Creating darkness (and a free sleep mask pattern)

I mentioned last week that I struggle to get enough sleep in the summer because of the increased amount of light. It doesn’t get properly dark again until August in this part of the world. Night time in June and July is just perpetual twilight, and I need night to be dark. Prolonged lack of sleep makes me as cranky, irritable, and plain exhausted as anyone else, so I thought I’d try a sleep mask as suggested in a comment. I ended up with this:

padded sleep mask, with depressions for eyes and nose bridge

It was actually quite effective, if a bit weird-looking.

BUT I don’t like it. Textiley people are often very particular about the texture and quality of fabrics, and I just don’t like the feel of this. It’s made from some sort of polyester-neoprene-type stretchy fabric, and the synthetic foam padding on the face side has a very strong smell that washing and airing outside hasn’t eliminated. The strap is also quite cumbersome and the slider clip thing gets stuck in your hair.

So while the principle worked ok, I wondered if I could make something that would be any nicer. I drew round the mask and adjusted the shape slightly, and made a pattern for the padded bit that fits over your eyes. I wanted to make it in a nicer fabric and chose some silk twill in a very dark midnight blue, with silk wadding for the padded bits. Incidentally, this table top ironing board is fabulous – it has little legs that fold out so it stands about 3″ high and the board is about half the size of a normal ironing board – it’s really useful (and no, I’m not on commission or in collaboration with ironing board companies! I found it in the supermarket while doing the weekly food shop. Imagine my excitement).

silk twill, table top ironing board

I used felt as a base on the front and back for stability and structure, and also for blocking out light. Woven fabric will always let some light in through its weave. I figured out a way of attaching the padding – I just stitched it down around all the edges to hold it in place so it didn’t shift around.

face-side sleep mask with silk wadding

When I had the two halves constructed I could attach some elastic (no clips!) to the side edges. I just backstitched up and down the short edge so that the elastic is attached securely.

sleep mask front and back in progress; silk twill, stitched with fine silk thread
half sleep mask showing clipped edges and elastic ready to be attached

And then it was just a matter of stitching the two sides together, with the elastic in between, which I did just by oversewing with wrong sides together. You could use narrow bias binding for a neater edge, I guess, or you could sew them right sides together and leave an opening to turn through. This way was good enough for me.

oversewing the two halves together

Finally I added a more decorative top stitch in a contrasting thread around the edges. And there, after a couple of hours or so, is a nice silk sleep mask – very lightweight, very comfortable, no plastic or polyester, no weird smell – and it delivered a pretty good night’s sleep too.

silk sleep mask

If you want to make one too, I’ve added a free PDF pattern download here:

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

17 thoughts on “Creating darkness (and a free sleep mask pattern)”

  1. What a fabulous creation! Thank you for sharing the process (and the pattern.)

  2. Now that’s a good idea. We’ve got double blackout blinds and curtains, so I don’t need such a thing at home so much, but it might be very well worth making to travel with. I’ve got some rather pretty kimono fabric that might do nicely – next time I find it!

    1. we have blackout curtains as well, and even when I peg the joins together enough light still comes in over the top and underneath to be distracting. Pitch black in the winter though! A travel mask is a great idea. Good luck with finding that fabric, it’s in there somewhere 😊

  3. This looks great! Thank you for sharing the pattern and your process.

  4. What a great idea and thanks for the pattern!
    I have used a Temperpedic Eye Mask for many years and find that an wearing an eye mask makes a surprisingly big difference in how well I sleep. Even a nightlight (in another room) seemed to be too much! I have some beautiful silk scraps that have been waiting to be made into your eye mask pattern!

    1. lovely! Silk scraps will be perfect. I just had a look at the tempur pedic mask, which looks much better than the one I bought – though I think my silk one will do for now. Once we get into autumn it will be dark enough to do without it.

  5. Sadly for me it’s not the light that keeps me awake or wakes me up. Good that this helped. I would struggle as I think it would make my claustrophia go into overdrive. Bernie

    1. Yes, I can totally understand that, Bernie – I’m not entirely comfortable with the claustrophobic effect but it’s a temporary concession I can tolerate. Sorry to hear you don’t sleep well, it’s so difficult to function without proper rest.

      1. It’s been decades, so I am quite used to it. In fact, sleep better now than 10 years ago but still not stellar.

  6. The first one looks like something Batman left behind! I have a small table top ironing board too. Between that and the thick felt pad and mini iron near my main desk there’s no cumbersome full size one. Well there is upstairs but it’s not often we have big stitchy bits is it!

    1. ah, a mini iron! I just have a full-sized one. The big ironing board only comes out very infrequently these days, only for anything bigger than an ironing board – as you say, not very often…

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