Mask Making Mania

  • Materials Used:
  • 2 pieces of 7″ x 9″ fabric
  • 1 strip of 1 to 1+1/2″ x 7″ fabric
  • 2 strips of stretched 1″ x 6″ T-shirt fabric
  • Optional: some type of filter and/or wire

Along with everyone else, I am making fabric masks. I am also making masks from special microbial fabric the hospital provided for them. The fabric masks will go to family, friends in need, and special places that need at least some form of protection. I looked at and tried a lot of different patterns, until I came up with something that works for ME. It may not work for you, and if that is the case maybe you can adapt it to work for you.

People are insisting these masks need some kind of wire to go over the bridge of the nose. I always tend to overthink things, and my first thought was… won’t they need to be washed after wearing them in public? What happens if you sew those wires into the mask? Won’t they rust? So, I created a sleeve, much like a sleeve to hang your quilt, over the bridge of the nose. I don’t have enough pieces of wire, pipe cleaners, or twist ties to sew into the mask anyhow, so a sleeve is what you get. Find your own wire.

Also, people are suggesting a place in or on the mask to add a hepa filter of sorts. So, I adapted for that as well. I made 2 different kinds of masks, the ones that do not have pleats but look like jock straps across your face and the ones with pleats. Don’t get me wrong. I am fine with the ones that look like jock straps. The other ones don’t take as long for me to make, and I made fewer mistakes with them… except for those darned pleats. I’ll get to those in a minute.

I start out with 2 pieces of 7″ x 9″ quilt shop quality and/or batik fabric. Most masks are using 6″ x 9″ pieces of fabric, but I can’t seem to get my pleats to work right so I just added an inch. They’re supposed to be under your chin and almost up to your eyeballs anyway.

This is where I accommodate the use of a filter. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance with right sides of the fabric facing each other, I sewed 3 inches on either end of one 9″ side and then sewed along either side of that seam to hold each side of the seam in place. See where the rotary cutter peeks through? That’s a slot for inserting a filter. You should have 3 inches sewn shut with a 3 inch hole for inserting the filter and then another 3 inches sewn shut on the other end.

Next, I sewed along the other 9″ side.

By this time, a lot of people are having trouble finding elastic, and are using elastic headbands, pony tail holders or are making fabric ties. As I experimented, I had problems with getting the elastic to fit around my ears correctly. Plus, it wasn’t very comfortable. I wanted to try the option of using T-shirt fabric, especially since I had some brand new T-shirts that need to go to the thrift shop (that is closed right now). So, I cut the sleeve of a T-shirt into 1 inch strips. If you stretch them, they will curl to a round shape. Cut those into 7 (corrected) 6 inch strips.

At this point, you are going to sew a 6″ T-shirt strip on the inside of either/both open sides. Make sure you have an edge of the strip sticking out in each corner and that the rest is tucked safely inside so that it doesn’t get caught while you are stitching.

So, now the mask is all enclosed and needs to be inverted. This is where that slot for the filter comes in handy. Turn it right side out through the hole and voila!

Next, I sewed that little wire sleeve at the bridge of the nose… along the opposite side of the filter “hole”. I cut about 1+1/4″ x 7″ strips for my sleeves. Some people may like it a little tighter so 1″ wide would work for them. And, some people probably need a little wider, so 1+1/2″ would be best for them. Find what works for you. This happened to work for me. There are a couple of ways to sew them on. First, you want to turn under each skinny end and sew those down and then you can either iron the long ends under about 1/4″ inch and sew down on top of those. OR, I found I like sewing an open side along the top edge and then sewing on top down the other side. I know I’m not explaining that well, and I apologize. In the picture of the black and white fabric, you can see the fabric is barely tucked under the top of the mask (on the back side). I sewed along there and then turned the mask over to sew along the other side. It gives a tad more wiggle room for the wire.

And, now we come to the part where I had the most trouble of all… making the pleats. Some directions I’ve seen give you precise measurements to use. Others tell you to make 3 pleats; that’s it, just make 3 pleats (of whatever size you like). I had masks that were longer on one side than the other and looking pretty sad. I just saw a trick this morning for which I do not have pictures. But, this person suggested folding your mask down the middle along the 9″ side and ironing a crease. Then open it up and fold both edges to that middle crease and iron creases there. That way you have 3 creases to guide you. I’m going to try that with my next mask, but I suspect I will end up having the same problems as before. So, my advice for you… just do the best you can. It’ll all work out okay.

Find your mask style and please stay healthy and happy.

*Note: this post has been corrected to reflect a correction. I wore a mask with 7″ elastic today, and it was not tight enough. But, if I get the elastic too tight, it pulls my ears forward and is uncomfortable. That was the reason I switched to T-shirt fabric. My recommendation is that, before you sew the T-shirt fabric or elastic in place, put the unfinished mask up to your face and gauge how long you think it should be for YOUR face to make it snug, but not uncomfortable. You need to be able to breathe but allow germs to float inside your mask.

Dresden Plate with a Jelly Roll

Making a Dresden Plate quilt was on my Bucket List (the mental list of the many, many quilts I want to try before I die). Problem is that I really am trying to use fabric I already have. I’m bad about buying jelly rolls, because I figure I can easily make something without having to cut all those strips. But, they sit in my studio.

So, for this quilt, I decided to use one of my Riley Blake jelly rolls. I don’t know if you can see or not, but there are 20 points on these Dresden Plates. Twenty-two rolls came with the set, but I left 2 of them out, thinking I could use them in the border somewhere. But then I didn’t. Funny how as you are making a quilt, your journey takes you down different paths than you had originally intended. Anyhow, 20 strips… what size ruler do I need? A circle is 360 degrees. Divide 360 by 20 strips, and you will need an 18 degree Dresden ruler or template.

I wanted big blocks, so I extended a bit beyond what the template showed for where I should cut the tip end. I would be folding the strip lengthwise and sewing that top end to make a tip when it’s folded back, so it wouldn’t be missed when it’s tucked to the back. Missouri Star Quilt Company has a tutorial on how to make the plates here.

I finally finished it and tried some different quilting techniques on it. Those who know me, know that I try to make each quilt unique and add special touches. And, I’ve done those all freehand. I do not have a computer for my machine… yet. I am saving my pennies… it’s on my bucket list. 😉 But, I have a couple of the quilting designs on this quilt digitized and available for those who DO have a computer for your quilting machine.

The Crosshatching frame inside the block is available at Legacy Quilting.
The Eyelet Lace border design is also available at Legacy Quilting.

I wasn’t sure what fabric to use for the binding. I love using striped fabric for binding, and my friend, Tina, showed me some striped fabric that would be perfect for this quilt. It picked up that color of blue and the red. But… I ended up just using what I had and repeated that 1/2″ blue border. Saving my pennies…

For those of you who don’t know, I am no longer quilting for hire. The arthritis in my spine won out. So, now I am doing a few other things. One of them is digitizing machine quilting designs. Yes, I can do that for other people’s designs and have done that. My hope is that this will eventually lead me to getting a computer for my machine. Maybe then, I can think about quilting for hire again. I don’t know. That’s a lot of money and a long way off.

A couple of things I’ve done lately is cut my own extension table to fit into my sewing machine table. I ordered an insert 8 months ago, but have not gotten it yet. Yes, I’ve called the shop several times. I finally gave up and made my own. It’s not pretty. I still need to paint it white. But, it feels so much better to be able to spread out the fabric to be sewn without it catching on the edge of my machine.

Not pretty, but it does the job!

Also, Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival was Father’s Day weekend. A quilt that I had quilted for Joan won 2nd place in Viewer’s Choice. It’s a really cute scene of Mom taking care of her baby, so I can see why people liked it. The pattern is called “Love from Above” by Charley Harper. You can buy it here.

I was surprised at the quilting. I thought I hadn’t done a good job on it, but time passing gives you a new view – it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. But then, the lighting was very complimentary to the quilting great as it bounced off the trees and tall grasses that were stitched into her quilt.

No photo description available.

What was really cool is that both Joan and I got a ribbon for her quilt.

Yay! Thank you, Voters!

The next Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival will be in 2021. Their website is This year they did an awesome job meeting the needs of so many quilters. Check out their site and try to make it next time!

Forest Galorest

I loved this pattern from Java House Quilts the first time I saw it.  If you love it as well, you can purchase it yourself here.  I started working on this quilt back in September.  The applique would be needle-turned, meaning by hand.  The edges would be turned under and stitched down by hand vs fusing down a raw edge applique onto the background and machine finishing the edges (a tedious, but much quicker method).  I figured it would take me about 2 years to finish; a nice project for me to work on in the evenings before bedtime.  My daughter was going to start “trying” to get pregnant soon.  Maybe this would make a nice baby quilt.  If she never conceived, I could keep this quilt for myself (trying not to get my hopes up).  Her older sister took several years of trying to conceive naturally and then several attempts of in vitro before getting pregnant.  So, 2 years… I would have plenty of time to casually work on this quilt.

Then, in October, she told me she was pregnant.  Or, was it late September?  She was due June 2nd.  I was shocked, floored.  Surely, it was too soon to know for sure… a false positive…  I admit it.  One of my first thoughts was about this quilt.  How on earth would I get it done in time?  It has plenty of big pieces but also LOTS of tiny pieces.  I figured I’d better get busy.  As I got farther and farther into this quilt, I was kicking myself for not machine appliqueing it.  It is what it is.  And, I am done now.  I’m late for the arrival, but I am done.  He’s about a week old now and a cutie patooty!

The question once I finished it was how to quilt it.  The more quilting you do on a quilt, the more thread you add to that quilt and the heavier and stiffer it gets.  This was for a baby, so I wanted it to be soft… or at least as soft as I could make it and still add details to it.  You will notice there are plenty of gaps in the quilting where it seems like there should be more quilting.  That was intentional to prevent the quilt from becoming too stiff and heavy.  I stitched down enough to give the effect of what I wanted and then let the rest go.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta “let it go.” 😉  My desired effect was playful, yet polished.

Simple swirls were stitched inside the appliqued blocks around the animals and flowers.  My instinct was to put something formal on the outside edges of the pieced blocks, but I ended up putting animal paws there instead.  They are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s okay (Let it go!).  The way you make these animal paws is to stitch a curvy triangle with 2 ovals going up one side and 2 ovals going back down the other side, all as a continuous path with no starts and stops.


What should I do with those outside odd blocks along the border?  I could have added nature scenes, but that would involve intense stitching.  It needed to be open and flowing.  So, I opted for something formal and polished in those areas; feathers and curved cross-hatching.  Traditional feathers would be nice, but I chose bumpy ones to mimic butterfly wings.

I did sneak some playfulness into some of those areas.


As for the borders, I started at the bottom and stitched a very loose fern to mimic a grassy look.

Moving up the sides, I stitched pine trees on the left by the raccoons and bear.  My pine trees got worse as I stitched more and more of them (Let it go!) up towards the owl.

On the right, I transitioned the ferns into leafy vines to meet the squirrels at the top.

At the top I transitioned the leafy vines to meet the rays of whatever that circle thing is around the owl’s head.  It could be the moon.  Or, it could be the sun.  Whatever your imagination sees is what it is.

A couple of notes… as far as the binding goes, I had a hard time deciding which fabric to choose.  I finally decided that I wanted to see that darker blue repeated somewhere in the quilt.  It’s one of my funny idiosyncrasies; I believe you need to repeat fabrics in a quilt to make it look more polished or professional.  So, I chose that darker blue for the border and had intended to make a piping of the pale blue stripes that you see very little of in the quilt.  The pale blue stripes are around the little square blocks where I stitched curved cross-hatching and also in the corners of the border.  To get that effect, you create a faux piping within the binding.  Here’s a tutorial by Margo Clabo from “The Quilt Show” of how to create that.  For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to go with 1/4″ piping, so I cut my strips at 1 3/4 inch for the pale blue stripes and 1 1/4 inch for the solid blue – after stitching the strips together and then folding that wider pieced strip, I’d have a 1/4″ piping instead of 1/8″ inch piping.  That was a mistake.  It turned out to be a flange.  There’s nothing wrong with a flange, but I was worried about it flapping around.  So, I stitched it down.  I’m okay with that.  It still looks fine (Let it go!), and I still get to see both of those fabrics along the border.

Also, if you are wondering how I place appliques on their blocks, I draw out the original design onto a piece of plastic first.  This particular piece is one of those pieces of plastic that hold papers together with a strip of hard colored plastic, while the clear plastic acts like a folder for the papers.  I use a vis-a-vis marker which stays on there until I run water across it.  I don’t know whether or not a dry erase marker would work.  If you have tried that and it does, please speak up in the comments.

My goal is to teach you something new with my posts, if I can.  So, I hope you learned something today!


Blessings Come in Strange Packages

I started this post 2 months ago and never got it finished.  It needs to be put out there for those of you with or without disabilities and for those of you who struggle with wanting your life to be better… but it’s not.
For those of you who know me, you also know that I am legally blind in my left eye – I’ve posted about it before here.  I get to go to different eye doctors on a regular basis; my regular eye doctor who prescribes my glasses and watches for more cataracts, my glaucoma doctor, and my retina doctor.  I suspect one reason my business took so long to pick up was because people wondered how or if I could see.  I joke about it and tell them that when my bad eye bothers me, I just close it; something they can relate to, because they know they can see with one eye.  One of the reasons for this post is because I want those of you out there who are going through hard times or have something you think you need in order to survive to know that it really is not the end of the world.  It feels like it is when it first happens.  You hit the panic mode and you are just sure this is the end of the world.
Actually, I have been very busy working on customer quilts lately.  Yes, they continue to watch my other eye along with my “bad” eye.  The bad eye has a section where the retina will never lay flat against the side of the eyeball.  And, I recently had a lot of problems with my eye pressure.  The Glaucoma doctor thought he was going to have to go back in and mess with that tube shunt.  But, they got the pressure under control and it’s all good.  As for my other eye, it plays tricks on me to scare me, I think.  My retina doctor has told me that if I suspect even the tiniest bit that I have a problem to come in and get it checked out – I have learned my lesson.
As for being blind, while I was laying there on my side, I tried to hand sew using just my hands and touch.  Your sense of touch heightens when your eyesight is in jeopardy.  My retina doctor didn’t even want me to do that, and I suspect it is because of trying to thread a needle.  I honestly do not know how I ever get a needle threaded anymore, but I do!  A trick I’ve learned is to put my finger behind the hole of the needle to help me along.  I don’t know how that helps me other than it gives me confidence in being able to thread the needle.  I’ve bought needle threaders, too, but you need to be able to see the hole to get those threaders through.  I think what got me through my ordeal was finding out about Diane Rose, the Amazing Quilter, who is blind in both eyes.  You can see a YouTube video of her here:

As for my quilting machine, I am saving my pennies to buy a computer for it.  They are so expensive and I love, love, love doing freehand quilting.  But, I don’t know what the future will bring, so I am trying to plan for it.  I am also looking at creating different ergonomic (for the eyes, etc) notions for quilters.  Bad things happen, but there was nothing I could do about it in my case, so I (finally) decided to just make the best of it; live with it and not complain.  And, I also want people to believe that they can accomplish things beyond what they believe they are capable.  I hope you know you can!

 I remember trying to figure out why this happened to me; what the purpose was.  One day I was feeling sorry for myself, because my depth perception was messed up due to having such low vision in one eye (it’s 20/400; I can see the big honking E and that’s about it, so that makes me legally blind) and I thought my mom was lucky because she didn’t have to deal with that – she ended up completely blind in one eye.  And, then I laughed at myself, because I’m betting my mom would have traded with me to be able to see anything at all (blurred shadows) out of her blind eye.  So, that is when I started thinking I was the lucky one.  The weird thing about the messed up depth perception is that it makes the texture of my quilting pop out at me while I am quilting.  For whatever reason, I can see well enough to quilt.  And, in some ways, I think it makes it better for me.  Maybe that was the plan God had for me, I don’t know.  I DO hope my blog posts help other people.  That’s the whole idea.  And, I think that may have been a part of the bigger plan all along, too.

As for Diane Rose, she was what got me through the whole ordeal.  The day I watched that video was the day I changed my attitude.  If she could sew and make quilts being blind in both eyes, I needed to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Moral of the story… everyone has an issue, whether or not they admit it.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.  We can overcome many things; I think the secret is to maintain a positive attitude.  Hang in there, folks!  One day you will look back and see the lessons in whatever is your current cry-sis.

Personal Stretching

You may or may not think the title of this post has something to do with personal growth, and you’d be right.  It’s just a different kind of personal growth than what you may be expecting.  I’ve “kind of” taken a month off quilting for others so that I could finish one of my own quilts.  Well… that and deal with the holidays, which can easily eat up a month in itself.  What you may not know is that quilters who do the quilting for others struggle to find time for working on their own quilts.  We are always looking for a way to get our own stuff in, but we also have bills to pay, so we know that working on our own stuff would interfere with paying the bills.  So, guess what gets left out?

This latest quilt of mine is hand applique.  When we travel, I need something to do and to keep my hands busy so that I don’t go stir crazy.  I worked on the applique on this for a couple of years.  I mixed a couple of patterns, using Piece ‘o Cake Designs’ “My Whimsical Quilt Garden” (you can find this pattern here) and some patterns from Kay Mackenzie’s book Inspired by Tradition.  And, if you want to see more of these patterns, you can find her book here.  I like the simplicity of Kay’s patterns – her patterns make it easy to do needle-turn (hand) applique.

Anyhow, here is a sneak peak of the top.  I chose bright colors for a cheerful quilt.  A lot of the fabric is “In the Beginning” fabric; most of it is Jennifer Heynan’s designs.  She has a blog that I follow and is listed in the sidebar on the right.  Bright and cheerful… The name of it is “Dawn of a New Day” so named because it has dark borders with bright colors all over the quilt as well as white backgrounds for the blocks.  It makes me think of new beginnings (wonder if that’s because a lot of it is “In the Beginning” fabric) and a hopeful future.

IMG_2141   IMG_2138

I am planning/hoping to put this in some quilt shows, so I quilted it to death (a personal stretch for me).  Here is a picture of the back.


This took me FOR. EVER. to finish.  Well, I’m not exactly finished yet.  I still need to put on the binding.  I thought I was never going to get this done!  All I can say is that the cost of quilting this for someone else can easily cost over $500.  Divide that by a month, and that’s a salary of $125 week of back-wrenching work.  And, that’s not including overhead costs, taxes, and other IRS requirements taken from it.  Anyhow, I apologize if it seems like I am complaining.  I just couldn’t believe how long it was taking me to finish this quilt.  I’m glad it’s done.  I’m not completely satisfied with the results, but this is the best I can do with where I’m at as far as being a professional quilter.  At some point you’ve just gotta stop and say, “This will do.”

Speaking of back-wrenching work, 2014, for me, was a year full of back pain and migraines.  For awhile I was getting massages to help with the pain.  It did help, but only temporarily.  I got to the point where I just couldn’t afford it anymore and stopped.

I asked my doctor about it and she sent me to Physical Therapy.  I thought, “Sure!  Whatever!  It’s not going to do anything.” But, you know what?  I was wrong.  My doctor and my physical therapist pointed out that I am probably hunched over a machine all day.  How did they know?  This is not good for your back.   My physical therapist explained that our body is made to stand tall, with your head up and your chest expanded/not drawn in.  When you are hunched over all day, you stretch out those back muscles, but that leaves the muscles in your chest contracted.  Eventually, if you don’t do something to counter-act this posture, as you age, you will “sink in” to this hunched over posture.  I can see some of you who sew on your domestic sewing machine thinking about this right now.  Yesterday I spent the day sewing on my domestic machine, and my back is madder today than it’s been in a long time.  So, yes, all of you who work hunched over, the following stretches will help you.

I graduated from Physical Therapy, but I still need to do my stretches EVERY day.  When I don’t do them, I can feel it.  Is it going to take away my pain completely?  No.  But, it makes the pain more manageable, and I feel so much better now.  So, here is the top page (of 4) that my physical therapist gave me to do.  I am to do these stretches every day and the following 3 pages 2-3 times a week.  True confession… I am not good at that 2-3 per week thing.  I try to keep up with it, but…  However, I do these every day and when something else is hurting, I’ll do an exercise on the last 3 pages.  You might try some of these yourself and see if they work for you.  If not, you can also “Google” exercises for your neck, upper trunk, shoulders, spine and back.

physical therapy0010

I do hope that if you are in pain when you work, that you will find a solution.  There’s no reason to continue with pain in your life.



Quilts from Days Gone By

What do you do when you know someone hasn’t finished a project that needs finishing, and this person hasn’t finished it because he or she is not able?  Do you help?  If it’s something you specialize in, do you offer to finish it?  As it turns out, I’m guilty on all charges.  Not only did I offer to help, but I offered to finish these quilts.


It started out to be one quilt.  My husband’s Aunt Joyce has this quilt that she had started in the late 1980s, possibly in the early 1990s.  She was planning on giving it to her son when she finished, but she never finished it.  And… it was hand quilted… well, what she got done, which was most of it, was hand quilted.  All she had left to do was 2 borders and the cornerstones.

I’m not a hand quilter, and I haven’t been a hand quilter since I started my first full-sized quilt.  It’s just too hard on my hand and wrist and it takes waaaaay too long – I don’t have the patience for it.  But, Aunt Joyce is like a second mother to me, and I just can’t leave it unfinished for her son.  She’s in her mid 80s.  So, I offered to finish it for her.

When I was looking for the matching fabric for the borders that she had stashed away, I found a quilt top that looked very much like the hand-quilted one.  I figured I could finish that, even though it needs to be quilted entirely, by machine pretty quickly… probably sooner than the hand-quilted one.  I think I’m going to quilt feathers into the borders – there are plenty of wide open spaces.


I didn’t know which side is the top, so I put the blocks that I thought might have the most stretch at the top, specifically the block with the hexagons.  That way I can try to tame it before it gets “stretched in” to the bottom.


I hope I can do this quilt justice.  The blocks were hand pieced.  This is one of those dilemmas where you don’t want to sabotage a hand-pieced quilt with machine quilting, so what do you do?  I don’t have time to hand quilt it, so it’s going to have to be machine quilted.  I will, of course, continue to hand-quilt the one that was started that way.  I think it would bastardize it at this point to machine quilt it since most of it is hand quilted.

What are your thoughts on machine quilting a hand-pieced quilt top?  Tough Decision, huh?