Saturday Sewing: a tutorial for making Clear Masks

I think I’ve tried almost 10 different styles of masks since the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared.

Sewers around the world have stepped up to the call in so many different ways to help provide non-medical masks. Many of my friends have sewn hundreds of masks all on their own.

There are a lot of patterns out there. Including many shared here on the Janome Life blog.

I originally started making pleated masks. I think it was one of the first styles available back in March when I was looking for tutorials. Then I found – as many of you probably have, that those of us who wear glasses need something more tailored at the nose. I tried some pleated masks with nose wires, but then became curious about a style called 3D masks (one of the first to post about this was Bilikis Signature).

The 3D style is now my go-to mask since it not only helps greatly in preventing my glasses from fogging up but it sits off the face a bit and feels like it’s easier for talking.

The current version that I make is a compilation of design, measurement and instructions from at least three or four different patterns.

As I have been helping provide masks for friends and family, I got a few requests from teacher friends and those who have family who are hearing impaired to consider trying a clear mask style. A challenge that I gladly took up!

Window Mask Instructions

Cut two pieces of fabric 7.5 inches by 10 inches.

The unique 3D shape of this mask comes from this next step. Mark each corner two inches across and two inches down and then cut on the diaconal. I use my cutting mat and position in the grid. Then turn your two pieces right sides together (you can also do the cutting right sides together!).

With right sides facing, sew along top starting at the diagonal and ending along the diagonal on the other side. Then do the same on the bottom.

Next mark the cut-out portion for the clear plastic that will be the window in your mask.

Find the centre of your mask by folding in half lengthwise, and then mark the centre between the top and bottom of the mask.

Mark where you will cut your opening. I marked a rectangle that is 1 1/2 inches lengthwise and 1 inch top to bottom (a half an inch either side of the centre mark). Then I marked where I will notch a diagonal 1/2 inch to turn up my edges and create a nice finish.

Trim the opening using these marks as your guide and press open on both sides.

Turn the mask so the fabrics are right sides out and press the edges.

Cut a piece of plastic for your window. You want the plastic to be slightly bigger than the window so you can edge stitch it in place but not too big so it impacts the fit of the mask. I cut my plastic to 3 inches high by 4 1/4 inches wide.

You want a fairly heavy but still pliable plastic. Something that won’t easily be crinkled or get creased. With this mask it will have to be hand washed and care will have to be take to ensure it’s not stored by folding in half.

Next, fold down the top and bottom to create your front seam for the mask.

With the mask front facing down on your ironing board, fold the top down 1 5/8 inch and press. (Can I just note for a moment that this little ruler has been with me since high school Home Ec!! It certainly shows a little wear and tear but I reach for it a lot!)

Do the same with the bottom of the mask. Fold at 1 5/8 inch and press.

Back at your sewing machine, top stitch along the diagonal, top and diagonal and then the diagonal, bottom, diagonal sections (leave the sides open).

And then with the flap you pressed, run a very scant 1/4 inch top stitch along the length of your mask top and bottom. This helps create the shape around your face.

Insert the plastic piece into the window cutout and position so it fits evenly around all four edges.

Top stitch around all four sides very close to the edge.

Finally we finish off the sides where the elastic will go. Fold down the sides by 1 cm and then again by the same amount, and press.

Stitch along the folded edge. Make sure to backstitch at the top and bottom as this is a spot that will get heavy wear from the elastic.

I’m using the Janome HP foot and plate on my Janome Skyline S9 and it is a dream for these edges!!

Next we fold and sew the flaps to create the final part of our 3D mask.

Take the flap by the corner and place at the top edge of your mask on one side. Do the same for the bottom and then secure by sewing from the top of the mask to the bottom, catching the flap you just folded up.

The last thing to do is thread through your elastic. I am using 11 inch pieces of elastic on both sides. Currently I’m using 1/4 inch elastic but I know a lot of people prefer 1/8 elastic. This can be made using either.

I have been feeding through my elastic using a bobby pin! I saw this hack online and it’s great for those tight, narrow channels (like these!) where it’s hard to fit a safety pin.

And there you have it – a see through mask!

A couple of notes about these masks:

They must be hand-washed and air dried.

Plastic will fog up, eventually. It’s just the nature of plastic masks. They don’t allow the air to circulate out the same that non-medical quilt cotton masks do (and depending on the style, us glasses-wearing people know those can cause fogging issues in other ways).

To get around some of the fogging issues, place a small drop of dish detergent on the inside of the mask on the plastic and rub in with a soft cloth. This makes a huge difference. But you will have to reapply if you wear for long periods of time.

I think these are a great option for those situations where you want someone to be able to see a smile and facial expressions. And for people who could benefit from lip reading. It’s not my go-to, everyday mask but I think it’s great to be able to have the option.

Are you making masks? What is your favourite style? Pleated? Fitted? 3D? Something else? Could you see yourself using a window mask or making one for someone else?


Our grateful thanks to Trina, Janome Canada artisan, for this detailed alternative mask. Ed.

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3 Responses to Saturday Sewing: a tutorial for making Clear Masks

  1. nardapoulin says:

    Wouldn’t it fog up?

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Mary Frances Ballard says:

    Great instructions and pictures! This style is becoming a favorite.


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