About a year and a half ago, I started sleeping with a mask at the suggestion of a coworker. I was complaining about my chronic failure to get a good night of sleep. Among many causes, our last apartment would get very bright as soon as the sun rose. Because I favor having anywhere from four to seven pillows on the bed, I developed the haphazard strategy of building a pillow fort around my head to block out the light. I could always grab two or three pillows to create a cushiony, light-blocking structure. Even now, if I don’t have my sleeping mask I resort to the old pillow fort. But that method is problematic in a number of ways. First and foremost, once asleep, one loses the ability to maintain the fort. Secondly, it gets hot and makes it hard to breathe. So when my wise coworker suggested a sleep mask, I, a person who can really lag behind in the practical problem solving area, had an epiphany.
The great thing about sleep masks is that they are functional and often, super cute and glamorous. In popular culture, the chicest, most pampered ladies always wear a sleeping mask. It’s a very mid-twentieth century, Technicolor, decadent kind of gesture. There’s the iconic Holly Golightly mask from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. On the 1990s sit-com, “A Different World,” southern princess, Whitley Gilbert always used a pale pink, satin sleep mask. I don’t remember if she did, but I’d be willing to bet Suzanne Sugarbaker on “Designing Women” wore one.
Since I adopted this habit, I’ve gone through several sleeping masks. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I had a very cute, blue and white batik printed mask that didn’t work so well. The elastic was weak and flimsy. It was the fragile, almost lace-like elastic you’d find on a little girl’s panties with the days of the week on them. Again, cute, but not so functional. The mask, covered in featherweight cotton, was too soft, which meant the elastic would pull the unstructured mask into my eyes at night. This was painful and I woke up screaming once when the mask pinned back my eyelid. Not fun. After that experience, I went for a more utilitarian, bulky black mask. It was highly rated on Amazon for the bumper that went around the inside edge of the mask. This lifted it off my face, allowing space to blink my eyes, preventing a repeat of the pinned back eyelid mishap. The bumper also closed the gap between my nose bridge and mask, keeping light out. The down side of that mask was the elastic and Velcro strap. As the elastic wore out, I had to keep moving the Velcro closure over to tighten the strap around my head. After a while the strap became a big, fuzzy mess and I trashed the whole thing out of frustration. Since then I’ve gone through a few more unremarkable black masks.
When my most recent, non-descript, black sleeping mask started to degrade, I decided I’d make a more attractive, better functioning one. It never sits well with me when I use one of those standard, polyester masks, but sleep is a matter of results. A cuter mask that doesn’t work will be of no value to me. So, using materials I had on hand and my wealth of sleeping mask experiences, I took on the challenge of making one. I traced my old mask to create a pattern template. From there, I kind of freestyled the rest, adding cat ears in the style of a mask I attempted to buy some time ago (no surprise, it was sold out). I added a bumper, since I’ve found that to be an important element in a good mask. If you make it without this, it’s much easier. Also, I covered the elastic, which isn’t absolutely necessary. The great thing about making your own is that you can customize it to what works best for you. The fabrics and colors I used are not my first choice. I plan on making another once I get the pattern just right. I’m not equipped yet to provide a printable pattern, but here is what you’ll need to make a simple sleep mask:
+ Paper (for the eye mask pattern)
+ 1/4 yard of fabric (for outside of mask)
+ 1/4 yard of fabric (inside mask)
+ Interfacing (I used a second layer of felt.)
+ At least 18” of elastic (a ribbon or fabric tie is also an option)
+ Stuffing (If you will add a bumper)