My Material Life

Sewing Improvements for Pleated Masks

Last week I went to the grocery store in the first cotton mask I sewed. Unfortunately, my ties felt like they were slipping and I kept fiddling with my mask until I finally tried to retie it and pulled one of the ties right out from where it had been attached to the mask. An all-out failure. Before I left the house I added the plastic sheet protector face guard that I clipped to my glasses, but unfortunately my glasses got so fogged up from my breath that I couldn’t see. So I left that part at home. Another failure – though one that still seems to hold such possibilities …

Using ties to attach your mask to your face is tricky; I’ll show you a more secure way to sew them, but how do you get them to stay where you want them to stay on your head, especially the tie on top? I knew that a rubber band could be used to hold a paper towel mask to my face (see video in this blog post) … should I be using elastic after all? And most importantly – did I have any?

Luckily I did find some elastic – a small amount of two different kinds that were both narrow enough to serve as ear loops. The mask (or face covering if you prefer) in the photo above is my favorite version, easiest to sew and wear. The length of the elastic was tested on its intended wearer (approx 6″) before stitching. It was so much easier to attach the elastic after the mask itself was complete by using several lines (stitch and reverse and stitch again) of a tight zigzag stitch on top of an initial line of regular stitching. Elastic is so hard to find right now, but I just found some from an unexpected source; click here to see.

I’ve seen the same kind of ear loops made with narrow fabric ties if elastic is not an option and you’d really rather create ear loops or ties that go around your ears and not your head.

This photo shows the interlining of flannel I’m now adding to all my pleated masks for an extra layer of potential protection. To prevent the flannel from adding to the bulk of the pleated edges (more difficult to sew), it is cut shorter along the width. The inner sides of the four masks I’m showing you here were all cut from the favorite towel I used for my first mask a couple of posts ago. I’m still using the New York Times instructions to construct the masks themselves.

Here’s another mask with elastic pieces cut at 7″ according to some instructions found in USA Today. They were sewn in between layers of the mask. The elastic was too long, but had it been any shorter I could not have sandwiched it between mask layers before pleating. Luckily I was able to knot the elastic to make it fit. Not an elegant solution, but it works.

And here, a different towel is used for the outer piece of the mask. And a different elastic that is meant to be folded. I used it to both bind the pleated edges and as elastic ties for the ears. Again, not the most elegant solution and more of a gap along the pleated edges and face than is probably desirable, but … another mask, done. And with elastic ear loops that are adjustable.

Now about those ties. if you can find any double-fold bias tape, that’s a good way to go with ties because you can use it to both bind the pleated edges and to serve as ties. That should be more structurally sound (less stress on the ties) if you are sure to catch all the layers in your sewing. Thank you Amanda Perna.

Another idea for this construction technique (I haven’t actually tried it) would be to use the tape just to bind the pleated edges, leaving the short ends of the tape open so you could thread a cord through each side that could be tied to form an ear loop. Note that you don’t have to purchase double-fold bias tape. You can cut and fold it yourself and it would not need to be cut on the bias grain. But it sure is easier to have someone do that for you.

I had to try some of these from Juliana Sohn too …

They’re so cool, but both Samantha and I think the masks are more comfortable. So good to have options though.

This video made me smile today and gave me a hope spike.

This article helped me make sense of how I’ve been reacting to this whole thing.

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