I’ve been designing fabric – putting together a portfolio to submit to fabric companies and also mocking up quilt blocks to test out those designs and see how they work together. This llama is one of my early favorites!
I started this project AGES ago and finally finished it. I haven’t been working on it anything like steadily. I didn’t plan on releasing a pattern, so I just picked it up and worked on it at odd moments, and didn’t worry about documenting the process much.
Of course, now people want a pattern! I’m happy to share. It was a lovely project and one that was really relaxing and low-pressure to stitch. I’m just letting you know upfront that it’s a pretty loose pattern. 🙂
So here’s how to make it!
My project finished at 11 inches square. That gives me a little bit of breathing room all the way around, because I’m going to put it in a 12-inch frame. You can size yours up or down as you like, but here are the materials you’ll need for this size.
One 20-inch square of background fabric. I used a nice dark slate grey.
Thread to match the felt. I used Invisifil 100 wt. thread. (Yes – you read that right. 100 weight. It’s the thinnest thread I’ve ever used – like sewing with spider silk.) I matched the colors to the felt but, honestly, that thread is so fine that you could probably just use a medium grey for everything. If you want to use embroidery floss, there’s a bundle that matches the felt in the Frosty Pastels collection.
Slightly darker, thicker thread to contrast with the felt. I used Razzle 8 wt. rayon thread. I love the way the shiny rayon thread contrasts with the wooly felt.
Print it at 100% size – or scale as desired. You can print directly onto the freezer paper, or you can print it onto regular paper and then trace it onto freezer paper.
Using freezer paper to cut small pieces like these makes it sooooo much easier to be accurate. You’ll find more info here.
The pattern page has the letters and eight blocks of blocks.
Cut the letters out of light grey felt.
Cut four blocks of blocks out of each of your other six felt colors. That way you’ll end up with four of each shape/size in each color. That’s more than you’ll actually need – but it will give you some extras to play with as you arrange.
Ok. Here’s where things are a little loose. Sorry – I didn’t take any photos of this process and I was really just winging it. That’s ok – it means you can wing it too!
Lay your background square on a flat surface.
Map out a 12-inch square in the center. I used a few rulers to block it out – use what you have handy. You just need to be able to “see” the borders of your square of workable space.
Start by laying out the letters, centering them in the space.
Here’s the finished layout again so you can refer to it for the next bit.
Start building your way out from your letters, filling the square space you have mapped out. I followed a few “rules” as I built.
I kept all my blocks running horizontally or vertically. None of them are tipped at an angle.
I tried to keep the spacing between the blocks pretty consistent. Think of it like grout between tiles.
I tried to never have two tiles of the same color right next to each other.
I sometimes had two of the same shape next to each other, but I kept it a pretty rare thing.
You can follow my finished project as a map if you like, but please don’t feel like you need to follow it exactly.
Once you’re happy with how everything looks, use a swipe of fabric glue stick to stick all the pieces in place. If you don’t have a glue stick, you can use liquid glue like Elmers, but I recommend brushing it on. If you squeeze it right out of the bottle you may get too much glue on there and it will seep through to the top of your felt and remain visible even after it dries. Don’t use a restickable glue (like a post-it glue stick). As soon as you put your hoop in the frame and pull it tight, those pieces will pop right off. Ask me how I know. 😛
Let it dry and hoop it up. You’re ready to start stitching!
Finally, I wanted to embellish each block. The stitching is all tone-on-tone, using a thread color a little more vibrant than the felt color. I really agonized over what kind of stitching. I debated it for what felt like weeks and finally settled on simple stacks of straight stitches. I just love the texture of that!
I started with the long skinny pieces since there was only one way I wanted to stitch those. Just stitch a stack that almost fills the block.
Next I stitched the larger rectangles. They’re twice as wide as the skinny rectangles, so they get two stacks of stitches, side by side, but not touching.
Finally, I stitched the squares. The small squares got one stack, the medium got two, and the large got three. But which direction? Horizontal or vertical? I made the call for each square based on what kind of stitching was going on around them, trying to keep the direction as varied as possible.
UPDATED! Here’s our progress so far! 6388 masks donated (as of May 3, 2020).
Ten thousand masks is a lot, but it’s still not even close to what’s needed. 😢
I don’t want to get into a debate here – so please don’t send me an email or comment about how you read these aren’t effective. Medical people in my area are asking for them, and I feel like I owe them anything and everything they ask for.
When I mentioned making and donating masks in my most recent newsletter, I was INUNDATED with emails from patients, nurses, mothers of nurses, hospice workers and more telling me how much these masks are needed and appreciated.
And when production has ramped up and hospitals and clinics are getting all the PPE they need, there will still be a need for masks to help reduce transmission when we all slowly start leaving our homes again. I thought this article laid it out especially well. The short version is – everyone should be wearing masks when they’re in public. My favorite line in the article is, “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.”
In addition to people saying they wish more people were making and donating masks, there were a lot of emails from people asking for the pattern I’m using. Keep reading for the complete tutorial.
This is a no-elastic mask. Everyone is sold out of elastic and I’ve heard from a number of health professionals saying that a behind-the-ears elastic mask is very painful when worn for hours at a time – which is what they’re having to do. I’m also hearing that some places are washing these masks multiple times a day, and the elastic is wearing out quickly under those conditions. So our mask uses fabric ties. One ties up at the crown of the head (it doesn’t seem like it would stay put there, but it really does) and the other ties behind the neck. This size fits any size head.
If you’re keeping a mask for yourself to wear to the grocery store, walking your dog, etc. make sure to remove it properly. Don’t grab it by the front of the mask and toss it on your kitchen table. Remove it by the ties, put it in the laundry, and then wash your hands.
Whew! That’s a lot of preface. Here’s how to make it. Scroll past the video for written instructions with step-by-step photos.
And here are the written instructions.
For each mask you’ll need two 6×9 inch rectangles and two 1 3/4 inch strips. I read several studies that said NOT to add any additional layers to this kind of loosely-fitted mask. Yes – additional layers will increase the filtration, but they make it harder to breathe THROUGH the mask, resulting in more unfiltered air being drawn in around the edges. Use tightly woven cotton – quilting cotton is great. T-shirt fabric also tests very well, but I don’t have any so I haven’t tried that with this pattern. It should work fine, though.
I’ve read that nurses are requesting two different fabrics for the front and back, so if they have to take the mask off temporarily, they can put it back on the same way.
The ties need to be 1 3/4 inches wide and at least 40 inches long. We went with the full width of the fabric – selvedge to selvedge – because that’s 40 – 45 inches wide. Don’t trim off the selvedges. That finished edge means you don’t have to hem, which will save time. 😄
With this method, every 3/4 yard will make 4 masks.
If you prefer to use purchased bias tape – that will save time and stretch your fabric stash. Make sure you get 1/2″ double-fold bias tape. There are TONS of people selling large rolls on Etsy
If you use purchased bias tape, then 1 yard of fabric will make 12 masks.
Press your strips into double-fold bias tape. There’s a video tutorial here showing two different methods for doing that. Jo is using a 25 mm bias tape tool to make hers. That’s the right size for 1 3/4 inch strips of fabric. If you have a different sized tool at home, you can adjust the size of your strips accordingly. Just don’t go too skinny or it will be hard to catch all the mask layers when you sew it in place.
Put the two rectangles of fabric right sides together. (Nurses are recommending using two different fabrics so that if they have to remove the mask and put it back on, they can easily tell which is the outside and which is the inside.) Sew them together along the short sides, using 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Turn the mask right side out and press it flat.
Now it’s time to pleat the sides. You need to put three evenly-spaced pleats in each side of the mask.
If your fabric has a direction to it, make sure the pleats are pointing down.
You can eyeball the position of the pleats, but Jo has been measuring to keep things nice and even.
Measure up one inch from the bottom edge of the mask (turned sideways here). Then fold the rest of the mask down over the end of the ruler, and fold it back up at the half-inch mark.
Hold that fold with a pin and continue up the side of the mask with two more pleats, each starting one inch from the fold of the previous pleat.
Pleat up both sides, then sew those pleats in place by sewing 1/4 inch from the short edges.
Time to add the ties.
Fold the mask in half to find the center. Mark the center top and center bottom with pins. Fold the ties in half to find their centers. Wrap the center of one tie around the raw edge at the center of the top of the mask and pin. Repeat with the second tie and the bottom edge of the mask.
We’re only pinning at the centers to hold the ties in the right place. You can get the bias tape wrapped around the rest of the mask edge when you get to it while sewing.
Now it’s time to sew up those ties.
Start at the end of one tie and sew the folds together as close as you can reasonably get to the edge. When you get close to where it starts to wrap around the edge of the mask, pause, make sure the mask edge is tucked all the way up into the fold of the bias tape, and keep sewing. Continue past the edge of the mask, and on to the other end of the tie.
Repeat for the second tie.
A few more notes. . .
If you have elastic and want to make a mask with behind-the-ear elastic loops, there’s a pattern here.
If you have smaller pieces of fabric and don’t mind taking a little more time, this center-seam pattern might work best for you.
Before you make any masks, you can contact a local organization to see if they’re requesting a particular pattern or materials.
If you’re looking for where to donate your masks, reach out locally first. I found our local United Way by contacting our county health and human services office. United Way has taken it from there, finding out which organizations can use DIY masks and handling distribution to them. There’s probably someone in your county doing the same thing.
If your local hospitals/clinics/hospice care workes/etc. don’t need masks – fantastic! You can still make them for regular people. Maybe your grocery store employees need them, or your friends and neighbors. Professional-grade masks will continue to need to go to medical personnel – but we can fill that need for everyone else. In the Czech Republic, a grassroots effort provided ten million masks in just three days. Quilters are a generous group with a lot of fabric. We can help!
If you make masks and donate them, please take a minute to log your info here. We’ll be sharing totals made here. And please share this post and Jo’s info with anyone else you know with fabric and a sewing machine!
If you post on social media, please use the hashtags #coverourcaregivers and #masks4all to help spread the word.
It’s the 15th! That means it’s New Pattern Day in the Funny Faces Quilt Block of the Month Club!
Meet Ginny! Doesn’t she have a sweet face?
She can also look a little goofy. Here’s she is with some glasses from the Fancy Doodads pattern added. 🙂
There’s already a giraffe block in the Safari quilt pattern – but it’s a double-high block, which makes it harder to work with on its own. Also – the giraffe in that quilt isn’t smiling. I wanted a smiling giraffe. 🙂
Here’s how to make her. . .
See how easy that is?
If you’re already in the club, you can access the clubhouse with this link. Grab the new pattern!
If you’re not in the club yet, you can use this link to join.
In February I wanted to apply those new skills by coloring something besides dots. 🙂
Now I’m really going to push myself.
I’m drawing a bear every day this month!
Not just any bears. I’ve drawn a bunch of bears. I have a quilt pattern called Bunches of Bears!
But they’re all kind of neutral, smiling bears. They’re definitely cute and I love them – but this month I’m going to push myself to draw bears with more distinct personalities – and especially with a wider variety of emotions.
I want to draw happy bears for sure. But I also want to draw curious bears, and surprised bears, and anxious bears, and snooty bears, and goofy bears, and grumpy bears, and more.