took even longer. That was because I was so scared to make a single wrong incision, terrfiyed it would ruin the garment from the outset. This time I had this ironed, pinned, cut out and ready to go within 30 minutes. It has to be said I also have much better scissors than I did a year ago but also I’m used to cutting fabric now and in particular I’m used to cutting on carpet which was a challenge for me when I started sewing in this house. The next big step for me will be a cutting mat and a rotary cutter to help me use my slippier fabrics to better effect as I refuse to use my scissors on chiffon.

My pleats are so much neater now.

I mean come on look at those, those box pleats are beautiful if I do say so myself! My first ones are fine, there’s nothing particularly wrong with them but these are gorgeously sharp. Honestly after I had stitched them I just sat and stared at them for a bit because I was so proud.

The lapped zip is actually a lapped zip this time!

Right so it’s still not perfect but its a sight better than last time. The zip is actually covered this time. I wanted to use a shorter zip because I felt the last one was too long but sadly I went too short this time and it requires a bit of a wiggle to put it on. Maybe I’ll make another one in a years time and I’ll finally get the zip completely perfect.

General Changes

I care much less about pattern instructions.

This sounds awful but its true. I promise I do read the pattern instructions but I definitely read them less or perhaps a better way to say this is that I am less worried by the instructions. If it’s a new pattern then of course I will sit down and properly read the instructions before I start just to get the shape of pattern journey in my head. However when I first started I was almost terrified of making micro mistakes or missing anything in the pattern but its because I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started. Now I have a better understanding of sewing techniques and of garment construction, I don’t worry as much about the instructions. Making this skirt is incredibly simple anyway and I didn’t look at the book until it got to the lapped zip stage and then I gave the book a very close reading! Otherwise the next steps of the pattern just seem clear and make sense now and you know what? It feels good. I feel like I have matured into someone who osn’t just following instructions but actually understands what I am doing and that feels like an achievement.

The whole process is much more fun.

The first time I made this skirt, it was pretty much dead silence in my living room, I was really scared that I would make a mistake and wanted my full concentration. Honestly, it was tense! Now I’ve loosened up and that comes down to experience. I know what I’m doing, I can trust my judgement and relax into the rhythm of sewing. I put netflix on or a good radio crime drama and I’ll happily sit and sew for the rest of the day. Making this skirt a second time I was able to revel in the process a lot more. To congratulate myself for little successes like my zip or my frankly knife sharp box pleats. I was able to identify, celebrate and own my successes as micro sewing achievements while recognising that of course I still have a long way to go. I was also able to trust my judgement which enables me to relax and go with the process. Observing what I do, correcting errors before they become mistakes and laughing at any mistakes I make.

What the second make of this skirt taught me is that not only am I technically a better dressmaker than I was 15 months ago but that I am more mature as a person. I am able to laugh at myself, trust my judgement and grow through every garment I make measuring against no one’s standards but my own.

Sewing Project: Shell Top / My First Forays Into Viscose

Hello lovely people, I hope you have had a wonderful weekend so far. Yesterday I hit 300 followers on my Instagram in just under four weeks! If you follow me on Instagram then, thank you! If you don’t then look me up @sowhatifisew . Anyway, on to this weekend’s challenge. As I had hit a little milestone and it was a miserable rainy day, we put a new series on Netflix and I decided to do a one-day sew. After my six month long dress project I needed a little palette cleanser so this project was ideal.

Last week I received a fabric haul from one of my favourite suppliers. They had a massive sale on so I went on a small fabric buying binge and I bought some beautiful fabrics. Not only that but I bought fabrics I was either nervous about using or had never used before. One of those was Viscose. As per usual when I work with a new fabric I spoke to my mum to check if there was a thing special I needed to do and she said that I didn’t need to use anything special but to mind out as the fabric can be slippery. I definitely found this to be the case. Once I got it into the sewing machine it sewed absolutely beautiful but oh my goodness I think I used about a million pins when I was attached the facing as it slips and stretches so easily. I will explain more as we go along but viscose definitely isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

For this challenge I chose a simple shell top from the British Sewing Bee and used my gorgeous yellow floral viscose from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn. This fabric has the most stunning drape and although it wasn’t a recommended fabric for this pattern I found that it worked very well. I’m glad that I chose a simple-ish pattern because as I have mentioned above, viscose is tricky to work with and I needed the simplicity to allow me to truly get to grips with the fabric. Also I realised recently that my wardrobe is pretty woeful in terms of tops and this pattern fits me really well so you may see a few more of these creeping into my DIY wardrobe.

Working with viscose is different from step one. Viscose is a little easier to work with if you iron it first so that’s what I did. Easier in comparison to what I shudder to think. When laying it out to be cut I had to enlist my partner, we took an end each, arched them up and laid the fabric down incredibly carefully. It was so slippery that I couldn’t actually manage to do it on my own and I wanted an even cut. Next time I use viscose I will cut with a rotary cutter because you get too much stretch in the fabric with scissors.

First Steps

The first step of this pattern was stay stitching the necklines. Now generally I’m not great at remembering to staystitch but I always do necklines and I’m extremely glad I did in this case. There was a fair amount of stretch in the fabric so I was very careful working with it and used a lot of pins. On that note, I was so impressed with my darts on this top. They are the best darts I’ve ever done and sit really well on my bust when I wear the top. Then it’s a simple stitch together at the shoulder seams.

Facings & Interfacing

I had a problem here as I thought I had lightweight interfacing but I only had medium weight so instead I cut double of the facings from the fabric and stitched them together to stiffen the structure without having to use interfacing. This has worked very well in terms of structure but is a touch bulky. If I was doing it again, I would snip the seams down a little bit more.

The step that confused me the most was pulling the top through the facings once they were stitched. It was incredibly simple in actual fact but it looked impossible. The trick is to feed the back pieces through to the front and then voila! Remember to give it a good press.

Then it’s a case of side and back seams and a hem! I used a hook and eye for the back fastening rather than a rouleau loop and button because I find them easier to use and I couldn’t find a button in the house that felt right for the garment. Then you’re done! It was a full day sew, 10am – 5pm, because viscose takes care and patience and the way I did the facings takes a little more time.

Here is the finished garment! This is a firm favourite and I’m going to make a few of them I think as they are perfect for work and home. I love the pattern so I will definitely make a few more and as they don’t take much fabric I might even be able to get a few more out of my fabric remnants box. Today we are having a friend over for a socially distanced lunch and then Adam and I will watch TV and I’ll do some more mask sewing for my grandparents.

Sewing Project: Shirt Dress Pt. 3 – It’s finally done!

Its finally finished! I am beyond proud of this dress, its the most complex thing I’ve ever made. It contains my first collar, my first buttonholes, my first self-adapted/self-drafted bodice pattern. I actually finished this dress exactly a week ago but I’ve held back on writing this post because I wanted to reflect on this make properly. I’m not going to tell you how I did the buttonholes because honestly I’m not sure how I did them and they didn’t go as well as I would have liked however i started at the bottom of the dress and worked up so the ones at the top which are the most visible are also the neatest. Plus its black thread on a black dress so its okay, not super noticeable, and I just straight hemmed the sleeves, nothing tough about that really. No this post is definitely not a how-to or a sew along, this post I want to reflect on this garment and what I’ve learnt from doing it.

Pattern Fit

Firstly I have A LOT to learn about fit but actually, for the first pattern I’ve ever adapted the fit is fairly good. I think my main mistake was that I forgot just how much I had had to enlarge the darts on the bust and waist and forgot to adapt the arm holes accordingly so the arms are a little snug. However, I can still move my arms properly and the buttons don’t pull open when I do which is a pretty massive improvement on my current relationship with fitted shirts. Equally I could have done with shortening the back piece a little aas the waist on the front hits perfectly because I put aloot of work into personalising the measurements however I did not do the same with the back piece. I now realise that what I should have done was to enlarge the back darts to ensure the waist fit was more snug and potentially I should have shortened the pattern piece as I have quite a neat back.

However, the main aim was to make create a shirt dress that fitted my bust, waist and hips correctly. To hit all three points seemed almost impossible to start with but I did it and I am honestly so impressed with the result. The shirt not only closes but closes comfortably and the buttons don’t pull threatening when I move around like a normal human. The skirt sits well on my hips and has enough structure to maintain the sillouhette I was looking for from this garment.

Buttons & Buttonholes

Firstly I learnt is that I love attaching buttons. It’s super relaxing. I was actually sat attaching them while on the phone to my sister. I was also very pleased that when I laid my buttons out on the dress by eye and then went back to measure the distances I had laid them all exactly 3 inches apart without any assistance. I then just made sure the white markings were in the same palce on each side. Simple.

What was less simple were the buttonholes themselves. Two things here. Firstly I completely forgot that my stitch length would influence what these looked like. I did twig this after my first two however I probably should have checked beforehand. Secondly… HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO STOP SEWING?? Seriously, I did everything I could think of. I marked my buttonholes with an I shape so there was a line at the top and bottom however I then realised while sewing that I couldn’t see those lines at all. Also which side are you meant to sew buttonholes on. Is it from the right side or the wrong side? I also found the distancing of the stitching extremely challenging. However. I did do them and they actually look fine, only and anyone else who actually knows how to sew will notice how messy they are and as I mentioned earlier, thankfully they are black on black fabric. In restrospect I was suffering from sewing hubris, the ‘I’ll figure it out” attitude. While this works for a lot of things, buttonhole sewing is not one of them and I will be watching many a youtube video before I attempt this again. Anyone with buttonhole advice, hit me up I’m genuinely interested in tips and tricks.

So how do i feel about this project now? Honestly I still can’t quite believe I’ve made it and I don’t think I will believe it until I wear it outside. Whether thats to work or out for dinner or to see friends. It has been a fantastic experience, forcing myself to think. I sort of made the pattern up, the skirt is from something I made ages ago, the bust is from the book pattern but hacked to anything so that it fits me, the sleeves are from another pattern; so you see that this was a complex project on every level and I’m proud that I managed to do the ‘dressmaking thinking’ to achieve it.

Whats next for me? Well I’ve FINALLY managed to get hold of some elastic, its taken two weeks, so I need to run up some face masks for my lovely grandparents in Scotland. I’m going to do the body of the masks tomorrow so the second I get the elastic I can get them posted off straight away. Then its on to my lovely fabric hoard from the Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn sale to make some beautiful things.

Envelope Pillow: A How To Guide For My First Home Make

Today’s project is a little different to my usual sewing projects and its actually my first ever home make! I have officially welcomed the envelope pillow into my repertoire. My partner’s mum bought us some towels and a beautiful throw so I wanted to make something nice for her and I decided on a throw pillow. She actually gave me some beautiful homefurnishing fabric that she bought when she was redoing their house. She loved the fabric but wasn’t sure what to use it for so I thought I would make her an envelope pillow.

Envelope pillows are a really simple make, it took me an hour maybe an hour and a half at most. The longest part was waiting for the pad to arrive! I didn’t use a pattern, I just took measurements and went with it. Its honestly the easiest make and I would encourage anyone, particularly beginners to have a go.

Step 1 – Measure Up

Select the size of pillow you want to make. Either choose a pillow pad or measure an existing one if you looking to refresh an existing cushion. Take the measurement of the length and width of the pillow with a cloth measuring tape and ensure to measure including the curve of the pillow. Then add an inch at both ends of each measurement and mark out your square or rectangle on your fabric with tailors chalk.

Step 2 – Cut Your Three Pieces

When cutting upholstery or home-furnishing fabric I tend to use pinking shears as they have a bit more bite and stop fraying. To make the pillow you need three pieces.

  • 1 x square (or rectangle) to the measurements from above.
  • 2 x rectangular pieces the same width and approximately two thirds the length of the main square with at least a 4cm overlap.

To ensure the pieces fit lay them carefully on top of each other as you will sew them and make sure the outside edges match.

Step 3 – Finish the Envelope Edges

In order to create a nice finish on your pillow you are going to want to finish the two overlapping edges on the back. To finish the edges fold it over by 1/8inch and stitch and then do the same again.

Step 4 – Pin Together and Sew

Pin the pieces right side together and stitch along the outside edge with 1/2 inch seam allowance. Stitch continuously around the square and then press.

Step 5 – Clip Corners and Turn Out

Finally clip the corners and turn right side out. I turned my corners out using a biro with its lid on but a knitting needle, chopstick or anything else with a blunt point will do. Press once more and then voila, you’re done!

Sewing Project: Shirt Dress (Pt 2)

Hello everyone! I know its been a few days since I last posted but I’ve been holding off on writing in the vain hope that my buttons would arrive and I could finish the dress completely. Sadly they are not here yet and I’m so happy about inserting my first ever collar! I don’t know about you but I had a marvellously productive sewing weekend. Work has been very stressful recently and I didn’t feel like sewing but I decided to sit down just do the hem of the dress and then before you know it I had hemmed the skirt, stitched the button placets and inserted my very first collar. This post is going to be all about my first collar because I actually learnt loads! Button placets are extremely easy but just for reference the collar in this case goes on after the button placets have been stitched.

The first step for a collar is to stay stitch the neckline just in from the fabric edge. This makes sure that the neckline doesn’t stretch while you insert the collar. Next you need to cut two pieces for the collar and two pieces for the link piece. Place the collar pieces right side to right side and stitch together. Then clip the corners and turn right side out.

This stage is very simple but I’m so glad I didn’t skip the staystiching on the neckline. The pattern I am working from didn’t tell me to do it but after watching a few youtube videos on collars it definitely seemed like a good idea and actually with the stiff cotton I have used its really helped the neckline to sit flat. the next stage I found quite confusing and almost did wrong! You have to sandwich the collar, right side out, between the two layers of the joining piece which are right sides facing in towards the collar. You then pin the four layers of fabric together and stitch all the way around the bottom. I had to go very slowly here as my machine lacks the punch to get through thick layers of fabric so I actually had to have the foot lifted at some points to guide it through by hand and ensure it didn’t stick.

Then you pin the outside edge of the collar along the outside edge of the neckline, right sides together allowing the collar to open out towards you, and stitch along the neckline. I found this step really confusing and had to attempt it multiple times on the toile before I felt comfortable. Then you press that seam and the whole collar. Then. Turn the neckline towards you and carefully tuck the inside edge of the collar under itself so it meets and includes the outside collar seam and then carefully stiched along the edge to close the collar. And there you go! Its super simple on the face of it however it definitely takes practice. For me it was a confidence thing, I kept second guessing myself but I did it!

Most Difficult Thing?

Getting the collar to fit the neckline!! This is a real struggle and feels like fitting a square peg to a round hole but I got there in the end. A trick for anyone attempting their first collar is to pin the ends in place, then find the centre and pin that and attempt to fit each side. Its much easier if you do it this way as you won’t run out of collar or end up with too much and it will come out evenly on the garment.

Best Thing?

I think seeing a collar that actually looks like a collar? I know that sounds strange but I honestly didn’t think it was going to work and its so pleasing to see it not only work but actually look like a collar on an item I would buy in a shop.

So here I am in the dress so far. Please forgive the greasy sewing hair, poor lighting and washing in the background, I promise I will go and take a pretty picture when its actually finished. The next, and final, step is buttons! I have never done a button down dress before so wish me luck. In the meantime I have a pillow case to finish and a few masks to whip up for my grandparents so I will let you know how I get on, see you next time!

Sewing Project: Pyjama Shorts

This time last year I asked my sisters what they wanted for Christmas and they both asked for pyjamas. My middle sister jokingly asked for ‘Crab Pyjamas’ so I went fabric hunting! I made one pair of brushed cotton monster patterned pyjamas for my eldest sister who lives in the UK but I decided to go with pyjamas shorts for my middle sister as she lives in a Australia. Above is the result! I found the most incredible fabric from Liberty, its so soft and cool to the touch and I love the little crabs so I used this and then bought a t-shirt and applied an appliqué crab patch to the top so they made a matching set. Today I am revisiting this pattern as my eldest sister also wants a pair for her birthday (which was in April but lockdown prevented me from getting elastic!). Here is my lovely cotton from Fabrics Galore, for pyjamas I like a fun and interesting pattern and my sister wanted something space themed.

I’m going to have to do the pattern in two stages not because of time but because I have really struggled to get hold of wide waist elastic during lockdown as all the sewing shops shut and I couldn’t get hold of quite the right size elsewhere online. As these shorts are a present, and lets face it I can’t go and give the shorts to her, I decided to wait for the perfect elastic. This cotton is wonderful to work with and so soft so fingers crossed she likes them!

  • Pattern: Simplicity 1563A
  • Fabric: Black Spaceman Cotton, Fabrics Galore
  • Time to sew: 4-5 hours
  • Pattern Cutting Out & Adjustments

This is a lovely easy pattern to use. I would say that the waist/torso element of the pattern is very very long so I cut that down. Also stupidly the first time I used this pattern I cut it to my size rather than leaving it so I have measured the difference between the current pattern size and the size I want and I have added that measurement at the edge. As I’ve used this pattern quite a few times I didn’t want to pin it so I used some travel books, little city guides actually make really good pattern weights as they are small and flat and slide easily on fabric. I then measured out the difference and used my blue pencil to mark out the new pattern line.

  • Assembly

These shorts are a lovely easy sew, I really took my time and they still only took about two hours to assemble. Straight seams to start with for the leg section and then you turn one leg inside out, slot one leg inside the other right sides together and sew around the u-shape. Then, voila! You have a basic pair of shorts.

  • Buttonholes

I did my first ever machine button holes on this project and it was so much fun. I normally do my button holes by hand but I thought it was about time for me to learn how to use the function on my machine and I’m pleased with the result. They are a bit messy due to the size but they have to be big enough for a large ribbon drawstring. Although I do not recommend using black thread on black fabric for your first button hole as it definitely complicates things and makes it much harder to see what you are doing! I marked my buttonhole length with white tailors pencil which did help a lot.

  • Hemming

I always do the hems on this pattern before I start with the elastic so I can work with the fabric flat rather than distorted. I do a reinforced double hem on the edge of the shorts because pyjamas are worn heavily and need to be able to withstand all the weird stuff we do in our sleep. For the same reason, I do a zigzag stitch up the middle of the centre seam from front to back which reinforces the seam as well as making it sit flat. I then measure the waistband and press the edge down firmly as a guide.

  • Elastic Waist & Drawstring

The most important part of the elastic waist for me is the width of the elastic. For pyjamas you really want a lovely wide elastic for maximum comfort. If its too narrow, the elastic can dig in and make the shorts uncomfortable. In terms of length, I always make the elastic waistband a couple of inches shorter than the waist size so that it fits comfortably with a bit of stretch. When sewing the waistband I take the front off my sewing machine and use the sleeve set-up so I can pull the elastic taught and sew the waistband straight. Then I thread the waist ribbon through normally using a chopstick or similar. I used quite thick grossgrain ribbon which moves well inside the waistband and I leave the ribbon on the spool until it comes out of the otherside of the shorts and I can assess how long I want the ties to be. Honestly I do this bit by eye and then I double fold the end of the ribbon in on itself and stitch a square to secure.

  • Finished!

Then give them a good press with an iron and you’re done! Here they are in all of their glory. I’m pretty proud of these to be honest and I hope my sister loves them.

Sewing Project: Shirt Dress (Pt. 1)

I think that most sewists and dressmakers have one item of clothing or one design that they’ve always wanted to make. One thing that prompted them to start sewing or to take their sewing more seriously. For me it was the inability to find a shirt/blouse that would fit. I have a larger bust, a narrow back and a narrow waist and as I got older I got embarrassed and frustrated that I just couldn’t get a shirt to fit me. Either I had to buy a shirt three sizes too big or risk an embarrassing button based incident. It was a problem at school and still is a problem at work if I’m honest. I had always thought shirts were outside of the realm of sewing possibility for me until I started sewing more often and realised that, whilst there were more techniques at play than in other patterns, a shirt is still made from a sewing pattern.

As I had never been able to get a shirt to fit there is one garment I have always wanted but never had the confidence to buy and that is a shirtdress. That is I didn’t have the confidence until I received my Christmas present from my boyfriend, a wonderful book called ‘Sew Many Dresses, So Little Time by Tanya Whelan’ which contains a series of bodices, skirts and sleeves and enables the sewist to make over 200 different dresses from those combinations. This book also has a fantastic section at the back on pattern adjustments and it was with the aid of this chapter I began to slowly and very carefully adjust the bodice pattern to my own measurements. I really made myself take my time, working slowly and methodically and stopping every time I remotely lost concentration. I then paired my button-down bodice with a three-quarter length sleeve and a full skirt, also with a button-down front. Every single piece of the pattern was altered or drafted by me. I wasn’t sure if the pattern would work in practice as there were so many skills I’d never tried so, as every good dressmaker should, I made a toile of the bodice complete with collar, button tabs, bust darts and a cap sleeve.

Once I made my toile and realised that my pattern might actually work I went fabric hunting and I finally found the perfect fabric. Its a medium weight cotton with painted fish on a black background and I love it. Its got enough structure to make an excellent shirt and it hangs really well in a full skirt.

Fast forward to yesterday when the fabric arrived in the morning and 6 hours of feverish sewing later and I have the outline of my dress! This dress is the first time I’ve ever inserted sleeves, my first self-drafted bodice and I am actually really proud of myself. I used to be really scared of sleeves but they really aren’t that bad, I don’t know what I was worried about! I understand there are more difficult sleeve patterns out there but its reassuring to know that I can insert basic sleeves.

The next stage is to add the collar and then create the buttonholes, add buttons and then hem the skirt and sleeves. It sounds like a lot and I am definitely going to take my time on those elements to make sure the garment comes out perfectly. For now here I am in the shell!

Lockdown Sewing: Making My Own Face Mask

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!