Introduction: Bulk Creating Non-pleated Face Masks
The pattern I use is Craft Passion's Face Mask Sewing Pattern with slight modifications. I add a half inch extra at the bottom for slightly longer coverage. I'm a new seamstress, so I apologize for the non-technical terms.
Lets get started!
I will be using
- 2 different prewashed (with unscented detergent) 100% cotton fabrics for my lining fabric and my outside fabric
- home sewing machine
- metal nose shaper (or pipe cleaner)
- seam ripper (for mistakes)
- cardstock to print pattern on
- fabric scissors
- thread cutter scissors
Step 1: Cutting Out Your Pattern
Printing the pattern on cardstock will help with repeated tracing onto the fabric with your fabric marker / pencil. I had to replace my cardstock around every 200 masks, so you can print a few of each size (after you find out which modifications you want) if you're creating a lot of them.
I'm sure this could be done faster with a rotary cutter. But use caution while cutting and don't rush this too much. Sharp objects + speed = disaster.
Time saving tip for cutting is folding the fabric you choose. By folding, the right sides of the fabric face each other. I'll fold my fabric into a size where I can get as many cuts out of it as I can, but also up to 8 pieces thick since my sheers can handle it.
Some steps like this one (or ironing, trimming thread ends, anything with scissors) could be done by someone else in your household (if they're willing to help) to make the process even faster. Non-sewing parts take up over half of my recorded batch time.
(I'll be using two different batches as reference for this as I documented in various stages. The grey and pink are my lining fabric. The blue and the macaron print are my outside fabric.)
Step 2: Getting Ready to Sew
Here is where I stack mine so each pair of left and right side fabric and alternate them so it's easy to pick up and feed through the machine. I'll also have a set of fabric cut and ready off to the side that I use and will refer to as a "thread holder." When I was doing individual masks at the beginning, I would cut my fabric off at every step along the way and it would always need rethreaded which ate up sooo much of my time. If I always have something on the machine, it prevents some thread waste and removes the pesky step of rethreading until I have a machine issue or need to refill a bobbin.
While sewing, try to identify any "flow breakers" (example: having to refill bobbins) and attempt to solve them (example solution: have multiple bobbins full and ready to change out.) If you're doing a lot of masks take the time to clean your machine occasionally or oil to keep it in fighting shape.
To reduce fatigue of bulk creating if you have different colors of fabric, pair mask fabrics together in sets of random numbers. Instead of doing 10 every time, mix it up and do sets of 4 or 6 or any other number as long as it adds up to your goal or order size. It will help break up the monotony. I also will skip around and have several sets of masks in progress. I tend to bulk cut out fabric while watching tv or listening to music to have a lot ready to go. Be careful while multitasking!
Also take breaks as you need and keep yourself healthy and well rested. Try to complete your least favorite tasks before taking a break so when you go back to sewing, you're not stuck on the part you dislike. (Curse you, ironing!)
Step 3: Sew Center Seam
Sew down the center seam as you would if you're creating a single one. I always back stitch at the top and bottom of each mask step. I attempted a run through once where I didn't and it bunched up and I had to redo it. Instead of cutting it off and continuing onto the next step on the same mask, feed the next pair of outside fabric through until you finish all the same sized outside fabric you want done for your set. Then do the same with your liner fabric. Clip off the same size / type (outside vs. liner) once you get done with the first or last type of each fabric so you can continue onto the next step.
Keep the grouping of each type connected as one continuous chain. Here you can save time by clipping the very curvy part of the fabric or use pinking shears.
Step 4: Optional Top Stitch Down the Center
I choose to top stitch my seam down the center on both the liner fabric and the outside fabric). Then I finger press the seam to the same side always to create less of a bulky overlap. I do this as I feed it through the machine always feeling for it as I feed it to make sure its going the way I pressed it.
Step 5: Create Finished Edge Lining
I then double fold the lining fabric in towards the inside of the fabric and run that through all the way down the side of all liner fabric. I then continue onto a "thread holder" or the next step. If you do the next step right after in this method, make a mental note that it is slightly different. Then continue your way back down the mirrored side so both straight ends are tucked in and sewed. You can now cut the individual mask liners apart.
Step 6: Create Edge for Outside Fabric
For my outside fabric, I feed that through with it folded over slightly. I only fold it once instead of doubling it over like the liner. Go all the way down the chain and then put a "thread holder" on. Cut off the chain and feed it all the way through the other side. After that is complete you can cut them apart.
(I'm sure this step can be added to the end when you're adding the elastic in and folding this part over, but it's more convenient for myself.)
Step 7: Pairing Together
Once those two sides are complete/ cut apart from each other from the chain I pair the outside and inside together with the outward facing parts facing towards each other.
Step 8: Connecting the Two Halves
I feed the top part through my machine and hold onto the top center seams and sew along the line. I don't pin, but I'm aware of where the curve and fabric is on both sides . By aligning the center seam, I have a good indication of where they will be. I "jump" from pairing to pairing and then feed a "threadholder" item and turn it around and sew the other side. I only sew the overlapping edges of the fabric, so there is needed trimming of thread here.
I then just quickly clip the curvy bits of the seam and cut the individual masks apart. Then I'll flip them inside out.
Step 9: Iron and Top Stitching
I have no time saving tip for ironing. It takes me about a minute and a half per mask to iron, but at least its satisfying to see them start looking at masks at this stage. I top stitch for extra structure at this stage and feed each mask one after the other. I do this for the top and bottom of each mask, then I cut the masks apart.
Step 10: Wire Holder
Some people do the nose bridge metal holder differently, but I make a channel along the top the length of my metal pieces parallel to the top stitch. I "jump" from each mask and trim the excess thread as I cut the masks apart.
Step 11: Cutting Elastic
If you're cutting elastic, cut a piece of cardboard or thick plastic to half the length of the elastic. You can then wrap the elastic around as many times as you can or need to then cut along side once to cut many pieces at the same time.
Step 12: Inserting Elastic and Finishing Steps
I insert my elastic into the side fabric and sew alongside the elastic so it still removable. While chaining these together, be careful not to sew over the elastic of the previous mask. Sew all the way down the sides of the masks. Insert a "thread holder" and clip the batch of masks off and tie all the elastics from each mask like knotting a balloon. Then flip it to feed through repeat on other side. Once you tie the elastics, you can cut apart the masks. Here is where I insert the nose metal and sew it into place, completing its holding bracket.