Making A Face Mask

The Introduction 

If you just want instructions to make a mask you could skip the intro and the research, although there are some important messages within! 

I am what you would call an enthusiastic sewer if not the most competent. I can make my own dresses and trousers as long as the pattern does not include anything as tricky as s zip ( I can do it, I just don’t want to). The reason I love felting is that it’s not precise, wet felting is the equivalent of cooking a casserole – a pinch of this, a handful of that. Sewing is more your Victoria Sandwich – precise measurements are required if disaster is to be averted.

Before I say anything about how to make a face mask its important to remember that they do not replace good hand hygiene and social distancing. If you have the symptoms of Covid 19 you can not wear a mask and leave your home, you must quarantine yourself for the time recommended by your authorities.

There is an argument that by wearing a mask in shops and on public transport you can, if you are asymptomatic, reduce the chance that you might infect someone unintentionally. They may also offer some protection but this very much depends on what they are made of, how you wear the mask and if you are practicing the other aforementioned measures of good hand hygiene and social distancing. To stop the spread of Covid its important to listen to the advise of science, its likely that we will need to continue limiting the social group that we interact with (to less that 30% of pre covid) until there is a vaccination or an effective treatment.

At the end of this post I will share the best instructions I have seen for wearing and using a face mask.

The Research 

I have type two diabetes, its my own fault and probably a bit of genetic propensity. I did have it under control, lost weight , did exercise. But I let it slip in the latter part of last year and I know that I might not have had it under as much control as I did (although I am remedying that right now!) I do not like the idea of being more vulnerable to Covid 19, my way of dealing with vulnerability is to research the science, obsess over the news and think about solutions. So I have lost weight, spent far too long dancing with Oti, used the treadmill  and practiced very strict social distancing.

There have been 100’s of articles written about face masks, there are 1000’s of sellers on etsy, there are numerous free patterns that you can download, from the very simple single layer of cotton with three pleats, to masks that include pockets for filtration materials (like cut up coffee filters). My requirement were:

  • It had to fit properly – no gaping sides
  • It had to stay put – one of the golden rules it you don’t touch it unless to take it off
  • It had to be comfortable
  • It had to look good – I know but….
  • As a design it had to be as effective with ties as with elastic (1/8 inch elastic is impossible to find at a sensible price with a realistic delivery time)
  • It had to use materials that were effective as a barrier and enabled you to wear it for long periods of time (I may have to wear mine whilst teaching)
The results of face mask material tests

With Nicola Sturgeon recommending the wearing of masks in Scotland in shops and on public transport it looks like they are going to become part of our lives for some time to come. I think, if you can, you should make your own or at least buy from someone you know has done their research. This graphic from oxford university shows that not all materials are equal. If you can not get a medical grade face mask , and you should not they are needed in hospitals, the next best materials are good quality cotton/poly cotton, at least 180 thread count, two layers at least and something like interfacing for added filtration, it also gives some structure which helps in keeping it in place whilst you are wearing it. Some designs have a pocket for adding a coffee filter but as you would need to touch this to remove it it seems an unnecessary way to expose yourself to the virus. Research into the best materials is ongoing with some very detailed research (summarised here in the New York Times) that suggests a mix of silk and cotton or poly cotton acts as a good filtration, and that the face masks must have few if any gaps. All this makes it wise to avoid single layer cotton masks that are ill fitting and make your own. There are many, many to chose from. When it comes to materials to use you have to balance breathability and filtration.

Instructions ( apologies in advance for any typos – I finished writing this at midnight also apologies for my explanations. I am a geographer not a skilled sewer)

To make this face mask you will need:

  • A copy of the pattern (can be found at the bottom of the page to download)
  • Two pieces of good quality cotton 11in by 7in- preferably plain and patterned so the front is easily identifiable. If you are making them for yourself a good quality plain pillow case would be fine for the back.
  • 14 inches of 1/8 inch elastic or 36 inches of ribbon/cord (most suppliers of elastic are either vastly overcharging or have dates for delivery that range from late May to July)
  • One piece of interfacing 7in by 6 1/2in or the same size as the cotton if you are using non fusible
  • Something to stiffen the nose, I used about 3in of pipe cleaner, measure it on across your nose first.
  • And the obvious – cotton, scissors, a sewing machine and pins
  • The sellotape is there for those who will print off the pattern on paper and want to make multiple masks – rather than pinning the paper on to the material sellotape around the edges and cut out – repeat.



Step one

Once you have cut out the pattern iron on the interfacing as per the photo. If you can, do this the night before as it ensures the interfacing is fully fused before you start sewing. If you are not using fusible interfacing you should have two pieces of cotton and a piece of interfacing all the same size.

Step Two

Insert darts at the chin and nose of both sides of face mask, I find it easiest to fold each piece of cloth on half and mark off with a pencil the start and end point against the pattern, joining them up with a ruler to sew along. If you using non fusible interfacing pin it to the outside patterned layer before marking out and sewing the darts.

The measurements for the darts are on the pattern. Longer and wider at the chin. These can be adjusted for your face shape if necessary.

Step Three

Once you have placed the darts at the nose and the chin match right sides together and pin at the darts to secure.

Pin each piece of elastic in at the sides, you want the elastic to be in the corners once you sew the two pieces of fabric together. Make sure the elastic is inside the mask. Pin the two sides together leaving a gap a the top next to the nose dart, as shown by the pins in the photo, this is so you can turn the mask right side out.

Step Three …

Sew a seam allowance of about 1/4 inch, I tend to use the foot of the sewing machine as a guide. Once its turned right way out iron the open seam inwards.

Step Four

If you are using a pipe cleaner as a nose piece insert it through the opening in the seam and position it centrally above the nose dart. pin in place as in the photo and stitch around to secure in place, I would do at least two rows. In the process seal the open seam.

Step Five

So that the mask fits neatly at the sides you should put in two pleats, as shown on the pattern. The two pleats should nestle next to each other, between the elastic.

The easiest way I find to do it is to place the pattern against the edge of the mask and mark the bottom, middle and top of the pleat with three pins. In this case you are folding down from the top of the mask.

In the photo the orange pin is at the bottom. Take the middle pin (yellow) and fold over the top pin (green) the bottom and top pins should now to be together. Take out the top pin and use it to secure the pleat. Remove the other two pins and repeat two create two pleats on either side.

Step Six

You have a choice now you can secure the pleats by stitching over them alone or you can go around the entire edge of the mask about 1/8 inch in, I have found this makes the mask sit nicely on my face but I would try yours on first and see how it feels.

Step Seven

Wearing your mask

Firstly and most importantly a mask does not remove the need for the following:

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% if you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes.
  • Keep a safe distance from others, at least 6 feet.
  • Avoid public places if you are vulnerable
  • Stay home for 14 days if you have any of the symptoms

If you choose to wear a mask you must follow the excellent instructions found here – when wearing this mask pinch the pipe cleaner so it seals the gap around your nose.

No elastic or cord

Take four lengths of material 18 inches long 1/2 inch wide and used make four ties and attach them as you did with the elastic. I used an old sheet to make these.

Happy Halloween 🎃, wet felting a pumpkin hat

With Halloween approaching a work colleague asked me to make a pumpkin hat for her five year old daughter. She had intended incrochet a hat, but due to some problems with my hands over the summer I am not that keen on crocheting anything other than very small items at the moment, so I suggested wet felting a pumpkin hat.

I had thought to make a beret but was conscious that if I made the hole too big, or it stretched when I was shaping the inside it would be difficult to adjust to fit. So I decided to go for this:


This gave me a rim a the bottom that could have elastic inserted into it if the hat was too big.

I used a combination of needle felting and wet felting to make the stalk, leaves and tendrils:

To help shape the hat and to get the neck to be the right size I used a small blow up football, which could be deflated and removed easily.

The stalk was needle felted on to the pumpkin hat using and the leaves needle felted to the tendrils. To make the leaves nice and crinkled I first dried them in cups and then them with hairspray.

As a first experiment in vegetable hat wear I am happy, I still think a beret would have been the best option, but I suspect the little girl will be happy.

For reference I used pumpkin coloured fibres from world of wool, 100grams, some left over bits of green and some botany waste for the second, inside layer, of the hat. It did use quite a lot of fibre but it’s a big hat!


The Islay Sheep

One of the ideas of taking a local fleece was to try and show that it’s possible to take the undervalued wool of island sheep and create something that adds value to it without having to send it to the mainland to be processed by a factory that adds value for them but not for the people on the island.

Small scale crafting will never make you rich in monetary terms, but it can give you a great deal of satisfaction. It can also showcase that what local farmers produce can be used to produce a quality product with a bit of imagination and some hard work.

My idea was to make a hat from a local fleece, that I had cleaned, hand carded, dyed, felted and designed myself. I am no artist! I am a strictly stick figure artist. Wet felting, crochet, dress making gives me an outlet for all those frustrated artistic feelings that I can not express through pen, paint and pencil.

Hares are one my favourite animals, elegant and full of the joys of spring. I could not draw a hare so I used a template created from a picture found on line, there are always solutions! I made a square of pre felt, pinned on the template and cut out my hare.


The hat was made in the usual way, and the moon was added using by adding needle felting undyed wool and the hare needle felted onto the hat.

I am happy with what I produced, it needs tidying up, a little more needle felting to secure the stray fibres of the moon, the rim needs to be trimmed and a label added. I would love to keep it, but the idea was to make the fleece pay for itself. So I will need to try and sell it.

If I don’t sell it I will at the very least have a hat I can wear, that I made from start to finish.

The Pink Top hat and other adventures

The idea this weekend was to make a pink top hat. Having purchased a cheap top hat from Amazon I wanted to try and use some of my Islay fleece to make a top hat.

05C9514F-4937-4B06-B4F5-A605716173DDI used three layers of fleece, and two layers of purple Merino and then some of hand carded Islay fleece.

The top hate started out looking like this

Bull clips curtesy of my daughters stationary kit. It ended up looking like this ..

It’s a tad big, but the idea was always to try and use local fleece and experiment with blocking and shaping. So I am happy.

Having indilged my whimsical side I decided today to be far more practical and make a hat and scarf set to sell, on the basis that bright pink is not to everyone’s taste, I played it safe and went with black and greys, the flower on the hat was added by needle felting.

The pictures outside were taken in between rain showers and with a stiff breeze,  to the amusement of the local sheep and a bemused looking tourist.

The hats that went wrong and the one that I love.


I love my weekends because that’s the time I can make a mess in the kitchen and hopefully end up with something I am happy with.

I woke up early on Saturday and was rewarded by one of nature’s gifts



What I wanted to do was make a hat. I love hats, I wear them whenever I can, much to my daughter chagrin. I did my internet research, was inspired by beautiful hats and embarked on my weekend adventure. Mistakes were made, one hat almost ended up in my draw of felt bits to cut and use in other projects and right now my arms feel like jelly, if your upper arms need a work out .. make a HAT!

To make a hat.


  • Wool, I used a selection of Merino wool tops, carded batts and my own carded Islay wool
  • Olive oil Soap or any other soap that you like using
  • Hot water
  • Bubble-wrap
  • Some sort of head shaped item .. a hat block is desirable, it is not necessary if you are just making one to two hats
  • Mat for rolling your hat in, I have a blind that I removed the ironmongery from – far cheaper than a wet felting mat
  • Piece of curtain netting – I got a cheap mosquito net and have been cutting it up to fit my projects
  • An assortment of bowls
  • A Resist to make the hat around (more about that further down the page)
  • TIME!!!! – this will not take an hour, set aside about half a day at least.

I also have a special wet felting rolling pin, with ridges that comes in useful.


I decided to make my hat using the resist method. You can use any thin plastic that you can cut to make a resist. I personally like laminating sheets as you can see through to the layer underneath. Useful if you want to repeat a pattern on both sides.

The basic pattern looks like this. The tape around being the circumstance of you’d head divided by two.


  • Lay the template down onto a large piece of bubble-wrap
  • Begin by laying the fibres around the edge so they overlap the edge, fill in the middle. If you plan for your hat to have turned up edge you can put your pattern down first and then cover with the first layer of fibres as I have done so below, here you can also see the advantage of laminating sheets as you can see the pattern underneath and ensue that front and back are similar.


  • Cover with curtain netting
  • Dampen with hot soapy water and smooth
  • Press the water towards the edges of the pattern until the fibers are flattened down except for those bits that overhang.
  • Remove the netting gently and turn the template over .. be brave!
  • Turn in the loose fibers to give a neat edge
  • Add the next layer of fibers in the same way
  • Cover with netting
  • Wet with hot soapy water and press the water down and out towards the edges
  • Rub the surface gently, smoothing out from the middle
  • Remove the netting, smooth the fibres over the edgeto make it neat!
  • Repeat – until you have three layers of wool, covering the template on both sides. If you are using merino tops place each layer of fibres at 90 degrees to each other. Because I used my own carded wool it was more like chunks 🙂 as can be seen below.

  • Once the template has been completely covered with three layers of fibers, use your preferred method to felt your fibres. I like to use some bubble wrap or my hands over the netting.
  • Once you have done the pinch test and are happy that it’s no longer moving. Place a piece of bubble wrap over the hat and roll the entire thing up in the bamboo mat.
  • Roll the hat as you would any piece of flat wet felting.
  • Turn the project so that the rolling direction is changed each time. Repeat until it’s clear the hat has shrunk and the resist is becoming crumpled.
  • Using a large pair of scissors, cut into the bottom of the hat and carefully remove the resist.
  • Place the hat into a bowl of very hot water (I used just boiled water from the kettle and used a pair of barbecue tonge to lift it out)  for a minute and then straight into cold water. You should repeat this several times. Keep the cold tap running and fill up the bowl afresh each time.
  • Rinse until the water runs clear under hot and then cold running water
  • Now is the time to be aggressive, bang the hat against a hard surface, I used the draining board. Remember to bang all sides and both ends of the hat
  • Hit the hat against the surface of the table. Especially the cut edge, as these will tighten and no longer look freshly cut (of course if you are anything like me you will probably end up having to cut bits of the bottom anyway) In areas where you want the hat to shrink more, simply hit these against the table.
  • Its now time to mold the hat over whatever you are using, this is the bit where you have to experiment. If you are having problems shrinking the hat further you can microwave it for around 30-50 seconds to warm it up, I poured boiling hot water over mine and rubbed it aggressively with bubble wrap.

I ended up making three hats.

The first one used a resist that was too long and curved outwards at the bottom,  because I had put the pattern at the bottom I was reluctant to cut it off. It sat abandoned for a few hours whilst I made a second. I then microwaved it and turned up the bottom, folding it inwards and pulling the excess to the back. I cut off the excess sewed it up, smoothed it out so you can not see the stitches, added a flower, I already had, to cover the mistake. It’s far too thick .. it will be very warm!

The pins are still in the flower on the pictures as I am waiting for it to dry until I sew it on.

The second hat was a better length, but I put the design to close to the edge and so could not turn it up or under without obliterating the design, so I made a brim, not an easy task. The hat was stuck over a bowl and the crown stuffed with newspaper as I wrestled it into shape. Lots of very hot water, steam from the iron and frustration.

Its a bit wonky but it looks good on.

Sunday morning arrives and I am determined to try again. Inspired by the colours of the sunrise on Saturday , remembering to place my design away from the edge.

This time I was finished by 12:30 and that included making a flower. I am pleased with the result. I still have lessons to learn, it was still a bit long, but this time I was able to fold the excess under to create a stiffer brim.

I still have to sew on the flower so excuse the pins

Happy hat making. Any tips leave them in the comments!

For my next adventure in hat making I have ordered a cheap top hat from amazon. 😊

The messy bit, cleaning the fleece

Storm Ali arrived today, the winds did not reach the advertised 80mph but it still packed a punch. The local flock of sheep, normally along the shores delicately picking at the tasty seaweed, decided that the village was safer and they gathered on the grass at the side of the road for their afternoon nibble. The local distillery closed up shop due to flying roof tiles and a few bins escaped from their moorings, but otherwise we got off lightly.


Having spent a few days wrapped up in an old sheet, whilst we entertained visitors, the fleece was unwrapped, with a back ground of wailing wind, and divided into chunks that could easily be washed in a bucket.

Ideally I would have done this outside, in the sunshine, but it’s autumn in the Hebrides and 70mph winds and whispy bits of sheeps fleece are a less than ideal mix.

I did a lots of online research before starting and discounted several methods as being unnecessary fussy or involving equipment or space that I do not have.

I was lucky enough to have a fleece that did not contain a great deal of lanolin, the grease that makes the sheeps coat waterproof, however it did have quite a lot of vegetable matter.

Before washing it looked like this

To clean it I used the the equipment below.

1. Washing up liquid, I tried to be environmentally conscious, but it didn’t cut it when removing lanolin, so I reverted to fairy liquid

2. Very hot water, it’s not hot water alone or with soap that felts wool, but agitation

3. A bucket or any other container that will hold your fleece, which for ease of handling you can place in a cheap laundary bag

4. A timer, so you don’t forget your fleece.

The method is simple, if time consuming.

Fill the bucket with hot water, hot enough that you would not want to leave your hands in it.

Add your choice of washing agent, until the water has that slightly glassy look, scoop off any bubbles you want the soap not the bubbles.

Carefully lower the wool, in a laundary bag, into the water. DO NOT swirl it around! You want the absolute minimum of movement to help prevent the wool felting into an ugly useless mess.

Leave it for 30mins, but check the water is not cooling down. Remove the laundary bag carefully and let it drip into the bucket.


Empty the bucket outside, not down the drain (lanolin is a fat it will coagulate in your drains) repeat the first wash.

If the water from the second bucket looks relatively clear when you throw it out you can now rinse the wool. DO NOT rinse it in cold water, a change in temperature encourages felting. Rinse in the same temperature that you washed it in.

I then removed the fleece from the laundary bag and left it on a sheet on a  drying rack. I have a dehumidifier that we use to keep the utility room free from damp and I left that on. It helped to dry out the fleece over night rather than over several days

Once the fleece was dry I picked it, removing any vegetable matter that was left and gently teased out the ends using an old curry comb.

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I am really happy with the outcome, it’s soft, clean and relatively untangled.  There is one other essential piece of kit ..


Something good to read! There is a lot of sitting around.

My new carders will arrive this week, weather permitting, so I will be busy washing and drying for the rest of this week so I can start carding the fleece next week.


The sheeps fleece


6C0E05B1-7769-4147-A46B-125CF4654646I live on the Isle of Islay, famous for its Whisky, and also home to farmers who are struggling to make a living from the high quality product they produce, Sheep.

Many of the Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built upon the back of the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords sits on a ceremonial Woolsack representing the importance of wool to the economy of Britain during the ore industrial era.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being, in the more remote areas of the UK, representing a loss to the farmer.

Sheep have to be shorn, to avoid overheating in the summer and flystrike. The cost of shearing a sheep on Islay is around £1:40 – £2:00 per sheep. The value of the fleece is 15p – that’s right 15p. For the farmers on the neighbouring Island Jura the value is even less. If you keep Jacobs there is no value, unless as bedding for the pigs.

When a student offered me a fleece for 15p I initially said no, I love my clean carded colourful wools for felting why would I even consider buying a dirty smelly fleece. Then I gave it some thought. The fact that a beautiful natural commodity like wool represents a cost to the farmer and not a profit seems almost criminal. So we came to an arrangement, one fleece for £1:00 and a piece of homemade cake.

On Friday I took ownership of one fleece, in a black plastic sack. The deal concluded in my classroom, one piece of cake outstanding!

Because I have guests visiting at the moment I am having to resist my desire to start washing and carding but I have unwrapped it and cut off any really offending smelly bits.

This fleece started its life on a farm outside Portnahaven, at the far southerly tip of Islay. I want to record it’s progress to something of value and see if I can add some local value to this wonderful local resource. This blog will record its progress as well as mine as I learn new skills, make mistakes and hopefully get something at the end that can show just how wonderful Wool is.