Face Masks with Pocket - Assembly Line Style

Last week I'll always remember as 'Face Mask Week', as I tested directions wrote my 'version' and churned out over 100 face masks (for use in nursing homes as requested) to do my part in this battle against Covid-19.  I had promised some to a home where my niece works in southern IL, but then when Celeste Mergens, founder of Days for Girls, encouraged our participation and I received a request for our Days for Girls Team to make 200 masks for a local nursing home, I put out the appeal for help and several ladies jumped into this worthwhile project with me. 


There are many wonderful designs and instructions available out there, so this is just one more 'tweak'. As I share in both of my sets of directions at this link at my website: https://www.londas-sewing.com/face-mask-directions I worked from 2 YouTube videos that I found and liked. This blog post is to share some additional 'tweaks' to my EASIER MASK DIRECTIONS that helped me get into mass 'manufacturing' mode, and adapting to ribbon ties in the absence of elastic as so many others have done. These directions are to create a mask that has a pocket on the inner layer, with wire to shape to the face at both upper and lower edges.


Again, these steps won't make sense unless you print/read the EASIER Mask Directions at the link above. So please go and read through those directions first.


I found stitching the same step on 10 masks at a time worked for me - giving me speed, but not having to do so many of the 'same step' at a time as to get bored.



REDUCE BULK on the 15" sides right after you cut the 10" x 15" pieces. Why? Because once the fabric is doubled, and tucked at the sides, I felt there is just too much bulk to turn each end in twice to create the 'casing' for the elastic (or ribbon).

See the cut-out areas along the 10" sides below. below. With a very sharp scissors to make the horizontal cuts, and a ruler and very sharp rotary cutter to cut the vertical cuts, I was able to cut through all 10 at once. Don't make this rocket science - you can see that my pieces aren't perfect. :)


SEAM ALL of the pieces along the 10" sides, chain stitching from one to the other.


PRESS these seams open - cutting apart, and laying all the same direction. Topstitch a generous 1/8" from the bottom of the opening (the side that is trimmed out), working 'inside the tube' as you see in the picture below. As I finished and clipped threads, I'd lay them all the same direction, to make pressing them all quick and easy.

PRESS in the uppermost edge as you see below. Again, lay all of them in the same direction in a pile.

Stitch a generous 1/8" from the uppermost fold, inserting the twist tie as you work. I make use of needle position at my machine so that I can stitch closer to the edge, but still guide the fold of the fabric right along the right side of my presser foot. Also - be sure to not stitch through the plastic coating on the wire. I also made sure to center this 6.5" (garden) twist tie wire along this edge, so that when pressing in twice along the side edges after pleating, you won't run into the wire. As I did this stitching, again, I stitched chain style from one to the other, not stopping and starting to clip threads.

Next, it was time to stitch along the lowermost edge - also chain-stitch method, and inserting the wire as you go, same as above.


Tuck the sides as shown, and directed in the full directions. I decided to not make this 'rocket science', so I didn't measure, didn't pin, and just folded the tucks in 'freehand'. This is the hardest part of the mask, IMHO. Perhaps stopping at this point and marking with clips would be easier in the long run...I might try that if I make some more. Once again, I chained from one to the other, without stopping and clipping threads.

Next step, to align the tucks identically on the other side. Again, not easy - marking ahead of time would help. Actually, I'm not sure why I didn't take time to do marking on each side ahead of time. However, several evenings, I would have masks to the step of pleating, and sit in front of our Netflix binge-watching of Suits (SUCH a treat - the clothes in that series!) to pin the sides in adding some other pins along the middle of the pleats.


Next step: Steam press, and use a Clapper to set the pleats nicely. By the way, only glass head pins are used in my Studio for just this reason - as plastic head pins would melt when pressed like this.



Trimming each of the trimmed edges nice and straight using a ruler and rotary cutter is definitely a step worth taking time to do.


Back to the ironing board - press each end in 1/4" and then again another 1/4".

Again - worth the time.

Whether using elastic OR 1/4" ribbon, it works to lay it in NOW, before stitching, as then you don't have to feed it through with a safety pin and run into the tucks. Just...take care that you do NOT stitch through the ribbon (elastic) as you stitch. Elastic: 10" Ribbon: generous 39-40" . Again, I stitched right from one to the other.


If using ribbon, before the next step, you need to pull the ends of the ribbon even, so it is centered in the casing. Finally, secure the ribbon by stitching across the casing at the edge of one of the pleats as shown below.



Taking time at the end to carefully 'haircut' as I teach my students all of the thread ends is important to producing a top-quality mask - worthy of the great professionals or precious people who wear them.

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