Quick and Easy Medical Mask



With Coronavirus raging, and all of us fighting to prevent from being a victim of the illness, there are dozens of surgical or medical mask patterns which can be constructed from fabric.   Some are fitted, some are pleated and some are designed to insert a filter.  In addition, some have ties and some use elastic for behind the ears.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve used 4 or 5 patterns and have made dozens of masks for family members, friends and to donate to healthcare institutions.  Depending on which style, they take from 15-60″ per mask.  Also, most are machine sewn,  While paper masks are appropriately being used to address the healthcare shortage, there is a need for quick and easy masks that can be sewn with a sewing machine or hand-sewn with needle and thread.  This mask construction takes about 15″, especially after sewing a few.


  • Made from a single piece of fabric plus the ties.
  • Ties can be made from fabric, ribbon, shoe laces, twill tape or whatever you can find in the house.
  • Fits over the nose and chin without needing to find the correct type of product to use for a nose wire.
  • Can be hand-sewn or machine sewn.
  • Can be worn with or without a filter inserted between the 2 layers of fabric.

The construction is detailed on the attached pdf, so I’ll not repeat here.  Just click on this link for detailed instructions.

Quick Surgical Mask

Surgical Cap Sewing Pattern



This blog has remained dormant for a long time but in today’s world of the Coronavirus pandemic there’s a need to share a pattern for sewing a surgical cap.  My niece works in an urban ICU which is dedicated to patients with COVID-19.  She said they are running out of surgical caps and shoe covers and wondered if her mother and I could sew some from cloth so they can be cleaned and re-used..  I decided to start working on the surgical caps while my sister is working on shoe covers.


One of my favorite retirement activities is a weekly volunteer stint where several colleagues and I teach a group of delightful Southeast Asian refugees to sew.  We work on garment and craft projects.  Several years ago, in response to a request from her daughter who is a surgical tech,  one of the women made this pattern for a surgical cap.  As a thank you for teaching the class, the student gave me one of the caps.   I also had a paper pattern but unfortunately tossed it several months ago. Never did I imagine that there would be a need for this cap pattern.

The Pattern:

Yesterday I took apart the cap SV gave me and I made a pattern.  Then I sewed 17 of these caps for my niece’s unit.  The fabrics are from a thrift store but I doubt that those who use the caps will care.  Maybe they’ll be good for a badly needed laugh?


If someone you know needs surgical caps, all of details you need are in the following pdf,  SV’s Surgical Cap Pattern .

Happy sewing and stay well.

An Athletic Wear Tunic: Great for Hiking

Sedona, AZ

Hiking Tunic:

This year we did the crazy thing and planned a winter trip to the Southwest USA to visit some of the National Parks.  Oh yes, and that was during a shutdown of the National Parks.   As I was thinking about what to wear, I only knew that my attire would be something between short sleeve shirts and 3 or 4 layers of warm weather clothing.  Enter a hiking shirt that covers my bum and could be layered.

A not so pretty photo of my back side (with an underlayer for additional warmth)

A day after downloading the BeeKiddi BeeWave  pattern, I received an order of lightweight Polartec/lycra knit athletic type fabric and immediately knew this was the  perfect union of pattern and fabric.

What’s Right with the Pattern:

  1. The design of this top is brilliant and the designer kindly provided pattern pieces and photos of options for design elements such as a cuff with a thumb hole and trim options.
  2. The high neckline can replace a scarf and the tunic length with a hemline band covered my “bum” for warmth.
  3. The method for attaching the collar at the front center is pretty cool and one I’ve not encountered previously (too complex to describe here). It produces a nicely sculpted finish. My V-neck has less definition than the pattern shows but that’s because I ripped it out a few times and stretched out the neckline.

What’s Not Quite Right with the Pattern:

  1. There is a small and large neckline choice with 3 collar styles however the pattern doesn’t differentiate between the small and large neckline.  Through trial and error I was able to make the collar fit but either something is missing in my ability to understand the pattern or with the pattern itself. I have emailed the designer and am awaiting a reply.  On my first attempt I tried the large wide collar and it was too much fabric for the neckline so I took it out and used the small collar.
  2. Some of the steps aren’t clear in the instructions which I attribute to the translation of a German pattern into English.

A Home Sewist’s Attempt at RTW Details:

One of the things I love about RTW athletic garments is the abundance of construction and design details (likely produced by underpaid employees in developing countries) and coverstitching, most of which are difficult to replicate by the home sewist.  For this garment I wanted to stretch my skills a bit.

Collar Center Back Trim:

The pattern called for a zipper or other contrast trim.  Because I didn’t have anything suitable in my stash (yes, hard to believe) I created RTW-ish trim with 1/8″ and 1/2″ grossgrain ribbon.

Collar Center Back Trim
IMG_3653 2.jpg
1/2″ black grossgrain with 2 strips of 1/8″ aqua grossgrain

Aqua Contrasting Trim:

The pattern describes and has photographs of ways to use special stitches to make the top look like RTW. First I tried a triple zig-zag around the neckline and it stretched the neck so badly that it was unwearable.  Of course that was followed by an epic seam ripper workout, removing every one of those stitches. Alternatively I topstitched a tube of aqua tissue-weight poly knit to the neckline which worked out well.  To do this I cut a piece of fabric 1-1/4″ wide, sewed it into a tube and turned it.  Note that I did not press the tube as the heat would have distorted the shape.  Then I topstitched it using a narrow zig-zag stitch.  It looks quite nice.

Top-stitching the Neckline Trim

Then I decided to add aqua piping to the hem band and the cuffs but it looked ripply so I removed that too. By widening the strip of piping and sewing it into the seam, I could topstitch the trim to the body of the garment. This was also a win.  For these pieces, I cut the fabric 1-3/4″ wide and sewed it into the seam, leaving 1/2″ exposed.  The other edge was then topstitched with a narrow zig-zag.

Top-stitching the Hem Band and Cuff Trim

In Summary:

Due to all of the trial and error, this project took 3 or 4 times as long as it should have but I really like the end result.




Polar Vortex: Children Need Warm Leggings


PowerStretch Leggings

Because the midwest USA is experiencing very cold weather, I am reminded of how important it is for children to have warm leggings.  While regular leggings are great, they just aren’t warm enough for bitter and cold midwestern winters.

Each winter for the past 8 or 9 years, I’ve sewn winter leggings for my grand-daughters using Polartec Powerstretch. This year I sewed about 10 or 11 pair as requested by my son and daughters as they’ve come to rely on these leggings as essential winter fare.  Sixteen year old granddaughter Mira still requested new leggings this year, as last year’s were too small.  With a 3 year old grandson in the mix, I also made leggings for him.  Because I’ve acquired a new embroidery machine in the past year, I added pockets and embroidery this year.



The patterns for these leggings were Go To Leggings and Ottobre Funny Legs .  The $10 for the Go To Leggings pattern was a wise expenditure as I’ve used it more than 25 times in a variety of sizes.  Or your favorite leggings patterns would work as well.

Go To Leggings
Ottobre Funny Legs


For all of the leggings I used Polartec Powerstretch, which a smooth outside, fleece inside and has both horizontal and vertical stretch.  This makes the leggings easy to wear and the fleece inside is so cozy.  This year I purchased the fabric at Mill Yardage and The Fabric Fairy.   Powerstretch comes in light and medium weights and either will work for these leggings.  Of the two types I purchased this year, Mill Yardage had medium weight and the yardage from The Fabric Fairy was lighter in weight but also stretchier, which is always a nice feature for leggings.


Serging has always been my preferred stitch for this type of garment and for stretch fabric however you could use a narrow zig-zag or a stretch stitch on a regular sewing machine.  For the waistband, I serged 3/4″ elastic to the top of the pants and then turned it over and top stitched with a narrow zig-zag stitch.  To finish the hems I turned the hem under and top-stitched with a simple zig-zag stitch.


So if the children in your life are in need of warm leggings, consider using Polartec Powerstretch.  As for purchasing the fabric, snatch it up early in the season as the color selection sells out quickly.

Happy sewing.

In my Past Life I was a Turtleneck

This blog has been latent however today I found a need to use a URL to post a photo to another website.  The quickest way to do this was to post it here so here’s the photo and directions on how to convert a vintage shop turtleneck sweater into a V-neck.

Converting a Turtleneck sweater to a V-neck

My husband loves lightweight wool V-neck sweaters, which are increasingly difficult to find, even at second-hand shops.  So when I found this grey wool turtleneck (sorry, no photo so you’ll need to trust me), I was sure it had a future as a V-neck.




  1. Remove turtleneck
  2. Cut 2 binding strips 2″ wide.
  3. Now determine the size of the V-neck and cut opening
  4. With the 2 strips of binding laying flat, create the miter and sew the front V
  5. Sew the 2 strips together for center back (CB)
  6. Pin binding to neckline and machine baste
  7. Sew front V binding with a standard sewing machine (as for any V-neck binding)
  8. Audition the binding to assure it is the correct length.  If not, adjust at CB.
  9. Serge or zig-zag the binding to the sweater.

That’s it.  Here are a few photos of the finished product.  I noticed that the stitch at the bottom of the V has pulled out so I’ll take a hand stitch to fix that.  Not unexpected after about 6 or 7 years of wear.  Otherwise this sweater still looks great.IMG_3543.jpeg

Center back
Center Back



Inside of V-neck


Sewing with Knits: A Better Patch Pocket


Recently I made a wearable muslin for the Blackwood Cardigan and learned that I really love this pattern.  The sweater is long and has cuffs for warmth and style, has pockets and is very easy to sew.  The lower band addresses the hemming dilemna that sometimes occurs with hand-sewn sweaters.  What’s not to love.  I’m eager to make another out of a different fabric.

The Muslin:

I used a wool, poly and bamboo knit that’s cozy warm but which has poor recovery and pilled after a single washing, making it the perfect fabric for a muslin.

As for the pattern, I made a few changes:

  1.  The front band is 2″ wide and hangs nicely down the front however it doesn’t overlap, which is a personal preference.  So I removed the band and thankfully had enough fabric to cut a new band, doubling the width to 4″.  For the next try I’ll go with a 3″ band.
  2. The patch pocket is topstitched, which isn’t my favorite method on this type of knit.  Even after using iron-on tape, the top-stitching looked wavy and uneven.  And that’s the point of this blog post.  Here’s my try at topstitching the pocket (sorry about the poor color but you get the point).


The Solution:

In a creative moment, I decided to try attaching the pocket using a very narrow zig-zag stitch (after using iron-on fusible tape to keep the pocket in place).  Here’s the result, which I really like:


To do this, I used matching thread and a stitch width of 1 (out of 4) and a length of 3 (out of 4), just catching the edge of the pocket with the needle. For the navy band I switched to navy thread.IMG_1030  After it was sewn, I gave the pocket a little tug to make the stitches disappear into the fabric.  The pocket has of a 3-D look and appears more like ready-to-wear.

I’ll give this pattern another try soon and will see if this method works with different fabric.

From Bedsheet to Morris Jacket


This Grainline Studios Morris Blazer had a previous life as a twin bedsheet that was made from a twill jacquard Egyptian cotton. Unfortunately the previous owner had a bleach accident and donated the sheet to St. Vinnie’s.  I found it in a bin for $.50 and was enamored by the quality and weight of the cotton and by the lovely jacquard design. Hence it came home with me. I removed the elastic and casing and it lived on my “to be dyed” pile for a while.  Here is the orphan sheet:


Snow dyeing: 
This winter when I was snow dyeing a few items, the sheet received it’s new life. Actually I snow dyed it twice as the first time it turned out too light for my taste, but the second time it came out beautifully. Here’s the link to the first dyeing and one more for the second dyeing.

The Dreaded Muslin:
Most often I don’t make a muslin but because this pattern is intended for stretch woven fabric I used a worn-thin bedsheet to make one and it was worth the effort. Based on this sample I made a narrow back adjustment, my usual sway back adjustment and added a French dart in the front along a fairly large wrinkle line. In the end I probably should have made a size larger as the dyed fabric had minimal “give” whereas the muslin was fairly lightweight and not very stable; a case of over-fitting. As mentioned in some patten reviews, I also scooped out the armhole about 1/2″. Last of all I lengthened the jacket 1.5 inches which is uncommon for me, a height-challenged person.

Jacket Construction: 
After the fairly easy jacket construction, I added 1/8″ of uncorded piping to the edge. The inside seams have a Hong Kong finish, made from the lining of a prom dress. Because of the weight of the fabric, I did not use a interfacing, which turned out fine for this jacket.


Pattern Description:
The Grainline Studios Morris Blazer is: “… a mixture of drape and structure, bracelet length sleeves, and a gentle shawl collar, it looks great dressed up or down. It sews up well in fabrics with stretch making it comfortable for everyday wear.”

In Summary: 
This was a really fun project. If you’ve never tried snow-dying or ice-dyeing, it’s really quite easy and fun as you’re always surprised by the outcome.  And it’s a great example of how you can find great fabric in a variety of ways.

More on Dyeing Wool with Wool

In the last several posts I shared my new fiber love, which is using pieces of wool to dye other pieces of wool.  I’ve named it “Wool on wool dyeing”.  To date I’ve only dyed lightweight pieces of wool which were in turn made into scarves and the donor pieces have been wool flannel or wool crepe.

For this, the third experiment, I had a grey, off-white and reddish wool gauze scarf that I accidentally felted and afterward the colors looked dull.  My hypothesis was that a piece of royal blue wool would donate enough color to the scarf to revitalize the it.  Here’s the grey scarf.IMG_0816  To dye the scarf I used the same process as in the previous experiments, although this time I only used a single piece of donor wool, log rolling the scarf along with the blue as below.  Of note, the piece of blue wool was tainted by moth holes so there was nothing to lose by using it for dyeing.  My friend Martha suggested the “donor” terminology, which seemed quite appropriate for this process.  Thank you, Martha.


As with the previous wool dyeing I tied it (though not too tightly as I think the ties stress the fabric and releases excess amounts of color from the donor).


The next step was to dip the wrapped fabric into a slow cooker  (this one is reserved for dyeing fabric) 2/3 full of near boiling water.  After about 30 minutes I unplugged the cooker, turned the wrapped fabric upside-down and left it in the slow cooker for another 30 minutes.

After the hour in the slow cooker I removed the fabric and allowed it to cool.  The last step was to rinse the scarf in cold water (1 cup of vinegar per gallon of water).  Now I have a lovely blue scarf.


My sense is that there’s a lot more to learn about wool on wool dyeing, and I can’t wait to take the journey while searching second-hand stores for more wool.

Here are some of the questions I have:

  1. How frequently can a piece of wool be used as a donor?
  2. What is the largest piece of fabric that can be dyed in this manner?
  3. Does water need to be boiling hot or just very hot?
  4. Would a shorter period of time in the hot water be sufficient?
  5. What types of wool can act as the recipient?
  6. What about wool blends – do they work the same as 100% wool?
  7. How about dyeing silk with wool?

What questions do you have?

DIY Wool Scarf: Wool on Wool Dyeing Again

If you’re tired of hearing about dyeing, skip this one, but I have to tell you I’m not the least bit tired of this method for transforming wool. Several weeks ago I posted about using wool to dye wool. For this project I used the same method but with printed wool.

This project was born when I changed the coat I planned to take on a trip. My red and blue scarf just wouldn’t work with a purple coat. Since I’m on a one year sabbatical from purchasing clothes, I shopped in my stash. I had a piece of lightweight vintage wool (maybe Liberty – not sure) with potential so I tested a small piece with good results before proceeding.

After assembling cranberry wool, the print and a teal wool/nylon blend, I used the same method as described in my previous post. Here’s the before and after photo.

Try it, you’ll like the results.

As you can see on the turned corner (right side of above photo), the front picked up more red and the back side more teal.

What a beautiful and warm scarf.

The Perfect Travel Bag

When traveling, I’m admittedly pretty fussy about my handbag. First and foremost it needs to protect against all of those greedy hands that want to steal, but also it needs to be large enough without being too large. Then there’s the need for a distinct place for my passport, money, phone, kindle, water bottle, etc.

Over the years I’ve purchased and worn out one bag, bought a few (usually Ameribags) and been disappointed by the design so I sold them on eBay. Several years ago, like many of my kind , I said “I can make that”. First I copied the pattern and made a muslin which I used on one trip.

Then I made this bag which has been used and abused until it was time for another. The lining actually had wear spots.

After removing the hardware I worked on #3 which is shown at the beginning of this post and below. In the future when not typing on an iPhone I’ll post on the details and maybe share the pattern. Until then I’m traveling with my new bag and I love it.