There are roughly 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, and lip reading is one of many ways to communicate. Face coverings to curb the spread of the coronavirus are making it hard for people who read lips to fully participate in society. Read more about this experience in the following articles:
- Keeping people safe from COVID-19 limits deaf people's access
- For the deaf or hard of hearing, face masks pose new challenge
The tutorial below shows step-by-step instructions for creating a communicator-style face mask using readily available materials.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
- Mask pattern: make sure you print this to actual size so that the square in the upper right corner measures 1 inch. The pattern will measure about 10'' x 7''.
- Cotton fabric: two pieces 8 x 11 inches (each)
- Clear vinyl: different materials can be used, but some are more durable than others. The example below uses 8 gauge plastic vinyl.
- Elastic: two pieces
- Needle and thread or sewing machine
- Iron and ironing board
- Pins or clips
- Seam ripper or awl
- Optional: non-rusting metal or plastic nose bridge clip
Step 2: Cut out pattern
Check that you printed the pattern to scale by measuring the square in the upper right corner. It needs to measure 1 inch. Cut along the perimeter of mask as well as the smallest box in the center.
Step 3: Cut out fabric
Using the pattern, cut out two pieces of fabric.
Line up the pattern on top of the fabric. Using a seam ripper or awl, punch four points in the corners of the larger center square.
Cut from the corners of the square to the holes you punched in the previous step.
Fold back each tab you just cut and press. Repeat on second cut of fabric.
Step 4: Sew both sides together
Connect pieces by sewing ¼’’ seam around perimeter. Trim bulk around corners. Press.
Turn right-side out through the center square. Use a pointed tool (e.g., pencil, knitting needle, etc.) to push out corners for sharper lines. Press.
Align center squares and pin.
Sew around the perimeter of the mask close to the edge.
Pick one of the long sides of the mask to be the top. Position nose clip inside of mask centered and against stitch that you just sewed. Stitch around nose clip so that it stays in place.
Step 5: Add Vinyl window
Insert clear vinyl, align, and pin. Be careful that you do not puncture the vinyl in the window part of the mask.
Sew along the perimeter of the window close to the edge.
Step 6: Shape mask structure
Fold sides in long ways to meet in the middle. Pin being careful not to puncture the vinyl. Sew the along the longer sides as close as you can to the edge. This will create parallel creases.
Take one of the corners along the long edge of the mask and fold it to meet the crease you just sewed. This will create a “Z” shape where the horizontal lines are parallel. Pin. Repeat with every corner.
Fold short edge and sew along existing seam. This will secure the fold you made in previous step and create a sleeve where the elastic will be threaded through.
Step 7: Add elastic
Thread elastic through sides (a pipe cleaner might be helpful for this part). Tie elastic to fit.