Face Masks? Something to Consider, Something to Make

face masksToday’s post has only one thing to do with writing.

These days I’m spending my mornings making face masks and not wrestling with my book in progress all day long. That was the writing part. You almost missed it.

Why Face Masks? Do they make sense?

Weeks ago when I heard that quilters were making face masks to pass on to medical personnel, my ears perked up. I have collected a lot of fabric over the years, and I’m bothered by the sheer waste of having it sitting in my sewing area–which is, unfortunately, easily visible in our bedroom.

I began to study whether it really made sense to make homemade face masks. At first the data wasn’t convincing. Not helpful. Not good enough. We have enough masks. 

Now new information.

But lately? Headlines are changing. Consider this recent article from the Washington Post, where we learn that the CDC is considering requesting that we ALL wear masks in public.  Or how about this one from The New York Times suggesting that all those face-mask-happy quilters weren’t just keeping themselves busy. They were doing a public service.

Because masks made sense to me from the beginning, even when the experts were shaking their heads and feuding, I began collecting patterns. Novelist Eileen Dreyer, a Facebook friend and a former ER nurse, started a Facebook Page with links and information. I downloaded patterns, watched videos, considered how best to get what I needed other than the fabric. I had the fabric. I can make masks until my sewing machine disintegrates and I will still have fabric.

Elastic or Substitute?

I found a source for elastic, these days more precious than gold. I bought several packs and paid the shipping fee. Immediately their supply disappeared. Until today I thought I’d never see my order, but moments ago I was informed it’s on the way.

In the meantime, because I was out of the house for the first time in weeks yesterday, I stopped by the Dollar Store. Remember when shopping trips were part of daily life? Yesterday I wandered the Dollar Store like the proverbial kid in a candy store, almost by myself. And I came home with five packages of narrow elastic headbands, each of which are the perfect size to make two ear loops for a mask. Be still my heart. I’ve included that link not so you can order, but so you can see exactly what I mean. Narrow elastic, okay? Not the Hilary Clinton fancy headbands. Narrow. More like ponytail elastics but larger.

So now I have no excuse. I have fabric. I have headbands.

If I can do this, anybody can do this….

This weekend I pulled fabric, choosing mostly batiks because it’s tightly woven. Quilters cotton is good, too, but the batiks feel stiff and impenetrable. I had located a smidgen of elastic I’d bought to make American Girl doll clothes for a granddaughter. My AG doll clothes never took off, but I still had the elastic.

On Saturday I washed, ironed, and tried desperately to make bias seam binding despite apparently being a bit dyslexic and unable to follow directions. And then on Sunday, after I’d made yards of that, it was time to boogie. I wanted to make children size masks for my grandsons. I had colorful frog fabric and a bit of elastic. Life was good.

Of course since I was finally ready, I couldn’t find the elastic! I knew I’d put it somewhere safe, as I so often do. With the same results.

The good news? After totally cleaning up my sewing area–which it desperately needed–an hour later I  located the elastic in a drawer. And I managed, with more trouble than I can begin to convey, to make two cute little masks to mail the boys this week.

You don’t have to be perfect. Really.

In the meantime someone on Eileen’s Facebook page had made 19 this weekend. And then to add insult to injury, our paper featured a local quilt group who is making them by the dozens. Apparently one a minute? I don’t know. I shake my head.

So now, one mask a day.

This morning I started my every morning mask-making career. I made one for Proman (my husband). I found nonwoven interfacing in my stash, which helps block germs, so I added that. I used one of the hairbands (yay!) and after making the little mask sandwich incorrectly the first time, I tried again. Yep. Success.

He looks awful cute in it.

Now that I’m organized. Now that Alexa is cooperating and Michelle Obama is reading me her biography as I sew. Now that I have finally learned to put the interfacing on the back of the mask sandwich when I sew. Now that I have cornered the world supply of elastic and hairbands?

I’m set.

So that’s me. What about you?

If you’re interested? If you can’t find supplies for your family (my sons and daughters-in-law are now waiting for theirs)? If you want to help your medical community?

Here are some patterns for you to use. There will be better people to ask for help than me. But in a pinch, I’m here. And since I’ve made lots of mistakes already, I may be able to help you make fewer. Let me know.

Here are  Youtube videos, the first three from the Fabric Patch (fabricpatch.net) in Washington State:

Make your own mask

Some mask basics and FAQ

YouTube video explaining fabric and elastic substitutions to use.

And here’s one from the Missouri Quilt Company using bias.

And another using elastic from the Missouri Quilt Company–and the one I’m using right now.

Still more links:

General information page with links from eQuilter.com

JOANN Fabrics has been in the forefront of information and supplies

If for some reason these don’t meet your needs? Just type making face masks into Google. You’ll get all the help you can use.

Stay safe. Stay busy. Make masks!


  1. Dorothy Schreyer on April 1, 2020 at 11:08 am

    When I went to the dollar store website you get this message: Due to our focus on providing essential products that meet our customers’ critical needs, we are temporarily suspending online ordering in order to keep the stores in your communities as full as possible. Please note that the quantities available for this item will vary by store. Just an FYI

    • Emilie Richards on April 1, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      I did know that. Like I said the link was to show you what to look for if you’re out and about. I wanted people to be able to see the kind of headband that works for the masks and hopefully to find it at their own stores. But if you happen to find them online, let us know the link.

  2. Nancy Lepri on April 1, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks for this information!!! Stay well!

  3. Diane Chamberlain on April 1, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    I was about to try to make masks for John and me, but after reading the trouble YOU had making them, when you were born with a needle and thread in your hand, and after thinking about the fact that I don’t even remember how to thread my machine, I gave up. I’m looking for some to buy online. But I’m impressed!

  4. Delores on April 1, 2020 at 11:52 pm

    Pure entertainment reading this. You are such a talented writer—even made your adventure with this task fun to read about. I think we all know the masks won’t prevent us from getting the virus, but if someone, especially those who are asymptomatic, spews their lovely germs into a fabric mask instead of into the air or on a surface, we might all be a little safer. One real concern is that people think they are safe enough to ignore the ground rules—stay at home as much as possible and social distance. Stay safe all!

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