I’ve dredged up some long-buried sewing skills recently as I sew masks for family, friends, health care workers, and local small businesses. Mask making in the evenings has become strangely comforting. It’s a respite from Zoom fatigue and all the other “New Normal” stuff we’ve all had to learn at warp speeds. (It’s the “New Normal,” by the way, to proclaim it’s the “New Normal.”)

a silver mid century era sewing machine with green dragonfly fabric on the mount

Sewing this strange new garment that we’re all supposed to wear in public in our present moment evokes memories of the past. The sound of the machine and the rediscovered muscle memory makes me think of my 1970s childhood. I think that’s why sewing masks is so comforting right now.

I first learned to sew on a 1953 Singer that my grandmother had passed down to my mom. The machine sat in a sleek, Danish Modern cabinet with brass-tipped peg legs. It was, as one ad put it, a handsome “desk or dressing table,” when you weren’t sewing. It came with a square, hollow bench where you could store your sewing supplies.

a colorful retro style illustration of a woman at a sewing machine

It was the fanciest Singer you could buy at the time. The Slant-O-Matic was “for women who dream big,” one ad proclaimed.

vintage sewing machine ad with a woman in a red dress leaning on a Slant-o-matic sewing machine
Image via Period Paper

“What’s the newest slant in holiday sewing?” another ad asks. “It has to do with a special needle … and you, of course.”

“With this slant, lively silks are more controllable. Spirited holiday taffeta stitch up submissively. You can put in a gusset with more than blind faith. Do ticklish top-stitching—boldly.” These words from a 1960s-era ad capture some of what is so satisfying about sewing masks right now. Once you stitch some fabric into submission, you feel like you control at least one thing in this wacky world. 

a vintage ad for a 1960 singer sewing machine
Via Pattern Vault

How To Sew a Mask

I like to pick pretty, whimsical fabrics for the masks I make. People seem delighted with a utilitarian tool that’s also pretty. Tightly woven 100 percent cotton is a good material for masks, and I’m getting my fabric and thread from a local quilting store that has online ordering and curbside pick-up, similar to many small fabric stores around the country.

I use this pattern—a pleated mask with a pocket that holds a disposable filter the wearer chooses. It even comes with a tutorial video

My mom is using this Leah Day pattern, which involves fewer steps, but requires more dexterity than I probably have right now. It also comes with an instructional video. For more popular mask patterns, see this post on our sister site.

Create a Mid Mod Mood with These Fabrics

These days, some Mid Century Modern Kitsch members are sewing masks made from vintage fabrics—a feisty way to muster up some mid mod fabulousness during these dark days. Can’t find vintage fabrics? We’ve got some fabrics sure to add some mid mod style the next time you step out.  

(At Atomic Ranch, we love to curate and share our favorite finds from across the web with you. Some of the products you’ll see on this page are affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! )

space age stomic style craft fabric with white background and turquoise and green circles

Spoonflower serves up some atomic space age vibes with this unisex pattern fabric.

fabric with a repeating mid century arm chair pattern with a navy background

Ok, after the masks are done we’re going to figure out how many things we can make from this fabulous mod chair pattern from Figo Fabrics.

fabric with charley harper style bird illustrations on a mustard background

Attention Charley Harper fans. This charming birds in flight pattern is for you.

Bring out your atomic pin-up doll side with this cheerfully pink and turquoise boomerang pattern fabric.

mod style fabric with navy blue background and black googie style patter overlay

In the mood for something mod and manly mask making? This smart design will also stand up to everyday use.

red mod dandelion fabric

Isn’t it just dandy? This bright poppy red mod dandelion print is makes for a cheerful greeting.

In the mood for more mod DIYs? Check out this roundup of tutorials that make for a great weekend project.

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