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Face mask hacks

I never considered face masks to be a potential topic that I might write about when I first started planning our Cutting Cloth blog! How our lives have changed this year! The Victorian Government mandated the use of face masks for all people living in Metropolitan Melbourne & Mitchell Shires last week. We had a little head start on most of the Melbourne community as our children had to start wearing masks from day one of term three, so our household was a week ahead of everyone else. It wasn't actually until I had to make and wear a mask myself that I truely recognised the related issues!

When preparing masks for my kids I looked solely for aesthetics and then fit. Teenagers are pretty fussy and between the four of my kids there are some big size differences! It was a challenge! Ultimately I opted for one of the 'bra cup' looks. You know, the ones with a single centre seam, a gentle front curve and a bit of a dip at the eyes. The kids were okay with them and provided they were 1.5m from each other at school they were able to take them off ... I think in hind sight the poor fit probably forced them to keep their distance.

It wasn't until last week when I actually had to make & wear one myself that the real issues arose. I made a mask for myself following the design that I had used for the kids. Tried it on at my sewing machine and had a bit of a look in the mirror. It was fine. Not great, but okay, I had a meeting to get to so there was no time for modifications. It wasn't until I arrived at my appointment that I realised the true difficulties of the design. Every time I spoke the mask bobbed up and down. It needed constant readjustment and the fogging up of my glasses was horrendous! To be honest by the time I made it back into the safety of my car I was in tears, the gravity of this situation had finally hit me.

Don't get me wrong ... I am very happy to wear a mask! If this is what we need to do to help sort this virus then I am happy to do what ever it takes, bring it on! The issue I had was how was I going to function in my everyday life wearing this totally impractical and uncomfortable thing?

After my little melt down in my car I collected myself and started a new search for a reusable mask that would actually work for me and my family. After way more hours than anyone should ever have to spend testing face masks I've found the most wonderful pattern by Dhurata Davies. I love this pattern for so many reasons! Firstly, yes its free but it's professional in its finish and sizing. The mask gives a fabulous fitted finish and sits comfortably on all of my families faces. There are five different sizes and there's even a guide as to how to determine the size most likely to fit you. You can't get any better than that! There's a tutorial with images and additions such as a filter pocket that you can add if you like. Please make sure you read her entire blog post before making yours as she adds a few modifications toward the end of the article that are well worth considering when making your masks.

Obviously you should test the design and make sure it works for you before jumping in headfirst! I have discovered that masks are a tricky thing and you should always make sure the design works for you. Everybody is different and one size or type of mask certainly doesn't necessarily suit all!

Now that I've made quite a few and they have also been worn and tested in everyday life these are the hacks that work best for my family;

  • Add a nose wire! I find that this simple addition is invaluable. There are lots of things that you can use here but the simplest thing that I have found is the green garden wire that you can get from a supermarket. I love this product because it comes with plenty on a roll, it comes wit a built in cutter and I'll certainly find a use for what's left over at the end of all of this mask making! I use two lengths both approximately 5.5" long.

  • Elastic has been a huge issue ... firstly supply has been tricky but for my family the elastic has been so uncomfortable that it makes the masks intolerable. I don't particularly like the ties as it trashes the hair do but would obviously do this if I had no other options. As an alternative we tried skinny hair ties and while they do work, because they aren't adjustable they can also be a little uncomfortable. Ultimately the best solution we've found was to use a 'snag free' style hair tie that I found in Coles. These ones are great because one tie makes one headband. You simply open out the fabric and cut it in half. I love this brand because when I slice these ones the edges stay neat. Some other types start to break down & fray which isn't a good look.

If you've had to purchase any disposable masks DON'T throw them away before you've retrieved the nose wire and even the cord elastic to reuse. Just make sure they are sanitised properly before you use them again.

  • It gets hot under these masks and quite frankly just a little 'moist' ... eek! If you are going to be wearing your mask all day at work like we do, you will need to carry more than one mask with you. This will help you feel fresh all day!

  • As for glasses and fogging up ... insert deep sigh ... this seems to be getting better. The more and more comfortable I become with wearing the mask the better it seems to sit on my face. Can this actually be a thing? I don't know, but it feels like it is. The main thing here is; make sure your actual glasses fit well, get a super snug and contoured fit on that top edge of your mask and hope for the best! Our optometrist hasn't recommended any of the de-misting products on the market. The use of soap on your lenses will destroy the glasses and reduce their longevity so I would avoid that hack. Perhaps we will all be moving to contacts ... insert further deep sigh!

In relation to Dhurata's pattern sizing, definitely use her fitting guidelines and make a test model from throw away fabric first. Out of interest, my two girls wear a small, my youngest son & I wear a medium, my husband & oldest son wear a large.

We have added some fabric packs on our website that you can use to make one of these masks in Liberty Tana Lawn.Take a look at these here.

The teacher in me has also decided to take advantage of the learning opportunities here for all of my beautiful Bernina customers. I've put together a few tips and tricks below to help you make your masks come together beautifully!

The directions below provide instructions for a 5.5mm Bernina machine. The differences for a 9mm machine are provided in bold.

  • The project calls for a 1cm seam allowance - you can achieve this by using a #1 foot and your needle in position -5. Use the right hand edge of your foot as a seam allowance guide. 9mm machine - Use a 1D foot & the needle in position 0 still using the right hand edge of the foot as your seam guide.

  • The top and bottom seams require a seam allowance slightly smaller than 1cm. I simply moved my needle into position -3 and again used the right hand edge of the #1 foot as the seam allowance guide. 9mm machine - position the needle in +1 still using the right hand edge of the foot as your seam guide.

  • Use your Edge Stitch Foot #10 to sew a beautiful even and accurate top stitch on the hem of the filter pocket and around the edges of the outside of the mask. Place the side of your work that you want the top stitching on, to the left of the centre bar on the foot and move the needle to position -3. 9mm machine - use a 10D foot & position the needle in -2 .

  • I use a zig zag stitch (#2) to finish the two side edges of both the lining & the exterior pieces. Don't forget that you should line up the edge of your fabric with the mid line of the foot when you are using your zig zag stitch for this purpose. This will give you a neat almost rolled edge to your fabric that will resist fray.

  • Once you've created the darts for the chin portion of the mask I like to over sew the funny little trinagle seam allowance to keep it in place. Do this by having the right side of your fabric facing up, angle the triangle bulky seam toward the edge of the mask, place your needle in position 0. Try to make sure that the line of stitching falls directly in the ditch of your seam line - you don't want to see this stitching once complete. The image below shows what it will look like on the wrong side of your work when finished.

  • When adding the nose wire use a zig zag stitch as Dharata has done. Position the wire carefully centred under your #1 foot and widen the zig zag out to 5.5. It helps to hold your breath the first time you do this as it is a little scary ... no only kidding you'll be fine!! The same stitch width will work for the 9mm machines.

  • When finishing the casing on the sides of the mask use the Edge Stitch foot #10 and your needle in position -2. Position the bulk of the hair tie and casing to the right of the centre bar and stretch the tie out as much as possible using your right hand. Sew carefully trying not to catch the hair tie in your stitching while trying to sew as sew as straight and neatly as possible. 9mm machine - position the needle in -1.

  • Finally, to finish the mask apply a row of edge stitching to the top and bottom edges of the mask again using the Edge Stitch foot #10 and your needle in position -3. 9mm machine - position the needle in -2.

I hope that my experience helps you in some small way. These are certainly difficult times and I figure any help navigating through this madness is helpful.

Take care


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Can you explain how you use those hair ties? Are they long enough to go around your head twice? Or do you make loops from them so they just loop behind your ears? Thanks!


Jul 29, 2020

Thank you so much for this. You have answered all my prayers. I am keen to get making masks given the latest news for family down in Melbourne and Liberty print was on my mind. I'll see how I go with my stash but if I run out, I'll know where to go.


Thanks Kelly. My family bought me a Bernina QE 570 for Mother’s Day? I’m so spoilt lately. So with our border closed and Gael in Qld for the winter I’m doing my best to get to know my machine, using online tutorials. I really appreciate your hint here.❤️

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