Like most other people with access to a sewing machine, I have stitched up a fair number of masks since the COVID-19 pandemic began. When trying to decide which of the many available patterns to use, I considered the input of my partner, who works in a medical clinic and volunteers for the community health department and the experience of a couple of sewists I admire. My partner preferred the fitted style over the pleated style.
Kenneth King and Ann Steeves of Gorgeous Fabrics made serviceable masks from a pattern available on Instructables, so that’s what I used too. I made a couple dozen of them, most of which I donated to my intrepid partner who has been on the front lines.
For the most part, I like this mask. The curves beneath the eyes and over the nose make it fit comfortably over the contours of one’s face. It’s easy to assemble, although the instructions could be streamlined so someone suffering from “Pandemic Brain” won’t melt down when trying to parse them. I had a couple of other issues with the mask: (1) the sides of the mask don’t taper towards the ears so there is some unattractive bunching of fabric in that area; (2) there isn’t enough structure to the mask to prevent the fabric from collapsing as you inhale and billowing out when you exhale. This isn’t awful; it’s unpleasant, though, when wearing a mask for an extended period or in hot weather.
I didn’t have any better options at the time and used a twist tie for the nose wires. The did in a pinch, but weren’t sturdy enough to provide much shaping or to hold up long term.
THE VERDICT: Serviceable and still in use by all who received them. Some minor improvements would make them better for long-term use and overall comfort.
The next mask pattern I chose, I picked simply because it looked pretty in the blog pictures. There are worse crimes, right? The free pattern is offered by Treasurie, a crafty sewing blog, which offers other free patterns like scrunchies, napkins and baby skirts. They’re all very cute.
Unfortunately, the first problem I encountered was with the instructions. If you followed them step-by-step, you wouldn’t end up with something very nicely finished. There is no reason that any of these masks should have a zig-zagged or serged edge exposed. If you simply sew around the perimeter and leave a small opening, you can turn the mask inside out and then top stitch the perimeter sealing up that little hole. At first, I thought this instruction was just a fault of a sewing site that caters to beginners, but I’ve seen it in instructions for more sophisticated sewers too, so I’m not sure what to make of that. Perhaps it streamlines the process for people churning these out by the hundreds.
The second issue I had with this mask is the shape. The top side is too straight across to accommodate the eye cavities and the nose ridge. I much, much prefer the shape of the Instructables mask. I find I’m constantly needing to adjust the position of this mask on my face and that is not good if you’re trying to avoid touching your face and spreading germs.
I did learn something good from trying out this pattern; however. The addition of a lightweight interfacing makes the mask hold up to multiple washings better. It also helps keep the mask a little more rigid so you don’t end up suctioning the mask to your nostrils every time you inhale. I overheard some people in Jo-Ann’s saying that they really didn’t like interfacing in their masks, and I simply cannot understand that after trying an interfaced mask. It’s 1,000,000,000,000 x better.
THE VERDICT: The best aspect of this mask was the support provided by the interfacing. See how nice and crisp they look in the photo? The shape simply did not work for me or my family.
I was prepared to draft my own pattern that melded the features of the Instructables mask with the Treasurie mask, but lucked out one evening while scrolling through Instagram. A sewing blogger (I lost track of who this was, unfortunately) posted a picture of a mask she made from a free StyleArc pattern and I had to try it. It was shapely and interfaced. It fits closely to the face without making you feel like you’re suffocating.
I used the last of my favorite Kaffe Fassett quilting cotton to make one. It is perfect. Goldilocks would approve of this mask.