In-The-Hoop Face Mask Design Tutorial

Introduction: In-The-Hoop Face Mask Design Tutorial

With the recent announcement by the CDC that a fabric facemask is better than nothing, and with more cities requiring some sort of facemask for their residents to interact in public places, I wanted to find a way where I could make a lot of facemasks quickly. I happen to own an embroidery machine and figured using that would allow me to set up a small assembly line.

In this Instructable, I walk you through every step needed to make a facemask using the free pattern available at urbanthreads.com.

Each Mask takes about 15 minutes to embroider but should be quite robust and survive sustained washing.

For those that would rather watch the instructions, I've added a YouTube video I've created to help folks out.

Note that these mask won't stop COVID-19 but can help slowdown the transmission and provides and additional layer between our own breathing/coughing and others.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Stay Safe Everyone!

Supplies

Supplies for the Mask:

  • 100% Cotton Fabric With Fun Patterns! (I used cotton fleece for the inside and normal quilter's cotton on the outside)
  • 1/4" (6mm) Elastic or 4x 25" (635mm) ribbon, cord, other thing for tying the mask on
  • Tearable or Washable Embroidery Stabilizer
  • Embroidery Thread

Helpful Tools:

  • Clips (if using the template to simplify Pleating)
  • Iron & Ironing Board
  • Two Different Sized Embroidery Hoops (so you can make one adult mask while prepping a child mask)
  • Masking tape or Blue tape

Step 1: Optional: Print and Prepare the Templates

As I wanted to create a mini assembly line, I've put together a couple of templates to make cutting the fabric and pleating the fabric much easier. Download the attached PDFs and print the templates on something like cardstock two times each. Make sure in printer settings you have scale set to 100% or Actual Size as you don't want any stretching or shrinking of the template. I've added the measurements that the template should be once printed, so pull out a ruler and measure to ensure it's accurate.

Note that the Child's size can be used for an adult as well. If you make an adult one and it's too big, try making a child sized one with the adult sized elastic straps (this worked well for my wife!)

For each set of templates, you're going to cut out the large black square from your sheet of paper or card stock. You'll then set one of each set aside and use that one as your template for cutting your fabric.

Take the second template you printed and mountain and valley fold each line as appropriate. Here are some tips!

Mountain fold (Solid Line): When holding the paper so you can read the text in front of you, you would take the top and push that away from you towards the bottom side of the template, the fold should result at the top of the paper and you can read the text.

Valley fold (Dashed Line): When holding the paper so you can read the text in front of you, you would take the top of the paper, and fold it towards you towards the bottom. The fold should be at the top of the page and you won't be able to see the text.

When doing the valley fold, it can be hard to see the line to fold on, so another trick is to match the mountain fold you just did, with the matching guild line (dotted line) above it. Once those line up, press the valley fold down.

Note that I recommend using card stock however, you can use normal paper. The benefit of using card stock is that it'll last longer and it makes the pleating step easier. If you don't have any on hand, no worries, just use a piece of paper (that's how I did my first few).

This doesn't have to be perfect! there is plenty of allowance with the fabric and the pattern.

Step 2: Download the Embroidery File

I found UrbanThreads.com has a nice easy pattern that available in both child and adult sizes and they also put together a great tutorial. The do require you to sign up on their site to download but the files are free. Head to the tutorial or straight to the pattern files. Once you have the files for your embroidery machine, go ahead and copy them to it. Each machine is different so I'll leave it to you to figure that out.

Step 3: Select and Cut Your Fabric and Elastic

Before we begin, I just want to reiterate that these fabric masks won't stop COVID-19 so we still have to keep up good handwashing!

The CDC has a few recommendations when it comes to fabric. First and foremost they do not want fabric that are solid colors as there's a risk people could mistake the masks as approved N95 or surgical masks if you did. What that means is, HAVE FUN! I wore the whale one around town and it brought a bunch of smiles and comments!

For fabric, it's recommended you use some sort of 100% cotton. I chose to use cotton fleece for the side that touches my face as it's nice and soft, and normal quilter's fabric for the front. I'm using leftovers from various sewing projects over the years and the nice thing is, these fabrics are very inexpensive.

For cutting, I recommend putting the wrong sides of the front and back piece of fabric together and keep them that way for the whole process. You'll cut them at the same time, pleat, etc. This really is a simple pattern!

Use one of the templates you made earlier or cut a rectangle using the following measurements:

  • Adult: 10.5" (266mm) x 7.5" (190mm)
  • Child: 9"(228mm) x 7" (179mm)

Go ahead and cut your elastic strips at this time. You'll see at the top of the Adult template a 7" pre-measured line that you can use to simplify measuring. For the Child template, I've marked off both a 7" line if an adult will be wearing it, or a 5" line if a child will be wearing it. Of course, feel free to customize these lengths if the defaults don't fit (4.5" was appropriate for my 7 year old daughter).

Step 4: Press Your Pleats!

It's time to warm up that iron!

If you're good at making pleats, feel free to do it your way, for me, I kept getting too close to the edge and the embroidery needle sewed over a fold. So, I made the template to help me quickly set some pleats!

Take your two pieces of fabric that are still wrong side together. Clip them onto a pre-folded template in the corners. Tuck the fabric into the folds forming pleats. Carefully repeat for each pleat. Once all of them are done, iron them still on the paper. When the pleats have been pressed so they hold their shape, pull the fabric off the paper and iron the pleats down again. Flip the fabric over and iron the other side. Once you're done, grab you pressed fabric and your elastic bands and head to the embroidery machine!

Step 5: Fire Up That Embroidery Machine!

The pattern from UrbanThreads.com has 4 steps. Between each step you'll be removing the hoop and either cutting or taping things to the stabilizer. The first few steps are pretty quick but the last step is where it satin stitches the edge and takes about 10 minutes on my Duetta. During that 10 minute sewing, I prep another pattern, or stare... mesmerized by the needle going up and down and up and down...

Power up your machine, and copy over the embroidery file for the size you want to sew. Secure your tearable or washable stabilizer to your hoop.

I went ahead and wound my own bobbin so the bottom stitches matched the top stitch's color. It gives it a nice uniform look!

Embroidery Step 1

Sew the first step and make not of what corner the machine stops at for later. This is your template for your in-the-hoop design. Go ahead and remove your hoop and grab some masking tape or blue tape, you're going to use it to hold down the fabric for the next step.

Embroidery Step 2

It's important to note the direction of your pleats. You want the "opening" of the pleats facing the left. Or if you've rotated the pattern, look to see where the embroidery head stopped, it should be closer to one side. That side is your "top" and you want the pleat opening facing the "bottom." The reason for this is the pattern is programmed to go "down" one side of your pleat back up, over the top to the other side, then down the other side. If you have your pleats the wrong way, as the head goes "down" it'll catch on the fold of the pleats. Said another way, if while sewing, your head catches the fabric, turn the fabric around next time.

As you're placing your pressed fabric, make sure neither the top or bottom pleats are crossing over the lines. You should have about a 1/2" at the top and bottom, but again, my pleats aren't great so sometimes I'm right on the border. Once it's lined up, go ahead and tape it down and put the hoop back into the machine.

This step will baste stitch the fabric to the stabilizer. This will secure the fabric so the next two steps are lined up.

Embroidery Step 3

Once step 2 is done remove the hoop from the machine and take off the tape. You're going to want to cut as close to the stitch as you can as this is the seam the final step will sew over. Once you've completed that, you're going to take get your elastic or ribbon or whatever other solution that you want to use to secure the mask to your face. You're going to line up the elastic on each side of the mask with about a 1/4" or 1/2" overlapping the stitch the machine put down the last step. Tape it down.

Notice in my photos I tape both on the fabric and the stabilizer leaving a channel for the embroidery machine to stitch the elastic into place. Pay attention to your elastic, try to keep it straight so there aren't any twists to make the mask uncomfortable.

Note: You may want to raise your presser foot in your settings depending on your elastic. On my machine and my elastic, I set my presser foot height to 2.5mm for this step. This helps prevent the presser foot from catching on the elastic.

Once the elastic is safe and secure, go ahead an put your hoop back on the machine and run step 3

Embroidery Step 4

You're on the home stretch! Grab the hoop out of the machine final time and remove the tape that was over the fabric, but leave the tape that was on the stabilizer to help ensure the elastic doesn't get in the way. You'll want to now trim your elastic close to the seam it just sewed over it. The next step will really secure the elastic and fabric together!

Put the hoop back in, and start the final step and ... wait...

Optional Step

If you're very careful, you can go ahead and monogram the corner of the mask. For this to work, your pleats need to be out of the way and you need to select a very small font. On my machine I used the position test capabilities to move the head to where it would be if it were to stitch to really hone in a good location. See the Unicorn image to see the monogram I added to my daughter's mask. Go ahead and sew that on!

Final Step

Once that step finishes, you're done with the embroidery machine! Grab your hoop and tear the mask out of the stabilizer. Flip the mask over and tear the stabilizer from the back as well. The last thing to do is to cut any threads that are left behind to finish it off.

But wait....

Step 6: The End

You did an amazing job! Pat yourself on the back and now make a whole bunch more! Have fun and find some time to make these.

This pandemic is effecting us all in different ways. During this time we can feel scared, lonely, depressed, and any other number of emotions. Doing projects like this can help make you feel like your participating in the solution. You get a sense of pride and accomplishment every time you finish one of these projects. In this case you have the added benefit of being able to share these with your neighbors, coworkers, medical facilities, etc. Or find a place to donate them at https://www.weneedmasks.org/list/

Even though these makes won't fully protect us, they will help. Our own germs will be greatly reduced and the masks act like a reminder to not touch our faces. These are good... and you are good!

If you want some added cheer, pick a fun fabric, next time you need to go out into society, put on that mask and know that your choice of fabric has made someone's day. I mean, who wouldn't smile at a 41 year old male walking around with toddler whales on his face :) Or a 7 year old girl wearing unicorns and foxes!

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, stay safe, find things that keep you you, and we'll get through this together!

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