Friday, April 24, 2020

The Best* Fabric Mask pattern - tutorial

Here is my tutorial on how I make fabric masks with some time saving steps. It is step-by-step with words and photos: If you would prefer a video tutorial, that is here.

* my honest opinion based on my expertise as a microbiologist who sews and from feedback of 50+ people I've made these for (so far)

Friday, April 3, 2020

How to wear a fabric mask properly

Hi all, your friendly neighborhood microbiologist here.

If you are going to wear a fabric mask, you might as well do it properly! I made a video to demonstrate how to properly wear your fabric masks.

See my previous post for a full blown demonstration of making a fabric mask using my favorite pattern (AB for a nurse by a nurse).

In brief:

1) Put your mask on with clean hands BEFORE leaving your house. Adjust the fit so that it is snug BEFORE leaving the house.

2) DO NOT fiddle, touch, or do anything to your mask when you are out and about. Just let it be!

3) Once you are home, assume your hands are contaminated. Carefully remove the mask keeping your hands far from your eyes, nose, or mouth. Then, WASH YOUR HANDS properly.

Quarantine the mask for 3+ days (if it is not dirty) or hand wash it with hot soapy water when it is dirty and air dry (you can machine wash it if yours does not have an added nose wire).

Monday, March 30, 2020

Fabric masks in the time of coronavirus - video tutorial

Please see this video tutorial on how to make the best* fabric masks and how to properly wear it and take it off. Let me know if you have questions.

Here is the location of the different steps in the video: Fabric selection - 1:50 Pattern description - 5:25 Sewing the pattern - 10:45 Making bias tape - 21:10 Adding nose wire - 25:10 Sewing the edge - 29:39 Properly put on/remove the mask - 37:13 Washing instructions - 41:19

I will try to get a written step-by-step tutorial on this website soon. Stay tuned!

* my evidence-based opinion (I am a PhD-packing microbiologist at Stanford).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Masks in the time of Coronavirus

Let's talk masks for a second. First of all, I am a PhD-packing microbiologist at Stanford and I consulted with a Stanford nurse regarding the fabric masks.
Image result for n95 mask
N95 mask - can protect against coronavirus if worn properly
The first picture is an example of an n95 mask. These are the only masks that can prevent you from breathing viral particles. It blocks 95% of very tiny particles. It only works when worn correctly when it forms a seal around your face. Healthcare workers need these and they are in short supply and quickly running out.
Image result for surgical mask
Surgical mask - will NOT prevent infection,
but helps limit spread of germs if wearer is sick.
Healthcare institutions in the US are also running out of these.
The second photo is a disposable surgical mask. If you are sick, these help stopping the spread of virus particles and bacteria (when you cough or sneeze, this mask will trap the particles). They also need to be worn properly, and are meant to be thrown away after use. IMPORTANT: these masks will NOT prevent your from catching novel coronavirus. The WILL limit the spread of novel coronavirus if you are infected.
The third photo is an example of a fabric mask. This mask operates under the same principles of the surgical mask and can help keep you from infecting others if you are sick (or an asymptomatic carrier of novel coronavirus). It is likely not as good as the surgical mask at absorbing particles you exhale, but it will do some good. IMPORTANT: these masks will NOT prevent your from catching novel coronavirus. The WILL limit the spread of novel coronavirus if you are infected. They NEED to be washed with soap and hot water after every use or virion particles can remain active. The more layers of fabric, the more particles are likely to get stopped. Crochet masks have lots of holes where particles can get though, so I'd recommend a fabric mask that you wash regularly if you go this route.
Extra benefit of wearing a fabric mask: people are more likely to keep the recommended 6 feet distance from you. 😷
Image may contain: text
Example homemade mask. Will NOT prevent infection,
but offers some benefits of surgical mask, with the additional benefit that
people will stay the f*ck away from you in public
MYTH: Masks are not a 'breeding ground' for the novel coronavirus. Viruses are not 'alive' on their own, although they can remain active in the air for a few hours and on surfaces for a few days. They need their hosts (humans for novel coronavirus) in order to replicate and spread. So, yeah, social distance it up!
Let's do our best to stop helping the virus spread! Now is the time to shelter in place as much as humanly possible. I am hunkering down for a month and then I will re-evaluate the situation and see. We need to all do whatever we can.

FYI: I have made this post public on my personal Facebook page (Heidi Arjes) - please ask any questions thre or in the comment box below. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Biofilm Knit Hat

I am thrilled to finally share this biofilm knit hat that I designed and knit last December! The pattern for this hat can be found here on Ravelry or directly here

I was excited to be asked if I could design a biofilm hat as I study bacterial biofilms at Stanford University. Click here for more about my research.

Bacteria are single cell organisms. The bacteria that I study, Bacillus subtilis is a soil-dwelling bacterium that is ~3-5 micrometers long. These bacteria can live on their own or they can "settle down" on a surface and form a biofilm. A biofilm is a group of cells that are held together by a substance that the cells produce and excrete. This substance (also known as slime) is a sticky substance that keeps the cells together. Once the cells are in a biofilm, they can adapt to take on different roles within the biofilm. For instance, the cells on the interior of the biofilm usually assume a more dormant role while the bacteria that are closer to nutrients and oxygen remain more metabolically active and can grow and divide. Biofilms are very important to study as several pathogenic bacteria can form biofilm infections in the body that are hard to treat. Bacillus subtilis, the strain that I study, is typically a soil-dwelling bacteria. However, the knowledge that I can gain through studying its biofilm formation can be applied to all types of biofilms including those that cause disease.

This hat is my version of a classical figure illustrating the developmental stages of a biofilm. This one represents a bacterial biofilm that forms on a surface in a liquid environment such as the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Check out the movie I made below where I demonstrate how this knit hat illustrates biofilm development. If you want to learn more about biofilms, I'd recommend checking out the wikipedia page here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Heidi attempts to tidy, part 1

tldr: I am starting the KonMari method's journey of tidying. Yarn brings me a lot of joy. I used Instagram to help define my ideal lifestyle. Scroll down for pretty pictures. :)

The life-changing magic of tidying up

I am going to join "The life-changing magic of tidying up" bandwagon and try out this method in the coming few weeks. I am viewing this process as a journey/ceremony/ritual of some sort and I cannot wait to get started! For fun, I thought I would share my process with you through my blog.

I definitely have a personality that gets fixated on projects and I can't exactly say what triggered this, but I went to the library last week to check out this along with "Spark Joy: an illustrated master class on the art of organization and tidying up". I nearly bought the book online, but then it seemed ironic to buy a book that I would run the risk of not getting joy out of and choosing to let go during the tidying process. The gist of the method is that you go through each belonging and keep those that elicit joy or happiness and bid a fond farewell to those that do not. I hope this will help free my mind and help facilitate a relaxed, content, and/or creative mood each time that I arrive home. I can highly recommend both books as I have already implemented a few tips into my daily life. I love how she shares the logic behind her method as well as clearly stating the "right ways" when there are definitive 'evidence supported' ways to store things (i.e. the kitchen should be organized for ease of cleaning up rather than keeping everything at hand, Marie Kondo discovered this after observing several kitchens in restaurants and found this was a common link). As someone who was looking for more of the step-by-step process and who is a more visual learner, I preferred "Spark Joy." However, if you have the time and means, both are delightful books to read and you might as well tackle them both if you are serious about attempting the journey.

I have already been through one informal round of this process. I had heard of the method, but I had not yet read the book(s) so I did not completely grasp the true extent of the wisdom and logic behind the process. When I moved to California in 2015, I used the joy factor to help pare down everything I owned into two checked bags and one carry-on that housed my vintage Kenmore sewing machine and yarn. It was so freeing to own so few items at one time. I moved into my apartment and discovered that I LOVE giving items a second life and having furnishings and household goods that have had a history before me (and getting great deals for much less than I would have paid new). Except for a desk, my couch, and my mattress, pretty much everything in my apartment was found at an estate sale, garage sale, or on Craigslist.

Reconciling my love of crafting supplies with the minimalism movement

As a crafter, I was initially concerned that this minimalism often seems at odds with those who spend significant time (and receive significant joy) from creating. In particular, I love knitting and have one section of my kitchen cupboard full of yarn, which gives me pleasure whenever I open the doors. I also love to sew and have 3 sewing machines (2 vintage) as well as a couple of boxes full of fabric I have accumulated from yard sales. (check out my Instagram, I'll be sharing some "before" photos soon").

While I have not started sorting yet, I love KonMari's non-judgemental approach. If something brings you joy, keep it and cherish it. So, if all of my skeins of yarn end up bringing me joy, I can gleefully put them in the keep pile and find a home for them in my apartment with no remorse. This method really forces you to be true to yourself and I suspect that is one of the reasons it is so successful.

As an aside, I recently was at an estate sale where a craft room was jam packed with yarn, sewing supplies, and a knitting machine (that I was gifted for free after it did not sell!). I told the woman running the estate sale that I volunteer at a school to teach kids to knit and she donated 3 buckets of yarn to the cause. During our conversation in this crowded room above the trunk full of yarn, the woman running the estate sale commented to me that this woman was quite the hoarder. I was a bit affronted by that as, even though it was the last day of a 3-day estate sale, the rest of the house did not look that cluttered at all and you could tell from the pictures to advertise the sales that the house was not that of a hoarder. Also, although I try to keep my yarn stash in check, I cannot often bring myself to get rid of yarn that has the potential to be whatever I dream up for it! It makes me happy just to sort through my yarn every so often and imagine future projects and dream of a life of leisure where I can create all day whatever comes into my head! I am well on my way to having that much yarn, and I don't consider stocking up on supplies of yarn and fabric as a negative, in the way the word "hoarding" is so often used as.

Step 1: imagine your ideal lifestyle

The first step of the KonMari method is to imagine your ideal lifestyle. She insists that you be quite thorough and deliberate in this process as this will help inform what gives you joy and the end result. To help with this, I took to Instagram and looked through the #interiordesign hashtag to find images that resonated with me. As you can see from the posts below, in general I love well-lit clean, simple, modern styles without much clutter. I also love a touch of traditional elements.

However, my Instagram perusal quickly turned into looking for yarn storage (as that just makes me happy - I browsed the #flashyourstash hashtag for probably 30 minutes with a smile on my face). I have found that I have a much higher tolerance for what some would consider "clutter" when it comes to yarn and crafting and the following photos spoke directly to my heart. To me this makes perfect sense. I can organize your yarn (and I take pleasure in organizing it at least once a year or after any large yarn acquisition) to my hearts delight, but it'll never be perfect, nor should it. I would never want my yarn storage so perfect that I did not want to begin a new project as I might mess up my yarn. I just love it too much to structure it in that way.

See the below posts as examples of what design styles and yarn storage please me the most:

A post shared by FibreShare (@fibreshare) on

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Doctor Who inspired knit hat

Sometimes I try experiments with my knitting outreach activities. This one worked out better than even I expected. I ran a "Design your own knit hat" contest as part of my Science Knits display at the California Academy of Science's Maker's night last Spring. I provided graph paper and let the attendees fill in the boxes to design their own patterns. This design was the winner. It was a team effort between two very dedicated Whovians. I wonder if they could tell I also love Doctor Who, because how could I not pick this awesome design! With a few tweaks it became this hat that features the TARDIS, Daleks, cybermen, and K-9. Isn't it so cool!! I sent this original hat to the designers as their reward for winning, but I may have to make another one for myself in the future!

The pattern is listed here on Ravelry and here on Craftsy [link broken until I get time to upload pattern to Craftsy...]. You can also purchase it directly here

Saturday, March 31, 2018 - the Etsy of the Resistance

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Evil Eye Gloves - Crochet Version

Krista Suh's newest craftivist movement is to create a sea of eyes at the March for our Lives to show congress we are watching and we are holding them accountable. She is organizing the effort to collect gloves in Washington, DC. Check out her website here to see where to send the gloves.

Help create a Sea of Eyes at the March for Our Lives
I was immediately on board and I designed my own knit colorwork version (see it here). I challenged my friend Silke, the most talented crochet designer I know, to design a crocheted pair of gloves. She did not disappoint and came up with these awesome gloves. These glove are not simply an eye appliquéd onto simple gloves, they are just one layer throughout. She enlisted her friend Stefanie to help her write up the pattern. Stefanie originally created the pattern in German and then translated it to English. Check out more of Stefanie's designs here: They gave me permission to put the English pattern on my website and I am honored to help share it with everyone.

GET THE PATTERN HERE> Click here to download the pattern. Click here to see the original German version of the pattern.

This pattern is very thorough and has step-by-step instructions so hopefully even beginning crocheters can make it. Comment below if you have any questions about the pattern and I'll run them by Silke and Stefanie.

This crochet eye could also be sewn onto simple knit or crochet fingerless gloves.

Silke modeling her gloves.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Evil Eye Gloves

This week, Krista Suh (the Pussyhat Project creator) launched her next craftivism project. Just like she created a "sea of pink" for the Women's March, she wants to create a "sea of eyes" at the 2018 March for our Lives. She enlisted Kat Coyle (Pussyhat original designer) to design knit fingerless gloves with eyes embroidered into the palm. These eyes will show those in power that we are watching them and we will hold them accountable for their actions. Krista is leading the effort to have gloves sent to DC to support the students that will be marching. Her initial goal is 438 pairs of gloves - one pair to represent each person killed or injured in school shootings from 2014-present. I like to imagine these gloves giving representation to the victims, a symbolic gesture that the victims are present and watching in spirit. Please take the time to check out Krista's webpage for the original evil eye glove pattern and more details about the project and where to send gloves in DC (

Click here to get a pdf of my pattern. I designed my gloves in the round version of the Evil Eye Mitts using stranded colorwork to add the eye design.  If you have any questions about the pattern or find a mistake, please let me know!

Per Krista's request please share your projects using these hashtags on social media: #evileyegloves #marchforourlives

I had a request for a chart with the thumb gusset directions included. Here it is with the thumb gusset directions in words to the right for the 32 stitch cast on. The thick lines indicate where I would place stitch markers if using magic loop:

Here it is without lashes - (for the 32 stitch cast on):

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Ant Knit Hat

I designed this hat to feature Dr. Deborah Gordon's work with harvester ants. To see a synopsis of her work and Dr. Gordon modeling the hat herself, check out my blog post here. This hat features two pairs of harvester ants that are interacting through their antennae. Dr. Gordon provided a lot of help with the design, insuring that the ants would be interacting through their antennae, just like they do in the environment. 

The pattern for this knit hat is available here on Ravelry or can be purchased directly here.
Harvester ants interact with each other by briefly touching antennae