Learn how to make cloth masks with a local fashion designer and maker

Written by Kelly Sheehy, Content Specialist, Downtown Main Library and Rebecca Shakespeare Armstrong, local small business owner and influencer

As talks of how and when to re-open the country in the wake of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic ramp up, one thing is already clear: masks are going to be an essential accessory in the months, and perhaps years to come.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines that everyone should wear cloth face coverings when they venture out into public.  

Our friend Rebecca Shakespeare Armstrong, opens a new window at RJS Fashion, opens a new window started sewing her sophomore year in college at Bowling Green State University where she was enrolled in the school’s fashion program.

Like many small business owners, she feels the impact of COVID-19.  

“It has impacted my business because a few events I had been planning for months had to be postponed,” said Armstrong. “On the other hand, it also pushed me to pivot my business to try new things and be more creative.”

Part of that creativity meant exploring mask production.  

“I got inspired because my sister and best friend both suggested [mask-making] to me,” said Armstrong. “I had been laid off from my day job and I started to see many research videos explaining the importance for wearing cloth masks for the protection of others. I wanted to help flatten the curve and my sewing machine was one way I could help.”  

Today, Armstrong is sharing two of her favorite ways to make cloth masks. One that requires a sewing machine and one that doesn’t.  

For masks that don’t require sewing, Armstrong recommends using an old pair of leggings (you can also cut off the sleeves of a T-shirt).  

“I don’t recommend using a pair of leggings that have a lot of spandex in them because it will be too tight to fit over your head. Instead, use a pair that has more of a jersey knit or sweater-like stretch to it. I also do not recommend using any leggings that you may have that are very thin,” said Armstrong.

Step 1
Take the leggings you plan to cut, turn them inside out, and lay them on a flat surface.

Step 2

Measure out (with a measuring tape or roughly around  3.8" of your arm—from your fingertips to a little longer than your wrist)  

Step 3
Pull on the material while it is flat to make sure you have it at the right angle to cut. You should cut 2 inches from the torso area of the legging to the mid-thigh area. It should look like you are cutting a vase-like shape from the legging. 

Step 4
Cut, pull it over your head, and you’re done!

Watch a video of the step-by-step instructions below: 

For sewn masks, Armstrong followed the guidance of sewing blogger Mimi G, opens a new window.  

“On her video she gives you step-by-step instructions to make a cloth mask and you can download one of the patterns to try out for yourself at home if you own a sewing machine,” said Armstrong.  

View the video below:  

During these trying times, it’s so important not only to take proper precautions to protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, but also to remember that this period of difficulty won’t last forever and it’s important to continue seeking out happiness.  

“I have been painting more, making a few pieces of clothing, and trying to re-learn Spanish,” said Armstrong. “Painting is also bringing me so much joy. It’s giving me an outlet to release without using words. I can be quiet, to myself, and just paint!”  

We hope you’re finding ways to pay it forward in your community and also taking time to find that little bit of personal comfort each and every day. 

You can follow Rebecca Shakespeare Armstrong on Pinterest @RJSFashion, opens a new window, Instagram @rjsfashion, opens a new window, and on YouTube at Beyond Fresh with RJS, opens a new window. For inquiries, please email rjshakesfashion@gmail.com.