TIPS and TRICKS for Self-made Face Mask Sewing
My name is Sarah Caldwell I am team leader of the Education Team at BERNINA International in Switzerland.
I have been sewing since childhood, as in New Zealand where I was born we made many of our own clothes as there wasn’t the shopping opportunities as there is today. I have gained much of knowledge about all aspects of sewing from all the wonderful creative people I have had the opportunity to meet during my 29 years with BERNINA.
The word on everyone’s lips at the moment is masks. We have never seen such a phenomenon where it seems that everyone is getting involved in sewing face masks, which is great. This started as a help for health workers where people are having small production lines at home and are searching for the quickest construction methods. This is helping with the mask shortage and is a chance to keep busy and to do their part in the community, which is wonderful.
I also started sewing self-made face masks. Fortunately a close family member owed me a favor and posed for me:
In every sewing blog and Facebook group, there are endless discussions about all aspects of mask creation, from fabrics, design, ties, pattern and decorations. BERNINA is active around the world and we are in regular contact with trainers from all over the world, so we are close to this international discussion.
Here are some tips I have gathered from the Education Team at BERNINA International AG and from our market organizations.
Our tips and tricks for sewing self-made face masks
Effectiveness of the self-made face masks
There seems to be conflicting information from countries about what masks are accepted for medical use – please check with the rules in your country to know what is correct. We recommend looking at the guidelines from the WHO.
Which material should be used when sewing a self-made face mask?
We have received the following additional tips from our partners around the world:
- Fabric should not be a blue as to confuse it with the official masks. It must be pre-washed in warm or hot water as we expect the masks to be laundered many times over.
- Exterior fabric is recommended to be a mid-weight good quality cotton or jersey.
- Lining fabric should be a lightweight cotton or cotton/poly blend as it is close to the skin.
- Having a different fabric for exterior and lining allows the user to quickly identify the front of the mask.
- Consider upcycling fabrics for this project: for example, bed sheets work well for lining fabric. The closer the weave the more protection but you need to be able to breath.
- Ties are more comfortable for longer use rather than elastic for over the ears.
- Elastic is at a premium as many sewing supply stores are closed. This does not stop the production with ties being fashioned from strips cut from old t-shirts or self-made bias binding, cut and folded with a hair straightening iron.
- I fashioned the piece for the nose from a wire tie for bags (that is all I had here at home), pipe cleaners and the metal bit from paper fasteners are also good.
Simple instructions for sewing self-made face masks
On our overview page you can already find a lot of instructions. Rather than repeat too much what has already been said on social media we would like to offer you links to some of the best videos and instructions we have found.
Classic pleated style
Gaby Seeberg, BERNINA Switzerland. This is in German with English subtitles and it is very easy to follow the instructions. This is the pattern I used for the mask in the pictures and it was very quick. I used ties as didn’t have elastic at home.
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is one of the world’s leading institutes in research and communication on COVID-19. The JHU medical faculty also has a manual for pleated self-made face masks. You can download it here as PDF:
Form fitted style
Gayle Schliemann, BERNINA Naperville, Chicago USA presents a video for a form fitting style with no pleats and goes into detail of stitches and feet to use.
BERNINA South Africa have posted instructions for non-pleated mask and if you go to the Fu Mask link, you can produce a custom fit mask to suit any size:
The following functions of our sewing machines are especially helpful when you sew a mask:
- BERNINA Free Hand System: if you have one – use it. You save so much time keeping your hands free and do not forget to use the slide-on table.
- Needle up/down function
- BERNINA Dual Feed
- If you are in mass-production of masks, it is well worth programming some of the automatic features like the securing function or the thread cutter.
These accessories make your sewing life easier
We recognize that many of you have to use what you have at home, but here are some recommendations.
Height compensation tool
The height compensation tool is the small three-part fan made of plastic plates, which you received with your machine. It prevents the presser foot sole from tilting when sliding over thick seams and is ideal for sewing over bulky parts, e.g. when attaching the elastic band.
The Straight stitch plate
For use with straight stitch with the needle position in the center position, do not forget to select it in the security screen.
What kind of needles?
Use a jeans needle size 90. If not a 90 universal is also good. Do not forget to change it after 6 – 8 hours of sewing. In addition, at the same time clean your machine.
Through thick and thin with the jeans foot #8
The jeans foot #8 is especially suitable for sewing with straight stitch through thick fabric.
Other presser feet that are good for sewing self-made face masks are the patchwork feet #37, #57C, 57D and #97D – depending on which machine you have. You can also use the overlock foot #2A if you decide to neaten any seams.
BERNINA Bias Binder Attachment
The most popular accessory now is the BERNINA Bias Binder attachment #87 for pre-folded or #88 for unfolded.
The video focuses on the binder for pre-folded tape #87 but the principle is the same. If you are planning to do a many corners, pre-folded tape is easier.
When I don’t have matching pre-folded tape, I like that I can quickly make my own by cutting strips and I the used the Bias Binder Attachment #88 for the mask features in the picture.
Sew tapes with the Edgestitch Foot #10
If you are attaching bias binding and you do not have the attachment, the next best foot is the Edgestitch Foot #10, #10C or 10D. The Blindstitch Foot #5 is also great for edge stitching. You just need to move the needle position. So easy with BERNINA.
Do not forget that an Overlocker is also a great tool for mask making. It is wonderfully quick for neatening and making ties especially if working with knit fabrics or woven fabrics.
If you are looking for some glamor at this time, and there seems no point with lipstick with a mask, we have come up with the perfect solution.
Here is the link to two freebie lip designs, which Franziska Ovono, our Embroidery Software Pro, has produced for you.
The following tips for embroidering your self-made face mask also come from Franziska.
- Mask patterns that do not have a center front seam are best. Some patterns have small panels for the nose and chin, which is ok. For masks with pleats, it is necessary to ensure that you position the pleats so that the design is seen, (as the embroidery cannot be folded) only the outer fabric layer is embroidered.
- This is not only better for the protection of the mask, but also ensures that the inside of the embroidery is hidden and does not interfere with wearing.
- Cut the fabric a little larger than necessary and use the appropriate hoop for the embroidery size. Then the fabric can then be cut to the required size – so the embroidery can be optimally positioned.
- A medium, tearaway stabilizer is suitable for these designs.
- If you use spray glue, use it sparingly or wash the mask after finishing. It is also helpful to use the machine basting stitching before starting to secure the fabric even more. This function is featured on most BERNINA embroidery machines
Happy Sewing and greetings from my home office.
Herewith we explicitly advise you that all masks sewn according to instructions in the BERNINA Blog are to be considered as self-sewn face masks. They are neither medical products or protective equipment.
You will find more information here: ‘Self sewn face mask everything you need to know’