Olson Mask instructional videos and notes

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Updated April 8, 8:21 PM EST.

This BLOGPOST is a list of other DIY/Open Source plans and ideas, including ventilators, 3D printers, button headbands and more.

(I am also developing free and simple home learning/homeschooling games that use a simple and fun AR technology. Click here for info.)

 Olson masks: for first responders, health care workers and patients. Easy to make and no special instruments are needed. They have a special filter pocket. They can be washed and reused.

One mask takes about twenty minutes to make. If the fabrics do not match it is fine. Most important: no frayed edges or missed seams.

Elastic: use the best you can find, as lower quality deteriorates after only a few washings.

These are also being used to cover n95 masks to extend their life. If anyone does this please let me know, as I am concerned about size and heat issues.

The pattern is here: https://northmemorial.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/north-memorial-health-homemade-healthcare-masks.pdf

This is the same pattern and instructions, but has more photos: https://www.regmedctr.org/webres/File/OlsonMask_wPattern_v3-USE%20THIS%20ONE.pdf

DO NOT leave your home to purchase any supplies. Please only use what you have on hand in your home.

BELOW ARE COMMENTS that are not necessary to read. The video and the instructions above are very good!

If you can find out what kind of filter insert the hospital is using, do so, and adjust accordingly.


Ball point machine needles are not the best. They are designed for knits, and if used on regular fabrics, they make bigger holes and may cause the motor of the machine to overheat.


Joann Fabrics is giving out kits for making masks. Once they're made, you can bring them back to Joann and they will then distribute the masks to medical centers and hospitals in need. Call your local Joann Fabrics to see if they are participating in this program.


Also I would like to add, on the center seam of this mask, are holes created from the stitch, you should put a separate piece of backing (attach it to the facing side) to block those holes, set that piece of fabric between the self and facing.


https://www.mask-match.com/ connects makers with those who have needs.

Hint- If you are making a number of these at the same time you can save a ton of time by sewing all of one section at the same time, ie all the mouth piece seams, etc. , rather than one whole mask and then another whole mask. Also run the pieces together one after the other without cutting the threads,( just have a basket or bin ready to catch the pieces if you have enough to fall behind the sewing machine.) If you get them close enough together you can cut them apart with just one snip! Stack them up and do the next step.


I have experimented with a design similar to this and decided that the seal above the cheeks was not sufficient. When leaning forward it pulls away. It can be given elastic ribs which prevent this but it adds almost 5 minutes to the manufacturing of each mask which is already high considering the complexity of the mask shape. I have found that a much better mask to make is a standard, pleated surgical mask with one long stainless steel ridge along the top. I was testing one of said masks out at the supermarket 2 days ago and was pleasantly surprised when taking it off only to smell a strong smell of perfume from the person next to me. A smell that the mask had been preventing me from smelling. In addition to the fact that they make for a better seal, they are also much quicker and simpler to manufacture. I have just finished making 50 today to donate to my local doctors surgery who is still waiting on their PPE care package from the NHS over here in the UK. An additional piece of information that you may find useful in shrinking production time.


Just made my first one. If making for general use, 6" of elastic at each side works for average female. Side edges of mask were turned under 1" to make the elastic casing. Used 5" of craft wire with ends bent in, then inserted in mask, centered and sewed around wire by make a running stitch below and at sides. Any breathable additional inside layer would most likely help to some degree -may try interfacing even. Please realize these are not intended for medical use unless modified by health experts, ie the tape, etc.


Tips from someone who sews regularly: 1.) Fold your material for double layer and you only need 1 of each piece because it makes a mirror image for 2nd piece. For lots of masks, glue stick the pattern to a piece of cardboard to trace around your fabrics. 2.) If you want a moldable nose piece, you can use gardening tie wire doubled up to about 2 1/2 to 3 inch length. You can tack it in place by hand or enclose it in a separate strip of fabric and as you sew your edge it catches your strip. If you expect to wash it over and over again, I would enclose it. For me I used the tack method for masks that were already made and for new masks I enclose them in fabric that kinda looks like the paper over a straw but smaller. Or, you could tack it and hide under your top stitch hem. 3.) If you happen to have an overlock machine/serger you can save time and get a better product by overlocking all of your major seams which will prevent any fraying and sew the seams at the same time. Then use a regular machine for the final top stitching if you choose to top stitch. If you don't have an overlock machine, I would fold the edges of the mouth piece edges twice, iron and then top stitch. This way your fabric won't fray. 4.) I happened to have a roll of elastic that was much thicker than I needed. I simply trimmed it down to thinner pieces. 5.) You do not need to leave a section open to turn inside out. Your mouth piece opening can be used to turn right side out.

I‘m sewing very similar masks, but only out of 3 pieces. it‘s actually not necessary to sew 2 pieces completely together to get a mask with a good shape that lies flat around nose and chin. sewing out 2 triangles („abnäher“ in german) does the trick. this actually makes the process even faster.


I was working on AR learning game ideas before this situation, but have released this early because schools are closed. It is free. Oakbub and Bubiko's AR Alphabet.


2 thoughts on “Olson Mask instructional videos and notes”

  1. Pingback: COV19 PPE: Open source/DIY plans + materials - blackstepsblacksteps

  2. Pingback: PPE: Notes on making Deaconness Face mask for Hospitals - blackstepsblacksteps

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