In the old world, airline sleep masks could be found in every pocket and crevice of any bag I was carrying.  I flew so often (and cat-napped so frequently) that they were never far from hand.  Nowadays, I wear them at night, chiefly in order to sleep with the windows flung wide open and the curtains pulled aside without being woken by the dawn light at ungodly hours.  I love a good bracing draft; it’s one of the very few issues on which my long-suffering husband and I differ.

I decided to raise my sartorial game, throw away the airline versions and use my fabric scrap pile to create a capsule collection of catwalk-worthy masks, modelled here by the long-suffering Bob & Vera (who have enormously large heads I discovered, whilst trying to wrestle the masks into place…)

You can go for flamboyant, pop-pom piping and vibrant prints, or something a little more understated (Harry opted for the night-sky number in the middle here)

As long as the back of your mask is a soft fabric, almost anything goes for the front panel, like this lacy cherry-blossom number…

These two are my favourites and the ones I wear in rotation; dragons and cranes!

Once you’ve made your sleep mask, you can even go for full-face-fashion and use the scraps for a face-mask…

Anyway, enough of the gallery; here’s a step-by-step of how I made these.  The good news is I am a very average, beginner sewer, so you should be able to knock these up even if you are the same.  The bad news is if you’re a skilled sewer, you’ll probably immediately see a number of improvements and short-cuts to be made; please adapt freely for perfection if so.

Let’s begin!

Materials you’ll need…

  • 60 x 60cm of your chosen fabric
  • Length of elastic for the strap
  • Optional bias piping or trim
  • Length of foam or felt for the inner padding
  • Sewing machine (if you have one), needle and thread for tacking.
  • Safety pin
  1. Use this template (below), or simply draw around an existing eye mask on a sheet of paper to create your pattern.  It’s helpful to keep the ‘outer’ piece you cut from to place over the fabric if it’s patterned, so you can see exactly what will be on the front of the mask and position it the way you want to – for example here, I have centred it over the white skull motif.  Cut two pieces out.

Eye mask template

2. If you’re using bias piping or trim, tack it around the right side edge of one piece of your mask as shown below.

3. Make the strap by cutting a length of your fabric (or a contrast fabric) that is 2.5cm/1inch x 40cm.  Stitch it into a long tube with right sides together and then turn it inside out so your seam is on the inside.  If you have one you can use a turnout tool for this (below), but otherwise you can stitch one end closed and use a pencil or knitting needle to push the fabric through, before snipping off your closed end.

4. Measure how long your elastic needs to be by stretching it around your head; you want enough tension to hold your mask in place but without it being so tight you wake up with the mask shape inescapably imprinted on your face, a la swimming goggles in childhood.  Measure wisely.

5. Pin a safety pin to your length of elastic and feed it through the tube until it is showing at both ends, ruching the fabric tube together as you do.  Fold over and stitch each end (being careful to secure the elastic in place).  Now stitch the strap to each end of your mask front; you’re going to trap this inside the two pieces in a moment, so lay it inside the mask per below.

6. Now take your other piece of fabric (this will be the piece resting on your skin; the back).  Cut out a piece of foam or felt using the template, but trim an extra 1cm off all round so that it fits neatly within the fabric shape as below.  Now pin or tack the two piece together, being careful if you use pins to pin from the right side in – pin heads should be on the right side not the foam side –  so that you can remove the pins once you’ve finished.

7. Place the two mask pieces together as shown below, with the strap tucked in between them and the foam side and wrong side facing out.  Tack to hold in place before over-stitching to secure.  Leave a small gap of around 1.5 inches.

8. Once you’ve done this, carefully ease the mask through the gap you’ve left to turn it the right side out and release the strap.  Remove the pins that have held the foam in place and massage as needed to flatten the mask out and pop out the piping.  Trim any stray cotton.  You can steam or press it if you like at this stage

9. Finally (finally!) hand sew the mask closed, stitching the gap you left in step 7 (shown in the bottom right corner of my mask below).  Use the same colour thread as the mask and tiny slip stitches to close.

Ta-da!!! Wear with pride.  Lament the fact that so few people get to see you in bed that the only thing you can do is create a blog to show off your handiwork.

Let me know how you get on if you try this… and please do share any other ideas for fabric scraps; I seem to have amassed a mountain of small pieces and am looking for ideas!

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.