6 Things I Never Expected to Happen During the COVID-19 Pandemic…

6 Things I Never Expected to Happen During the COVID-19 Pandemic…

While the COVID-19 pandemic itself caught me off guard, as an artist, quilter and sewist, here are 6 other things I never expected to happen.

1) Be inundated with requests for fabric face masks.

Never in a million years (I have lost count as to how many times I’ve said or thought that!) would I have expected so many people and places to need anyone with a sewing machine to help protect against COVID-19.

From friends and family to nurses, hospitals and everything in between. And we answered the call! My social media feeds are flooded with photos of people sewing night and day to help.

(Need a free pattern? CLICK HERE)

2) Have flat elastic be harder to find than toilet paper.

As the reality of what was coming settled in, there was a run on toilet paper, water, wipes, pasta, rice… all the things people grab to prepare for a snow storm. There was no snow coming but there was a fear of being told not to leave the house for weeks if someone got sick, so the US stocked up.

Within days of the first call for anyone with a sewing machine to make fabric masks, flat elastic became harder to find than TP!

3) A shortage of thread – especially white.

I suppose it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, what with all the mask sewing going on, but it was. I was surprised when I started hearing and seeing people mention that they had run out of and couldn’t find thread – especially white.

We take things for granted – like the ability to find white thread when we need it. No more. This is another thing that nasty virus has stolen from those of us that sew!

4) Sewists discussing the pros and cons of interfacing, vacuum bags and furnace filters as the best to add to face masks.

We became scientists overnight. Not only did we sew, but we took it seriously. While some would use our fabric masks for a quick trip into the grocery store or to use over a medical grade mask so it would last longer, we knew that others might need added protection.

Sewists became researchers and debated the pros and cons of various filtering materials on social media. What size particles would it stop and would it prevent the wearer from breathing? The world has turned on it’s head and we wanted to protect and help as many as possible!

5) My husband asked to learn to sew!

I about fell off my chair when my husband said, “I think I need to learn to sew so I can help make masks.”

Until then, I had trained him to turn the masks right side out and iron them before I added the pleats. It was helpful and more than I ever expected him to do. (He’s not a handy or crafty man…)

My husband sitting down and sewing was proof that this was new territory and that people were willing to try new things!

6) That I’d notice (and discuss) how a face mask brought out the color of my eyes.

Even in the most unsettling times we search for some glimmer of hope or normalcy in the little things. The day I made this mask I not only decided I looked fierce sporting a big bear across my face (hopefully fierce enough that no virus would come near me!) but noticed how it really brought out the green in my eyes. 🤓

What stood out to you? What was unexpected? I’d love to know – please share your experiences in the comments!

If you are reading this and we are still in it – stay healthy and do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor!

Tara Reed

Want to make face masks? CLICK HERE for a free tutorial (with lots of photos!) >

You might also like 👉🏻  How to make a difference by sewing >

We can all make a difference…

We can all make a difference…

Feeling helpless as COVID-19 seems to be ravaging the globe? Help sew face masks

 It’s Friday night, April 3rd.  I only know it’s Friday because I double checked the calendar on my phone – the days are running together and life feels like a blur of work, news, restless sleep and sewing face masks.

On Saturday March 21, 2020 I created written directions to make fabric face masks that follow the video directions most people were using as a model (thank you Deaconess). I find it easier to cut and sew with something printed by my side and thought others might as well.


In just 13 days over 1,050 people have accessed the free pdf directions to sew fabric face masks. WOW!

Almost half of those have come after I was featured in an article in USA Today by Steve Strauss talking about how businesses need to pivot during these challenging times.

I know many of us feel like we are stuck in our homes and that staying home is the only way we can make a difference… (stay home, flatten the curve 👈🏻YES! PLEASE DO!)

But we can help in so many other ways! My good friend Kim Beasley saw the call for masks on 3/18 and called me, knowing that I sew, and said, “Can you help?” She then offered to help pay for elastic, as I have tons of fabric but not elastic.

Amazon was already low on elastic so we bought a BIG spool – thank goodness.

I sew, they help offset expenses, we all help in our own way.

In just 12 days, I’ve personally sewn 130+ masks. They have gone to friends and family across the country. To a retirement home in Arizona. A labor & delivery nurse in Delaware. To Home Health workers locally.

I’ve sent elastic to sewists who can’t find any in Texas, Florida, California, Illinois & Puerto Rico.

I’ve put fabric and elastic at my front door for a few people who took me up on the offer I made on Facebook.

I’m just one person… working from home, wanting to help.

Not everyone has sewing machines but if you read my blog you probably do. CLICK HERE TO SEE INSTRUCTIONS ON MY BLOG >

We aren’t all nurses or first responders and the like… but I believe we can all do something that can make a huge difference during this crazy and scary time.

Think about what you can do. Who and how you can help. It has made it all more manageable for me emotionally and is helping people all across the country.


Stay home. Stay healthy. Call your loved ones. No way to help is too little.

Tara Reed

P.S. Looking for more free ideas and projects? CLICK HERE >

You might also like 👉🏻 6 Things I never expected to happen – COVID-19 edition >

Called to Sew – DIY Face Masks

Called to Sew – DIY Face Masks

Called to Sew – Face Masks

This tutorial was created on March 21, 2020 during the Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak. It is a global pandemic that has halted life as we know it around the globe. People are scared. People are sick. People are dying. People are in their homes trying to slow the spread to help our health care systems not become overwhelmed.

Many are wondering what they can do to help – and then the call for people with sewing machines to make face masks came.

When I created my Send Me to the Woods fabric collection, I started thinking about projects I would create and share when it came out.

Never in a million years did I think it would be face masks, at the request of hospitals and other caregivers, during a pandemic. But I think there are a lot of “not in a million years!” things happening these days so let’s step up, press the pedal and help!


Homemade fabric masks are not ideal. They do not stop the spread of small particles, like the COVID-19 virus. It is no substitute but better than nothing.

In a 2013 study, quoted with some interesting graphs here (SmartAirFilters.com – Best Materials for DIY Masks) researchers found that while the N 95 and surgical masks stopped 97% of 1-Micron particles, cotton and cotton blends stop between 69-74%. The DIY masks are not sealed to the face, so I assume the effectiveness is a bit less because of the air leaks – I think I’ve seen 50% quoted but can’t remember where.

But again – better than nothing.

According to WHO (the World Health Organization):

  • If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

Read the article and watch the videos they released regarding the novel coronavirus (now called COVID-19) in 2019 > 

This post and these instructions should in no way lead you to believe that fabric masks are the perfect safeguard against COVID-19.


On March 18, 2020, Providence Health Plan in the Seattle, Washington area started the 100 Million Mask Challenge: Volunteers Making Masks to Combat Shortage. They supplied volunteers with very specific medical grade material that is not available commercially. Find out if others are doing the same before sewing your stash! On March 19, 2020, Citing shortages, Deaconess Health System in Indiana, including Henderson’s Methodist Health, has asked the public to sew face masks for staff fighting coronavirus. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE >  By March 20, 2020 my Facebook feed was full of friends sharing the call and my Instagram was filling up with sewists getting down to work making masks and also spreading the word. Also on March 20, 2020 there was an article at Forbes.com talking about it and sharing a variety of initiatives that are happening. CLICK HERE TO READ IT > 

I got calls from two friends who know I sew asking me to help. They offered to help pay for supplies. We are all in this together.

I imagine that within the next few days or weeks many others will be asking for help too. From hospitals afraid of supply shortages to nursing homes to friends and family that with compromised immune systems or those caring for loved ones with the virus.

I searched the web and tried a few different mask patterns – looking for something that would be easy to mass produce quickly.

I decided to use the method shared by Deaconess Health System. While I like video tutorials, I find it hard to remember all the steps! I sit and constantly hit pause, take notes, and go back to double check what I’m doing as I start something new.

Here is their video tutorial and I also created written steps as well as a PDF you can download and print if you prefer. No strings attached – I’m giving access to the pdf without asking you to sign up for my email list (but I’d love it if you do) – I just want as many people to have this info as possible.


2 pieces of fabric/mask

  • ADULT: 6″ x 9″
  • CHILD: 7.5″ x 5″

2 pieces of elastic/mask (1/8″ or 1/4″ flat works best)

  • ADULT: 7″ (in the video they recommend 7″ but for my face it was a little loose, I’ve seen others suggest 6.5″ and that works better for me. I will be using 7″ for men’s / neutral fabrics and 6.5″ for feminine fabrics)
  • CHILD: 5 – 5.5″ (if you are making it for a child in your life use their head to determine a good size)

Cord elastic but make sure you put a knot at each end so the elastic doesn’t pull out after sewing. It’s much harder to secure than flat elastic.

Ribbon or fabric straps

4 pieces, 18-20” each, should be more than enough for an adult. Try one and see what you think – these would be more for personal use than donation as the ribbons might get too tangled in the wash for a facility to have time to deal with.

Use 1/4″ seams unless otherwise noted.


If you are using directional fabric, be sure the pattern is going across the length of the 6″ x 9″ piece as shown in the tree fabric. If I cut it the opposite way the trees would be going sideways across the face – not ideal!

Right sides together, sew along the long side of the fabric.
Turn around and sew on the other long side, leaving 3-4″ for turning the mask right side out later.


Take the elastic (or ribbon, etc – I’ll use the term “elastic” from here on on out save time) and put it in between the two pieces of fabric.

Clip or pin so the elastic close to each seam.

Sew the full length, going back and forth a few times over the elastic to make it secure.
Repeat on the other side.


Turn the mask right side out through the opening in one of the long sides and push out corners.

PRESS, making sure the opening is pressed to match the sewn portion. (You will topstitch to secure the opening in the next step)

Without pleats your mask is about 7″ high. The goal of adding pleats is to decrease the height at the sides (to 3.5-4″ for adults and 3-3.5″ for kids) and allow the mask to be adjusted to fit an individuals face.

Since my goal is mass production as quickly as possible, I didn’t want to have to measure and mark each mask to make the pleats. I wandered around my sewing room looking at all my tools and found the perfect solution – my Sewing Gauge!

Not only will the sewing gauge measure quickly but I can use it to fold the fabric down over the metal to get a quick and consistent fold.

For the Adult size mask I start by placing the gauge 1.5″ up from the bottom on one side.

Fold the fabric down against the metal of the gauge and then fold back up to create a pleat that is about 1/2″.

Place a pin to hold the pleat and do the same on the other side.

Repeat the process for a second pleat, about 1.5″ up from the bottom fold of the first pleat. (This is where it isn’t an exact science. Measure it but then look at your mask and decide if you want to move the pleat up or down a little for it to be evenly placed on the mask.)


Topstitch all the way around the mask, 1/8″ from the edge.

Start in on a long side, a few inches from the corner, so your presser foot doesn’t get stuck on any bulk from pleats or corners.

When you go over the pleats, backstitch to secure well.



Whether you are going to do everything yourself or enlist help from others in your home, there are ways to make the process go faster than sewing each mask from start to finish before beginning the next one. Here are my suggestions – if you have others, please share them in the comments so we can all be as efficient and helpful as possible. It’s sewing, assembly line style!


Cut a batch of fabric at once. Anyone you can train to cut a straight line with a rotary cutter can assist with this.

Cut the elastic or ribbon. This is a great place for kids to help! Put a piece of masking tape on a table the length you need. Show them how to line up the elastic on one end and then cut at the other. Give them a bowl or other container to put the cut pieces in so they don’t end up everywhere or lost your fabric stash.


Sew like a quilter and use a “daisy chain” approach. Create sets of two pieces of fabric (with right sides together) and sew down one long side on each. Cut apart and then sew the other long sides, remembering to leave the 3-4″ opening for turning. Anyone who can sew a straight line can assist!


Put someone in charge of pinning the elastic or ribbons into the masks while someone else stitches them in place.


This is a great job to give someone who you don’t want cutting or sewing – it’s an easy job that can be done in front of the tv or while sitting and chatting.


Once everything is right side own, turn on the iron and get them all pressed!


Pin all the pleats at once.


The final step is top stitching!


If you or your friends or family will be using the face masks you make, make sure they wash them after every use or at least daily, if used. (disclaimer: this info is what I’ve read in my research online but I’m an artist, not a disinfection specialist.)

Fabric masks should be washed in hot, soapy water. Do not touch your face or eyes while washing and be sure to wash your hands again thoroughly when you are done washing your mask(s) and have left them to dry or put them in the dryer. (follow fabric manufacturers instructions for care)


(found in comments on Facebook)

“If you are reaching out to a hospital, here is a short list of issues that you should resolve **before** so you know what they will accept. I made this list after some research and speaking with 2 docs and a NP.

  • Which model/style will they accept
  • Two layers of fabric or more/what kind of fabric
  • Pocket for a filter
  • Elastic around ears or around head
  • Are ties ok (ties will tangle in washing and will often ball up making a mass of crap that will be thrown out)
  • Should they be pre-washed (generally seems to be a “no” as they will sterilize them upon receipt)
  • Where/to whom to deliver them.
  • Will the recipient know what to do with an ad hoc delivery of “6 masks” or just throw them in the trash? Or do they prefer a large batch at a time”

I, like everyone else I know, am ready to have this experience in the rear view mirror.

But while we are in it, and we are in it together, let’s find ways to help. This may or may not be your way to help but if it is, I hope these directions help you.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Connect with the ones you love.

– Tara Reed

Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. – Mister Rogers

P.S. HappyDIYHome.com has a few other ways to make masks including a few no-sew options if that is helpful!