Mask Making by Joani Hanley


A few weeks ago, I attempted making the surgical-type (not medical grade) mask with some Cartoonqueen fabric. A friend asked us to donate some masks, for non-essential medical workers in San Francisco. I thought they came out cute, for my first go at it.

We ordered some additional CQ fabric. My initial masks were not without their challenges…. I sewed the elastic along the wrong dimension, and pinning the pleats – ugh.

I watched a lot of the instructional videos on how it’s done. They seemed pretty straight forward. I counseled with my sister Patty, you can visit her instagram page @one_crabby_patty. She is an awesome potter as well as experienced seamstress. She watched videos. We agreed, ‘How difficult can it be, right?’

Now working with the new CQ fabric we ordered, Patty and I thought we would share our tips and tricks we are learning. Yes, learning - middle of the forest at this point in our journey.

The cut out - 1 pc: 9” x 12”

Think about the orientation of your print. You will be folding the 12” dimension in half and then pleating along the 6” dimension.

Interfacing is fused/ironed to the backside of the fabric.

(Featherweight interfacing was recommended.)

Much like toilet paper, featherweight interfacing is difficult to find these days. What arrived as featherweight interfacing, must have been made from very dense feathers, but it was fusible, so I improvised and cut the interfacing 6” x 9” and added to just ½ of the back of the fabric.

Attaching the elastic. Major challenge for me!!!!

Finding elastic is difficult. One yard of elastic makes 2.5 masks, 14" per mask.

Patty taught me a cool trick she learned from the videos she watched. Before you fold the 9”x12”, attach the elastic.

Sew the right sides together – per the red line below.

Patty's Reminder: Trimming the corners will give you a nice square corner.

Iron flat

Fold under the ‘birthing canal’ seam, as I call it. That is the area you pulled the mask through to get it right side out. You will be sewing this shut in the final step.

Pleating the sides.

My first bunch of masks, I followed the video instructions and pinned the pleats, and cussed a lot! That method, for me was time consuming. I figured out how to pleat and hold in place to sew. Once you have measured where the pleats go as per the videos (1.5”, 3”, and 4.5”) a few times, you will get the idea and be able to fold the pleats without measuring.

(Full discolosure: I made 40+ masks with the initial bit of fabric, before figuring out my fold/pleat/hold technique.)

Just today, watching yet another instructional video…someone was using the ‘clip’ idea, to hold the pleat.

Clip one side once pleated. Fold opposite side pleats, while still holding the pleats, place it under the presser foot, start stitching.

The final top stitching.

Sew each of the two side pleats in place first. Once the second side pleat is sewn, continue around the mask adding the top stitch, ending up with a double stitch across both of the side pleats.

Patty’s machine is struggling to sew the thickness of the pleats. We did not notice that small detail discussed in any of the instructional videos we watched. Reducing the pressure on the presser foot would typically fix this problem. It did not help.

We now think it has more to do with the ‘fused’ interfacing.

By chance, Patty sewed the same thickness of fabric and interface, however the interface had not been ironed (fused) to the fabric. Her machine sewed through the fabrics beautifully. It is our guess, that the glue (goo) that results from fusing the interface to the fabric, is bogging down the machine. Problem is we already fused the interface onto the fabric….bummer.

For now, Patty will send her masks back to me to sew the pleats.

There are lots of videos & patterns for making masks. They all seem so simple. And truly they are….however the dynamics of the sewing machine and fabric is a lesson in patience.

If you are making masks – Enjoy! And know, you are not alone in your frustration, when machine/person/fabric collide irregularly.

If you are wearing masks that someone else made – know that they were made with good intention and love!

Cartoonqueen has a limited number of masks available. We are waiting on the balance of the elastic we need to arrive. Thanks for your patience.


I choose to believe that today is going to be a stellar day with my sewing machine. Yesterday we did not end on such a favorable note.

Late in the day, the bottom stitch insisted on presenting as a rats nest. This can be a lot of things: old needle, top thread not tension-ed properly, lint inside the machine, tiny pieces of thread caught down in the machine, or just the need to step away and sprinkle ‘Bernina Be Good’ fairy dust, and go pour some wine. #maskmaking #seamstresstips #facemasks

© CartoonQueen 2020