Simple Step By Step Tutorial for the Olson Face Mask Pattern - including child sizes

The Olson Mask Pattern was designed by medical professionals to be used when other surgical and N95 masks are not available. Most agree that it is the best pattern available for homemade face masks, and I think so too!

It is curved to fit the nose and mouth area, and there is a pocket on the inside to hold an additional filter (if available.

Here are some additional resources you might find helpful:

Video Tutorial showing an even faster method for making this face mask pattern.

How to make filters from HEPA fabric.

I found actual face mask material you can buy and reviewed it here.

My recommendations for the best fabrics to use are found here.

More tie options that I have tried, including different kinds of elastics and fabric ties.
Download the free (adult sized) Olson Mask PDF pattern here. Download the free Child Size PDF pattern here.
I have made many masks with this pattern to share with family members and healthcare workers in my community. When I couldn’t make enough, I shared the pattern with others. But many of my friends could not understand the PDF tutorial, so I let them come over to my house so I could show them how in person.

Since it’s no longer advised to have people over (not for long, I hope!), I have written an easy to understand step by step photo tutorial that even people who are new to sewing will be able to follow.

The photo tutorial below was written with permission and is not meant to replace the Olson Mask Pattern, but accompany it. There is also an instructional video. I really recommend watching the video. There are also some good Q&A’s here.

By request, I have re-sized the pattern templates to make child sized face masks in two different sizes. The pattern templates for child sized masks include:

the face, mouth, and cheek templates in size child’s small for ages 2-5 (page 1)

the face, mouth and cheek templates in size child’s large for ages 6-10 (page 2)

Cutting and sewing instructions are the same for the child sized masks. Print the pages at 100% scale.
To Make the Olson Mask Pattern, you will need:
about 1/4 yard tightly woven cotton fabric

2 hair tie elastics (other types of elastic ties may be improvised)

Layer the fabric with wrong sides facing.
The Olson Mask Pattern has 6 pattern templates and specifies cutting one from each template. You may save time by only using templates Mouth 1, Cheek 1, and Face 1.

Cut 2 from Cheek 1, Face 1, and Mouth 1 templates.

Cut 2 each from pattern templates Cheek 1, Face 1, and Mouth 1.

When cutting, layer the fabric with wrong sides facing so you can cut the two pieces at once and they will be reversed.
Sew Single Hems
Take the cheek pieces and mouth pieces to your ironing board.

1. Press the longest straight edge on the cheek pieces over to the wrong side by 1/4’’.

2. Press the straight edge on the mouth pieces over to the wrong side by 1/4’’.

3. Sew along the fold on all of these pieces to make simple single hems.
Sew the Curved Mouth and Face Edges
1/4’’ seam allowance allowed.

1. Place the two ‘Face’ pieces right sides together and sew along the curved edge.

2. Place the two ‘Mouth’ pieces right sides together and sew along the curved edge.
Pin and Sew the Pieces Together
1. Place the cheek pieces and the mouth piece (sewn along the curved edge) on your workspace, with the right sides of the fabric down as seen above. If necessary, refer to the templates to ensure that you are not arranging any of them upside down.

2. Allow the cheek pieces to overlap on top of the mouth piece by about 1’’ and pin at the top and bottom of each cheek piece.

Do not worry too much about how much to overlap the mouth piece with the cheek pieces right now - you will adjust them for an accurate fit in the next step.

This is the ‘inside piece.’

3. Place the pinned ‘inside piece’ on top of the face piece, right sides together.

Match the pieces together at the center seams and place pins at the top and bottom center.

4. Line up the straight edges on the sides and pin.

5. Now carefully remove one of the pins that holds the mouth and cheek pieces together. Smooth and adjust out the fabrics so that they fit nicely between the sides and the center seam.

Re-pin through all layers.

7. Repeat for all 4 pins that attached the cheek pieces to the mouth piece.

8. Sew all the way around the mask with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.

At each of the corners:

stop with the needle down

lift the presser foot

turn the fabric

put the presser foot down

continue sewing

When you come to the place where you started sewing, continue sewing on top of your first few stitches and then backstitch to secure.

9. To reduce bulk, trim away extra fabric at the corners, without cutting the stitching. You can safely cut to within 1/8’’ of the stitching.

10. Turn the face mask right side out through one of the openings next to the cheek piece. Don’t try to turn through both openings at once, that will get tangled. :)

Press the mask to make it look nice.

11. Place one side edge through a hair elastic and fold over by about 1/2’’.

Stitch the side edge down, backstitching at the beginning and end to secure well.

Of course, you may use other types of elastic or make drawstring ties, depending on the needs of the user and the resources available.

Tip: if you cannot find 1/4’’ elastic, try 1/2’’ fold over elastic (FOE). It’s soft and flexible - maybe even better than regular 1/4’’ elastic for making mask ties.

Here is the CDC guidance regarding homemade face masks:

HCP {healthcare personnel} use of homemade masks:
In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE {personal protective equipment}, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face. {source of quote at}

If your local medical providers are asking for homemade fabric face masks, they must really be in need. Let’s help them! In addition, I have put together a list of U.S. hospitals and medical facilities asking for homemade face masks. I also encourage you to check the website of your local hospital (or call them) because there is probably a need right in your own community.

Stay healthy and safe!