For these kinds of masks, a clear window allows lips to be seen when worn. Communicator Masks were invented to help lip-readers to be able to see the speaker’s mouth. They are appropriate for use with people who have hearing loss or are deaf. This style of mask can also be really helpful for kids learning languages, reading, or participating in speech therapy, and for those who need to see expressions and emotional cues, as well as the shape of the mouth pronouncing words and sounds.
This style of mask does reduce the breathable surface area, so for efficacy and ease of wearing, a regular two- or three-layer mask (if you are using a filter) is preferable. But for certain situations, we know that these masks are very helpful — if not essential.
We’ve tried a dozen communicator mask patterns, plus modified versions, and decided to recommend an existing pattern with some tips, rather than create something from scratch. The pattern we have been using is the Sewing Seeds of Love (SSOL) pattern with a few modifications! A video tutorial by the pattern creator and the original pattern can be accessed here:
You can download the free pattern at this link. (Please note that ALL of our guidance is based on using the FREE pattern, and the patterns for sale may have slightly different sizing.)
We recommend that you ADD a bendable nose piece for better fit (read on below!) and print the pattern at:
- 105% to help with fit and keeping the mask from squishing down on the wearer’s nose for most adults
- 110% for a large size for an adult
- 100% for a smaller sized adult or a teenager
- 90% for an older child (6-10 years of age)
- 80% for smaller children (4-5 years of age)
Also, when printing the pattern at 105%, which is our preferred size for adults, we recommend that you may want to modify the window cut-out to be ⅜ inch longer on each side (left & right), as shown below. Shorten the height by ⅛ or even slightly more from the bottom to keep the vinyl from touching your chin — this will vary depending on the size of the wearer’s face.
The vinyl window piece you cut out, and sew into place, would be 5.5 x 3 inches after using the above modifications, for most adults.
For grade school children, print the pattern at 90%. The vinyl window piece you cut out and sew into place would be be 4 x 2.75 inches for children, at that pattern size.
Below is an example of how we slightly elongated the width and narrowed the height of the window showing the user’s mouth:
After you have your pattern printed out, cut two pieces of fabric. For situations where the user is hard of hearing or interacting with people who are, we recommend a solid color fabric that contrasts with the wearer’s skin. This is really important! Also, we ask our sewists to use densely woven, high-quality cotton fabrics that are completely opaque when held up to light.
Cut out center window (smaller rectangle).
Cut slits to corners of outer rectangle.
(Check out the laminated version of the pattern that our craftivists made to make this go faster. What a great idea!)
You have two pieces of fabric ready.
This is the front and back of your mask.
Also cut out your vinyl rectangle that will be about ⅜ inch larger than your final window opening.
Our pattern team has used 4 mil vinyl from here. Transparent vinyl usually can be found at craft stores and Wal-Mart.
California does require the placement of some warning labels on vinyl products. An alternative would be clear thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), although this can be harder to find. Please don’t use things like plastic baggies or flimsy material that won’t hold up to repeated washing and wear.
Fold inner flaps to wrong side of fabric and press.
Add double-sided Wonder Tape or another sewable, double-sided tape to your vinyl piece and attach to wrong side of the piece that will be the back piece of your mask.
(Note: In these photos, the polka dots will show on the front of the mask, and the more solid, “wrong” side of the fabric, will be left as the the back of the mask. This is the back piece, so here, the polka dots are the inside/wrong side. The vinyl piece is this example is 4 inches wide by 2.75 inches tall, cut to cover the window seam allowance for our version of the masks at a kid’s size.)
Lay your mask pieces right sides together.
Sew with a ⅜ inch seam allowance and trim corners.
Turn inside out through the center window.
Poke corners out, and press flat.
Topstitch around the outer edge of the mask with a scant ⅛ inch seam allowance.
Now topstitch around the window using a 1/8 to 3/16 inch seam allowance.
Give yourself a little more room here to be to catch the fabric on front and back, but you still want this to be close to the edge so you don’t end up with any fraying or holes in your mask!
Please note: some of our craftivists wait to do this until they have pressed their piece one more time! And THEN slide the vinyl and stitch. Please be careful not to directly touch the vinyl with your iron.
Tie off all threads, snip, and press.
But when you press, please be careful you don’t run your iron over the vinyl!
Flip to the back side of the mask. Cut a 4 inch length of ½ inch wide grosgrain ribbon, and finish the edges by slightly burning them to melt the edge. (Do this somewhere with good ventilation.) You can use slightly thinner ribbon, but you need to have about a ¼ inch channel where you can slide in a metal nose piece, so you’ll really need to sew close to the edge.
Sew the ribbon on, leaving both ends open. This is the channel where you can slide in the nose piece at the top of the mask! Tin ties for coffee bags make great nose pieces. But make sure your channel is WIDE enough to use them.
Fold the long edges to the corner to create a rectangle.
Sew/topstitch with a scant ⅛ inch seam allowance to form a fold.
In this photo, the left side is finished already.
With the folds laying flat on the back of the mask, bring the corner of each flap to the edge of the mask, creating a parallel line between the short edge of the mask and the top fold of the flap. This will not lay flat. You are adjusting the mask to create the 3D shape.
Now fold the short edge of the mask just to cover the parallel fold. This creates the channel for the elastic.
Sew close to the edge of each channel. This is the finished back of your mask.
Pull beading elastic through the channel. You will create a loop of elastic at the bottom of the mask with two ends of the elastic at the top of the mask. We use a piece of looped wire to pull the elastic through the channel (shown in this photo).
We have been using 42 inches of elastic and toggles to create adjustable masks. If you sign up and are approved to make communicator masks for us, we will provide you with all the materials you need!
Attach a toggle to the two elastic ends.
(If you are okayed to sew these for us, we will provide you with supplies, so you’ll have everything you need to make these masks.)
Some of our craftivists prefer to tie the two ends of the cord in an overhand knot, after putting on the toggle, so the toggle won’t accidentally get pulled off.
If time is short, we may also ask the end user at the school or health care agency to help us thread and complete the order of masks — as long as we can find craftivists to sew them.
Now get that mask on someone who needs it!