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Sewing (or making) Face Masks


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Hardly a travel topic but it relates somewhat because we may need masks to travel and it is not easy to buy the good ones (N95).

Face masks made with two layers of good cotton (high thread count) give you some, but not total, protection from coronavirus. They are supposed to be worn to protect others from you in case you have the virus but are not having symptoms yet. But they can also help protect you a bit I think.

I’ve watched a lot of sewing videos and tried several patterns and my favourite is the Olson Face Mask from Unity Point Health in the US.
PDF with pattern: https://www.unitypoint.org/filesimages/COVID-19/UnityPointHealth-OlsonMask-Instructions.pdf
YouTube video:
View: https://youtu.be/ZnVk12sFRkY

Youtube video showing easier way to make them:
View: https://youtu.be/StMPYZ-waso

Another version of sewing instructions: https://www.sewcanshe.com/blog/simple-step-by-step-tutorial-for-the-olson-mask-pattern

The Olson Face Mask has a filter pocket so you can insert and additional layer - HEPA filter, coffee filter or paper towel. A nose clip (pipe cleaner or wire wrapped in duct tape) can be easily inserted. It is not the simplest pattern to sew but it is pretty easy. I like the fit over the nose and chin. And I really like the way the filter pocket works. Some patterns use an extra layer of cotton for the filter pocket which ends up with 3 layers of cotton and 1 filter. Too thick to breathe through I think.

I am still experimenting with the best way to attach - around the ear or tied behind your head. I’ve tried hair bands (can’t get elastic) and they work well. I also tried longer elastic cord around the head and cotton straps that you tie. I think the hair bands work best for easily putting it on.

You throw out the paper towel and wash the face mask each time it is used, plus all the usual precautions.

Have you made a face mask? What worked well for you?


Top left shows inside of mask with with paper towel sticking out of filter pocket.
Bottom left shows front of mask. No ear or head straps yet.
Right shows mask with hair bands for ear strap.

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Not got one, but I did read someone talking about fleece being a good material for stopping particles.

I'm sure I will buy and wear one - there seems to be sound logic to it protecting others, more than the person wearing it, so that makes me feel I should wear one.

I sense the government reluctance to advise wearing them is more down to worry of the impact on NHS supplies, rather than the stated 'no or minimal effect'.


100+ Posts
Pauline, I love the masks you made!

The simplicity of the sock is a great idea! I am not sure how well that type of fabric would block the virus particles floating around. I suppose a cotton thick sock may work though or adding another layer underneath with a better material. I will have to look through my sock drawer to see if I can find a good candidate!

I did some research and 100% cotton seems to be the fabric recommended to use. The other tip I have read is to hold the fabric up to light to make sure you can't see through the material so a thicker cotton works best.

I really like the shape of the Olson mask but I don't have a sewing machine and that mask would take me days to make! It also seems more difficult without a sewing machine to make one of the masks with the seam down the middle.

I was using a cotton bandana but the material is thin and I was not happy with that solution so I spent hours last week watching videos and looking at mask patterns and then adapted to make a pattern that I thought would work best for me.

I cut up a thick t-shirt and made it 4 layers thick and left a place to insert a paper towel sheet for another layer for extra caution!! I tried to keep my messy sewing stitches hidden as much as possible. I happened to have some elastic to use for the ear straps so that was a bonus. I also added a slot by the top to insert one of those coffee bag tie/sealers that are located at the top of the coffee bag to seal it. I learned this tip from one of the videos I watched. I take it out when I wash it. I also use a ribbon that I hook around the ear straps and then tie behind my head so that it won't slip off my ears. This also helps with the seal. It ended up taking me 6 hours to finish making my mask.

It worked out well at home sealing nicely around my nose and cheeks. I didn't want to wear it driving to the store, so I put it on in my car. That didn't work as well though as I couldn't get it just so for it to seal nicely by my nose/cheeks in the car. Next time I will just wear it while driving as well.

Here's my finished mask - my sewing skills are horrible but it works! The only thing I don't like about it is that the top of the mask seems to get too close to my eyes so I am still looking for other options.


Our town has required masks but then we had pushback so now I guess it is strongly encouraged with some still refusing. I am fortunate to be able to shop at a small natural food store where everyone is considerate and wears a mask. I try to go when the store is not very crowded. Not sure how long that will continue though if/when our town allows tourists to lodge here again.

Here's my option with an extra layer when I will need to go in a store where I may encounter people not wearing masks.

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Forums Admin
I also added a slot by the top to insert one of those coffee bag tie/sealers that are located at the top of the coffee bag to seal it. I learned this tip from one of the videos I watched.
I saw that in a video too but none of my coffee bags come with this. I ordered pipe cleaners from Amazon. They are supposed to work. I tried another method I saw in a video. Cut lengths of paper clips and wrap in duct or electrical tape. I am going to insert these in the mask so it can be fitted over the nose

I use Quilters cotton for the masks. I have a lot of it left over from a few years ago when I was learning a bit about this. I also have high thread count shirt material, remnants from a shirt factory in Gloucester. I was making a quilt out of them. Quilters cotton is recommended because of its high thread count.

“Quilter’s cotton, which has a particularly high thread count, actually provides up to about 80 percent filtration of small particles, and actually performs better than a regular surgical mask,” he said.”

Your mask setup looks great!


10+ Posts
I haven't sewn a mask but have been wearing one for trips to the grocery store, a coworker gave me my favorite one. I feel the best mask for me is a thicker cotton one with a good nose wire so there is minimal fussing once it is on. I bought two more from someone locally but didn't realize they didn't have the nose wire so not as good a fit. I will endeavor to put some kind of wire in there. Something to think about when you are looking for or sewing masks.


10+ Posts
Oh and definitely the elastic around the ears, easier to put on and take off. Tying is too much trouble for me.


Forums Admin
I got my pipe cleaners today. Not sure they are better than just straightening out a paper clip, cutting two 3 inch lengths and wrapping them in duct tape. I can sew the nose wire into the mask easily. For the Olson Mask you can do it when the mask is done. Insert it between the two layers (you have access through the filter opening) and sew along the top of the mask to keep it in place (mark 2 inches each side of the center, sew from the edge down to 1/4 inch, then along, then back up to edge.

Good to hear about the ear elastics. That was my thought too - easier to put on and take off. I still haven't worn one yet.

Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
Thanks for this helpful thread. I've been using a half buff for now. I ordered a mask on Amazon, but it's not comfortable and I need more options. I like the ideas here. I also wanted to share another possible pattern that was recommended to me. I'm not great at sewing but I'll give it a try. I'm currently waiting for the material I bought to arrive (fabric stores are still closed here). I'll post when I'm done.

View: https://youtu.be/zz0YpY6VqVU


Forums Admin
That is a good pattern and a good video (but those nails!). I tried a version of this and had trouble with the pleats but her method makes it easy.

I see many ads now for fabric masks. Some advertise nanotechnology which is, I think, a chemical treatment that kills the virus. Perhaps not something that I want to breathe in. I read that some people use furnace filters but there is metal in them that is harmful to breathe in.

This company in Israel is working on nanotechnology - Sonovia.


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Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
Just finished my first face mask, using Pauline's recommended Olsen Mask pattern. I like it. For the nose bridge, I used pipe cleaners, which I doubled up to give it more stiffness. As recommended by another youtuber I added a parallel stitch at the top (about 1 1/2 inches on each side from the center) to secure the pipe cleaner a bit more inside the pocket. I also top stitched it all around which helps to define the edges. Thanks for the great recommendation Pauline. As a very rusty sewer, I like that it was a pretty easy pattern to follow.

I'm going to try the 15 minute pleated mask. I ordered a Floral print fabric to make that one. :)


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Kathy (Trekcapri)

100+ Posts
I finished the 15 Minute Pleated mask With Filter Pocket (White Polka Dot in Photo). Although it does the job & looks okay, I found it harder to sew than the Olson Mask which Pauline recommended. And it sure didn't take just 15 minutes either. :)

A while back when I was searching I ordered a template as shown in the photo along with the completed mask (Filter side up). It looks like the Olson Mask.

Overall, my favorite fit is the Olson Mask. The easiest to make is the Stitch Buzz. If anyone is interested, I purchased the template on Amazon for $7.99 and I found a good YouTube Instruction video: HERE

Now that I have a few masks, I don't have to keep washing the same mask over and over and I can put spares in my car (in case I forget to throw one in my bag). Most grocery stores have a no mask, no entry policy. Thanks Pauline for this thread.


Edited to Add Info on Nose Bridge: The pipe cleaners are okay, but I also found these Aluminum strips which I find to be a bit better. Like I did in the Olson Mask, I sewed a parallel stitch about an inch in width from the center and slip the nose bridge inside the filter. The added parallel stitch helps to hold whatever nose bridge you want to use in place a bit better.
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