😷 Mask making - Olson Mask tips and tricks shared here

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Thought it a good idea to gather best practice and info here. All suggestions are welcome: there could be a good many months of mask wearing ahead, so this we can tweak and improve and share what we learn along the way

Why are we making masks?

Because they’re much needed, and we’ve been contacted by medical and care staff who want these in particular for their commutes to work

We also want to support the wearing of masks, and a culture or reusable masks

Do masks work?

Yes. The phrase ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me’ underpins the growing evidence that simply covering your mouth and nose reduces the chance of you spreading virus. Masks such as the Olson design when used with a filter are likely to also protect the wearer

Add any tips and ideas below and I’ll collate them in this post

The Olson Mask Design

The Olson mask was developed for hospitals, but is washable/adaptable and ticks a lot of boxes. This is the one we’re currently producing, but other suggestions are welcome

We slightly expanded the pattern and added notches to show which way up the (not quite symmetrical) parts go. The notches also guide you if you want to cut further notches out for seam neatness (optional)

A video about efficient chain production of it (we’ve cut the fabric on the laser cutter so you can start watching at 3:24…and of course you can watch it at up to double speed)

How long do they take to make?

The first one? About an hour and a half…once you get into mass production you may get as fast as 15 minutes each

Different sizes

You can vary the size of the mask but reducing/increasing the seam allowance

Rikki may be experimenting with child sizes, and we’re happy to produce these if wanted

Nose clip

We’re using sheathed electrical copper wire as a nose clip (stripped from 1mm2 twin and earth mains cable: 70mm length with the last few mm at each end bent back to give a smooth end – some kits will have this part in, and some people prefer to sew it into the mask to prevent it falling out in the wash)

Got a better suggestion for a nose clip?


Early on we moved away from ear loops to hold the masks on as a one long loop (60cm?) allows a lot of scope for fitting to different shaped faces

Jack has some ideas about better elastication

Other improvements?

Jack mentioned pinning as labour intensive. Anyone got opinions/knowledge on using sprung clips instead of pins? This also has the advantage of putting fewer holes in the fabric

Materials: potential allergens

Latex (in the elastic if cut ends are exposed)
Copper? Would you normally notify this?


Note: please do your own research and encourage others to do the same
The masks have a filter pocket. To improve filtration it’s often suggested to add a layer of non-woven material

There’s a lot of info about filters out there, but this is pretty good

A filter cut from a Numatic (Henry) Hepaflo bag will give very good protection, but is quite hard to breathe through and will fatigue the wearer with prolonged use. Of course these are not tested for mask use but Numatic has been helpful in clarifying that there bags contain nothing harmful to human health
We also have some non-woven polypropylene that we can cut on the laser cutter to make filters. It seems to be a convention to give masks without filters and let the user decide

Here’s the filter template


The evidence seems to be growing that a firm fit/seal might not be important in making an effective mask

However: to fit well in a traditional sense the mask should fit just under the chin and have a snug fit over the nose, with the wire bent to fit. As strong intake of breathe should cause the sides of the mask to deflect inwards

Advice to recipients

  • Wash the mask before use
  • never touch the inside before putting it on (contamination)

(we need a nice advice slip/QR code to go in with the masks)

Want to get involved?

If you have a sewing machine, then great, you can collect/receive kits of mask parts

If you don’t: we have four sewing machines + an overlocker (apparently the fastest way to make face masks…???) and everything you need to produce a bunch of Olson face masks

We only have a few sets of everything, so if you have sewing gear already let us know and we can leave stuff out

Kit can have:

  • laser cut parts for making the masks
  • pair of scissors
  • seam ripper
  • needle threader
  • thread
  • elastic
  • nose clip (if we have them)
  • sewing machine(unless you have one)
  • pins
  • the thing I didn’t know about, but someone will mention below…

When you’ve finished

Either get the masks back to us, or distribute them locally (check in first if you want to give them away as we have some quit large requests)

Please use QR code to fill in the details so we can keep track of inventory (thanks @gustojvalle)



We recognise that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to volunteer time to PPE production – yet we’l; need hundreds of masks.If you’d like to get involved with producing masks and can commit to 50+ masks then we have funding to reimburse you. DM the directors to find out more


Sewing clips – a time saver for mask making? No more pinning?

I’m not sure how much quicker they would be.

I think it’s just the act of putting the pieces together I find time consuming. I also think the main reason I find it time consuming is that it’s not as fun as sewing!! I don’t think it really takes all that long…

I’ve been timing myself on another batch of 20… 10mins per mask might be in sight!

Big time saver is der not bothering to trim of any seams or loose bits before turning inside out.

I’ll also try and post some videos of how I’ve tried to streamline the pinning process.


We’re looking for more people to make masks!

If you have the time and enthusiasm then let us know!

From 10:44 a neat knot for adjustable elastic

Hi Dermot

I have a sewing machine at home and have been intending to get down to mask making for a while. I am interested to help out if you are still in need of people.


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Hi Nick!

I am here at MS today lasercutting material for masks, if you want to drop in today, feel free.

Thanks Petra

What time will you be there until?


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6 ish, tommorow can be in before 12pm if this is too late notice! Also - meet me outsidewith 2m distance…

Tomorrow would work for me.

If you message me when you arrive I will come over - weather permitting as I am cycling.

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I will have to leave 11.45am tommorow so I’d like to meet you here at 11.30?

That’s great. Thanks Petra. I will be there at 11.30

How do I contact you once I arrive?

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Do you have data? You can message here or You can send me a message or PM me now your number so I share mine OR call the slms phone.
…a knock on the door works too

OK. Not sure how to send a PM so will call the SLMS number - 020 8678 1181 and/or knock on the door.

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