Are You Making The Olson Cloth Face Mask? Use Your Serger!

Bridget McPhillips

I became aware of this pattern thanks to my sister, a veterinarian and the Executive Director of SNAP here in Texas.

She shared the post from, How to Make a Face Mask Filter with HEPA Fabric  with me. 

Included in this tutorial was a link to the Olson Mask pattern.

I was not initially a fan of the idea to promote or make fabric face masks because I believe that a fabric mask gives a false sense of protection as far as the current virus situation is concerned.  I changed my mind after seeing the Olson Mask Pattern and the tutorial to make the HEPA filter inserts.

I decided to make masks to give to all the high risk people I knew in the North East.  In my mask making journey,  I tweaked the pattern instructions and developed my own process to sew the mask quickly using a serger.  If you have a serger, I hope this process will help you if you decide to make this mask.


The first step in my process was to cut out all of the pieces included with the Olson Face Mask Pattern.

I then serged the edges all of pieces that would have an exposed edge (not included in a seam once the mask is complete).  I also serged the 2 face pieces of the pattern (right sides together) along the curved edge.

 Step 1 serge Olson Face Mask

Next, I serged together the Mouth pieces together along the curved edge. (right sides together) as pictured below.

 Serged Mouth Piece of Olson Face Mask

I start the last step in the serging process by laying the serged face piece down on a table with the right side of the fabric facing up. 

Face piece of Olson Face Mask right side facing up

I then line up the mouth piece, right side of the fabric facing down, on top of the face piece.

Mouth pieces of Olson Face Mask right side facing down

Next add on the Cheek pieces, right sides facing down. To do this, I lined the ends of the Face Piece up with the ends of the Cheek pieces.  The Cheek Pieces will overlap the Mouth piece.  This forms the pocket for the filter.

Cheek pieces of Olson Face Mask right sides facing down

Once I have this layered, I pin at the center of the face and mouth pieces and at  each of the Cheek pieces as shown in the picture.

Pins added to Olson Face Mask

Now I take this to my serger and serge along the top and the bottom edges of the face mask. 



Olson Mask sewn with overlock machine or serger

Once  both the top and bottom edges are serged, I serge the two ends.

 Serging edges of Olson Face Mask

The next step I added to the original pattern:

I felt that adding a pipe cleaner would help people be able to better form fit the mask to their own face.  After a couple of attempts to add the pipe cleaner, this is the process I have decided to use.

I cut a pipe cleaner in half (my pipe cleaners were craft pipe cleaner and measures about 12 inches).  Once cut, each pipe cleaner made two 6 inch pieces.

At this point I take the serged mask to my sewing machine.

Set the sewing machine to a zigzag stitch with a width of 4 and a length of 3 as shown in the photo below.  This stitch was wide enough to easily stitch over the wire in the pipe cleaners I used.

Next, line the pipe cleaner up  along the serged seam.  I can see the wire in the pipe cleaner I am using, so I run that wire directly in the middle of my presser foot as I sew.  I sewed the pipe cleaner in on the side of the mask that has the filter pocket openings showing.  When the mask is turned right side out, the pipe cleaner will be completely enclosed on the inside of the mask.  It is also a good idea to start your zigzag stitch a little bit before the pipe cleaner.  I found that this hold the end of the pipe cleaner down so it is not poking up through the fabric of the finished mask. See the picture below.

 Add pipe cleaner to Olson Face MaskZig Zag stitch pipe cleaner to Olson Face MaskZig Zag stitch settings used to sew pipe cleaner to Olson Face MaskPipe cleaners sewn into Olson Face Mask

Now, turn the mask through the openings for the filter pocket and finger press along the seams. 

Olson Face Mask turned after serging frontOlson Mask after serging turned right side out back side

I used the hair ties as described in the original pattern.  Be sure to set your machine to a straight stitch for securing the hair elastics on the face mask.

Add hair elastic to Olson Face Maskset stitch to straight stitch to add hair elastic to Olson Face Mask

With the filter pocket side of the mask facing up, add the hair tie over the end of the mask.  Fold fabric at the end of the mask over the hair tie and stitch down. 

Stitch hair elastic in place on Olson Face Maskhair elastic sewn to Olson Face Mask

Mask complete!

 Completed Olson Fabric Face Mask

As a final note, I did decided to make the HEPA filter inserts as described in the tutorial.  I also serged these together.  I serged every exposed edge.

 Fabric Olson Face Mask HEPA Filter paper insert serged

I hope that my process can help you to make your masks! 


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  • Melinda owens on

    Is the ends that are folded over same for men and women ? How many inches over from hair tie

  • Bridget on

    Hi Ashley, thanks for having a look at the post and for the great question.

    I actually have made a quite a few of these masks. I have three boys with allergies and my boys wear these masks when they help out in the yard. We have washed our masks regularly and the pipe cleaners have held up great. I know some other people have tried using craft wire or floral wire. Those are great option as well. I just had pipe cleaners, packaged as fuzzy craft sticks, so that is what I used! Hope the pattern works well for you!

  • Ashley Kirby on

    How did the pipe cleaners hold up in washing? That is my only worry!

  • Matthew McPhillips on

    Very informative! I love the mask.

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