Maker Monday: Masks, of course

There’s a lot going on these days.

I know. It is true in our house, in our communities and, well, literally everywhere in the world.

In the scheme of things, it seems pretty lightweight to write a blog post about sewing.

It IS lightweight. I’ll admit it.

Very often though, making turns into thinking. Meditating, even. Praying, sometimes. Pondering, almost always.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of spirituality and creativity. (Ok, who am I kidding–my very first paper in seminary in 1998 was about theology and creativity. So I guess I’ve been thinking about it for at least 22 years.)

It’s an easy connection to make when you’re looking at gold-leafed paintings or at folk-art quilts, or reading lines of poetry or hearing strains of songs. But at my suburban sewing machine, making simple face masks out of fabric scraps, I feel quite a bit less holy.

Quilting cotton and a rotary cutter hardly seem like the tools of a Spirit-led artist. But today, I cut squares, folded them into pleats, threaded old shoelaces through casings. It wasn’t hard. It was barely creative. But it allowed me to think, to meditate, to pray, and to do a lot of pondering.

On “Living in the now.”

Living in the now is not my spiritual gift.

But today, I felt very aware of how the simple act of making helps me to be HERE. NOW. I can think ahead, make my best plan, but the reality is all I can actually DO is what’s right in front of me.

Crafting, hand-making, is a great teacher of presence. It’s not a magic pill, but it can be a welcome distraction, a focus for scattered energy, or a centering–a way to remind us just to be where we are for this moment. Today, I needed that.

On loved ones, and safety.

When I in seminary, my ethics professor asked us to read an article describing all the many different ways people decide how to make ethical decisions, and to find which one described us. Some people make ethical choices based on a set of religious doctrines, or based on society’s rules (sometimes these overlap!). People make decisions based on their family’s taught values, or their educational experiences, or based on their own emotional reactions in a given situation.

I got to the end of the article–literally the last short paragraph–before I finally found a description that made sense to me: some of us make ethical decisions based on the kind of person we want to be.

The truth is, I don’t always care more about other people than I do for myself, but I WANT to be the kind of person who does–so I’ll wear a mask.

I want to be the kind of parent who tells and shows their children how to be good citizens and good neighbors–so I’ll wear a mask (and so will my kids).

The thing about making and pondering and praying is that it makes you ponder and pray beyond your own sewing table.

I’m deeply concerned about keeping my kids safe; but I also want to be the kind of person who is just as concerned–and works just as steadily for–the safety of other peoples’ children… especially those who have been told and shown, again and again, that they are simply not safe in this world.

Making a cute mask is easy. I can do that.

So is making a statement and jumping on a bandwagon. I don’t really want to do that.

I want to be the kind of person who makes a difference. That’s not as easy. So all the while I’m making, I’m thinking, meditating, praying, pondering… and, I hope, becoming that kind of person. The kind who figures out how to use the tools I have around and within me to make something useful, to be a good neighbor, and to create a safer world.

Practical Matters: The mask tutorial I’m using is from Little Stitch Studio. Early in lockdown I made a more fitted mask with elastic ear loops but they were hard to fit each person properly, and the elastic was annoying. My family unanimously preferred these (and the pattern accommodates those of us with more prominent… features!). I made a few modifications:

  • I cut the fabric squares one inch shorter for the kids’ masks. After pleating theirs are 3″ tall. (FWIW my kids are 12 and almost 16.)
  • I ironed lightweight fusible interfacing onto one of the fabrics (whichever seemed lighter to begin with). I like the “body” it adds, and I think the non-woven layer may add a bit of protection.
  • We like having one long tie, so I pulled the laces out of some old busted-up shoes. The “mom” masks use grosgrain ribbon, but the shoelaces are better!
  • For the nose “wire” I used the bendy narrow strips that come attached to some brands of coffee bags. They are PERFECT. (And we’re big coffee drinkers so we just stocked up.) I inserted the bendy strip into the casing, then stitched a short line from the casing seam to the top of the mask on each side of the strip, to keep it from shifting.

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