The least annoying mask


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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.

 

Pattern

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 😉

Midlife crisis sewing

My, how time flies. Sorry, I’m in the midst of midlife crisis, so haven’t had much time, energy, or motivation to sew or blog. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve even considered Kondoing my fabric Stash – never mind new purchases. Can you believe that? Me of try-prying-my-stash-from-my-dead-hands persuasion, thinking of donating / recycling unused yardages – not even scraps, but whole yardages.

Recent years of losses + meeting new people with different perspectives on life had me questioning my clinging on to things & fear of taking risks. Like a house of cards, once a chunk is chipped away from the foundation the rest came tumbling down. Taking a look at the debris, I realised I had boxed myself into a particular narrative of who I am. And what were once invigorating expressions of that identity are now insipid habits & stashes of unrealised dreams, dead weights & devoid of life.

So yeah, much more time have been spent reflecting, figuring out what to do, how to change, & dealing with the emotional roller-coaster of actually trying to change – rather than just fantasising about some rosy future when this is all over. “Yes please!” to less acquisition-fueled fantasies and to more doing / making. I’m also taking baby steps to face my fears, take a chance & try something new. And to be open-minded, curious, & non-judgemental. I didn’t think I was a judgemental person, but I do in fact layer stories of the past onto what’s happening right now, instead of just observing what is & exploring what could happen next if I try this or that. All this is of course easier said than done. Everything takes so much time! But I’m trying to learn to appreciate the Journey.

The only sewing I’ve managed to do in the last few months were…

  1. more cross-body strap bags to replace the knackered prototype,
  2. a mini-skirt waiting for a partner to complete the look,
  3. a failed mohair sweater frosting that would have been the partner,
  4. and a bunch of panic holiday sewing.

1 & 2 were made when I was just beginning to sense something was amiss. So both tried to revive former glories with the tried & tested. 3 was the first attempt to be looser with my sewing, but I fell flat on my face. 4 I’ll write about in separate posts. Suffice it to say it’s my tortoise version of the Great British Sewing Bee: so much to make + so little time = rolling with the punches & a crash course in the new way.

1 Self-drafted Bags with Cross-body Strap

These are replacements for the prototype I made in 2017. I had already cut out rest of the fabrics when I first made the prototype, so this was a production line to make 3 just before Xmas. A friend at work was leaving her safe job to take a punt in acting. When I first joined the team she was THE welcoming committee & had asked about my prototype bag, even wanting to buy one. So I finally made her one as leaving present.

The only things I did differently this time are:

  • Protective clear PVC layer instead of laminating the print. The original RTW bag I modelled after used a clear PVC layer. The laminated prototype was wearing out in places & looking very grubby. So I was hoping PVC would fare better. Now that I’ve used these replacements for a while, I think the problem is the change in dimension – I made my version bigger than the RTW original. So the bag bends around my body & even the PVC will wear out at the point of the bend. But I’ll worry about a fix when it’s time to replace – hopefully not for another couple of years since I kept 2 for myself.
  • Rivets to reinforce strap attachments… because another point of failure on my prototype was strap attachment stitching, and one of these bags will be a gift so I wanted it to hold together a bit longer. I used a hand press kit & bag rivets I got in Asia. Went on like a treat. No more waking up the neighbours with hammer banging in the middle fo the night!

2 Self-drafted A-line Mini Skirt

A case of mutton dressing as a lamb, this is recreation of a mini-skirt I made over a decade ago. The original died accidentally in the tumble dryer – I’m rubbish with laundry. Made with leftover of the same decade old fabric to go with the same cheer-me-up impulse buy 2004 Stella McCartney vegan thigh-high boots. Talk about midlife crisis eh 🙂

2019 mug shotsI had to redraft the pattern using my current A-line Skirt Block. It’s lined & has contoured facing instead of waistband. While the skirt came out alright, I haven’t dared wear it out yet. TBH it’s been too cold & I’m out of practice with heels. Plus the sweater knit I was going to wear this with turned out a total disaster. So the skirt now has no partner in crime against ageist fashion police.

3 RIP NG Self-drafted Mohair Sweater

This was meant to complement & tone-down the mutton-lamb skirt above, but it was an unmitigated disaster. I had no particular design in mind when I bought this sweater knit from Mood NYC a while ago. As usual I was simply seduced – this one by its heavenly caress Purrrrrr.

plan A

plan B

Trawling for ideas in Pinterest, I thought a cowl-neck sweater dress like the one Gigi Hadid wore may go well with the mini-skirt & thigh-high boots. Had such high hope for this frosting. But it was NG – I felt like a pink Big Bird. So I thought maybe I can salvage this by going tighter – like a ballet-style wrap cardi. Unfortunately there really wasn’t enough fabric in the tent sweater. I tried piecing, but it didn’t work with the delicate sweater knit. Worst part is the shedding. You could have sworn I have like 10 cats in the house. Achoo!

So into the scrap recycling bag this went. Sorry Earth, there’s only so much I can handle. Will shop more carefully in the future.

Cross-body bag & wallet

OK one last blog catch-up before I go back down the rabbit hole….I made this bag & wallet set last year. Now while I can’t recall all the details for you, I can at least update you on how they held up…or not!

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who love things to death. This just-big-enough & reassuringly-secure-crossbody RTW bag I bought on holiday a few years ago is a case in point. It’s probably made from plastic leather, so the strap had started to crack and in danger of literally hanging by the threads. Plus one of the metal strap clips have broken. Super-glue & electrical tape tide me over for a while. But it was time to make my own replacement, not least because I would like it to be just a little bit more personalised to my needs: While it’s my favourite amongst my RTW bags, it just a tad too small and with too few inner pockets. The wallet bought from the same shop also can be improved by having a separate coin pockets and be more accommodating of different size notes – especially the yucky plasticky new £5 & £10 notes that don’t fold well.

The Design & Pattern

So here are the originals by zzzz2005: compared to my replacements:

 

Design changes:

Bag

  • Bigger bag body (2″ wider & deeper)
  • More inside pockets: 2-tier pockets for cards & keys + extra pockets for pen, phone, misc.
  • Simple non-detachable strap attachment. The original bag used swivel clips & the straps would get all twisted over time. Plus clips just seem less secure, easier to break.
  • Custom print for the flap. I do actually like the original print a lot, so could have cannibalise the original bag to reuse the print. But I decided to fix & keep the original bag as well for those times when the smaller size would do.

Wallet

This is a love-child of the one I got from the same shop & the Paul Smith wallet I got for DH, peppered with Make Supply’s tips on making leather wallet.

  • Base design is modeled after the Paul Smith folded wallet construction
  • Sizing-wise I changed it to match my wallet when folded as that dimension fits my smaller hand better
  • Changed one side’s card pockets to a zipped coin pocket
  • Followed Make Supply’s approach to card pockets even though I’m using thinner fabric instead of leather for these inner pockets
  • Added custom prints for one side of wallet outside & coin pocket

For the custom prints…

I ended up using Printfab UK‘s fabric printing service. I looked into the high street photo printing services, but they mostly offer printing onto finished goods – cushions, wall canvas artworks – which means higher prices and more work to recover the fabric for sewing. In addition to per metre pricing, Printfab also offers metric Fat Quarter size (printable area 70cm x 50cm with 0.5cm unprinted border, rather than the smaller imperial FQ size of 8″ x 22″/ 46cm x 56cm). Their fabric choices are all cotton apart from one linen-cotton mix & range from lightweight Cotton Muslin (66gsm) to heavier Cotton Hopsack (398gsm). I went for mid-weight Cotton Half Panama (230gsm) to minimise bulk, especially as I’m adding a protective clear plastic layer on top of the print like the original bag & wallet. The Fat Quarter size is enough for me to decorate 4 bags & 4 wallets. Mine cost £12.78 including VAT & UK domestic shipping and arrived more quickly than I expected – ordered late Saturday night & it arrived on Wednesday.

For the prints, I had trouble sourcing the same vintage Chinese ad poster print, or similar ones that I like as much. So I initially went with some Tang Dynasty scroll paintings with a fabric / sewing theme (“Fang Lady With Servants” by Tang Dynasty painter Zhou Fang and “Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk” by Tang Dynasty painter Zhang Xuan). It took a fair bit of image hacking to cajole these into the shapes & sizes I needed. But there was enough scenes to compose a couple of matching sets. After finding out that the Fat Quarter was bigger than I expected, I decided to make the effort and recreate a similar old Chinese ad poster design as the original bag. I didn’t bother with matching wallets for this design, instead cobbled together a couple of design meaningful to me, one a fabricholic quote that maybe some of you can relate to too! 🙂

I was originally going to use clear PVC fabric to protect the print – like in the original bag & wallet. But the one I bought from Aamzon had that nasty toxic smell. I hung it outside to air & I think it flew away. Oops. So I ended up laminating the print instead.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

As always, step documentation of my self-drafts are sparse on the ground. Here’s what I can reconstruct interrogating the finished bag & wallet…

Bag

  1. Sew Pocket top hems
  2. Fold Pocket sides SAs
  3. Fold Front Pocket at double layer foldline
  4. Fold Pocket bottom SAs
  5. Sew Pocket to Lining – sides, bottom, divider – except the Back Pocket side that goes across the bag left side
  6. Sew velcro to Shell Front & Flap Lining
  7. Fold Bag Shell & Lining in half lengthwise & sew side seams, sew bottom triangles to form bottom side seams
  8. Sew Back Pocket final side & bottom that go across bag left side
  9. Baste Flap Shell & Lining together along all edges, Bag Shell & Lining together at top edge
  10. Tape binding to Flap side & bottom edges, topstitch
  11. Baste Flap to Bag at top edge
  12. Tape binding to top edge, topstitch
  13. Glue strap layers together, topstitch
  14. Thread strap through buckle & rectangle-rings, fold back ends & hand sew in place
  15. Thread strap tabs through rectangle-rings, fold in half, hand sew to bag side seams

Wallet

This one was even more hairy. I resorted to a paper prototype to work out how to pull it together. But even this + the finished wallet don’t yield up a clear picture of the order of construction. So below is again my best guess.

  1. Sew Outer Print & FLeather RS-together, topstitch seam
  2. Trim FLeather SA, Fold Print SA & Outer Lining SA to wrong sides
  3. Fuse Outer Lining to Outer Print-FLeather, Fuse Coated Linen facing to Lining top edge
  4. Fuse interfacing to Inner Lining wrong side
  5. Sew Bridge to Coin Pocket left edge RS-together, Press SA towards Coin Pocket
  6. Sew Zipper to Coin Pocket-Bridge & Inner Lining top edges
  7. Sew Coin Pocket-Bridge & Inner Lining right & bottom edges r-s-together, Turn right side out
  8. Edge-stitch Bridge to Inner Lining (closing off the Coin Pocket in the process), Fold Inner Lining remaining SA to wrong side
  9. Hem all Car Pockets top edges (in my case, turn & fuse with iron)
  10. Sew stacked Card Pockets & Receipts Pocket right edge WS-to-RS, Fold SA inside Receipts Pocket, Topstitch/Fuse SA in place
  11. Working from top Card Pockets down, sew each Card Pocket lower edge to Receipts Pocket WS-to-RS
  12. Fold Card+Receipts Pockets top, left, bottom SA to wrong side, Top-stitch to Inner Lining WS-together
  13. Top-stitch Bridge bottom edge & corresponding Outer bottom edge separately
  14. Align Inner & Outer bottom edges, Top-stitching the layers together starting from Coin Pocket left edge across its bottom edge, up right edge, top edge of Outer only, down Card-Receipt Pockets left edge, across its bottom edge, ending at its right edge.

The Verdict

Six of one half-dozen of the other.

  • While the RTW bag fell apart in the material, my me-made fell apart at the seams. Maybe I should give rivets a go to reinforce the strap tabs attachment,
  • The Shell fabric I used may also be a bit too soft to hold up the goodies in the pockets – the Front top edge keep folding inward from the weight.
  • The laminated prints also did not hold up well. They look rather grubby with daily love. Combined with the softer Shell, there’s now a tear in the laminate where the bag bent naturally around my hip. May have to go back to the stinky PVC idea. But unfortunately I laminated all the remaining prints. Not sure adding an extra layer of PVC would be enough to prevent laminate tear & grubbiness or whether I should attempt to detach the laminate…or maybe even order replacement prints.

On the plus side, one girl in the office loves the bag enough to want to buy one-off me. Of course I said no. At least not until I sort out quality assurance issues. Then again Gen Z & Fast Fashion go hand-in-hand. Maybe she wouldn’t subject one to the daily abuse mine goes through.

The wallet is holding up much better, though again the laminates look a bit grubby from the get-go. Practicality-wise it’s an A.

Sets 2-4 are already cut. One of these days I’ll get around to them. For now shabby chic will do!

Aviator Cap & Convertible Mittens

Lastly, mopping up the too-big-to-trash scraps of the orange-black double-sided sweater knit are these experiments with an Aviator style hat & a pair of convertible mittens.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

4-style1-1b

WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted mock-wrap skirt, Burda 2015-10-109 sweater, Burda 2013-11-117 jacket;

 

The Cat-ear Aviator Cap

Inspirations, Design, & Pattern

I had collected a bunch of inspirations for Aviator style cap. There was even one planned in my SWAP Fall/Winter 2014, though for a different fabric. The Block shown below was actually developed for that, which of course I haven’t got around to make. So count this make as a wearable muslin? Although this is knit, and the other isn’t, so maybe not so insightful as a muslin. Hmmm…

I had originally considered Burda 2011-10-149 fur cap for that planned faux shearling aviator cap. But because my head is really flat in the crown, I was worried standard hat pattern won’t fit well. RTW hats tend to fly off easily. And a floppy fabric one that mold to the head might just show up my deficiency. So I made my own Block from flattened plastic wrap + clear tape head mold. I added back some extra room in the crown, but not as much as in a standard pattern, just enough to disguise my deficiency slightly.

So how I ended up with ears…Yes I do feel a bit silly wear this. But you frequently see young ones in London & East Asian women in cute knitted animal face hats. I guess ultimately I still have East Asian blood flowing in me. Excuses excuses. In any case I consulted Burda 2011-10-142 animal cap which is a similar hat for children, but ended up going with the Block I already have with added ears. After all this is suppose to be a muslin right?

Fabrics & Notions

Construction Notes

I thought my fabric was thick enough to go single layer. But when I made up the single layer I found the result too floppy & unstable. Oops. So I ended up scavenging for scraps big enough to double all pattern pieces. This mishap did allowed me to hide the seams of the Ears to the cap & the strips of interfacing I used to stabilize the cap circumference & edges. The construction is otherwise unremarkable – apart from the general problems I had with this fabric. The Ears were the first time I tried using Flatlock stitches on a dart. It didn’t come out too bad. So now I don’t have to convert darts into seams – eg princess seams in my reversible skirt – to get shaping when using Flatlock as my primary seaming technique.

2-steps-Hat

The Convertible Mittens

Inspirations, Design, & Pattern

The mittens are the equivalent of impulse purchase. I had never lust after one. But as it was cold outside, I couldn’t find my gloves, and there was enough scraps left, I thought why not. I settled on mittens because fingers seem too fiddly to sew well in my spongy fabric.

After Googling “mitten sewing patterns” & “convertible mitten sewing patterns” I cobbled together different ideas & made up my own pattern to fit my hands as you can see below. There are probably simpler patterns one can use. But I didn’t want a visible seam line on the back of my hand, so I had to add extra bits like the “Back of Hand Tab”. You may be less fussy if you make one yourself! :@)

 

1-pat-Mittens

Fabrics & Notions

  • Fabric: 2.5 yd Mohair/Acrylic/Nylon Double-sided sweater knit from NY Elegant Fabrics ($59.95/yd)
  • Notions: 1/8″ elastics.

Construction Notes

Construction would probably be easier on the sewing machine. But my overlocker challenged me to flatlock the whole thing & I accepted. OK, I did have to tidy a few bits with hand sewing, and the finishing is a bit on the rough side. But for what would have otherwise been scraps they’re now serviceable mittens for a season or two. So can’t complain.

2-steps-Mittens

The Verdict

Regardless of whether these accessories are your cup of tea, or even mine, it’s quite satisfying to use up all the scraps without having to take up quilting or crafting! The hat – minus the ears – will probably get made again, maybe with chin closures for better practicality, for I haven’t given up on those inspiration images just yet. The mittens probably no, for I prefer gloves. Even as convertibles, they’re not as useful (for using smartphones while keeping hands warm) as I’d hope, because I discovered I actually use my thumbs as well when smartphoning.

So that’s the end of this double-sided fabric. Next up, my second attempt in recent years to make a pair of trousers.

Fix It June: Tote the II Forever!

Next up on my Fix It list: My replacement tote that’s barely six months old.

Self-drafted Tote v2

Sadly poor construction quality is not limited to fast-fashion RTW. Tote I lasted me almost two years. So it was definitely a WTF moment when the handle tabs on Tote II started doing this:

5-broken

I thought the thicker faux leather would last longer. I was wrong. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but here are my suspects:

  1. 5-compareDifferent D-rings I used this time have rectangular wire profile where as Tote I had rounded wire profile. Combined with heavy grocery maybe the pointier edge acts like knife edge.
  2. Lack of tab reinforcement from woven interfacing. Can’t remember whether I reinforced Tote I, but Tote II definitely needed this. And it needed a stiff interfacing at that. For these softer tabs keep shifting to the extra pointy corners of the D-rings.

I decided changing 1 would be too much hassle, so 2 it was then. Apart from a layer of old woven interfacing, I stiffened the center bit that goes around the D-Ring with a double layer of Ban-Rol (precut interfacing for waistbands that won’t collapse heightwise). I bought these long before I discovered that standard waistbands don’t like  my short-waisted torso. Now it finally found a use!

The replacement tabs had to be hand stitched and the stitching shows on the inside of the bag. Not brilliant. But at least functional. And thanks to an old-fashion thimble and needle grabber, I managed to do it without spilling blood.

While I was at it I tried to enlarge the zipper pull too. Clio was right that Lampo zippers are some smooth operators. And Don Morin was right that a large ring pull is a plus for practical zipped bags. My Lampo’s pull was lamentably anemic. My stash & trash yielded no matching ring pull of any sort, not even a keyring. So I end up wrapping the existing pull with a scrap from the tab redo. Hopefully this tote will now last me a while longer.

5-fixed