Masks! Here are my notes:

Masks! Here are my notes:

A lot of people are asking how I’m making my masks. Here’s some information!
(If you’re wondering why I’m making masks? I wrote a post on Medium here, but as far as I can tell it has zero traffic, I should just re-post it on the blog).

The pattern I’m using:

I’m working with the pattern from Craft Passion.
Her blog post about the mask is here:

Her official YouTube video on making the mask is here:

Here’s another video from someone who is making the same mask but using hair elastics.

I like this pattern because:

  • If fits me (and my family) better than the accordion masks, which gape at the sides and don’t seem to retain their folds after washing. We’ve had good luck with everyone, teenagers and adults, from using the “man” size pattern (we don’t notice any extra problematic fabric). Our faces range from the very round (my head would roll a long way if you removed it from my shoulders) to the very narrow (one of my favorite ways to elicit a laugh and eye-roll out of my husband is to ask him, “Why the long face?”). With all of us, this pattern fits well.
  • There is space for a nose wire (I’m using jewelry wire and some pipe cleaners just arrived), which really helps the fit. Nearly everyone in our house wears glasses, and if the nose wire on this is bent so that it lays flat against the face, and the glasses are placed gently on top of the mask, there is no fogging, hurrah!
  • There is a pocket for an extra filter, which I like since I’m not entirely sure how long the fusible interfacing will remain intact through many washings. The pocket means that at some point you could add a bit of t-shirt, a shop rag, etc.
  • According to this video, this style is more of a “surgical mask”, which she seems to say will protect better than an accordion style.

I’m following the pattern for the most part, except I’ve streamlined some things via my own sewing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method. Here are some notes:

  • I have an edge stitch footer but I’m not using it, changing feet takes too much time, and I can usually stitch pretty straight.
  • When stitching the sides to create the elastic/strap channel, I just fold the fabric over and zig-zag. I don’t bother with double folding. The zig-zag will likely take more abuse anyway, including the scrunching that will happen at the sides.
  • I edge stitch (using the regular foot) the top and bottom of each mask because it helps it lay flat against the face, but I haven’t been stitching the middle seam as that appears to be mostly decorative. The prototypes I made at the start didn’t seem to benefit any from that line of stitching so I just left it out.
  • I’m using serger thread that I just stick in a measuring cup and thread up through the usual way. I have a Bernina 530 that is one of the most beloved gifts my husband ever gave me, and it makes this easy. Berninas also have monster huge bobbins which means I don’t have to stop that often to re-spool a bobbin. #teamberninaforever
  • For the linings, I was originally using my stash of batiks and nice cottons, but realized I had a bolt of 100% cotton muslin, so I’ve switched to that. Now I’m using the batiks just for the exteriors. I figure if we have to wear masks, we might as well get our art on while we do it.
  • I line ALL pieces with non-woven fusible interfacing, at least until the stuff runs out, after which my shipment of shop towels will likely arrive and I can include one of those as something to put in the filter pocket.
  • I’m using a denim needle, which I had to switch to after two other needles broke. The denim one seems to be holding up just fine.
  • I use pinking shears for the curved pieces instead of snipping.

My order of operations:

  1. Fuse interfacing to the lining fabric and mask exterior fabric.
  2. Cut out all pieces using fussy cutting to maximize the interfacing. I’m trying to cut between 10-20 pieces at a time.
  3. Cut out the nose pieces using a cardboard template I made for this purpose. I’ve got a lot of these.
  4. Ask teenage son to iron all the nose pieces, which he does because he’s awesome.
  5. Stitch all the curved seams on the linings and exteriors.
  6. Use pinking shears on all these curved pieces.
  7. Insert and stitch nose pieces into linings.
  8. Stitch up the sides of the linings to create the pocket piece.
  9. Stitch the linings into the exterior shells.
  10. Stitch the channels on the side (again, using zig-zag, is functional, takes way less time and looks great).
  11. Once I have a big stack of these, iron them all. Ironing gives them a great shape, and really brings the whole pattern together.
  12. Edge stitch the top and bottom.
  13. Cut all the hanging threads (Greg is offering to do this, I love him so).
  14. Cut out a piece of twill tape to use as tie.
  15. Sew twill tape (it’s 1″ so I sew it in half).
  16. Insert twill tape using bobkin.
  17. Cut wire for nose piece, insert into pocket.
  18. DONE! Put it aside and finish the next one.

I do the fusible interfacing as one big step, as well as cutting out all the pieces. Everything else just has to go in order.

Good luck, stay healthy everyone! ❤

A few things to do when you're stuck at home

A few things to do when you're stuck at home

I made a list of things I might want to do, and pretty soon it grew into something I figured might be useful to share with friends. Here you go!

Chilling out when the stress gets to be too much:

  • My husband Greg got me hooked on this wildly charming YouTube channel called Doggie Corgi. Every video is just peaceful music and an animation of a corgi having a day with his friends. There’s an Instagram, too. This one is my favorite:
  • I use the Calm app almost daily. There are stories to fall asleep to, meditations, and music. It’s wonderful. A lot of their stuff is free right now.
  • Another app I love is Insight Timer – if you dig bells with your meditation, I think this app has the best tones (and intervals!).
  • A great resource if you just want something on the screen, is the 4k Relaxation channel on YouTube. I actually use these often, when my anxiety gets bad. One of my go-to’s is Pacific Northwest Coastal Oregon. If you use the search bar for the channel, and put in “hike”, you will get a list of virtual hikes. This might sound strange, but it’s incredibly peaceful. Try it. You might think that nothing can beat a real hike, and you’re right, real hikes are the best. But this is a surprisingly awesome alternative when you’re stuck at home.

Going places without going places:

Books & eBooks:

  • Among the many options for buying books online (I imagine you don’t need a list of those), there’s also downloading all the classics for free at Project Gutenberg.
  • Don’t forget your local public library, which likely still has online services working. You can login to your account using your library card number, and download books using Libby.
  • If you have an eBook reader (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) and want to learn more about expanding your ebook horizons, check out Mobile Read Forums. Lots of great information about buying, using, and troubleshooting different types of eBook readers.
  • My favorite app for managing my hoarder’s collection of eBooks is Calibre. You can use Calibre to reformat Kindle books so that they’ll work on other types of readers, which is really helpful if you have a big Kindle library but want to use something like a Kobo (I love my Kobo Forma).
  • Open Culture has a long list of free eBooks.

Audio Books:

  • Most people know that Audible exists; it’s Amazon’s audio book company. Many people don’t know that exists, a different company where you get to choose a favorite independent bookstore, and all your audio book purchases through benefit your chosen store. The app is very similar to Audible’s app, I love it. It’s worth noting that I’ve had excellent customer service from both companies.
  • My favorite audio book so far has been As You Wish, by Cary Elwes. It’s a memoir of his time shooting The Princess Bride, and his stories are funny and heartwarming. If you want other ideas, you can do Google searches for things like, “Best Audio Books of 2019”, etc, and that will give you a jumping off point to all kinds of “Best of” lists. There’s a lot out there.
  • My go-to’s for comfort in difficult times are Alan Watts and Pema Chödrön. Pema’s books are read by her, I really love Getting Unstuck. Many of Watt’s titles are recordings of lectures. My favorite book of his is The Wisdom of Insecurity, but my favorite Audible title from him is Out of Your Mind.
  • You can find out more about Great Courses on their website, but the idea is that they’re supposed to be college-level courses that anyone can take. Years ago they used to be pretty expensive, but you can find the lectures from many Great Courses on Audible. I’ve found all the ones I’ve tried to be well made and interesting. A particularly good one is Writing Creative Nonfiction.
  • You can find tons of free audio books that are in the public domain at LibriVox. My good friend Clarica can read you something!
  • Open Culture has a list of 1,000 free audio books.

Online classes:

  • I imagine most of you iOS users (Apple products like iPads and iPhones) know about iTunes U, an app that connects you to free courses. Lots of interesting things to take!
  • I just discovered that on Amazon Prime there is a Great Courses channel, and I decided to do the free trial. The one I’m watching right now is How to Draw, and I’m enjoying it. The channel is $7.99/month after the free trial period.
  • Kahn Academy is known for helping students learn math, but there are lots of other courses you may not know about. Economics, history, and astronomy & cosmology, to name a few!
  • Open Culture has a huge list of 1,500 free online courses from universities. I’ve never clicked through to any of these, but the list has dozens of titles I want to check out.
  • Craftsy has become Bluprint, and while I’m not a huge fan of their new layout, the content is still great. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Craftsy/Bluprint classes.
  • I really enjoy Skillshare. Bluprint classes are better edited more polished, but Skillshare has a huge range of teachers, and many of their classes are much shorter in length making them easier to get through.
  • I’ve had several friends tell me how much they enjoyed their Coursera courses.


  • Do you know who your representatives are in the local, state, and national governments? No? Find out here.
  • You could learn a new accent. Here’s how to fake a British accent.
  • Got a ukulele, irish whistle, ocarina, or guitar sitting around? No? Just me? Any instrument you have at home, I can almost guarantee you that there is a YouTube video that will teach you to play it.
  • Play a card game. Here are the rules to all your favorite games.
  • Make a zine.
  • Make a mug cake. They’re easy and tasty.
  • Check out playlists on Spotify (or your favorite music service) for different decades. Try listening to the year’s hits from when you were a little kid. How many do you remember?
  • It’s a good time to weed the garden.
  • Clean out your inbox.
  • I recently discovered that there are old Jane Fonda exercise videos on YouTube. This has been fun.

Recumbent trike, new trail

Recumbent trike, new trail

This is the best day I’ve had in a while, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. The news has been so overwhelmingly bad over the last few weeks, and everyone has been under so much stress. The adults in our family all notice that we’re exhausted, even though not that much is going on at home. We’re taking naps in the middle of the day just to give our brains and body a rest from the constant onslaught of things to worry about.

Today the sun was shining and the temp was up, so Roo and I decided to take the bikes out along a local trail that we hadn’t tried before. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made.

This is my Catrike, which I just got a few weeks ago. I love riding bikes, but it’s become increasingly hard over the years with the fibromyalgia. The regular riding posture leaning over the handlebars causes immense pain on my wrists, shoulders, and low back. I had a recumbent bike years ago, it was incredibly comfortable. I began to check out YouTube for reviews of newer models, and found a channel created by Sylvia Halpern who takes long tours on her recumbent trike. Sylvia’s channel pulled me (happily) down the rabbit hole of trikes, with their many benefits. They’re great for people with injuries, chronic illnesses, different types of handicaps related to mobility, balance problems, the list goes on.

A year or so later I found myself at Recumbent PDX in Portland, trying out a few models to see if this trike idea was a good one. The Catrike was love at first test ride, and we brought it home.

It’s been a fantastic bike for me, I just love it. Would highly recommend this to anyone who can’t ride a normal bike because of pain associated with a traditional riding posture. I’m able to ride without extra pain, it’s still mind-blowing to me every time we go out. It also lets me get my heart rate up, getting my cardiovascular system in shape. People with fibro are told to exercise to help the pain, but it can be nearly impossible to find an activity where increasing pain doesn’t stop you before you can get your heart rate up. With the trike, I can ride long enough to become winded, without causing all the extra pain that would normally haunt me for the next few days after a ride on a regular bike.

My original bike doesn’t languish – Roo inherited it! She loves it!

There’s a park nearby where Roo and I will often bike to, but today we decided to go past the park by a few blocks, and see if we could discover something new. We ended up finding a local trail that runs along the river. A vast waterfront park, with a good half mile of flat rock to walk on. It was exactly what we needed after the week we’d had.

The sun was shining, and we pulled off the trail and parked near the water. We took off our shoes and waded in a bit, but mostly sat on the bank and just watched the river go by. The air was fresh and smelled like water on rocks, a forest-y smell that I love. We had a snack, read our books, and took off our sweaters to let our skin get all the vitamin D.

I drew a little sketch in a signature that I will bind into a new journal.

I enjoyed the sketching, and I have a big stack of books that will help me get better once I have time to read them all (hey, looks like I might have some time), but I still want to take tons of photos wherever I go. I think I will always be a photographer at heart. All I had was my iPhone, but I really love the camera on that thing, and the Portrait mode gives you some neat options.

Here’s two minutes of ducks, for no reason at all:

The Artist's Box Top

The Artist's Box Top

I made my first test version of the Artist’s Box Top from Artist Made Patterns in a light quilting cotton. It turned out great! Super successful test, will definitely be making more.

I’ve made a couple of these easy t-shirt-like tops before out of wovens from different patterns. Inevitably, even when the pattern was designed for a woven fabric, the fit felt off and the top was uncomfortable. Often the neck hole was way too wide. A neckline for a 2X or 3X person doesn’t have to be two or three times larger than a regular size. The test shirts I made would constantly slide off one shoulder, and the mid-section often felt binding. I would have to yank to keep the shirt on my shoulders and yank to keep it from pinching my middle. Bahhh. No.

Happy to say, this top doesn’t have that problem! I’ve noticed such a big difference in patterns for curvy bodies when the designer is also a curvy person. I wish this wasn’t a thing, but it is. But the pattern isn’t complex at all, it’s dead easy. Just two pieces! Sew them together. For the sleeves and the bottom you just roll up twice, press, and seam. For the neck, you use a half-inch facing. So simple.

I’ve wondered whether a woven top like this, if I found the right pattern, could ever compete with my beloved collection of t-shirts. I love t-shirts but I get tired of how fast they die, and knowing that so many of them are products of fast fashion just makes it worse. Yesterday I tried wearing my new Box Top under a long-sleeved t-shirt, and then under a hoodie. It felt fine! Wasn’t uncomfortable or stiff, didn’t feel too binding. So cool! I bet one of these made out of linen or rayon would feel amazing and drape like a dream.

In the illustration below, you can see that she made an option for a ruffle version. Apparently there’s a nifty dress hack where you just make that ruffle longer, and voila, a dress! I’m going go try that on a dress for my 15-year-old daughter, who really wants a “traipsing dress”. We were talking once about how we love old style country dresses, that “make you want to traipse through the fields collecting flowers”. That’s when we decided to call our future project a traipsing dress. I think this could make a great traipsing dress!

And now: books.

And now: books.

Hello, fellow stuck-in-your-homes friends! I hope everyone is managing okay with the stresses we’re all experiencing. Our little family is doing pretty well. The introverts are squirreled away with their books and games, and the one extrovert is online with a dozen of his gaming buddies. Thankfully there are lots of projects here to distract me from my habit of over-focusing on the news.

You might remember that I wrote a little farewell-to-blogging post at the end of last summer (2019). It’s still viewable, I think.

I was doing fine, happily not blogging, until I suddenly got into making books. This isn’t the first time; I took a bookbinding class once, years ago. Somewhere in Seattle, somewhere in the 90’s. I enjoyed it, but I only made a few. I wasn’t obsessed.

A few weeks ago I took a class here in Eugene, this time using coptic stitch binding and paper-covered Davey board covers. I was in a total state of flow the whole class. It was blissful. And now I’m pretty sure I have to make, oh I don’t know, maybe a hundred more.

Bookbinding, as it turns out, isn’t the most common hobby, so I’ve had trouble finding much to do with it locally. There’s a lot online, however, which is great. Being that I hope to participate in the wider online bookbinding community, sharing photos and tips and such, I figured I’d make a little spot in which to put pictures and notes about what I’m making.

I added “fabric” into the title both because I hope to create a lot of homemade book cloth, and because I’m still sewing on the side; another obsession that never died. I should probably stop finding undying obsessions. There’s only so much room.

Here’s the book I made at the class I just took. I used some handmade paper that I bought at Oregon Art Supply, and purple waxed linen thread.

I decided to use this book as a place to put all my notes on, you guessed it: book binding. I’m the person who can’t follow a pattern or recipe, I always end up tweaking it somehow. Sometimes I regret it, but often I’m very happy with the results. The problem is that I routinely fail to write down my spontaneous modifications. I’m going to use this notebook as a place to collect all that info up as a I go along. Next post: Book No. 2.