Updated: Nov 19, 2022
Rather than ending up in landfills let's turn these fabric scraps back into something beautiful!
We all love scraps, right? We love to make them into beautiful, chaotic quilts that remind us of our favorite projects (because every project, no matter how good your fabric plan, gives the gift of scraps).
...it's time for us to remember - masks are just oddly shaped fabric scraps!
In 2020 many of us used our scraps to help others - to make masks for family and friends, for local charities or hospitals. But we also bought them, or at least I did! For the days I actually left the house they were a key accessory. I bought organic silk masks dyed with natural dyes, I bought simple cotton masks, and I bought fun fashion tie-dye masks made from inexpensive jersey and waffle knit. So now that these masks sit discarded in a drawer or a jacket pocket or at the bottom of a backpack it's time for us to remember - masks are just oddly shaped fabric scraps! We can have fun, create art, make something beautiful so they don't end up in our landfills.
How to: turn Fabric Masks into Art
Section 1: Supplies
Everything I used to create my quilted wall hanging from fabric masks:
Note: my final product measured 15" by 26", but you can make yours as big or small as you need based on number of masks.
Fabric Masks (well washed!) - I used about 8, (6 had lining) - cotton, silk, jersey, nylon or whatever you have
Background/backing fabric - 1 yard - you can pull from your fabric stash; I had a linen sheet we no longer used and liked how the texture complimented the natural dyes.
Batting that measures +1" bigger on all sides from your finished top. I used my scraps of Dream Bamboo
Seam ripper and/or embroidery scissors or other small snipping tool, sewing scissors or rotary cutter
Sewing machine (optional - you could do it all by hand), hand-sewing needle
50wt cotton thread for piecing, 28wt cotton thread for quilting (or preferred thread) - I used Aurifil thread for both.
Section 2: Prepare your Masks
Note: I highly recommend washing all masks before you begin!
Use your seam ripper and scissors to deconstruct your masks. Linings should be separated from front fabrics and kept. All elastic, cording and tags should be removed. Note: it's likely the mask edges have been finished with a serger, feel free to cut those off.
Iron your fabric pieces well with steam
Use your rotary cutter to create some strips from the larger mask pieces (refer to figure above). Separate those from your curved pieces. Note: its ok if you have a couple pieces left over - we can use those later!
Section 3: Piece your Strips and Curves
Note: be as creative as you want and use whatever techniques you are most comfortable with. Below is how I pieced my masks together using improv piecing.
Choose 2 similar sizes strips and stitch them together. Repeat this with all strip shapes. Start attaching your pieced strips together to make 2 or 3 square(ish) blocks like the one above.
2. Your mask pieces will already have natural curves from the pattern, use improv curve technique to piece your curves together. You can watch the attached video to see how I manage my curve piecing.
3. Sew your curved and strip "blocks" together. Let the final shape emerge organically - you can trim one side straight and keep the other side with raw edges and curves.
Section 4: Assembling the Quilt Top
Cut a rectangle or square from your backing fabric that is 2"- 4" larger than your pieced top.
Pin your pieced top to the backing fabric.
Use your machine to stitch 1/4" from the edge of the pieced top to secure it to the backing fabric.
Cut a piece of batting and a second piece of your background fabric and make a sandwich - background fabric on the bottom, then batting, then background fabric with pieced top. Use your preferred method for quilt sandwich making (basting, pins or spray).
Section 5: Finishing your Quilted Art Piece
Use your 28wt thread (or preferred thread weight) to quilt your layers together. I generally choose a thread color that is a similar in value to the lightest color in the quilt but in an interesting shade. Here I used Aurifil's Light Lilac. I quilted without any lines or markings, using straight lines and curves to mimic the shapes in the piecing.
If you had any strips or pieces of masks leftover now is the time to use those to add dimension to your quilt top. As seen in the picture above I twisted leftover pieces and laid them along the sides of different shapes. Then I used my 28wt thread to loosely stitch the pieces onto the top.
The last step is binding your piece. You can choose to add a binding of your choice by either machine or hand or you can go for a more organic and natural look like I did and fold over your backing to bind the edge. To do this I trimmed the pieced top and batting and left the backing about 1" larger on all sides. I then rolled the backing twice and folded it over the front and handstitched it down. Note: you can create an even cleaner front by using this same technique but with the front, so the fold and stitching is on the back of the quilt. I wanted that seam and binding look on the front because it matched the organic and hand-made feel of the piece.
Display and enjoy!
Note: I love using magnetic poster hanging frames to display small art quilts. They will hold a fair amount of weight and you don't have to attach a display sleeve on the back!