Making a Fabric Olson Face Mask

I don't sew too much. I learned when I was a kid, but I always hated following patterns, so I bought one of those little sewing machines (that is intended for teenagers to use) on a Black Friday sale and used it to mend the occasional clothes and make neck coolers and other little projects. But, last year, I decided it was time to buy an adult sewing machine. Since I wasn't going to suddenly become an avid sewist, it didn't make sense to spend a ton of money. So, I had narrowed it down to two possible machines that were under $200. Then one of them went on sale on Amazon, and I bit the bullet and bought the machine. Then it sat in the box for a year. Because who wants to learn how to thread a new machine? Well, this crazy crisis hit and I knew it was finally time. They were now recommending fabric masks for running errands and any other time you wouldn't be able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. So, it was time to make some masks (oh and the sewing machine was a breeze to thread--thank you YouTube).

I used this pattern from Unity Point Health Cedar Rapids to make my mask because it had good coverage and a pocket to put extra fabric or a filter in (also, pleats scare me just a bit). Avera Hospitals are requesting the same mask, but have added instructions for attaching elastic or straps to their pattern. They have also updated the pattern to suggest adding a seam allowance to the existing pattern. This may have to do with people printing the pattern on default settings (with "fit to page" selected) or it may be because they decided the masks were too small for what they wanted. Regardless, if you're making masks for those two hospitals, follow their instructions. If you are making them for yourself, make them the size that seems to fit (you can easily adjust the size of the pattern in your print settings by printing the pattern pages at 90% or 110% etc...). I cut the patterns out with my print settings at 100% and did not add extra seam allowance (when I printed my pattern--those added instructions about the seam allowance were not there, so I assumed the dotted lines were the seam allowance). The masks are just big enough for my fairly large face and should be large enough to cover the nose and chin of most average adults.

I also watched this video to clarify some of the pictures in the instruction--also from Unity Point Health Cedar Rapids.

Since the pattern pieces are mirror images, I cut two masks with one set of pattern pieces at a time by folding the fabric and cutting on the fold. You can use all of the same fabric or three different fabrics, the choice is yours. I chose to use a contrasting fabric for the mouth/pocket pieces so that you can easily tell the inside of the mask from the outside.

Step #1: Place the face/front pieces right side together and stitch with a 1/4 inch seam allowance along the curved edge to make the front of the face mask.

(Completed Step #1 Above)

Step #2: Place the mouth pieces (they form the pocket that you can put a filter or extra fabric in) right sides together and sew along the long curved edge (again with a 1/4 inch seam allowance).

(Completed Step #2 Above)

Step #3: Finish the side edges of the mouth piece. Fold the straight side edges over 1/4 inch-ish and smooth with your finger until it lays flat enough to sew down. Then sew them in place.

(Completed Step #3 Above)

Step #4: Finish the longer side edges of the cheek pieces. This edge will not be seen in the finished product, but needs to be finished to avoid fraying when being washed. So you could serge the edge or just zig-zag stitch it, but the instructions suggest folding it over and stitching just like you did with the mouth pieces.

(Completed Step #4 Above)

Step #5: This is the hardest part of the whole pattern--and it's not too hard. Use the pattern pieces to help you line up the mouth/pocket piece with your cheek/side pieces. There's a dotted line on the pattern pieces. Line up your cheek pieces along the edge and place your mouth piece where the dotted line is. Pin your pieces in place.

Step #5 Continued: Then stitch the mouth piece on top of the cheek pieces by sewing along the top edge and bottom edge where the pieces overlap on both sides. This tacks the inside of the mask together and reinforces the pocket.

(Completed Step #5 Above)

Step #6: Next place your completed front/face mask piece right sides together with your now sewed together inside/mouth and cheek pieces. I pinned the mask at the straight side edges and at the nose seam on top and bottom to make sure it would roughly stay in place, then I stitched around the outside edge (with a 1/4 inch seam allowance) of the whole mask.

(Completed Step #6 Above)

Step #7: Then turn the mask right side out  using the pouch openings. Use a pencil or paint brush handle to poke the corners.

(Completed Step #7 Above)

Step #8: Then stitch your elastic or hair ties or whatever. I opted to go with the hair ties because it's what we had. I folded the edge over with the hair tie in place and carefully stitched along the edge of the fabric.

(Completed Step #8 Above)

After I got the hang of the pattern (watched the video) these came together pretty easily. Stay safe and healthy!


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