DIY Communicator Mask Instructions


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:

The tutorial below shows step-by-step instructions for creating a communicator-style face mask using readily available materials. 

A woman is wearing blue face mask, which covers her nose and chin but her mouth visible behind plastic window in center of mask.


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 
  • Scissors
  • 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.

face mask pattern cut out of paper

Step 3: Cut out fabric

Using the pattern, cut out two pieces of fabric.

blue fabric cut from pattern

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.

A hand holds a seam ripper pointed to the corner of the larger square on the mask pattern. The blue fabric is layered under the pattern.

Cut from the corners of the square to the holes you punched in the previous step.

blue fabric with cuts from the corners from the smaller pre-cut square to the points created by the seam ripper.

Fold back each tab you just cut and press. Repeat on second cut of fabric.

blue fabric mask with tabs folded back and pressed to create large size center square.

Step 4: Sew both sides together

Connect pieces by sewing ¼’’ seam around perimeter. Trim bulk around corners. Press. 

Blue fabric pieces stitched around perimeter

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.

Blue mask turned right-side out with no visible seams and sharp lines. A copper double sided knitting needle is next to it.

Align center squares and pin.

Blue fabric mask with inside square aligned and pinned with straight pins.

Sew around the perimeter of the mask close to the edge.

Close up of lower left corner of blue fabric mask with white stitching along edge.

Optional Step:

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.

Blue fabric mask with illustration of where nose clip and stitching would be placed in the center of one of the long sides of the mask
The blue dotted line indicates where the nose clip would be placed between both pieces of the mask before the vinyl window is added. The red dashed line indicates where the stitching is needed to keep the nose clip 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.

blue fabric mask with four pins securing clear vinyl in center window

Sew along the perimeter of the window close to the edge.

blue fabric mask with white stitching around center vinyl window

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.

blue fabric mask with long sides folded to meet in the center and secured by four pins

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.

blue fabric mask with end corners of mask folded creating Z-shape

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.

blue fabric mask with short end folded over the Z-shaped second fold

Step 7: Add elastic

Thread elastic through sides (a pipe cleaner might be helpful for this part). Tie elastic to fit.