Introduction: MakeIt Clearly Heard Mask

About: Makerspace member, random maker of stuff

Why this mask?

Note: Updated August 25 with V2 - removes need for Bias Tape, shows how to adjust window size for improved breathability, and doesn't "gap" easily when opening mouth extra wide.. see "Step 17" below for the minor changes to the pattern and steps. Please note that this should not be used as a "wear all day" mask, as the increased visibility means you lose some breathability.

There are a lot of great mask designs out there, unfortunately most of them hide your mouth when you’re talking. In some cases that lack of visual cues is just a minor annoyance, but for many people it can have a drastic impact on their ability to understand you.

There are some great clear window mask designs out there too, unfortunately many of them use plastic sewn in place, making it hard to wash them or even causing holes in the plastic that let more particles through unintentionally.

What I hadn’t found was a design that incorporated some of the nice, easy-to-make patterns with a good fit and good aesthetics with a safe mechanism for a removable window. So I took inspiration from a few of my favorite patterns, and began experimenting. We’d been making tens of thousands of Face Shields at our Makerspace (MakeIt Labs) so we certainly had enough plastic to experiment with!

One day I stumbled across an amazing type of pattern, with the best example I found coming from Aplat who also published DIY instructions:

[Aplat’s Origami Mask]

And suddenly I realized that with a few variations that style would be a perfect base for a removable window face mask. A few dozen attempts and variations later and it led to this, which has been accepted by some local hospitals for their ASL needs.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope you share with others. Thank you to all the amazing makers and designers out there sharing their work and their expertise – please support them wherever you can.

Required disclaimer: This mask does not guarantee safety nor is it certified by anyone. It is *not* an N95 respirator or even close. Please stay safe out there, and follow guidelines for washing, social distancing, and staying away from others if you’ve been exposed to something.


There are only a few supplies needed:

  • 1 full-sized printout of pattern
  • One "Fat Quarter" of cloth, or similar amount (minimum of 1'x2')
  • A 2.5”x6.5” piece of clear, food-safe plastic (See Recommendations)
  • Elastic string or elastics for ear loops (See Recommendations)
  • A nose band (See Recommendations)
  • 14” of ¼” Double-fold bias tape (Optional but recommended)

And the following tools will be used:

  • Pencil, Pen, Marker, etc
  • Ruler
  • Sharp scissors (one for fabric, one for plastic)
    • Especially if you're borrowing someone else's fabric scissors and value your hide...
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine or a needle and thread
  • Standard single Hole paper punch (Optional, recommended)

Step 1: Choose Your Cloth Material

Is Cotton your go-to material? Recycling Non-woven Polypropylene (NWPP) shopping bags? Silk/ Quilting fabric? Burlap? Ok wait, please don’t use burlap.

There are lots of materials out there you can choose from, and some great references on properties of different materials. I like this one from MakerMask:

[MakerMask Fabrics 101]

But in short I suggest you make this mask out of one or more of these four materials:

  • Non-Woven Polypropylene (65-100gsm (more GSM = heavier fabric, see the link above)
  • Cotton Poplin (100-130gsm)
  • Quilting Cotton (150-180gsm)
  • T-Shirt Cotton (140-180gsm)

Cotton versions will stand up to repeated washing better, whereas Non-Woven Polypropylene provides better droplet protection and potentially better filtration. For fun, maybe make one of each and see what you like best!

Whatever you choose, you'll need two pieces each the size of an 8.5"x11" piece of paper. A "Fat Quarter" (TIL: this is a real thing!) has enough fabric for 2 masks, a NWPP shopping bag has enough for 1-2, a T-shirt should has enough for 3-4.

Step 2: Print Out Pattern

The PDF pattern is designed to be printed on two sheets of 8.5”x11” paper – one for the cloth parts, one for the Window insert. Please make sure that in your print options you print it at 100% (unless you're intentionally scaling the pattern), so it doesn’t shrink to fit the page. To be sure it printed at the right size, check the measurements shown on the printout with a ruler.

Step 3: Cut Two Identical Pieces

This mask only uses two pieces of fabric. For the basic version (Note: a slightly more advanced version is coming later which adds one more small piece of fabric and one more step) you can use two of the same types of fabric, two of the same type and different colors, multiple types of fabric, etc. Go nuts, you do you.

Tip: If you’ve never made a mask before, I’d recommend using just one type and color of fabric first.

Cut both the outer lines as well as the rounded rectangle of the inner window.

Step 4: Sew Outer Edges

Stack the pieces on top of each other so all edges are lined up nicely, then stitch all the way around the Outside edges of the two pieces, about 1/8” or so from the edge.

DO NOT sew the rounded rectangle hole in the middle at all during this step. That comes later.

Step 5: Clip Corners

In a minute you’re going to turn this thing inside out, but there’s a trick to do first to make sure the corners look nice once you do that – clip before you flip!

What you’re going to do is CAREFULLY cut off a portion of each corner between where your stitch line is and the outside. You do not want to cut the stitching, you just want to remove a little triangle of material that will otherwise bunch up and cause things to be less uniform later.

Step 6: Turn Inside Out and Iron

The reason you didn’t sew the rounded rectangle before is that now you can turn the sewn pieces inside out, like a pillowcase (if a pillowcase had both ends sewn shut and a big hole in the middle).

Once it’s turned inside out, use your fingers, a wooden spoon handle, or whatever you want to push the corners out as far as possible. Since you clipped the extra material from the corners in Step 5 you should get nice crisp corners.

If you’re using cotton, gently iron the whole thing flat, or use a heavy book, or just smoosh it with your hands and say “Eh, good enough, I’m in a hurry” (my typical method).

Step 7: Add Nose Piece

Now place the nose piece you have – whether it’s a coffee bag closure tie, a twist tie, a piece of rust-proof wire, or even a commercial steel noseband – between the two layers of fabric, pushed up against the top seam at the very center. Draw a line along the bottom edge of the noseband piece - this will be where you will sew to form an open-ended pocket for the nose piece.

Remove the nose piece and sew along that line, so you don't accidentally sew through it

Now insert the nose piece between the two layers of fabric and into the pocket that's been formed. This is now the Top of the mask

Step 8: Sew Bias Tape Around Center Rounded Rectangle

For those of us without good sewing skills, this is the part that’s easiest to mess up. So there are two approaches:

  • You can cut a 14" long piece of bias tape and use your sewing skills to make it conform well to the window hole. This will come out looking like the Dark Blue example shown in this instructable.
  • You can "cheat" and cut 4 separate pieces of bias tape, cut a 1/2" slit in the fold of each one, and overlap the ends. This will come out looking like the Light Blue example in this instructable (well, probably better, I warned you my sewing skills were less than stellar, didn't I?)

Make sure whichever way you choose you sew at least 1/8" away from the outside of the Bias Tape - this is extremely important to make sure you can "clip" the plastic shield into place later! If you forget, all is not lost, you can use two drop of hot glue instead, but then you'll have to reapply hot glue every time you wash the mask... less than ideal.

Note: You don’t have to buy Bias Tape! There are 3d printed doodads you can make to make your own bias tape and they work well if you want to go that route and reuse things you already have. If you don’t have a 3d printer, or a friend with one, it may be easier to just buy it though.

Step 9: Fold & Sew Top and Bottom Flaps

You’re getting closer. Fold the “Top” (with the nose band piece) towards the center hole along the dashed line shown in the pattern. Then sew all the way across, at least 1/8” or so from the fold line but no more than 1/4" away.

Note: Once you make this fold, whatever side you folded the fabric to is the “back” of the mask, and all other folds MUST be folded to the “back” of the mask as well.

Now repeat that with the Bottom, folding it to the "back" of the mask as well (this means the top and bottom flaps will overlap slightly) and sewing it at least 1/8" (but no more than 1/4") from the fold line.

You'll now have two flaps on the same side of the mask.

Step 10: Fold and Sew Elastic Pockets

With the "back" of the mask visible, fold the Left hand side on the Elastic fold line against the "back" of the mask.

Now sew one straight seam at least 1/4" away from the fold line, forming a tube/channel for the elastic to go through.

Repeat this on the Right side.

Step 11: Origami Time! Pinch and Sew Corners

Now here’s one of the two tricks that gives the mask its shape, and why this kind of pattern is sometimes referred to as Origami-inspired. Make sure to look at the “after” picture, though, as the wording is a bit confusing!

Here we go..

  • Fold the Top Flap (from Step 9) in half upwards so the edge of the flap and the edge of the mask align.
    • Note the 45-degree angled line that the edge of the flap makes when folded, this is important in a moment.
  • Hold the mask by the Top Left portion of the Elastic Tube pocket/channel.
  • Take the left corner of the flap and move it directly to the left, keeping it aligned with the top of the mask, until the formerly 45-degree angle is now parallel with the edge of the Elastic pocket.

What you should notice at this point is that the fabric definitely won’t lie flat if you sew it like this – and that’s the point. This “pinching” pulls the fabric in a way that forces it to form a bend, much like Origami.


  • Pin or clip the flap right where it is and sew a vertical line about an inch from the vertical edge of the flap.

It should look something like this:

Now Repeat the same thing for the Bottom-Left Flap, and you should end up with something like this:

Now repeat this on the other side for both corners, and each side should look like the picture shown

Step 12: Cut and Insert Elastics

Cut two pieces of Elastic String about 9” in length, and pull one through each of the Elastic channels you sewed earlier.

Tip:: There are a lot of cool tools for threading string or elastic through pants that you can use, or you can use a plain old drinking straw and a little tape – insert the straw through, tape the elastic to the straw, pull it back through. In this photo I used a Kebab skewer. Tada!

You'll tie the elastics to the right length for your face later.

Step 13: Cut Plastic Window

If you’ve gotten a kit from someone that includes a pre-cut PET window, this step is really easy.

If you don’t have a PET window, or you don’t know what PET is or where to get it it’s still easy. PET is a food-safe plastic typically found in Soda Bottles and food packaging. This design works with PET of any thickness from 7 thousandths of an inch (0.007”, 7mil, etc) all the way up to 30 thousandths (0.030, 30mil, etc). A single, smooth-walled 2-liter soda bottle provided enough plastic for more than 6 of these windows, 10 if you’re super careful.

Tip: I recommend 7-12mil plastic, which is what was commonly used for Face Shields - see if someone near you has plastic scrap they can provide for free!

Trace the Window pattern (using a felt marker or dry erase marker) onto your plastic. The solid lines are what you'll cut, the Dashed lines are for folding a small flap of plastic that helps "hook" the window against the Bias tape, keeping it in place through a much wider range of facial expressions.

When cutting out plastic, be EXTREMELY careful:

  • Cut plastic edges are sharp, tools are sharp, fingers are soft.
  • If using a Soda Bottle:
    • Lay out the pieces so the long way goes AROUND the bottle, not UP the bottle – you want the bottle’s natural outside curve to help keep your mask doing its job.

Tip: I also recommend you use a standard single-hole paper punch to punch a 1-2 holes in the the 4 "tab" corners - this improves airflow very slightly, but every little bit makes fora more comfortable wearer.

Step 14: Insert Plastic Window

Now, looking at the Back of the mask, slip one side of the plastic into the triangle-shaped pockets on that side you formed during the "pinch and sew" step with those Origami pinched folds.

Repeat the same on the other side.

Once you're sure it fits (and which direction fits most tightly, based on how your plastic bends), fold the small flaps on the Top and Bottom of the insert away from the side facing your mouth. It helps to take the plastic piece out of the mask when doing this, and use the edge of a ruler or scissor handles to put a good crease in the flaps.

These flaps will "hook" onto the Bias Tape, helping keep the window in place more securely.

Note: There are two alternate ways of attaching the shield as well - the first is you can use a drop of hot glue in the center of the top and bottom of the window. The second involves a little trick that will be in an update to this instructable around August 7.

Step 15: Adjust Elastics and Nose Band - Done!

Everyone has a slightly different face shape, so make your mask fit you and not the other way around. Tie the elastics at whatever length comfortably holds the mask on your face without being too tight on your ears, then bend the node band slightly to help it conform to your nose and form a better seal with your face.

That's it! You have a mask!

Step 16: Use, Care, Acknowlegdments

Safety note: Because this mask trades off Visibility for Breathability, it is VERY IMPORTANT to note this should not be an all-day mask. The variant being posted later this week has options for more breathability with the same base pattern and a smaller window (and removes the need for Bias Tape if desired).

To keep your mask clean, limit fogging, and other good things, we recommend:

  • Remove plastic window before washing
  • When cleaning plastic window, use liquid dish soap and hot water, wipe with paper towel after dry to remove any remaining streaks.
  • Use Gentle wash cycles and no bleach, unless the elastic and material have proven they can handle it.
  • Wipe a single drop of dish soap along the inside of the plastic window to reduce fogging

If you have questions, improvements or suggestions feel free to reach out!

Special thanks go to the mad sewing skills of Trish for the Dark Blue titlebar version, to the team at Solution Health for trying out the (many) early prototypes and giving their feedback, to all my friends and crazy volunteers at MakeIt Labs, to the MakersRespond, HelpfulEngineering, MakerMask and OSMS teams, and everyone out there helping keep people safe whatever way you're doing it.

Step 17: Mask V2! Smaller Window Option, No Bias Tape.

While the original design works, the Bias tape step can be a pain so this is a slight modification. It also allows you to customize the size of the Window - just shrink the center rectangle as needed if you want improves visibility, different shape (smiley face?), etc.

  1. Use the MaskV2 Pattern, which provides a rectangular window and "flaps" that will be folded over and sewn to create a sturdy edge
  2. Fold over and sew the window "Flaps" individually on each of the two Mask pieces
  3. Place the two mask pieces together, with the flaps on the outside, sew around outside edge.
  4. Flip inside out and continue all steps EXCEPT Step 6 (Bias Tape).

When done, you'll want to adjust the plastic insert slightly:

  1. Trim the Window plastic. Insert the plastic and draw a line ( I use a Dry Erase Marker) outside of your seam line (see 4th picture above) to mark the "do not cross" line. Cut out excess plastic, leaving the overall "H" shape to ensure the mask retains its proper bent form.
  2. Insert the Plastic between the layers, trimming as needed until the "arch" it forms through tension sits flat with all fabric (See last picture above).

As always, there may be further customizations in the future, or improvements based on feedback. SO keep the comments coming!