Not all face coverings (masks) are the same

I was lucky enough to have my hair cut soon after lock down restrictions were lifted. My hairdresser advised me however that I needed a mask.

‘No problem’, I said to her, explaining that I have made hundreds of them over this pandemic for key workers.

I promptly set out to make my own mask using a tried and trusted pattern and some fabric I had bought some time ago now. I also made one for my husband.

Mask no 1. (the one I wore to my hairdresser)

It was at this point that I discovered that, even though the masks I have made are, indeed, made well, and gratefully received, when we tried our masks on, our own feedback was less than positive.

I spent most of my time at the hairdressers holding my mask up or not wanting to look down in case it slipped off my face. While it was doing something, I was sure that it was not the task it was supposed to do – keeping my hairdresser safe. I also suspect it didn’t help my hairdresser in doing her job, and, selfish I might be, no one really wants a wonky fringe!

My husband, in his crazy role play analytical mind, decided that wearing his mask upside down was the way to go. He says it works for him but I am not so sure. Also the pocket for the nose wire would be on the chin – not the nose. Spot the obvious problem here.

I decided to try making the size larger for me, however I still found the mask uncomfortable and tricky to wear.

Mask number 2

Despite the design having a space to put some wire along the bridge of the nose, the seal was not great and my glasses still steamed up. I also found that the cheek section on mine, compared to other designs fell lower on the face and was not as wide. Using ties seemed to help, however I still have mobility problems in my right shoulder so reaching to tie a bow at the back of my head is often not practical.

I had to rethink, and, with new rules coming into play on 25 July, wearing face masks is something we will all need to get used to for the foreseeable future.

Many of the fabric stores I am subscribed to have emailed reviews about face coverings and patterns they have tried, along with with helpful You Tube videos. You Tube is also awash with many ‘no sew’ masks or what you could use as an alternative.

So, when Plush Addict did a mask review and my local quilt shop, Quilters Dream gave me a mask pattern on the same day I had a feeling a subliminal message was being sent my way!

Plush Addict https://plushaddict.co.uk/ , is an award winning fabric and haberdashery shop based in Peterborough and has a good website for on line orders. I have purchased from here before and have liked the quality and service so the blog they wrote about masks piqued my interest.

You can see the full review here https://plushaddict.co.uk/news/mask-making-pattern-reviews/?goal=0_d10035325d-545a835b12-70723081&mc_cid=545a835b12&mc_eid=2f5fc672a0 , It is fairly comprehensive and the review is fair and balanced so I will let you read it for yourself.

It interested me though because the first and second mask I made was the one they reviewed ( https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/ ) and was having problems with fit.

The next mask they reviewed was a flat pleated one ( https://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2020/03/how-to-sew-a-medical-face-mask.html ) which I have been reluctant to make as yet. I have read many reports that the fit around the face is not great. That said, it might be that I do try this design too.

The final one, the Olson mask is the one I tried to make, along with the pattern from Quilters Dream.

Quilter’s Dream mask

This is super easy to make with just one pattern piece, each having a dart at centre top and bottom to contour around the nose and chin. However, it came up so large on my face (and I do have a very round face).

Quilter’s Dream face mask

If you live near Quilter’s Dream in Andover, it is worth dropping in to see the owner. She is really friendly and handing the pattern out for free. I did notice that she had two mask sizes on her counter so she might be able to either help, or point you in the right direction if you had questions about sizing and grading the pattern to fit your face.

Mask 3 – very large but comfortable

The Olson Mask

The pattern .pdf can be downloaded at https://www.avera.org/app/files/public/76443/Olson-Mask-with-Pattern.pdf and at point of writing takes you to a version updated on 4 July 2020. I think the one I initially used on the Plush Addict blog was version 2.

The mask was designed by a medical professional apparently and was used when non-surgical masks were not available.

I found the fit to be better than the Sweet Red Poppy mask as the sides were wider and fitted more in line with the ears. Making it however, while not difficult per se, was a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. To start with there are 6 pieces which I think could easily be reduced to three.

So, having had no luck with these variations, and, in my usual manner … I came up with my self titled ‘My Mask’.

It is a combination of the shape of the Olsen mask, but construction of the Sweet Red Poppy Mask pattern. I also referred to the Bernina Olson mask pattern https://blog.bernina.com/en/2020/05/the-olson-mask/ for sizes and a little more information. As I was searching for this pattern on Google I found a number of other patterns and even this Bernina Olsen mask pattern is a slightly different shape to the one referred to above.

A picture of mine is below, which of course, I will test drive and update you as to it’s success.

‘My mask’ very large but the side sits well for the ears.

The Environment

I was listening to Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 recently and he was talking about the amount of PPE being discarded in public places and the dangers this poses to both the environment and wildlife.

For some of the PPE being used in this pandemic it can take up to 400 years to biodegrade. The importance of limiting our use of single use plastic remains and it is possible to do your part.

Masks made from fabric or, better still repurposed old clothes, t-shirts or bed linens can be washed and re-worn time and time again. While they may not be medical grade, they do provide an acceptable level of protection.

Until next time, stay safe and well and carry on sewing!

5 thoughts on “Not all face coverings (masks) are the same

  1. I’ve tried making a few different mask designs too. The one that fits me best is a modified version of the shaped one from the great British sewing project website ( with 3 layers and the elastic sewn in at corners rather than encased in the side seams it fitted snugly to the side of my face without the gathers . – I’ve also learnt that elastic length and type is crucial. Flat elastic sits a lot better behind the ear than hat elastic cord

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    1. Hi Jackie, it’s great to read your comment about what mask you prefer and the type of elastic. I am working on reviewing a number of different patterns again in two weeks time. Would you happen to have a link available for the one you use and a picture of it? I do seem to prefer elastic around my ears as opposed to around my head. Mask wearing is definitely something that will be with us for some time and fit is crucial both in terms of safety and getting used to wearing them. It does seem though that one size most certainly does not fit all!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s a link to a blogpost I wrote recently that includes photos of my masks and a link to the website where I got the pattern. I modified it to include the extra layer and make it fit better at the sides (on me anyway!) so there’s full instructions on the blog too. Apart from getting creative with fabrics and the environmental benefits of having a reusable mask, – the “made-to-measure” aspect is brilliant when fit is so important – that is something that will never happen with mass produced disposables. I’ve seen TV footage of medical staff in disposable masks that look distinctly gappy at the sides. Have a look at the link – hope it makes sense but do get back to me if you have any questions. http://stitchesbythesea.water.blog/2020/07/23/making-masks/

    Liked by 1 person

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