As the UK starts to re-engage following full lockdown, each of us must keep taking actions to stay safe. While I've been fortunate to have enjoyed good adult health, mindful of losing a sister and brother to lung conditions I am sure of the the need for face coverings in certain situations. After much internet research, I have opted to make my face masks in recycled Kimono silk with a wool inner. Kimono silk is a very densely woven fabric and along with wool, has the capacity to allow skin to temperature regulate in a way that cotton does not. As we approach the summer months, I feel strongly that breathing through damp cotton masks will be at best uncomfortable. My tests with hand washing Kimono silk in very hot soapy water showed no detriment to the fabric. Kimono silk also has a huge feel good factor, which we surely need lots of just now.
The overall fabric requirement for my design is 40cm of Kimono silk - which is normally around 38cm wide. First off, cut 2 squares of silk 20cm x 20cm and place the 2 pieces wrong sides together, deciding which way round any pattern will lay. Create a French seam across what will be the top edge of the mask, by first pinning and machine stitching a scant seam with the fabric wrong sides together. Then press this seam open and refold the fabric right sides together. Then machine stitch the seam a second time a little deeper to enclose the edges of the raw seam edge and give a final press. Also press over a double folded 1cm hem along the 2 raw edges opposite the seam you have created.
Top stitch each of the folded hems, as close to the edge of the fold as you can.
I find elastic next to my skin and over my ears very uncomfortable, and I think that a little extra work to create a covering is well worth the time. To do this, cut bias strips from the remaining silk and join to make a strip 60cm x 3cm - diagonal joins are best for this and seams need to be pressed and trimmed. Then take a piece of piping cord that is twice as long and starting in the middle of the piping cord, fold the silk strip lengthways around the piping cord. Machine stitch across the short edge in the middle of the piping cord and then stitch a scant seam down the length to create a tube around the strip - a zipper foot will likely work best to keep alongside the piping cord as you stitch and avoid stitching through.
For anyone who has ever wrestled with turning fiddly fabric tubes, the next stage feels close to magical! Hold the piping cord with one hand at the short end where you finished stitching, push with the other hand just above the silk short end that is stitched and gently ease the tube down over itself. With a little gentle coaxing, the tube will pass over the stitched short edge and as you eep pushing the tube will turn the right way out. Carefully cut the silk off the piping cord , avoiding cutting the piping cord, and press the turned strip and cut into 2 x 28cm lengths.
Now cut 2 pieces of elastic 15cm long and using a bodkin, thread each piece of elastic inside a silk tube. Pin either end of both loops and machine or hand stitch the elastic on all ends to secure from slipping back into the silk tube.
The next step will secure the elastic loops into the side of the mask. Fold the main silk piece wrong sides out along the seamed edge. Now place a pin on the bottom edge at both sides, 4cm in from the left and right raw edges. Machine stitch from the left and right edges to the pins just above the bottom hems. Now take the elastic loops and place between the 2 layers, pinning one end under the top seam and the other end just above short stitch line you have just made. Machine stitch a scant seam the full length of each side edge from top to bottom, being sure to catch in the 4 ends of the elastic loops.
I have placed an aluminium strip in the top of my face mask so that it can be best fitted around the nose. These strips are just short of 9cm long and a pipe cleaner could be used as an alternative. Turn the constructed face mask right sides out though the gap in the bottom of the mask and press all the seams flat. Push the aluminium strip or pipe cleaner to the top of the mask and centralise. Machine a rectangle around 3 sides to secure in place.
The final step is to place 3 horizontal pleats in the mask. Place pins on both sides of the mask at 2cm, 4cm, 6cm and 10cm from the top edge. Fold the 4cm marker up to the 2cm marker and pin the pleat and then fold the 10cm marker pin up to the 6cm marker pin and pin a second pleat. Repeat on the other side and machine stitch down both sides to hold the pleats in place and the contain the seam inside.
The mask constructed to this point gives 2 layers of densely woven fabric, which feels lightweight and in my opinion offers a greater degree of protection that many domestic cotton masks. On my mask I added poppers to the opening at the bottom to allow me an option of inserting an additional protective layer - my choice for this is wool prefelt with easily folds and needs to be cut at around 14cm x12cm. In terms of inserting to wool insert into the mask, think ' putting on a duvet cover' with a little wiggling at the sides!
Here is my constructed mask complete with the wool insert. It feels much gentler on my face than cotton and time will tell how easily I get used to wearing. These times are without a doubt an opportunity for living in uncharted territory and learning new skills and things about ourselves. I hope that through this post that I have added a little information to the mass that is now being offered up to help find a way to live safely in our new and strange world.