Sewing Masks and Wishing for Walks

Took an hour to sew masks for the four of us, so that we can go on walks still; we don’t feel like it’s socially responsible of us to go out beyond the boundaries of our yard otherwise, given that we live in a pretty crowded urban environment.

Kevin would be perfectly content to stay indoors for months on end, but I hate it — I can manage a week or so, but after that, I start feeling like I’m clawing at the walls of a glass cage. Walks are pretty key to my sanity, and I think they’re good for the kids too.

I’ve started getting people messaging me asking if I can sew them masks, and I’m sorry, but no — all my time and energy for that (I can only sew for about two hours a day before my back starts to really hurt) is going to sewing masks for healthcare workers who are still critically short of them. It looks like you can buy masks on Etsy for about $10 right now, and there are quite a few no-sew patterns out there if you google.

If I have energy, I’m hoping to update my mask FAQ ( with some discussion of different patterns and why you might want to do what, maybe even some tutorial video. But even if I don’t get to it, there are a lot of patterns and tutorial videos out there already now.

If you’re interested in learning to sew masks yourself, now might be a good time — sewing your own means you can pick your fabrics too, which adds a little fun to an otherwise disheartening project. I went with a Middle-Earth map for Kevin, some spring-y glass terrariums for me, Kavi picked out a blue (it was too bright for her taste, but I flipped it so the underside is facing out, and the muted effect is much more what she likes), and Anand went for space!

Once you know how to use a machine, it’s super-easy to hem pants and hem curtains, and not too hard to do things like taking in clothes that are too big. (Tailoring trick — buy something that fits well at the largest part of you, then take in everywhere else, to end up with a nicely fitted garment.)

A very basic sewing machine seems to run around $80. I’d recommend taking 2-4 hrs of online sewing classes as well; there are a few things that are not intuitive, and it’s MUCH easier to start out if you have someone to problem-solve what you’re doing. Specifically:

– winding the bobbin
– threading the machine
– inserting the bobbin and catching up the thread
– getting the tension right
– helping fabric progress (esp. if you’re making masks with pleats, this can be tricky), so you don’t end up with nasty thread tangles
– solving the nasty thread tangles when they inevitably happen (they happen a LOT to beginners)

At this point, I can make the basic Deaconness Hospital pleated mask (which I’m doing with two layers of cotton and one layer of non-woven filter fabric sewn in, not removable) in about 15 minutes, so doing four for my family took about an hour. Maybe a little longer with ironing, but not much.

So if you’d like to make masks for yourself and others, that’s about how much you’d need to invest in learning and doing — maybe $100 – $125 for supplies (fabric, thread, elastic, sewing machine, scissors, ruler; an iron is helpful, but not strictly required for this). Maybe 2-6 hours in learning, and then I’d allow 1 hr to make your first mask, with it speeding up a lot after that.

And then, like me, you can sew masks for healthcare workers, first responders, and other front-line workers who need them, many of whom can’t afford to drop $10 each on masks for themselves and their family members. If you have the time and money, join us. We could use you.

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