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Fashion student creates accessible face coverings that enable lip-reading

Madilyn Brigner shares her "summer of sewing"

By Kandace York

Wearing a face covering can sometimes make conversations difficult, especially for someone who can only understand by reading lips. BGSU junior Apparel Merchandise and Product Development (AMPD) major Madilyn Brigner wanted to do something to help. She spent her summer sewing see-through masks.

But the project didn’t originally start out that way. Brigner started making regular face coverings right before the mandate was issued by the state.

“I love to sew, so I taught myself how to make masks,” Brigner said. 

Once she learned how to make them, Brigner offered the masks to her family and friends for free.

“Orders started flying in after I posted on social media about them,” she said.

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Soon after, a family friend reached out to her about making masks for the deaf community and those who were hard of hearing. Traditional face coverings that covered the lower half of the face interfered with that communication.

“My friend’s brothers were having a hard time understanding people because they rely on lip-reading,” Brigner said.

To address this concern but still keep an extra layer between people and COVID-19, Brigner started making face coverings that included a transparent panel in the center. That way, people’s mouths were visible, but they were protecting themselves and others.

“I used a clear vinyl shower curtain by cutting individually sized panels that I sewed right into the masks,” she said.

Brigner made about 200 face coverings with the clear window, which is just under half of the total number of masks she made through the summer. And she gave them all away for free.

“The face covering project had multiple benefits,” she said. “While I was helping other people by making these masks, I was also helping me by giving myself more sewing experience which really helped in my classes.”

Brigner, from Defiance, Ohio, credited her BGSU education with the inspiration for the project.

“My classes have taught me so much about the industry but also so much beyond that. Every single one of my professors has made it known to us that no dream is too big, and we are making steps every day to make our dreams become reality,” she said.

Now in the 2020-2021 academic year, Brigner has stopped making face coverings so she can focus on her junior year.

“The greatest feeling has been knowing that I was helping people in such difficult times.”

Media Contact | Colleen Rerucha | rerucha@bgsu.edu