My husband’s SpongeBob pajama pants will never be the same, and don’t even get me started on his Ohio State pair. You see, I use them to make pandemic masks. Brent can still wear his Spongebob pajama pants, but they’re capris length now, since I whacked several inches off the bottom to make a SpongeBob mask for each of us. The Ohio State pajamas have been reduced to a few remaining bits in my scrap-fabric pile. Once Brent gave me the go-ahead to sacrifice this pair, I churned out several Ohio State masks for the two of us and other family members.
At this point, each family has a mask story. Here’s ours.
When it first became clear that everyone needed to wear masks, I immediately cut up an old pillowcase and got to work on my 30-plus-year-old sewing machine. I’m no seamstress but I can sew basic things like hems and darts. I hadn’t seen many masks, so I didn’t yet have an idea of what shape and style would work best. I came up with a basic plan and just started cutting and sewing. I ended up with two four-layer masks that sort of functioned OK but looked lumpy and ill-fitting. We wore these alternately with the white disposable ones that we got from my sister who works in the medical field.
Then Brent spotted a dog bandana embroidered with a paw print and the words, “Do not pet,” like you might see on a search dog in an airport. We figured they would make funny Covid-19 masks, so we ordered a few for ourselves. They required some folding and stitching to adjust them for a human face and even then, they weren’t a great fit.
And then I discovered Julie Cefalu, A.K.A “The Crafty Quilter.” Julie offers an easy-to-follow online tutorial for sewing face masks. She includes directions for using different types of ear bands, from hair ties to elastic. Julie’s masks include an optional nose wire than can be made from pipecleaners, a paperclip, twist ties or other wires. And the mask includes an opening in which to insert an optional filter.
Armed with another pillowcase, and chunks of Brent’s pajama pants, I ran Julie’s video on my laptop positioned on my sewing table. Following Julie’s simple directions, I created a mask that looked every bit as good as hers. It fit well. It felt snug and comfortable. I made ours three layers instead of Julie’s recommended two.
I offered to make masks for other family members and several accepted, so I kept sewing. Brent contributed two old shirts to my fabric options, and I sacrificed another pillowcase. I also used our “Do not pet” dog bandanas as the outer layer for a couple masks so now those fit better too. Our health insurance company sent us a couple plain black two-layer masks. I added a nose wire and a third layer of fabric to the outside of those.
Finding elastic for the ear bands proved challenging. Stores were out of stock, since so many people were sewing masks. It didn’t seem to make sense to buy a couple dollars’ worth of elastic online, since I’d pay more in shipping than the product itself was worth. When I began sewing masks, I had some elastic in my sewing kit, but that quickly ran out. Then I bought hair ties, and used those. These weren’t my favorite because I had to cut them and then hand sew the pieces back together, in order to get the right length. Then I discovered that straps from old bras worked great. Now, as I proudly wear masks showing my love for SpongeBob, my Buckeyes pride or my taste in pillowcases, if you look closely, you might also see a bit of an old bra wrapped around my ears. I should really let Julie know.