Charity sewing · Sewing

Batch sewing cloth facemasks…

It’s an odd time with the Coronavirus-19. I recently found out that our local hospitals and chemo charities are requesting handmade cloth face mask donations. 😷 This request came from shortages in the disposable paper face masks that the public has been over purchasing. I wanted to share resources and tips to join in on sewing masks to donate.

Although there are multiple options for cloth face mask patterns online, I’ve been directed to a free pattern provided by the Turban Project Organization:

They also have a video tutorial for a helpful reference as well:

I appreciated so much learning about this organization and finding out that they request multiple handmade items, all the time, to help reach multiple outlets:

  • Turbans for chemo patients
  • Fleece Beanies
  • Courage Caps
  • Cloth face masks for adults and children

I’ve also appreciated learning about a local Chemo organization that accepts handmade donations as well. I’ve been wanting to get more involved by sewing with charities but I previously didn’t know how or where to start.

For the face mask pattern provided by the Turban Project, the following specifications are requested:

  • 100% cotton fabric
  • Two layers of fabric utilized for each masks. Flannel is preferred for the lining but if you don’t have flannel, 100% cotton fabric works great for the lining as well
  • 1/4” wide, new elastic
  • The fabric dimensions for the adult face mask are 6”x9” rectangles.

For the cloth face masks, it’s helpful to think about batch sewing, to save time. The masks need to stay together but quantity is more valued to help more people (rather then spending a large amount of time on “perfection sewing” each individual mask).

To batch sew, I like to layer multiple pieces of fabric together. I use a rotary cutter, a new blade and a plastic ruler to cut out multiple 9”x6” rectangles at one time.

The photo above shows smaller scraps of fabric, layered on top of each other, that fit the dimensions for the face masks.

When sewing into a larger piece of fabric, I like to cut long strips of the fabric into pieces approximately 6 1/4” wide and the length of the fabric.

I then roughly cut shorter pieces within this strip that are 9 1/4” wide. From one row of fabric, I had four smaller rectangles result in the 6 1/4” x 9 1/4” dimension. The piece of flannel pictured above is 42” wide.

After cutting the long strip of fabric, I lay all four rectangles on top of each other. I then cut out the final 6”x9” dimension on top of all four rectangles at one time.

By following the batch sewing steps above, I quickly had 18, dual layers of rectangles ready to sew into face masks.

Cut two 7” pieces of the elastic (per face mask). Cut out all of the elastic pieces that you need for the number of face masks that you have cut out (all at one time).

Don’t change the thread color in your machine for each mask (to save time). Save the actual sewing as the last step. Having a pile of pre-cut fabric and elastic ready to go will save time and result in you making more masks in less time (then if you cut out and sewed each mask individually).

Maybe you’re someone reading this post and you say, I have a sewing machine but I don’t have a fabric stash, how can I help?

You will need:

  • A new, 90/14 sewing machine needle
  • A spool of all purpose, polyester thread and a filled bobbin of thread for your sewing machine
  • 1/4” wide elastic
  • and we can get creative with fabric…

If you don’t own fabric and it’s easiest for you to order fabric, you can do that. If not, find clothing from a smoke free home that you were going to donate (that is a woven, 100% cotton base, this detail is important). Bed sheets that you are OK with cutting (woven, not knit or stretchy) could also be an easy way to find fabric that you already have on hand.

A rotary cutter and cutting mat are not required for this project (fabric scissors work fine). That said, I’ve found that a rotary cutter and cutting mat are the quickest way to cut out multiple layers of fabric at one time.

If you haven’t heard yet of your local organizations collecting face masks, I’d encourage you to reach out and ask. I’m seeing online communications coming from these organizations, sharing how they would like donations brought in.

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