Star Trek Face Masks

Star Trek Face Masks

(initial section posted 5/20/20)

In early 2020, the worldwide pandemic got lots of people interested in face masks. Supplies were expected to be limited, and many crafter/sewist folks were happy to help by making useful masks, as well as sharing "how to" info with others.

Like many others, when I heard about the need for DIY masks, I wanted to do my part for the "war effort." I immediately went and pulled out some assorted odd pieces of fabric from my stash that I thought would be suitable. But for various reasons, I wasn't able to actually get started right away. Then I started hearing about ways you could make masks without any sewing at all, even without fabric (using paper towels or coffee filters, for example). I was able to meet my own personal short-term needs with one of the quickie no-sew designs (folding a handkerchief/bandana and putting elastic hair ties on the sides to put over your ears). I still wanted to make some masks, but it became a lower priority. There were other projects around the house that I needed to be working on.

It so happened that twice while in the process of doing those projects, I came upon stray pieces of cotton-y fabric. Once it was a couple yards of red, the other was a few yards each of a yellow-gold and a light-ish blue. None of it was allocated for any intended projects, so I figured I could use them for face masks. But what I was really struck by was that these fabrics were a perfect set of Star Trek colors. It was like an omen-- suddenly I was very inspired to make some Trek-themed masks. But it would still be a little time before I'd actually have a chance to work on that.

During this whole time, of course, I'd continued to watch what was happening in the DIY face mask "industry." They were becoming fashionable, with interesting fabrics and custom designs. Some had pockets so you could insert an extra filter to get more protection. Some had a nose wire to enable better fit. I had one friend who had come up with some very clever Star Trek designs and was selling them. I came up with some ideas of my own.

Original Series (TOS) Masks

By the time I was ready to work on a small sewing project, I had given a lot of thought to what I'd want original series masks to look like and how to make them. I didn't want to copy my friend, of course; nor anyone else's design I'd seen (at least not consciously). There are two main shapes for masks: rectangular, with pleats; and curve-shaped to fit over the nose and mouth area. I wanted the curve-shaped because I was concerned that pleats would mess with the design. I wanted to include pockets for a filter and a nose wire. And, I wanted to use materials I already had; I didn't want to have to purchase any special supplies.

I figured I'd do a red one first, because of course it's expendable in case the design didn't work out. I decided to use an old black T-shirt for the lining because it would be nice and soft. Because I didn't want to go with a simple rectangle shape, I'd need a pattern. Google led me to one at, which I chose because it had the requisite pocket options and seemed nicely done. I was kind of amused to note, while reading their directions, that the basic assembly process was exactly how I had been picturing it (except for the nose wire). And after I assembled the mask, I was happy that it ended up looking almost exactly like I had pictured it (pic at right).

The following explains how I adapted the pattern to make my Trek mask. (I forgot to take pics along the way when I was making the first (red) mask, but did take some for the second (blue) mask, and added them below on 6/29/20.)

I used the "Men's" pattern with 3/8" seam allowances. Men's because I know I have a pretty big head. 3/8" was advised for the version with a filter pocket.
When cutting the lining, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the T-shirt that I was cutting up already had a finished edge (the bottom hem) and used that edge for the part of the lining that gets a finished edge, i.e. the straight edge near the ear. Specifically, I positioned the pattern on the shirt so the dotted (stitching) line of the pattern was at the bottom edge of the shirt; i.e. I got rid of the seam allowance on that edge because I wasn't going to need to put a seam there.
When cutting the main piece, I added an extra 1/2" to the seam allowance on that same ear section, even beyond the extra 1/2" they indicate on the pattern for thicker cord. This is because I had made a previous mask with the pattern as a test, and I could only fit a rather thin cord thru the opening when I actually finished it, even though I was fairly certain I had cut it at the "thicker cord" position. Although it's possible I was misremembering what I did with the test mask, I knew the cord I would be using on this new one was going to be thicker, so figured I'd rather be safe than sorry. I was glad I did.
I stitched and topstitched the center seams of the lining and the main part per the instructions, and the side (ear) seams of the lining were already done.
Next (before joining the main piece with the lining), I needed to add the black border strip at along the top part of the main piece. My thinking was that this would create the pocket wherein one could place a nose wire. Design-wise, I didn't just want a straight line across the top of the entire mask; I only wanted it across the center part.

I'd been thinking that bias tape seam binding would work for the black border, but the only style I had in stock in black was narrow (1/4") double-fold. Clearly 1/4" was too narrow, and single-fold would've been more like what I needed. So I cut a piece around 9" long and pressed open the middle fold and one side fold. This gave me a piece about 5/8" wide with one folded edge to be the bottom of the stripe, visible on the outside. The (raw) top edge would be contained in the top seam of the mask.

Starting with the center of the strip at the center seam of the mask (main piece, right side), I positioned the strip so that I liked the way it looked, and I thought it would still meet my criteria of holding a nose wire. (My research suggested a pocket for the nose wire should be about 4" long, and should also be wide enough to hold a pipe cleaner or twistie-tie, because plain wire can get poke-y.) The positioning turned out to be as follows: At the center, the top edge of the strip was as barely inside the seam allowance as I thought I could put it and still be sure it'd get caught in the seam like I wanted; then the top edge of the strip met the top edge of the mask (the outside of the seam allowance) 2" out from there; and the bottom edge of the strip crossed the top edge of the mask another 2" beyond that. I cut some notches in the seam allowance of the mask to mark those key points, to help me maintain symmetry as I pinned the strip in place.

Then I stitched along the bottom edge of the strip on each side of the center, starting about 1/2" away from the center seam, and continuing out past the main seam line. This left about a 1" opening in the middle of the strip that I figured I could use to insert/remove the nose wire.

I then followed the basic pattern instructions to join the main piece to the lining by stitching the top and bottom seams, turning inside out and pressing flat, and topstitching the bottom seam.
I was concerned that topstitching the top seam as directed by the pattern would reduce the space in the black stripe too much for it to be useful as a nose wire pocket any more. So instead I just stiched the two sides, from where the black ended all the way out to the end. Also there was a small area right at the top of the nose, maybe about an inch or so, where it looked plenty wide enough to allow topstitching, so I did that too. Bonus: doing the topstitching that way also allowed the thread to match the fabric.
I then continued with the instructions as written, making a casing for the elastic by folding the fabric on the sides and stitching closed.
I was kinda short on elastic, especially thin elastic, so I took a tip from a friend and used T-shirt string. You cut a strip about 1 inch wide from a T-shirt and pull it, causing it to curl up into a string. The cut doesn't even need to be terribly neat, and a strip cut horizontally around the shirt is plenty long. I had a black T-shirt, and did this to use in place of regular elastic. It works fine and is very comfortable. It is, however, a bit thick which is why I wanted to be sure I had an extra-wide casing to fit it.
I chose a black-colored twistie-tie to insert for the nose wire, in case it showed at all. It was a little tricky inserting it from the middle of its alloted space, but it worked just fine and doesn't show.
I decided I wanted to include a TOS insignia on the mask. After much poking around my available supplies, I decided to go with a simple delta, about 1.5" high, cut from felt of a color that I'd describe as light peach. After experimenting a bit with placement, I used fabric glue to stick it in place. (I did think to put something inside the filter pocket area to protect against the glue possibly coming through and sticking it closed, but that didn't seem to be an issue.) I chose the felt mainly because it would be the easiest to do, but I'm really pleased with how it ended up looking!

Of course, I had to make a gold mask too, since I had the fabric... sent that one along to a friend, since it's not my color.

(following section posted 10/5/21)

Octagon Masks for Multiple Series

After some time of making masks for myself in assorted designs (not just Trek), I discovered the Octagon style, which starts out basically flat and rectangular (with the corners cut off, which is why it's called "Octagon"), but after pleating/folding it shapes into a curve with 3 horizontal sections, which is why it is sometimes also called the "Origami" or "3D" style.

It occurred to me that it would be very easy to make masks for several different series using that style, by just some very simple piecing together with black. At the time I write this, I've made TOS, which has black on the top part and color on the lower 2 parts; and a couple of Next Generation (TNG), which has black on top and bottom and color in the middle. The pic at right shows a red TNG and a blue TOS. (I needed the red TNG when I cosplayed Ensign Ro at Supercon 2021.) Voyager would have color on top and black on the lower 2 sections, but I haven't made one of those yet.

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