By Bridgette Wood
If your student is eager to return to playing their instrument (what band kid isn't?) you might find your band director asking for them to have a modified face mask that they can wear while playing said instrument. Some instruments are pretty easy, the kids just cut slits in basic masks and can put their mouthpiece through the slit, but others pose specific challenges, especially the flute. Based off of a mask pattern created by Kerry Seip, a teacher in Colorado, I've adapted and created an easy to sew mask that will take less than an hour to make once you've gathered your supplies.
Sewing supplies (sewing machine, thread, scissors, ruler, pins)
Pen, chalk, marker … something to mark on the fabric
Pipe cleaner (4 inches)
Elastic for ear hoops or other choice for comfort. I used adjustable earloop bands that I found on Amazon.
XX-large men’s t-shirt or larger with No Side Seams. You can also use 1/2 yard jersey knit fabric but it was easier and cheaper for me to use a t-shirt. By using a t-shirt or jersey knit instead of normal cotton fabric from the fabric store there is less sewing and the mask has a little more flex to allow for the neckjoint to move under the mask.
Paper to make a pattern, gift wrap tissue paper works
Sew in velcro (5 inches of ¾ inch width or a comparable amount if you have something different on hand.
Because the mask is made of jersey knit you will need to use the zig zag stitch on your machine for nearly all of the stitches. It is also a best practice to use a ball point needle when working with jersey knit but definitely not necessary for this project.
Create a pattern using the measurements in the pic. Tissue paper works. For the rounded section in the top draw a rounded edge for the interior corner. No need for perfection. Just round the corner.
Prepare the t-shirt for the pattern. Cut the sleeves and neck off of the t-shirt then cut one side seam open. ONLY CUT ONE SIDE SEAM OPEN so you have the largest continuous piece of fabric possible. I was able to get two masks out of one shirt with a little maneuvering. Fold the fabric in half so you can place the pattern along the fold. This may be bottom to top or left to right. Whatever works for the available fabric you have. It’s even okay if you have to fold it a little diagonal to make the most use of the fabric. This is how I was able to get two masks from one shirt.
If you are using a solid t-shirt there is no right or wrong side for now. If your t-shirt has a pattern printed on it make sure to put the wrong sides together (right sides showing). Be sure the long edge of the pattern is on the fold of the fabric. Pin your pattern in place and cut.
Using a zig zag stitch sew the short side opposite of the fold. No seam allowance required. Sew as close to the edge as you are comfortable. This is the back neck seam of the mask.
Now that you have sewn the back neck seam open the mask so that you are working with the top. This is the side opposite of the point. Using chalk or a fabric marker mark the center of the top section. Also mark two inches on each side of the center. This is where the pipe cleaner will go. Now fold over the top edge ½ inch and pin. Sew down using a zig zag stitch across the entire top edge. If you feel comfortable insert the pipe cleaner along the way. If not, you can feed it in after you sew the casing.
If you didn’t insert the pipe cleaner as you sewed the seam go ahead and feed it through. Move the pipe cleaner so it is centered between the lines that you marked in the previous step. Stitch over those lines to close off the casing to keep the pipe cleaner from shifting.
Next you will add your ear pieces. You can use elastic, t-shirt strips, ribbon, whatever you choose. I would start with around 5.5” strips but expect to have to go back and adjust to fit. I found it easiest to use pre-purchased adjustable ear loop bands since I wouldn’t be able to custom fit each mask. Attach one side to the top seam and another about 2.5” down the rounded corner.
Next you will create a bit of “lift” to the nose area to allow a little extra room at the mouthpiece of the instrument. Lay the mask flat facing up and mark 1.5 inches down from the nose piece seam on the right side of the fabric.
Bring the line that you marked up to the seam of the pipe cleaner casing creating a fold. Pin and sew along just the pipe cleaner seam only, not the entire top. Just the center 4 inches if that is easier to understand.
Lay the mask flat facing up. Follow the image below for marking the line that you will cut next. This will allow the student to easily insert/remove their flute without having to repeatedly take off their mask or disconnect the headjoint of their flute. Once you have the line marked cut it open.
Cut a 5” strip of velcro. Now cut that in half length wise making two sets of long skinny velcro. You will only need one set. Using a straight stitch sew your velcro to each side of the slit you just cut.
You did it! You made a flute mask! If you find any cheats or have any feedback to share please leave a comment.
Special thanks to my percussion playing guinea pig who tried on a lot of prototype flute masks along the way.
Good luck to everyone trying to find a way to have band class and let the kids play.