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Matthew’s Place

Three Cute Mask Ideas for Back-to-School

by Isabella Zollner

Let’s face it, if we go back to school, masks are going to be a must-have, or rather a must-wear. Even if your school can’t technically force you to wear a mask (although most can), it’s the right thing to do. And at a first look, masks aren’t exactly the height of fashion. But there’s no reason we can’t dye, embroider, and otherwise beautify our masks. Here are three methods I recommend to enhance/create your masks.

Tie Dye

Personally, this is my favourite method. I have tie dyed so many masks because not only is the result really beautiful, it’s really fun to do. Just like with a shirt, there are several methods of tie dyeing masks. Before tie dyeing any masks, make sure you thoroughly soak them.

First you can do a swirl, the most common pattern on a shirt. This is a little difficult because masks are so small, but you can still manage with some patience. In order to get a swirl you have to grab the center of the mask and twist until it’s formed a tight circle, then put rubber bands around so that it can’t untwist. Then liberally cover it in dye.

My other favorite method of tie dying masks is a diagonal. Lay the mask out flat and make diagonal folds along the length of the mask. Then place dye on the flat spots and leave the folds white. This will leave your mask with diagonal stripes and small white stripes in between.

After dyeing a mask you should wrap it in plastic and let it sit for a couple of hours before rinsing it out. Make sure not to wash it with any other laundry for the first few times, especially if you couldn’t get all the extra dye out when you rinsed it. There’s plenty of other methods of tie dyeing you should look into and this website has several other good methods and more detailed instructions. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the video below:

Hand Embroidery

Admittedly, this takes a lot more time and effort than tie dyeing. But the product can be really beautiful, and who doesn’t have extra time during quarantine? For embroidery you’ll need a cloth mask, embroidery thread (not sewing thread!), and an embroidery needle. Embroidery thread and needles normally cost under $5 each, so this is also a low-cost activity. When embroidering for the first time, you should stick with easy shapes and practice on a napkin, blanket, or scrap cloth before trying embroider on your mask.

I recommend starting out with a small flower and stem, a simple smiley face, or a circular animal like a fish or bee. Next you’ll need to know what embroidery stitch to use. There are over a hundred embroidery stitches, but the basic ones I use when embroidering are: Back Stitch, Running Stitch, and Satin Stitch. To learn more about how to perform the stitch I recommend this website.

Back Stitch is the kind of stitch you would use to make an outline. It’s a little complicated in the beginning, but once you get it, it’s one of the easiest stitches out there. Running Stitch is a lot like Back Stitch, but you would only use it if your outline was meant to have holes in it. For example, the trail a bee would leave in the air or smoke could warrant a Running Stitch. You may also recognize the Running Stitch from sewing, because it is the main stitch used to sew for beginners. Finally the Satin Stitch is my favorite. You use the Satin Stitch to fill in an outline you made with the Back Stitch. So if you made a giant circle outline for, let’s say, the sun, you would fill it in with the Satin Stitch.

The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

Embroidery can take a lot of time, but when you’re done you’ll end up with the prettiest mask out there. Plus, embroidery opens the door for a lot of creativity. Once you get good at embroidery you find a pattern or free hand almost anything you can think of.

Sew Your Own Mask

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Sewing your own mask is a time commitment somewhere between tie dyeing and embroidery. If you have a sewing machine, it’ll be very quick, but otherwise you’ll have to do it by hand. When sewing your own mask, first decide if you want a filter inside the mask. If you go the filter route it will be slightly more difficult, but ultimately a safer mask. On the same thread- when sewing your own mask take note of the fact that it will not be medical grade especially without a filter.

To sew your own mask you’ll need tightly woven cotton cloth and two sewing elastics. The size of these materials will vary depending on what pattern and instruction set you use. But, the essence of every mask sewing pattern will have you cut out two shapes for your mask (One that covers your nose!). Then, you will sew those two pieces of cloth on top of each other, with an optional filter in between. Last you will sew the elastics to the side, these will wrap around your head and keep you mask on. Make sure your elastic is the right size because a too large face mask is extremely annoying. To read more about how to sew your own mask I recommend this New York Times article.

Sometimes masks can be annoying or uncomfortable, and we can’t wait for the day when they aren’t needed anymore. But until then masks are going to be an everyday thing for students. So use your mask not just to keep others safe, but as a fashionable accessory to any outfit.

About the Author:

After being subjected to homophobic harassment in the classroom, Isabella decided to try and use her writing to encourage others to stand up for each other and themselves. Isabella is a high school student in Lafayette, IN.




Matthew’s Place is by and for LGBTQ+ youth and a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation l #EraseHate

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