Fabric Face Masks

Last evening, Rachael Maddow had an item on the surgical face mask crisis in the US and talked about Deaconess Health Centre’s call for crafters in the community to help build a supply of masks.

I’ve been looking for a way I could do more than self-isolate as a way of pitching in during this pandemic. I can’t do much because I’m “over 65”, with a preexisting cough that makes it difficult for me to be out in public at this particular time, but this was something I could do.

I found the link: https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask and this morning I printed out the instructions from the Turban Project Face Mask and gave it a try.

First, the instructions recommend using flannel for the inside layer. I have a relatively large fabric stash but no flannel – I did, however, have some densely woven muslin which I thought would work reasonably well. I also wanted to improve the impermeability so I added a layer of thin fusible batting to one sample, and a non-woven fusible interfacing to the second. The instructions also called for either “rope” elastic or 1/8″ elastic – neither of which I had on hand – remember I can’t go shopping and local fabric stores are closed anyway – so I improvised using some metallic-wrapped Christmas elastic I had in a drawer which was fine for a sample.

Then I sat down to sew. I quickly sewed the two layers together (elastic included in the side seams), turned the mask right side out. The rest should have been easy but trying to position the pleats and stitch them in place was a bit awkward. In my first attempt I made the pleats too narrow so the side of the mask was too long and the whole thing wouldn’t sit well over my face. I need to make a template marking the pleat position if I’m going to make a batch.

I then decided I needed a small bit of wire over the nose (like one of the commercial masks I found in a drawer in my bathroom – heaven knows where I got it). I dug around the apartment and came up with a set of twist ties in a box of garbage bags – I took two and stitched them to the top edge of the mask. This allowed me to pinch the mask to my nose! But the mask still gaped on the sides so I took the pleats apart and made them a bit bigger – turns out a good fit needs to reduce the side measurement by about a half. To finish off,  I added two small pleats to the bottom edge which made the mask fit snugly beneath my chin.

Inside of mask showing wire at top edge

I still don’t have the elastic length right – the pattern calls for 7″. Because they recommended tying a knot in the end (to prevent pulling it out from the seam) I cut the elastic a bit longer – turns out on the first (mauve) mask the ties are a bit too long.

With the second mask I cut the elastic to 6″ – too short!  6 3/4″ would be about right to allow me to tie knots and stitch the pieces into the side seam.

So my masks are actually three layers, not two – a firmly woven print (a batik would be even better), a fusible non-woven interfacing, and a closely woven muslin with a slightly brushed side for softness. The point of the mask isn’t to stop virus particles from coming in to me but to stop my coughing and sneezing droplets from getting out – in other words to protect other people.

I plan on making one for each of the gals in the Friday afternoon knitting group here in the building – the recommendation from health professionals is not to wear a mask if you’re not coughing/sneezing but it can’t hurt to have one one hand, in case. And for the ears I will cut lengths from my roll of 1/4″ elastic (of which I have quite a lot!).

The caveat, of course, is this face mask is not meant to replace a surgical face mask; it is a contingency plan for those who haven’t been able to find any surgical masks in the stores. And it’s washable – it can be cleaned repeatedly after every use.

Bargello Table Runner #2

I’ve been working on a second bargello table runner for a class I held last week (we’re supposed to meet again in a week and a half – not sure if the gals will come or not – not sure if the shop will even be open!) The government directives to “stay at home” may prevail and even this small group may not take place. If that should happen I may try a Google “Hang-Out” with the gals – (that’s if I can get it to work and write them some instructions for connecting) so we might talk about assembling their table runners. [PS: Everything has closed down here in NS – shop closed; classes cancelled… (Mar 19 2020)]

My fabric for this runner came from a 5″ wide 20 strip jelly roll with a lovely range of contrasting colours. I selected 10, deciding to use the bronze as the contrast fabric and situated it between two of the black/bronze strips. 5″ allowed me to cut 2 x 2 1/2″ set – precisely what I needed for 4 bargello blocks.

Bargello Table Runner II – Under Construction

Notice I said 2 1/2″ strips. The previous bargello table runner used 2″ strips. Using 2 1/2″ strips makes each block quite a bit taller – so much so that placed together end to end (as above) my table runner would turn out to be somewhere around 75″ long; too long for my table; too long to hang on my front door.

So, I’ve decided to join the blocks on the sides using a 1 1/2″ strip which allows me to generate a flowing wave pattern. The other thing I did was to use several narrower strips at the centre of the block which produced a more bargello-like curve to the layout (more obvious in the top image).

Three blocks laid out as a “wave”

I haven’t sewn all three blocks together yet – I want to be able to show the gals different ways of thinking about layout. So tomorrow I’ll assemble the 4th block (which is cut and laid out) and ready to go.

I should end by saying to anyone reading this “Stay safe.” Stay well!” I am staying at home for the most part – I went to pick up a prescription this afternoon. I tried to see my dentist (I just lost a small filling while eating lunch) but the office is only taking emergencies. My small filling doesn’t count – so heaven knows when I might be able to get it repaired. Months maybe?

I’m so grateful to have the sewing and knitting to keep my mind and hands busy. I’ve a lot of projects, including a spring jacket, I want to work on during the next while.

Sparkle Socks

The photograph is misleading because it doesn’t show the sparkle! However, the sock yarn has a fine mylar thread included in the 4 ply which produces a lovely sparkle in the socks!

Sparkle Socks

Some lucky friend will be gifted these socks. I don’t need any more right now in my sock drawer so these are in the give-away pile.

I’ve moved on to socks for my chiropractor who enjoys receiving them. He’s been a great help to me not only maintaining my back mobility but in advising on a wide range of other health related issues. A pair of socks is a small token of my appreciation. They’ll be done by my next appointment.

Kaleidoscope Table Runner II

After finishing the first kaleidoscope table runner I went shopping for fabric to try a second to learn more about what makes a good print design for constructing the octagons.

The pattern repeat in the butterfly fabric I bought was ~ 23in in length and although I bought 1.4m I decided to use just half of the fabric for the kaleidoscope since I didn’t want to end up with many more triangles than the 40 (5 x 8) I needed.

I was hampered by the fact that the printing of the fabric wasn’t precise and even though I aligned the 5.5″ fabric strips precisely, I wasn’t able to get 8 exact repeats of from any spot – just sets of 4. So I built my octagons from two sets of 4. That still gave me the kaleidoscope effect I was after.

Kaleidoscope Table Runner II

I cornered and bordered the octagons with a dark blue print and then used strips of the butterfly fabric for the outer border. The back used the leftover from both border fabrics as a simple bordered panel.

Again, I quilted the octagon blocks in the hoop, and stitched the borders in the ditch to stabilize the runner.

This piece might just be hung on my front door!

Bargello Table Runner IV

I finally finished the 57″ x 16″ Bargello table runner last evening. It took me several hours over two days to stitch the whole thing in the ditch – that was because I was changing thread colour and having to stitch on the zig-zag.

Bargello Table Runner – Finished

I thought about quilting the piece in the hoop for quite a while – doing an edge-to-edge style of design along the length – but I decided it would detract from the bargello detail. In this case, I also stitched through the backing, which meant I needed to add a binding. I chose a 1/4″ binding on the front but 3/4″ hand stitched down on the back.

The original Bargello piece is also finished – it’s the inverse of the longer table runner with a dark, rather than the light, centre.

Bargello Table Runner I

I’m teaching a class in two weeks on how to improvise a Bargello block and how to think about layout for a table or bed runner, a cushion, a wall hanging, or a quilt. The point will be to understand how the quilting version is derived from wool on canvas work and uses the same math principles.

For the class, I will need to set up another Bargello piece so I can demonstrate forming the tube stitched from 10 strips, cutting, and laying out the Bargello array. Better think about that in the next day or two.

Here are instructions for this table runner –  Download the PDF