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Twenty-Twenty: The Year of the Face Mask and New Things

Hi there! Remember me?

Since this year is strange and shocking in so many ways, I figured I would just add to the unexpected by actually sitting down at my computer to write a blog post! I hope all is well with you and you’ve found ways to make the most of life while everything seems to be stuck in limbo.

(If you’re curious what I’ve been up to for the past 5 years, you can surf my Instagram account. Teaser: I had my hands inside Dior dresses at a museum install last year!)

My seasonal full-time Opera Costume Shop work started back up as usual in February (after a two-month hiatus), and then a month later, a virus had shut the world down. It was a really good thing the shipment of locked costume hampers was late to arrive for the last big rented show of the season – since we never opened them, we didn’t have to do a complete inventory before sending it all back! As it was, we were able to walk away after doing a few weeks of in-house stock reorganizing & cleaning when the rest of the season was officially canceled.

As weird as life is for a lot of people this year, I’ve found that not much has changed for me personally. I’m used to long undefined breaks between jobs, and I was an expert in social distancing before it was cool. (My husband, thankfully, is able to work from home and he’s been busier than ever.) I found a few sewing projects to keep myself occupied with, and I can’t express how happy I am that I invested in a brand-new industrial straight-stitch Juki last summer! It has been soooo nice to have my “work” machine at home this year!

industrial sewing machine

I named it Thor.

I made a few rainbow color-spectrum swirl skirts – one for myself, 2 have sold, and 3 have yet to sell. I also made 3 other swirl skirts (I’m calling them “color swipe swirl skirts”). I’ve claimed one for myself, but I still have 2 more for sale. Using up lots of fabric I already had for these!

If I ever get around to it, I’ll put them in my Etsy shop (I set it up years ago and have yet to list anything!) unless someone claims them before I list them. Email me if you’re interested in details.

Then I ended up drafting my own multi-sized face mask pattern because I had non-sewing friends who needed masks for work, and were having difficulty finding any that fit well:

You can’t go wrong with Star Wars or a solid color mask.

Masks for my friend who works at a cinema

Soon after that, I was making masks for family in Michigan:

And then I had a flash of brilliance to make my 5 year-old nephew a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask (of course, I wanted one for myself too):

And then it morphed into a few commissioned TMNT masks – mostly for adults:

This was the first batch that was half Mikeys. I made a couple more batches after this that evened up the numbers a bit.

Some people sent me photos:

Fast forward to the end of summer when there doesn’t appear to be an end to the mask requirements, and I was inspired when I saw Jen’s craft foam mask frame on Epbot.

A mask that keeps everything away from your nose and month so you don’t feel like you’re eating it when you talk – yes, please! Being able to wear chapstick underneath is the cherry on top.

Face mask with craft foam frame underneath.

Ear-loops with Kam snap-attached cover.

Ear-loops with velcro-attached cover.

Here’s Jen’s full video tutorial:

I printed out her template, made a few modifications, slightly adjusted my self-drafted mask pattern to be the perfect fabric cover for it. I also graded the frame pattern to fit all my other mask sizes.

Mockups of original template on the left and my modified version on the right.

Stacks of prepped and cut mask frames.

Click the link below to download the pdf of my modified version of Jen’s frame and patterns for all sizes with fabric covers:


Print it out and mask some of your own!

I’ve been sewing my craft foam. It’s faster and less messy than gluing. Jen wrote a second post about sewing the frames after I told her how I did it.

Here’s how I sew craft foam face masks:

  • Use polyester thread (cotton-covered poly tends to cause problems and skip stitches)
  • Use a new needle – thinner is better (I used a 70/10 universal needle)
  • Set your zigzag stitch as wide as your machine goes and use a length of 2 or a tick bigger
  • Push the sides of the foam together and straddle the seam with the zigzag as you go
  • Start at the bottom of the V and sew out towards the edge, back-stitching at beginning & end

I stitch mine from the outside (side where the metal nose wire is stuck) and let it cup up around the back of the machine as I sew the seam. Then I carefully turn it right side out starting at the bottom edge. That way, the feed-dog tracks end up on the inside.

Stick-on nose wire added to the mask frame and velcro stitched before sewing center front seam. (Snaps can be put on before or after stitching.)

Stitching the center front seam of the craft foam frame.

The metal nose wire can then be carefully curved over your finger (don’t just bend it in half without a curve). I use stick-on nose wires instead of a paperclip sandwiched between two layers of craft foam.

Flat unbent nose wire.

Curved and bent nose wire.

If the bottom edge is a little bit off after stitching, you can trim the foam with paper scissors to even it up.

Some colors of craft foam stick to a regular metal presser foot more than other colors do. If you find that the foam isn’t feeding though your machine very well and at the right speed (stitches are really close together), use a Teflon/non-stick foot or put a piece of Scotch tape (the invisible “magic” kind) on the bottom of your regular foot. If your machine has the ability to reduce the presser foot pressure, that can also help.

I’ve been using either Kam snaps (this is the off-brand snap kit I have) or Velcro to attach the frames to the fabric mask covers. That way I can make mine with ear loops or around-the-head elastic. (See Jen’s video above for another style option using eyelets and removable around-the-head elastic.)

Kit of plastic Kam-style snaps.

Snaps and velcro on completed craft foam mask frames.

If you order packs of craft foam, you’ll need to air them out for a couple days by spreading them out. My living room smelled like a shoe store for a few days, but that goes away once the foam has been unwrapped for a while.

You will also need to test each color of craft foam to see if it bleeds! I found that only hot pink, royal blue, and dark purple (the worst!) bleed when soaked in hot water. If your foam bleeds in hot water, it will also bleed color onto your face when you wear it.

Soak a scrap of each color in hot water for at least 15 minutes.

Results of color bleed test after soaking.

I sealed the craft foam with an iron set to “cotton blend” like Jen’s video shows. It gets a little stiffer and shinier when you seal it:

Heat sealed (shiny) on the bottom, untouched craft foam on the top.

For my fabric covers, I sew the center front seams of both the outer fabric and lining fabric, Then I stitch the seam allowances down on both sides of the seam. No need to press the seam open with an iron because the machine will do that as you stitch.

If you want a nose wire pocket on the fabric cover, here’s the photo step-by-step of how I do that:

Fold bias rectangle in half, stitch both short ends, press, and turn.

Baste to the right side of the top edge of either the outside or lining fabric.

Then sew the outside to the lining (right sides together) at the top and bottom. Leave the sides open and turn through one of them. After turning, edge-stitch the top and bottom.

Sew outer mask to lining with the pocket sandwiched between the layers. After turning and pressing, the result will look like the photo.

Another view after lining is sewn to outer fabric.

Top-stitch edge of mask with pocket folded down to the inside (on the lining).

Stitch bottom edge and one side of the pocket through all the layers of the mask.

Fold and press ¼” to ⅜” to the inside on both sides. Then fold in another 1” and press. This will be the casings for elastic. Attach snaps or Velcro before sewing the casings down.

Sides pressed and snaps attached.

To save time, pre-make ear loop elastics (cut them around 9½” or so) and put them on before stitching the last seams. If the elastic ends up being too long, you can just re-knot it to fit the person wearing the mask. And the knot can be rotated to hide in the casing.

Inside of completed face masks with nose wire pockets.

You can even make the mask frames to wear loose under disposable masks or others you already have.

Craft foam mask frame under disposable mask.

Craft foam mask frames.

Craft foam frames can be hand-washed with soap & water as needed. Fabric covers can be washed & dried as normal laundry (just make sure you preshrink any fabric before making the covers).


And now on to new things besides face masks…

A few months ago, I started a new social media community on called The Sewing Sphere. I even hired one of my online artist friends to help me design a great logo.

The Sewing Sphere is the place to go if you’re looking to escape the frustrating algorithms and hang out with others who sew. It’s not all sewing, and it feels so much more connected in real-time than other social media platforms. It’s free to join – you can see posts and give “thumbs up” to posts you like. If you’d like to participate in comments and posting, you have to subscribe (help support what I do!) for a minimum of $2/month. I’ll be coming up with new things and sharing special content there. Come help me grow it into a great community – free from trolls & spam!

This summer, I’ve also been learning to tambour bead from my friend and fellow costumer Janet Gershenfeld, who was trained by the ladies who beaded Michael Jackson’s iconic glove! We have plans to offer couture beading services in the near future. I just need to finish building our website and we need to take care of a few boring business-y things.

This crazy year has given me the time to consider multiple career directions, and I’m looking forward to what the future brings!

I hope we don’t need masks much longer, but if we do, maybe my pattern and photos will help you build some you don’t mind wearing all day! And if you don’t sew and would like to commission some craft foam frames and/or fabric covers, email me.

Now that I’ve dusted off my blog a little, we’ll see if I can manage to post a little more regularly again. I really need to give it an overall freshening up!

I’m in a Book! So Let’s Have a Giveaway!

Back in November of 2011, I received an email from sewing author & blogger Christelle Beneytout asking for permission to feature my sewing room in a book about sewing spaces and organization. I was beyond thrilled that anyone would think my sewing space & ideas were worthy of publication!

After many emails back & forth, I was able to get some decent high resolution photos of my sewing room to her (she even wanted one of me, hence the post title), and I eagerly awaited the news that her book was finished.

Well, yesterday, I opened the front door to find that a package had been delivered containing her book… and she sent me an extra copy!

Therefore, I’ve decided to share – by hosting my first giveaway!

Fair warning about this giveaway: the book isn’t in English (and I’m not sure if there are plans for a published translation), so you won’t actually be able to read it unless you can read French. But there are plenty of wonderful photos, and you can always use Google Translate for the parts you really want to understand (that’s how I’ve been “reading” it).

The book’s title translates to
Workshops & Sewing Corners: Organizing Space Dedicated to Needlework

The giveaway is open to all locations. To enter, just leave a comment on this post following these simple rules:

  1. Let me know that you want to enter.
  2. Tell me how you discovered my blog and what you like best about it. (You can make requests about what you’d like to see/read about in future posts – any feedback is welcome!)
  3. Share your own sewing/crafting organization tip (no one can ever be too organized!).
  4. Please only enter for yourself – not for your friend or family member who has never read my blog. (I really want to share this with one of my readers!)
  5. Deadline for entry is 11:59pm on Friday, February 8, 2013 United States Central Time (GMT –6). Winner was announced in this post on Saturday the 9th.

Even if you don’t want to enter to win the book, you can still leave a comment! =)

Thank you, Christelle, for saying such nice things about me and my sewing space! I’m honored you included my ideas in your lovely book!

Page 54 & 55

Art is Messy

This week it occurred to me that all creative things begin with The Mess. To create something beautiful, chaos is apparently required.

You want to paint something? Pull out the drop cloth, newspapers, and old paint clothes or smock.

Decide to cut some wood for a home improvement project? Pull out the vacuum.

Even creating a meal is messy!

I can only imagine how messy a sculptor’s studio would be during a project or how messy an author’s desk can be mid-book. (Oh wait, I don’t have to imagine that – I have a messy desk right in front of me and I’m not an author.)

Lest you get the wrong impression from previous posts that my sewing room is always neat & tidy, here’s The Mess currently loitering on my cutting table:

I have too many ideas trying to become reality right now. I need to spend a couple days of what I consider boring but completely necessary mockup making.

I will spare you the view of the unruly piles in my guest room. And I’ll show you the home improvement project when it is finished and no longer cluttering the den.

Making The Mess is easy. It’s the getting past the messy stage to produce the art that is the challenge!

My Sewing Space: The Sequel

Since my post about my IKEA-hacked cutting table & my organized closet drawers is by far the most popular post on my blog, I thought you might enjoy seeing the rest of my sewing room.

Here’s a reminder of what the cutting table looks like:

My IKEA hack: the fabric cutting table

My sewing room is a 10’ x 12’ bedroom in my house.

My sewing room floor plan

My goal was to create a space that was both pretty and functional. I didn’t want to feel like I was boxed in by shelves & tons of supplies but I wanted a lot of storage space.

I decided to put shelves on the wall of the room to make use of the vertical space and went searching for the most aesthetically pleasing yet strong shelving. I found my visually simple solution at The Container Store: suspension cable shelf brackets that can hold up to 100 lbs. per pair!

I waited for a sale at The Container Store to buy the brackets and saved even more by buying the actual shelves at Home Depot or Lowes (I don’t remember which one had a better price on laminate shelves at the time).

One of the best things about these shelf brackets is the fact that you only have to put two holes in the wall to hang one shelf (but I will admit they are a bit of a pain to level when you first hang them).

I filled my shelves with clear storage boxes in various sizes. I find that unless my storage is see-through, I forget I have stuff and I don’t really read the labels.

My assortment of clear storage containers on the shelves.

Originally, my husband and I built a crude table for both my sewing machine and my serger by using a long laminate shelf and attaching six legs to it.  It served me well for many years, but I found myself wishing for a drawer or two.  (I never bothered to take a picture of it even though I used it for so long!)

Then IKEA started selling the BESTA BURS desk – it was literally only about ¼” different in length and width from the table we had built and it had two long drawers! I decided to splurge and buy it (after all, my cutting table only cost about $100 to build) because there would be no hacking involved to get exactly what I wanted. How often does that actually happen??

I discovered that an adhesive ruler fits perfectly on the edge of the table
in front of my sewing machine.

I have my thread storage on the wall over my machine and the cones of serger thread hang behind the door to the room. (Since I don’t change that thread as often it doesn’t have to be right next to my serger.)

My cone thread rack behind the door to the room and next to the closet door.

I plan to expand my standard thread racks a bit in the next couple of weeks (I seem to have outgrown what you see in the pictures), and I will explain how I hang them once I’ve done that – it’s actually really simple to do.

You might remember from this post that I keep my ironing tools on the shelf above the ironing board in my ironing corner.

My ironing corner complete with “backwards” board.

I have since added another RIBBA picture ledge to the wall above my cutting table for storing some spools of bias tape and elastic.

The newer second RIBBA picture ledge on the bottom
(to the Left of the one I had previously hung).

And I have been mulling over the idea of moving the tea cart out of the room and expanding my cutting table, or even setting up one of my other machines in a more permanent way.

Now if only I could always keep it as neat and tidy as it looks in these photos! It’s amazing how fast it gets messy (and creeps into other rooms) when I’m in the middle of my projects!

Of course, when am I not in the middle of a project?

Related posts:

How I Organized My Sewing Room

I’m in a Book! So Let’s have a Giveaway!

For Those Who Love To Sew

Recently, I’ve been enjoying some random blog surfing and finding some interesting new blogs to follow. I’ve been inspired by many and glad to see so many others learning to sew or improving their skills.

The common theme right now seems to be people questioning their abilities and/or idiosyncrasies.

So here’s a little encouragement for all my fellow stitchers, seamstresses, costumers, sewists, seamsters, and crafters:

  • Remember: you can’t will inspiration and you can’t force creativity (those who knew me in high school will recall this was one of “Brooke’s Rules”)
  • You will always be your own worst critic.
  • Being a perfectionist is how artist types are wired – trust me, it’s a normal side-effect of a creative brain, and I’ve never met a crafty person in the professional world who isn’t a perfectionist in some way. You aren’t weird. =)
  • There will always be at least one little thing you wish you had time to do or fix when you have a deadline (even if it’s a self-imposed deadline!).
  • There will almost always be a never-ending pile of unfinished projects and you will always want to add new projects to your list.
  • When you get frustrated with a difficult project, put it down and walk away for a while.
  • Everyone who sews, no matter how experienced, will need encouragement to stick with it periodically – being creative is HARD!
  • You will learn at least one thing from every person you work with and from every project you do.
  • There will always be those people who just don’t understand your need to create (but never forget there are plenty of others who completely get it!).

May your scissors always be sharp and all your thread stay tangle-free! Happy sewing & crafting!

And here’s a video I found inspiring, hope you do too:

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