F&F masks

Over the last few months I’ve been refining my 3D mask pattern & using my friends & family as guinea pigs. So the instruction & pattern have been updated. I’ve increased the size range, tweaked the fit, added a sizing ruler to help you choose a size, & included a wear & care instruction sheet should you want to make masks for other people. You can get the latest version here:

As friends of friends started asking if they could buy one, but I’ve ran out of supplies & time to make them, I’m sharing notes on my Friends & Family Only ‘couture’ version (😉😂) in case anyone wants to pick up the banton & make them for their F&Fs or to sell. Hopefully more comfortable, better fitting, & more stylish masks will encourage people to wear them in higher risk situations. Stay safe everyone! Let’s don those masks so we can all get back to some semblance of normality sooner❣️






The process & end product

The sewing process is mostly the same as in my PDF instruction file. The main change I made is replacing the nose wire casing with edge lining the entire perimeter inside the mask. This is because my inner layer feels a bit rough on the skin. But it does add a nice finishing touch as well.

For the final package I send to my friends, I added a spare nose wire, 2 paper inserts, and usage & care instruction sheet.




The least annoying mask

jump to:  Fabric  |  Pattern  |  Instruction  |  Usage tips
download pattern & instruction PDF:  A4  |  Letter

Well hello! How are you doing? Hope you are OK.

It’s been a crazy year innit. Thankfully I don’t know anyone personally who have been seriously ill with Covid-2019. But one of my brother’s friends in NYC has already died from it 😢 He was only in his early 40s & no obvious pre-existing conditions. Hope you & your loved ones haven’t been ill.

Being a better safe than sorry gal, I’m firmly in the mask wearing camp, even though hubby refuses to wear one if we’re outdoors (vs indoors where he will wear one). Fresh air is the antidote he says. Chatty people who don’t know how to social distance is our Achilles Heel I retort. Think about all the unintentional spit from talking… eww! So if I get sick you know who to blame! LOL

Now let’s be honest, masks are a PITA to wear, especially for us Westerners used to our hyper-individualism & creature comforts. They’re hot & sweaty to wear. They stick to your nose & mouth when you breath in & fog up your glasses. Worst of all they make you realise how stinky your breath is 😂 So hats off to the East Asians who wear these even in hot and humid climate & while exercising (I’m looking at you Korean dancers)!

But I’ve spent the best part of last few months volunteering to sew PPE for our poor health care workers because the UK gov didn’t have the foresight to plan for pandemics. And it was hard work. We just couldn’t produce enough. So I really encourage everyone to pitch in, do their bit, live with the discomfort until we find ways to effectively treat / prevent Covid infection. I have relatives in Taiwan & they didn’t even have lockdowns thanks to group effort & public cooperation. Everyone doing a little bit & we might be able to safely get the economy going again sooner.

For those of you ready to get creative with mask making & wearing, here’s what I’ve learnt so far from obsessively following Covid news from Western & Asian sources since beginning of the year & making 18 muslins + 1 wearable muslin (that was NG!)…


Fabrics & supplies

Let’s start with the material. So why fabric mask when surgical & N95 masks are now more widely available? Well, having seen news clip of these disposable masks washing up on beaches, I feel a reusable washable cloth mask would give me more karma points. Save the disposable medical-grade masks for medical, care, other essential workers who are exposed to much more viral particles, or the vulnerable population going into high risk environments (public spaces, planes, etc). For us lay people in relatively good health who can limit our exposure a bit more with social distancing & avoiding public indoor spaces as much as possible, cloth masks are good enough.

Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to choose the more protective fabrics available. But for me it has to be a good balance between protection and comfort. If it’s super uncomfortable, then I’m much less likely to keep it on.

So based on what I’ve read so far, it seems like high thread count & non-woven fabrics are good for mechanically filtering out the larger droplets (from coughs, sneezes, & probably speaking / singing / shouting) that the coronavirus travel in. But the virus itself is quite small (0.12 microns) and can travel in aerosols (i.e. really small droplets) in some circumstances, so actually the main techniques the medical grade masks are using to filter out these small virus particle is through “electrostatic absorption” & other non-straightforward principles of physics, rather than simply as a sieve as we lay people believe.  However, static supposedly decreases when the staticky material is wet, and our breath do contain water vapour. So masks do become less efficient when worn for long periods at a time. Maybe that’s why the staticky layer of good surgical masks is sandwiched between an outer layer that is water repellent (keep environmental water out) & an innermost layer that is absorbent (absorb your exhaled water vapor) to keep the staticky layer as dry as possible for as long as possible?

On the other hand, we all know how synthetic fibre are a bit sweaty to wear. So for lower risk groups like me, I thought keeping synthetics to a minimum with outer & inner layer of cotton and a staticky synthetic middle layer would be a good compromise. This is the time to use up those dreadful staticky poly linings! LOL.

Interestingly, not all polyester fabrics in my stash are as staticky as I thought. Here’s a cool video a Dr shared on YouTube demonstrating how to test the statickiness of your material – quite fun science experiment to try with your kids (or the kid in you)!

Also interestingly, there’s a material science research paper that claims a good fitting fabric mask with the right layers can filter out as much as a good fitting N95 mask, and better than a poorly fitted N95 mask. If like me you’re too lazy to read the original research paper in full, this YouTube video summarises the key points – though I ended up a different final choice of material & mask pattern.

BTW even at an average 0.12 microns (or range of 0.06 microns to .14 microns), the coronavirus is still way bigger than oxygen (0.0005 microns) & carbon dioxide (0.00065 microns). So claims that masks will stop you getting enough tiny oxygen, will trap tiny carbon dioxide, & but still won’t be able to filter out the bigger virus particles makes absolutely no sense. But after my 19 mask muslins I have a theory why masks can feel difficult to breath in – I think it’s because of the design of the mask & the drape of the material.

I initially thought that thin & soft fabrics would be most comfortable to wear. But I found they easily get sucked into my mouth when I talk & stick to my nose when I inhale. I think it is this clinginess that made breathing more difficult. So for my final mask, I went with crisp & stiff fabrics as much as possible, especially for the innermost layer. The most staticky fabric I found in my Stash was unfortunately quite drapy, but as long as the innermost material is stiff it helps keep the material away from my nostrils & mouth. And the pattern I ended up using also has pleats which allows you to stick a piece of paper to prop up the crucial nostril-mouth area if you can’t find suitably crisp fabric for the inner layer.

One final thought on fabric selection – I’d go with lighter colours in a hot climate. It gets sweaty in there as it is, we don’t need no heat absorbing dark coloured fabrics to make it worse! The sewing instruction below is demonstrated with a black outer fabric however because that’s what hubby insisted – nothing girly for him. Then again he’d only wear masks indoor away from the sun, so probably not as bad comfort-wise. Me I’m sticking to white as much as possible! Here’s what I ended up using for my own masks:

  • outer layer – white 800 thread count cotton percale pillowcase, interfaced with thinnest non-woven fusible interfacing in my Stash
  • middle layer – peach staticky thin polyester lining fabric
  • inner layer – white stiff but thin cotton sewn-in interfacing
  • ear or head loops – 1/8″ elastic. In the end I chose to have it go around the back of my head even though it messes up my hair & is less convenient. I found ear loops always hurt the back of my ears after a while.
  • nose clip – 4″ length of thin wire. I recycled most of mine from old surgical masks, but at a pinch I think supermarket twist-ties would do as well.



As pointed out in the material science article, good fit is critical if your own protection is the main reason you want to wear a mask. Ask any healthcare professional treating Covid patients & you’ll learn that their N95 all have to be fit tested. Any gap at the edges allow the virus to get through. So those pleated surgical masks are limited in their effectiveness due to their one-size fits all nature. Ditto with N95 we lay people buy online. By making your own custom-fit mask, you can improve the protection by improving the fit.

When it comes to pattern, my criteria is the same as for fabric selection – a balance of protection & comfort. So the 19 mask muslins I made falls into 4 basic types with variations.

I actually started with the free multi-size Dhurata Davies fitted mask pattern with chin darts that Peter of Male Pattern Boldness sewing blog uses, because have you seen how dapper he looks in his matching shirts and fitted masks? 😍 But unfortunately both me & hubby found them too restrictive. They look smashing & are comfortable if we don’t talk. But as soon as we try to open our mouth, we either can’t open too widely or the mask slip off our noses. I tried increasing the nose-chin length & pleated the extra length at the sides. This became my first wearable muslin. After wearing it for a longer period of time I decided this one wasn’t for me because it wasn’t comfortable enough. Maybe it’s the combination of the softer fabric I used, the filter pocket I added, and the close-fitting pattern, but the mask feels hot & clammy, the fabric keeps sticking to my nostrils & mouth.

I also tried the curved centre-front seam masks, like the Olson mask pattern popular in the US, but the Olson was way too big for me (it’s a single size pattern) and has the same problem as the Dhurata Davies mask. Ditto with the Taiwanese side darted masks that claims to be less restrictive feeling – none of them stay off my nostrils & mouth well enough. I tried variations with different curve seam & dart size, I tried adding extra wires to prop up the middle. All way too complicated & still unsuccessful.

The last type I tried is the so-called “3D masks” patterns. There are numerous variations. Most have a centre edge top-stitched rectangle with pleated nose & chin panels:


When I first tried it on I thought it was too small as it doesn’t envelope the lower half of my face. But on analysing it further, this actually makes the mask more comfortable to wear! It keeps the mask mostly off my skin except at the edges. It protrudes like the domed N95 masks. And come to think of it, many medical N95 masks have a funny duck-bill shape that made no sense to me when I first saw them, but now makes total sense as it keeps the mask material off the face, especially nostrils & mouth. Health workers have to wear these for long periods of time, so I guess comfort is quite important too.


This “3D mask” type is a good compromise. It doesn’t look as stupid as the duck bill N95, but it still domes nicely to keep the fabric off my skin.

There are variations with no pleats. I found these to be less successful at keeping the fabric off my skin even though commercial N95 is similarly unpleated. I think the problem is that fabrics aren’t as stiff as the bonded non-woven material used in commercial N95. You can experiment with fusible interfacing to stiffen your inner layer if you want to try the version without pleats. But I’m happy to stick with the pleats – they seem to help keep the crucial area off my skin & are easier to sew.

Some variations also try to incorporate a pocket for removable filters. But because of the pleats, it’s impossible to insert a filter that covers the entire mask area. So I highly doubt the filtering would be effective. Or if it’s a pocket that allows filter to be as big as the mask, then that loose hanging pocket is more likely to stick to your face & feel uncomfortable. Based on the material science research cited above, I think doubling up on the staticky middle layer probably would be a better solution than adding a pocket for removable filters if you want to up your protection level.

Given how hot it gets wearing a mask, and also the increase difficulty when sewing through many layers of fabrics, I tweaked the pattern the reduce bulk. I also scaled my variations to different sizes to fit me and my hubby.

Here’s my variation of the 3D mask pattern in case want to try it yourself. I’ve scaled the pattern to 6 sizes from nose-chin lengths of 2⅜” / 6cm to 4¼” / 11cm.


Sewing Instruction

Click on thumbnail below to see larger image. More details in the downloadable patterns & instructions PDFs.


Usage tips

Or reminders more like! I’ve seen in shops people wearing their masks with their nose and even mouth exposed. I really don’t know whether they’re just ignorant of why we’re wearing masks or whether it’s an act of defiance against public health policies. Anyway, just a few reminders on wearing mask properly:

  • Make sure your nose AND mouth are covered. That’s what the mask is meant to protect – coronavirus entering or escaping from your nose and mouth. If you’re infected the mask will probably absorb / trap a lot of the virus you expel, so don’t worry too much about breathing in your own virus.
  • For maximum protection for yourself, minimise gaps at the edges of the mask. While fabric masks are generally not as effective as the uncomfortable N95 masks, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from N95 mask protocols to improve our fabric masks. If you’re bearded, you may want to shave off the bits at the edge of the mask – don’t do what my hubby does. There’s plenty of open door through your facial hair 😂
  • If you wear glasses or sunglasses, make sure the top edge is close to your cheek & nose, and the mask is under your glasses. It’s the water vapour from your breath escaping through the top edge that’s fogging up the glasses.
  • Wash your hand before putting on your clean mask.
  • Avoid touching the fabric portion of your mask after you’ve worn it – take it on & off via the elastic / tie. If you do touch the fabric, wash your hand before touching your face.
  • Wash your mask every day of wear with soap or detergent, which like with handwashing, dissolves the coating that’s keeping the virus in tact.
  • Remove the nose wire before you wash the mask if your wire is not waterproof.

Stay safe! I’ll be praying for your good health. Let’s beat this pandemic together❣️ And let loose your creativity on them masks 😉

(Stretch) Pattern School back online!

GREAT NEWS! Mr Anderson is back from retirement with his (Stretch) Pattern School 2.0!

I haven’t explored it in details yet (pandemic panic & all), but he says the info has been updated to reflect latest developments in swim / dancewear fabric technology & patternmaking approaches. Unfortunately the free auto-generated custom block feature is gone because the company that host the new website doesn’t offer such sophisticated programming options. But there is now a Pattern & Block Shop for RTW designers & interested home-sewers. Presumably this will be standardised sizing rather than custom based on your measurements, but certainly better than nothing!

There’s also a Pattern School Online Facebook group & he’s also on Instagram (pattern.school.online) if you want to get latest updates from him.

Have fun!

Me Made Maldives – Almost Didn’t Make It edition

Last of my holiday sewing was this “cut-off” jeans shorts that almost didn’t make it to the Maldives. I think I had 1.5 days left when I started this. And because I’m a slow sewer I thought I’d go shopping for a backup to relieve the time pressure. Bad idea. Got stuck in traffic & paucity of choices (because wrong season). What I ended up buying fitted poorly through the crotch, so I had to take in across the inseam + shorten it. At this point I’ve lost half a day. So it was an all nighter on this me-made. I had to drop the coin pocket – never use that anyway – and started but left off the belt loops until I got back from holiday.

Closet Case Ginger Jeans Shorts – Mid Rise

Size made: 4 with fitting & mid-rise design changes

Fabrics: 98/2 Cotton/Lycra 8oz Elvis Denim from Sherwoods Fabrics UK, muslin from the Stash, brass zipper from Wawak, donut button from Citron Jeans, ring rivets from Thread Theory, Pro-Sheer Elegance Medium Fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply


  • Shorten to bum length
  • Left out the coin pocket
  • Belt loop wasn’t added until I came back from holiday

Construction notes:

  • During interfacing fusing I also made the mistake of fusing to the wrong side. I had initially wanted to use the lighter wrong side of this denim on the outside because the right side looks too similar to my flesh colour, making me look like I have no pants on! Tight deadline meant I had no choice but to use the right side as the outside.
  • I was a bit worried about the donut button being a bit too small, but it worked out OK, & was very easy to install using the tool kit from the same Japanese vendor. It feels very secure – unlike some of the buttons I used on previous Gingers. Highly recommend these.
  • For the rivet I again used the hand press kit I got in Asia. I did still have to trim the tacks down to avoid them poking through the centre of the ring rivets because of the thin fabric. But without this tool I wouldn’t have been able to attach them in time…for it was early morning by the time I got to the rivets. And you know, neighbours.
  • My topstitching is still a bit rubbish. I get loops forming on the wrong side in places though not continuously. So good thing these jeans are just for me. I would be too embarrassed to make one for someone else with my poor stitching.

The Verdict: It’s quite satisfying to be able to make my own jeans. RTW options can be so unreliable. You’re at the mercy of the retail seasons & designer whims. And you may still end up having hack it apart & alter to fit. Hopefully my next pair of Gingers will be even faster. And maybe I should branch out to other silhouetter … like bootleg?

Me Made Maldives – Swimsuit edition

When I first experimented with Stretch Pattern School‘s instruction for drafting One-Piece Swimwear Block, I didn’t think I was ever going to use it for swimwear. That was an exercise in getting a Knit Top Block that I’d be happy with. Back then my feet would always be firmly planted on the floor of the pool or beach & although I toyed with the idea of learning to swim, I couldn’t find the courage or will power. So this mid-life crisis had at least one positive side-effect. I still can’t swim properly, but I’m committed to learning now. And I got comfortable enough in water that I was able to lift off & chase fishes while on holiday. OK it was really shallow water, but at least my feet was off the lagoon floor! I even ventured into the part of the pool that was a tad deeper than my height! And the swim discs on my arms did come off once I relaxed enough – thank you Maldives! – though I still need those Speedo Fitness Fins & goggles to keep me calm. Anyway, I thought I’d reward myself for my effort with some me-made swimwear.

Self-drafted VS replacement
Bandeau Bikini Top

This was a replacement for an old Victoria’s Secret Bandeau Bikini Top that aquired unsightly stains over the years. I love the design & the bottom still fits OK. And since a bandeau top seems simple enough, this was actually the only holiday sewing I committed myself to.

Fabrics: 80/20 polymide/lycra Riviera stretch fabric and 84/16 nylon/lycra Bodystocking Lining from Funk Fabrics UK. Hardwares & bra padding recycled from the VS original. 8mm latex elastic from MacCulloch-Wallis UK.

Pattern:  I could have just disassembled & traced the VS original. But it was a bit old, so might have stretched out. And for a top that can be worn strapless I didn’t want to risk it falling down. So the pattern is a mix of Stretch Pattern School Bandeau bikini top instruction & the disassembled VS original as guide for pieces needed & shaping. Width-wise it follows the SPS instruction, though I moved the side seam forward slightly. The Front has 3 layers: slightly taller shell, lining, & pocket for bra padding. I added lining to the back as well because my fabric felt a bit thinner than the original. Top elastic is in 3 pieces while the bottom elastic is 1 continuous piece.

Construction: Construction order is based on reverse engineering the VS original roughly as follows…

  • Strap tubing.
  • Bra padding pocket opening edge.
  • Baste the 2 inner Front layers together & Back shell/lining layers together (lining handled like underlining).
  • Front top seam.
  • Front top elastic* to seam allowance & turn right side out.
  • Attachment loops for detachable strap at Front top.
  • Side seams.
  • Back top elastic* & the entire Back-Front-Back bottom elastic*.
  • CB hook & loops.
  • Slide CF buckle in place, then bonings to side seams.

∗ All elastics were overlocked to the fabric edge first, then turned inside & top-stitched in place with zig-zag stitch.


Self-drafted Asymmetrical
One-piece Swimsuit

While browsing photos of Maldives on IG, I came across a striking asymmetric one-piece modelled by @cassie_cameron (22 Dec 2018). I scoured the internet & the closest I could find is this one from US Forver 21 which didn’t get great review for quality & isn’t available in the UK anyway. The fit & bust seam seems different from the IG photo, so I can only assume it’s a knock-off. The good thing though is the extra side & back views helped me think through what I may want in my version.

Fabrics: 80/20 polyamide/lycra Perform Muscular Compression stretch fabric and 84/16 nylon/lycra Bodystocking Lining from Funk Fabrics UK. 8mm & 16mm latex elastics from MacCulloch-Wallis UK.

Pattern: It was touch & go whether this would make it to Maldives because a) I never properly tested my SPS One-Piece Swimwear Block, & b) there’s no single source of pattern drafting instruction for a design like this. Most asymetric one-piece with tummy cutout have shoulder strap on the non-cutout side. I had to cobble together multiple drafting SPS drafting instruction to create this & tested muslins along the way.

Testing & tweaking the One-Piece Swimwear Block

So first thing I had to do was to retest the SPS One-Piece Swimwear Block. The last muslin I made had really awlful crotch as you can see. But this may partly be because I was too stingy to put leg elastics in for a muslin test. I made a fresh muslin this time with leg elastics which did look a little bit better, but still a bit excess fabric in the crotch. I compared the Block to my 0-ease Pants Leg Wrap just in case, but the crotch length seems right. Regardless, I tried shortening the crotch anyway & I’m much happier with the result. I also slimmed the waist a little bit because I’ve lost a bit too much weight during this mid-life crisis. Hopefully the stretch fabric will accommodate any weight gain after this crisis is over.


Now the question of leg hole elastic… There are conflicting advice about this. SPS advice fitting the elastic to your leg rather than trying to calculate negative ease base on the pattern. But when you’re not sure where the leg holes will sit on your bum, it’s a bit hard to know where to wrap the elastic around. On Pattern Review someone said they always reduce the pattern leg hole by 78%. In the end I measured the relatively new no-frill RTW fitness one-piece I have & used that that guide for leg hole elastic length.

The other question with leg hole elastic is whether to have a) more negative ease in the back (so fabric cup under the bum cheeks?) or b) same amount all the way around. SPS advice b. I think I did try both on the muslin & preferred a, though the difference isnt’ great. This is again partly due to my fitness one-piece having similar gather in the back.

On to the actual Asymmetric One-Piece pattern-drafting

This was mostly based on SPS’ Asymmetric One-Piece instruction (not online anymore, but a different asymmetric tanksuit with waist cut out is close enough), with the bandeau bra top tweaked following SPS’ Empire-Line Once Piece instruction. To create the SPS Asymmetric One-Piece, you also had to have the CB Seam Bikini Bottom Block, which is based on the Band Side Bikini Bottom Block, which is in turn derived from the main One-Piece Block. So here are the Bottom Blocks & Empire-Line preparatory patterns I had to create first…

And pulling them all together now…

Since it’s a franken-pattern, I made a muslin first to test the fit & also figure out construction order. Good thing I did because the fit & the design both needed tweaking. TBH I don’t understand the logics for all the steps in SPS’ Asymmetric One-Piece instruction – eg why one side of the leg opening is shaped differently than the other. Maybe it’s to address the IRL effects of asymmetry (eg gravity, moving body parts, stretch property of the fabric), maybe it creates illusion of balance better. In any case, it didn’t work for me. So I made both leg holes the same. Also had to lengthen the tab that connect the bandeau & the bottom because the bottom was pulling the top down. Design-wise I aslo widened the tab, tweaked the cut-out curve, lengthen the bandeau top, & narrowed the shoulder band to better match the inspiration photo.

As for the shoulder strap, I ended up using a length that’s the same as my 0-ease bust measurement & underarm-cross-shoulder circumference, which means it’s negative ease when the strap is pulled just off the shoulder. Originally I thought this design would be pool-side/beach lounging only & absolutely no good for swimming. But the shortened strap made it not too bad for swimming. Granted at this point my swimming doesn’t involve much arm movement yet.

When it comes to cutting out, the top & bottom peices are lined/underlined. The top Front also has an extra layer of lining for bust padding pockets – like the VS replacement Bandeau Top above. The strap is shell fabric folded length-wise into a tube. The top uses 16mm elastics at top & bottom edges + boning at the side seams for insurance against waldrobe malfunction. The cutout & leg holes use standard 8mm elastics. The strap has no elastic in it.

Unfortunately I threw away the notes on how much negative ease I used for all the elastics. I think I might have used the One-Piece Block reduction percentage as guide, but recalculate the absolute lengths base on the measurements of the pattern pieces. I think I also used varying reduction percentage for different edges, and uneven application for the leg holes & tummy cut-out. So the leg holes have more reduction in the back, the cutout has no reduction at the vertical stretch (because I was worried about the Bottom pulling the bandeau Top down).

Construction: Construction order is roughly as follows…

  • Top bust darts, Top bra padding pocket opening edge, Bottom CB seams, Strap long seam up to Top attachment points & turn right side out.
  • Bottom F-B crotch & side seams, Strap short seam.
  • Baste Top 2 inner Front layers together, Bottom shell/lining layers together (lining handled like underlining).
  • Top side seams, Top lining layers CF seam (to form pockets for bra padding).
  • Baste Strap to Top’s top seam.
  • Top’s top seam, boning to Top lining side seams.
  • Top’s top elastic* to seam allowance & turn right side out, Bottom cutout & leg hole elastics*.
  • Baste Bottom tab to Top’s bottom.
  • Top’s bottom elastic.

∗ All elastics were overlocked to the fabric edge first, then turned inside & top-stitched in place with zig-zag stitch.


The Verdict

Not bad for first attempts at swimwear pattern-drafting & sewing if I may say so myself. Plenty of room for improvement of course. There are draglines here & there, and my zig-zag stitches are quite uneven. But overall I’m fairly happy with these. Too bad that on return from holiday the rubbish housewife striked again. Both of these white swimwear (+ RTW ones) promptly turn pinkish from laundry colour bleed. 🤦‍♀️

I think there will be more swimwear sewing in my future. Probably not training ones, but fashion swimwear. For training I like the idea of high tech suits designed to train techniques & increase water confidence. Hopefully one day I will be able to swim leisurely face above water breaststrokes in me-made swimwear like all the other elegant ladies in the pool.