Local designer shares mask making process, tips
Abbey Samuelson started making fabric face masks on March 21 and has since sewed thousands of the reusable protective gear that Colorado is recommending residents wear when outside the house.
Samuelson, owner of Winter Park boutique Lavender Elephant, Rocky Mountain Design House and Rocky Mountain Repairs, said when she shut her boutique down as nonessential she transitioned into sewing face masks full-time to help address the coronavirus pandemic.
“(Wearing a mask) reduces your hand to face ratio, you’re respecting your neighbor, it keeps the awareness that the six foot rule is serious and it keeps it front of mind that there’s a virus out there that we’re all trying to keep from having,” Samuelson said.
What started with 3 a.m. nights and a single seamstress has since evolved into a five-person volunteer production line to help keep up with the demand for face masks locally and regionally.
So far, Samuelson said companies including City Market, Silver Stem, IgadI, Elevation Pizza, Heritage Title Company and Winter Park restaurant Strip and Tail have ordered in bulk to supply masks to their employees.
She’s also given masks to local fire departments and the county’s COVID-19 response team. With so many requests, Samuelson agreed to share her process on how to make a face mask for those interested in giving it a go themselves.
Step 1: First, you’ll cut your fabric using a pattern (Samuelson used the dimensions in this video). For the mask, you’ll need an exterior cotton liner, two interior cotton liners and a filter. Samuelson suggests using a mix of tight weave cotton on the exterior, loose weave cotton on the interior and pressed fabric, like a reusable grocery bag, to allow for function and breathability.
“Non-woven is where you don’t have a horizontal or vertical weave of a fabric at all, so it’s more pressed… so airflow is minimized,” she explained. “You look at airflow when you’re trying to reduce contamination.”
Step 2: Next, you’ll place the interior cotton liners in the center of the exterior liner and pin in place at the center. It should look similar to this:
Step 3: From there, you’ll attach the interior liners at the top and bottom of the exterior liner and then surge the edges of the interior liners using a sewing machine.
Step 4: Using an iron, press the fabric, especially the seams.
Step 5: Probably the hardest step, particularly for beginner sewers Samuelson said, is pleating the mask. Her tip is to start with the top pleat, then pleat the bottom and, finally, fold the middle pleat. Then pin the pleats in place.
“It’s easy to lean into the aesthetic and lose the value of the mask,” Samuelson said. “Remember this is not a design feature but a function of the mask, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Step 6: Then, you’ll press the pleats in place using an iron.
“Not only does pressing holds things in place but it fuses the fabric together,” Samuelson said.
Step 7: With the pins still in place, use a sewing machine to surge the sides of the mask to cement the pleats.
Step 8: Next, you’ll fold the sides over to create a pocket on either side to thread the elastic through and straight stitch the pocket closed. Samuelson noted that non-commercial sewing machines may have a hard time getting through the several layers of fabric, so you might need to hand stitch.
Step 9: Almost done! Using the pockets you just created, thread a piece of elastic through either side.
Step 10: Take the filter you cut during step one and put it inside the interior face mask pocket. While the mask is reusable, Samuelson says the filter should be single use, so you might want to make several.
Step 11: One of the most important parts is to adjust the mask to your face. Try tying the elastic different ways until you find the most comfortable one and stretch the pleats over your nose and chin to make sure it fits.
Step 12: After each use, Samuelson said to wash the mask and throw away the filter.
“Stopping the spread (of COVID-19) is the most important thing and just wearing your mask in public,” she said.
If the process sounds like too much, Samuelson is selling her masks for $12.50 each, two for $25 or in bulk of over 20 for $10 each via lavenderelephant.com. Masks can be shipped or picked up curbside.
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