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Sewing Tips for Making Face Masks

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In recent months, one of my staple sewing projects has been face masks using both my Cricut Maker machine and my Bernina 475 qe.

I finally found and modified a pattern that seems fit most of our family well.

stack of face masks

It is also well matched to my sewing skill set, which is beginner/intermediate.

I've kind of muddled through the whole face mask making process, so I though I would share with you what I have learned.

The Pattern

The face mask pattern that I like best, so far, is this one from Jennifer Maker (you will need to subscribe to her list to get the free pattern – both SVG for Cricut and PDF if you just want to cut it out yourself.)

However, I have had to make a few adjustments to make it work for me.

First, my family has long, narrow faces – so the adult small size worked best for us.

Second, I didn't like the ribbon ties and instead wanted to use elastics for the ears. I use these elastics from Amazon – they are comfortable and inexpensive.

Third, I decided not to make a filter pocket and just make a 2 layer mask.

Fourth, in addition to Jennifer's instructions, I combined tips from the video in this post at Craft Passion to assemble the mask.

Just an FYI, the post at Craft Passion also includes a pattern for a face mask (Cricut, Silhouette, and PDF) but I prefer the pattern at Jennifer Maker because it is reversible and you can wear either side facing out.

Making the Face Masks

Download the Pattern

My first step was to download the pattern from Jennifer Maker's website.

Since I am using my Cricut Maker machine to cut out the pieces for my face masks, I opened the zip file to grab the SVG patterns.

Then I opened Cricut Design Space and uploaded the 2 layer face mask pattern file.

In Cricut Design Space, I hid all the sizes that I did not need. Since I am making the small size masks, I just left the layers that are shaded red viewable.

Next, you need to change the seam allowance line to draw instead of cut.

To do this, you ungroup the layers, then choose the line layers and change them to draw in the upper left corner “linetype” drop down.

Finally, regroup the layers.

Choose Your Fabric

I make all my face masks out of quilting cotton.

fabric and brayer on cutting mat

For me, random patterns and solid colors work best.

If you use a stripe or a structured pattern, then it is difficult (if not impossible) to get the stripes to line up on the front seam of the mask – especially if you are using a Cricut to cut the pieces.

Some great places to pick up quilting cotton are:

Cut the Pattern

Using a self healing cutting mat and a rotary cutter, I trimmed my fabric down to fit my pink machine mat, which is specifically for fabric.

Place the fabric on the mat with the WRONG side up.

attaching fabric to pink Cricut mat with brayer

If you use Jennifer Maker's SVG files, the Cricut machine will use the fabric pen to mark your seam allowances – so you want these to appear on the wrong side of the fabric.

It is important to use a brayer to really smooth out any wrinkles in your fabric and make sure it adheres well to the mat.

If your machine mat is no longer sticky – you may want to try some of these tips for cleaning your Cricut mat.

I then set up my Cricut Maker Machine with a fabric pen and the rotary blade.

Note that you will need a Cricut MAKER machine in particular to cut fabric. The Cricut Explore Air 2 or the Cricut Joy are not designed for this.

The Explore Air 2 will cut bonded fabric – but in my opinion, it is not worth the effort to bond fabric for face masks just to cut them.

Inside Cricut Design Space, I always double check that the pattern will fit on the size of the fabric that I have loaded onto my mat.

cut out face masks on a pink Cricut mat

Once I am happy with the placement of pieces on the mat, I click go and let the Cricut do it's job.

Assemble the Masks

Sew the Fronts and Backs

To assemble the masks, I first attach the left and right sides of the front of the mask to each other by sewing a straight stitch along the seam allowance line, wrong side facing out.

sewing the front seams of the face masks

Then I do the same with the back layer.

Now I use a tip from the Craft Passion video and clip the seam allowance at intervals, making sure not to cut through the actual seam.

clipping the front seam of the face mask

Because the front of the mask is curved, these clips make the seam more flexible and easy to work with.

Next I finger press the seam to one side (I don't iron them open because it is just too fussy to do so with the curved seam).

Topstitching

Finally, I run a topstitch down the front of all the fronts and backs with the right side of the fabric facing up. This serves to tack down the seam on the inside and gives the outside of the mask a polished look.

To do the topstitch, I use “stitch in the ditch” presser foot for my sewing machine. On the Bernina this is ideally the number 10 foot, but a number 5 – blindstitch foot (which is what I have right now) works as well.

I put the needle in the extreme right (or left depending on which side your seam allowance is folded towards) position.

If you don't have a stitch in the ditch foot, you can still topstitch by moving your needle to the extreme right position (assuming your sewing machine can do this) and lining up the front seam with the center of the presser foot as you sew. This will create a stitching line slightly off to the right.

Attach the Elastics

Now it is time to baste on the elastics.

I use a six inch piece of elastic for each loop. This works for our family because, like I said, our faces are long and narrow.

You may need to experiment to see what length of elastic will work for you.

The very first mask that I made was a “test” mask using old fabric scraps where I tried different elastic lengths.

The perfect length will depend on a few factors:

  • the shape of your face and
  • the tightness of the brand of elastic itself
  • personal preference.

I exclusively use this elastic from Amazon because now that I have made a bunch of face masks with it, I know the fit.

To attach your elastics, take the front of your mask and place it right side up on the surface in front of you.

Take one piece of elastic and place the end near the top left corner of your mask.

Form a backwards “C” with the elastic with the curve going towards the middle of the mask and the other end of the elastic ending at the bottom left corner.

Tack the elastic in place with a pin or two.

Repeat with the right side of the mask, except on this side you will make a normal “C” shape with your elastic.

Now machine baste the elastic into place with a few straight stitches.

Attach the Front of the Mask to the Back

Now it is time to attach the front of the mask to the back on 3 sides (top, left or right, and bottom).

Place the back of your mask right side down on top of the front of your mask that you have in front of you.

Basically, you will be sandwiching the elastic loops inside for now.

Line them up and pin them in place being extra careful to push the elastics to the center of the mask so they don't get sewn on as you attach the front to the back.

Now, starting in one corner, sew a straight stitch around 3 sides of the mask on the seam allowance line.

Put a few snips into the seam allowance across the bridge of the nose and at the chin to make the mask more flexible. (fyi – the mask below is a different one from the one you see above)

Also, trim all four corners on the diagonal to remove the excess corner fabric.

Turn the mask right side out and poke the corners out square.

Insert the Nose Wire

While you don't have to use a nose wire, I find that it helps make the mask fit more snugly and also helps to keep your glasses from fogging up.

To make a nose wire, cut a piece of flexible wire about 5 inches long.

I use floral wire because that is what I have on hand, but you can use actual nose bridge wire that is designed for this purpose.

If you use floral wire, like I do, make sure to curl the edges using a set of small needle nosed pliers.

This will keep the wire from poking through the face mask and injuring the wearer.

Once I curled the edges in, my wire measured to be 4 inches long.

Working from the center of the bridge of the nose, I measured 2 inches from either side along the top edge of the mask, and used a disappearing fabric pen to mark the spots.

Now you need to create a pocket for the nose piece.

Starting at the point that you marked on the top edge of the mask closest to the side of the mask that is sewn shut, straight stitch down about 5 stitches or until you are about a half inch down.

With the needle in the down position, raise your presser foot and turn your mask so that you are now sewing parallel to the top edge of the mask towards the open side of the mask.

Sew across the center seam and stop approximately where you have the second marking on the mask.

Carefully slide your wire into this pocket that you just created from the open side.

You may need to wiggle it a bit to get it to slide over the center seam allowance.

Once you have the wire all the way in, place your presser foot at the second marking on the top edge of the mask and sew perpendicularly down about 5 stitches to meet the horizontal sewing line and close your nose piece pocket.

When you do this, be carful not to sew over the nose wire or you may accidentally break your needle.

Close the Open Edge

Now it is time to close the open edge of your face mask.

Using your fingers, gently fold the raw edges of the mask inwards, forming a seam.

Pin this seam in place and stitch from the top to the bottom as close to the edge as possible.

This will close the opening and secure your elastics.

Top Stitch the Other Side

To make your mask more uniform, run a row of topstitching down the other side of the mask – the one that is already closed.

I also like to run a second row of topstitching right next to this one to give the mask a more polished look. Sometimes I will use a decorative stitch for this second row.

You Are All Done!

And that's it – your mask is all done.

I hope these tips helped you out.

The more practice you get, the better your face masks will look.

There is a huge difference from my first few face masks to the ones that I make now – and I am still improving.

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