Shortly after the COVID pandemic changed our way of life in Chicago, the 40th Ward Neighborhood Network formed the Sewing Guard to create cloth face masks for essential workers within the community to support small businesses who may not have had the access or ability to purchase PPE for their staff.
We are so proud of our work and the 2,200 masks we made to support our community. As we wind down our operations for a much-needed break, we’ve included everything you’ll need to make your own Sewing Guard mask at home. Below, you will find information such as Sewing Guard Mask Patterns, Step by Step Mask Construction Instructions, How to Care for Masks, and Video Tutorials.
We use 100% quilting cotton or flannel for our masks. It is important that the fabric be tightly woven, but able to breathe through. Clothing and home decorator fabrics aren’t being used, and a member of the team is reviewing potential donations to avoid any unacceptable materials from well-meaning neighbors.
We decided to use “t-shirt yarn” for the fabric ties; this is made by cutting strips of a basic knit (not ribbed) t-shirt into 1” – 1.5” strips, then pulling it so that it narrows and curls inwards. Here is a short video clip that shows this: https://youtu.be/oqyhNDSXEfg?t=327
Pulling the fabric to make yarn allows the ties to have some stretch that will provide more comfort, and they don’t require any sewing to make. Each mask should have 4 ties, one on each corner. Each tie should be 18” long after it has been stretched. (This may seem long, but ties that are too long are not a problem, whereas ties that are too short are).
Here is a video that describes t-shirt yarn and how to make a continuous ball from one t-shirt. You can also simply cut across the t-shirt to make strips, but this method is less wasteful: https://youtu.be/vOG08W0A5Ow
After our first (and successful!) delivery of masks, we met to discuss how to better streamline the process. We also discussed the varying sizes of the masks that were made. This is due to there being many patterns available, individual sewing preferences (¼” vs. ⅝” seam allowances, for example), and the variances that come from trying to make many masks quickly.
To allow for some variety without being too rigid, we have decided on making two different sizes. The finished* dimensions of your (unexpanded) mask should be:
Child: 5 ½ – 6″ wide x 2 ½ – 3 ½” high
Small-Medium: 6 ½ – 7 ½” wide x 3 – 3 ½” high
Medium-Large: 7 ½ – 9″ wide x 4 – 5″ high
Tie length for all sizes: 18”
There are many, many mask-sewing tutorials out there; here is one of them (navigate to the 3-minute mark to get to the actual construction): https://youtu.be/dY3aS1L7S-4
Vogue Fabrics has a section for mask supplies https://www.voguefabricsstore.com/mask-supplies.html and recently reopened for retail shopping (by appointment).