How to Franken-Stitch a Mask (esp. for kiddos)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled non-sense on Roman history and coins of all flavors to bring you a how-to that seems to be lacking in a world that is drowning in ‘how-to’s.  My beloved and I have decided the most ethical position is to not leave our front gate unless wearing a mask.  Do I think my kiddos and I will catch Covid-19 from walking around the block?  No.  But habits become habitual through practice.  Correct mask usage is a good public health practice and the more who do so, the more others will be comfortable doing so.  We are wearing masks to ingrain the practice in ourselves and signal to our neighbors that we not think it is weird, threatening or overkill if they do so too.

Problem is that we don’t have kid-sized masks and masks are regularly available for purchase.  I tried putting a regular 3 ply disposal adult mask on them with the ear loops knotted to shorten them but covered too much and made it too hard to see and thus really tempting to touch.  I tried to do the no-sew CDC official design.   Kept slipping off, they hated how hot it was because of all the layers, and the rubber bands on the ears were also loathsome.  I don’t have a sewing machine.  I don’t have any elastic, but I can sew a button and do have some spare t-shirts.  This is what I came up with.

I have twins so I did this Covid-craft twice.  Bonus: you get to learn from my mistakes!

One content warning: I have the hands of a gardener and the close ups aren’t pretty. 😉

TIME: one hour per mask.

Gather materials:


Work out how big is too big so one can aim for smaller.  Standard mask is about 7 x 4 inches (roughly 18 x 10 cm.)  Realize that one of the nice things about that store bought mask is the bendy bit at the nose.  Find a pipe cleaner or a bit of wire.

Cut out a bottom rectangle. I cut mine 6 inches by just shy of 4 inches – the long side up the side of the t-shirt, the short side on the heavy bottom edge.  (You can use that sewing needle as a pin to briefly mark the place if you like.)

Open cut piece of cloth and insert pipe-cleaner or wire (if bare wire, consider wrapping it in another layer of t-shirt for padding). Fold ends of wire so they don’t poke your kid’s face.

Now take a deep breath and thread that needle.  I recommend a bright contrast color thread.  Embrace the spirit of franken stitching.  Top tips.  Thread the fresh cut end of the thread–way easier! Double over your thread, because if all you do is sew on buttons and are reading these instructions the thread you have in the house is probably the crappy stuff that comes in those little hotel or drugstore repair kits.  I recommend threading on no more than an arm span of thread.  This makes hand sewing less frustrating, but this is because I find long thread more irritating that re-threading the needle part way threw the task.  Pick your poison.


Now we start the franken stitching (what other people call ‘hand sewing’).  You don’t need to knot your thread if you sew over it.   I start by putting the thread next to the pipe cleaner on the inside and then stitch over and around that pipe cleaner.  I like this stitch a lot: it nicely seals the edge and is relatively easy to do without stabbing your fingers.

So now I’ve gotten to the end of my top edge and fold in the cut edges along a short side.


I’m about out of thread but I turn the corner first and then tie off.  The next few pics are trying to demonstrate an easy secure tie off knot.  Also notice how BIG my franken stitches are.  Big stitches save time and I like to think of them adding drama to the look.  This is also where I’m making my first error.  I should be sewing in a strap.  You’ll see later how I fix that.img_2699

Still tying off.


Knot almost doneimg_2702

pulled tight!


Here I’m showing you hand position for holding folded over edges together while I make my nice big stitches.  If you want to get the iron out, you can iron these edges flat to make them easier to sew.  I didn’t find that necessary.img_2704

Two sides done.  I should have realized I needed to attach straps by now but I haven’t!


Sewed up bottom edge same as top and side edge and when I get to the end I give a few stitches here to not have any flappy bits.  Now I realize I really have to do something about straps.img_2710

This is what I come up with.  Strips of the same t-shirt with seams removed.  You could franken stitch them to remove irregular edges but I’m guessing if you are still reading at this point you are NOT that much of a perfectionist.  (I’m not for sure!)


Now to cut open earlier stitching to insert straps.img_2714

First finished product.  Notice I didn’t sew that fourth side.  No need to (you could if you want), and it has the advantage of allowing a filter insert if you have an appropriate material (Like a HEPA filter vacuum bag).  I haven’t yet in this photo figured out the best way to tie.  I learn that below and demonstrate how to get a better seal on lower mask edge.

Okay second attempt goes smoother and I realize that I can add straps to pipe cleaner to hold everything in place:


At this point one kiddo takes my phone to document me:


Holding pipe cleaner and strap as I get first stitches in:


I’ve skipped about an inch of stitching on the top this time because I’m lazy like that.  I hide the string inside and then start my over stitching:img_2721

Stitching close up:img_2722

What it looks like on the inside when finish top.  Notice two sides aren’t even length.  No problem.  Easy to even up when you fold edges in.


One more close up of stitching.


Final product, second time.  With tying close up.  Tie top strap over ears in bow and then bring bottom strap under ears and tie at same point on head in a second bow.


Temple Economies

Reading Helga Di Giuseppe, Black-Gloss Ware in Italy: Production Management and Local Histories (BAR 2012).  Really exciting stuff with potential implications for early heavy bronze find patterns….


These images got me thinking about the ‘habit’ of signing with an abbreviated name or a name in ligature:


Praeneste Aes Grave Finds (Historic)

So reading Haeberlin, I think I can pretty safely say that there are two separate hoards(?) with the bull-head/prow semis from Praeneste.  This brings us up to 4 pieces of this type found at the site given those on display at the museum.

So first we have the one reported by Garrucci about which I blogged before.  It contained the bull-head/prow semis and the lion head/ horse head as.  We can call this the pre-1907 Martinetti hoard (when his collection sold).  The Marinetti sales catalogue is digitized.




Second we have Stettiner pre 1893 Hoard (?) or possible just site finds.  [I cannot find a digitized copy of Sangiorgi’s sales catalogue… yet.]

This contained

  • bull-head/prow semis
  • boar-head/lyre triens [Vecchi 2014: no. 281, other known findspot: Satricum]
  • club/pentagram uncia [Vecchi 2014: no. 306, other known findspot: Pietrabbondante]


A Pre 1986 Aes Signatum Hoard

As reported in Triton I, lot 754:

“…. This bar, superior in condition to both, is part of a hoard found between Rome and Naples. Of all 8 issues of Aes Signatum, only 31 examples were known, most in museums. This hoard added 6 or 7 more; its contents is as follows:

1) Elephant/Sow, Crawford 9/1 (not yet published) [NB: There was a bar of this type (illustrated) known to Thurlow and Vecchi by 1979 that weighed 1536g.]

2) Anchor/Tripod, Crawford 10/1, 1645 grams (Leu Auktion 42, lot 34)

3) Chickens/Tridents, Crawford 12/1, 1487 grams (Leu Auktion 42, lot 35)

4) Chickens/Tridents, Crawford 12/1, 1650 grams (NAC Sale 9, lot 410)

5) Chickens/Tridents, Crawford 12/1, 1145 grams (Athena Sale 2, lot 247; NAC Sale 5, lot 205) [illustrated as Vecchi 2014 no. 24 on pl. 19]

6) Chickens/Tridents, Crawford 12/1, 1461 grams (this specimen)

7) Unknown issue.

150 Aes Graves were found in this hoard, all Crawford issue 14, many of the Triens. 6 or 7 ingots roughly equalled them in total weight.

This implies that Crawford issue 14 is contemporary with the Aes Signatum.

Oval Series Denomination Markers

So the lunate symbol on the oval series aes grave bothers me.  I feel sure I’ve blogged about this before but cannot find the notes.

Talking to any number of Italic Language experts (Jay Fisher, Katherine MacDonald among others) there is no way that it is an S standing for Semis.  And if that is the case it’s not going to mean 1/2.  It’s going to be a numerical symbol.  And I think it is most likely the number 5, like V.  This would the oval series base-10 not base-12.  Anyway, I’ve not had positive evidence to support this BUT I think the marks on the Pisa/Luca Etruscan bronzes are probably good enough evidence to convince most (I hope).


If I’m right about this it would also mean that the Volterra series was also base-10:


and so also Tuder and other Etruscan/N. Italian mints:


Other denomination marks that have more “normal”  numerals to our eyes: