Starry sleeping mask – DIY do’s and don’ts

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You might know by now that my family and I are big fans of sleeping masks. By now I have sewn several of these practical pieces, but during the making of this latest piece I had to admit that I still haven’t learned from my mistakes: it has now become a kind of tradition that every time I sew a sleeping mask, I get two outcomes: one I screw up, the second becomes as nice as planned. So the time has come to write down all my experiences for my benefit as much as yours, so before sewing the next one I can get back here and read through, instead of wasting time and material on a failed attempt.

A bit of background info: why?

I sewed this particular piece for myself as I lost the old one in a hostel during my various  wanderings in Britain last autumn. I didn’t need this normally essential accessory during the dark months of winter, but by now summer is searing and I have trouble sleeping after 5 am (no shader or curtain on my attic windows, but all the more sunshine).

As for the design: I connect constellations and galaxies with a summer night so deeply that by July my fingers were itching to create something starry, so there was hardly a question as to how my sleeping mask would look like

Some more background info: how a sleeping mask is made

If you want to sew a sleeping mask, you need two pieces of textile and a rubber band. For the inside material I usually use black velvet, the outside depends on the design. For this piece I upcycled an old T-shirt, so it is dark blue cotton. The workflow goes as follows:

  • I cut out the two layers
  • I decorate the outer part. For this piece I sewed the constellations with a sewing machine without pre-designing them, I was intuitive about the shapes. Then I sewed on some beads as stars
  • I sew the two parts together with the right sides facing each other, leaving an approx. 5 cm hole, through which I turn the mask it inside-out so now the right sides of the material are visible
  • I carefully sew the hole together from the outside, then fix the rubber band

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My mistakes and what I learned from them

  • before you start the whole thing, make a pattern (or download one). The pattern is good if you find it ridiculously big. When turning it inside-out after sewing the pieces together, it nearly becomes half the size (or so it feels like when I look at the outragously small outcome)
  • even if your pattern is symmetric, the tailoring will not be, however clever you are at cutting. Fold the pattern and the material in half, then cut out the pieces in double. That way they become symmetric.
  • make sure that both sides have the very same shape. If not, cut them further until they match perfectly (otherwise you will likely end up with a too small result again, as they look bigger in your hand than how they actually are and you will only realise this after you’ve sewn them together).
  • take the material’s qualities into consideration when decorating. It can be troublesome to stitch a pattern on an elastic piece of cloth.
  • plan your design – at least on paper – before grabbing needle and thread. This is not what I did with the constellations and it sort of worked, but I had more trouble with the beads: I tried several different types of beads before finding the right size and colour, and I needn’t have sewn them all on.
  • it might be obvious (but not to me): measure your head again when you hold the ready mask in your hands, so that you know how long your rubber band should be. Even if you’ve measured it previously and bought the right length, your ready mask will always be a little different in size than planned and it is pretty disappointing to try on your super-cool new sleeping mask only to realise it falls to your neck because the rubber band is too long.

I hope this bit of info helps you too and you won’t make the same mistakes as I did – and that I myself will not do them again :D Happy creating!

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