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Confessions of a Scrubber

It’s been 12 weeks since I last wrote this blog. I feel as though I’m making a confession! Since then I’ve taken time out to sew as a volunteer for the NHS. With two nursing daughters and given the amount of health care I’ve received over the past 7 years, it’s the least I could do.

It began shortly before the pandemic was announced. With news becoming increasingly worrying, I had received several requests for face masks. Having made them previously for cyclists and runners I set to creating a few from fabric remnants; cotton based coverings with fun designs. Then Covid-19 took a real hold and lockdown measures were put in place. At the same time, I was added to the new group For the Love of Scrubs, set up by Ashleigh Linsdell to help supply scrubs to the NHS. As more staff needed them and the supply chain was exhausted, sewing machines around the country were being utilised for that purpose. From small business to hobbyists, dressmakers to upholsterers; scrubs were in huge demand and those able to help stepped in. I accepted the invitation and joined the scrubbers.

A nationwide group, FTLOS grew phenomenally and soon had 20K+ (now over 50K) members. It was becoming more difficult to negotiate the posts and see where scrubs were needed locally. Spin-off groups were being created, my nearest was the Derby one. I identified another Tamworth scrubber within that group, Deborah Williams and suggested we set up a subgroup in our home town, so at the start of April the Tamworth Sewing Volunteer Group was conceived on Facebook with a fitting logo from my go-to artwork designer Justin Robert Price. As word spread, group numbers increased exponentially. The world of Facebook is not for me so admins were appointed, more subgroups were set up and I re-focussed on making scrubs; the reason I was there. I was introduced to a fellow small businesswoman, Sharon Milner of Dress A Window in Buzzards Valley who had fundraised over £1500 to buy scrub fabric.

She kindly donated 7 rolls of which I had 2 and the volunteer group the remainder. This enabled me to enforce my own lockdown at the sewing machine and get busy.

Fast forward and as well as mucking in with headbands, face masks and scrub bags I have just completed my 30th set of scrubs. Sticking to my plan to donate locally, some have gone to Queens Hospital, Burton where my eldest daughter works in Emergency Department and the rest are at my GP surgery, The Hollies Medical Practice, Tamworth to which my youngest daughter is attached as a Community Nurse. Both places close to my heart having provided me with valuable healthcare for so long, it was a personal mission.

This week saw the completion and collection of the final sets of scrubs from my sewing machine. I can’t lie, it was a relief. Having been used to making one-offs, scrub making was like a production line and could be very intense, especially with the need being so vital. It’s time now to give my machines some TLC and take a few days out to regain some order and direction.

As the outlook for business is still uncertain, just what that direction will be is not clear. Fabric prices have taken a hike due to demand for scrubs and other haberdashery like elastics and cotton can be hard to come by. Prior to the pandemic, my hospital gown design was getting publicity and possibilities for NHS procurement were appearing. The time-lapse and events between have set this progress back understandably but I will continue to pursue that goal,

In the meantime, I must make up lost revenue and so will return to other creative avenues including my vintage and customised clothing range, upcycled one-offs and some activewear. I will resist the well-worn phrase ‘take care’ and overused ‘stay safe’, dodge ‘unprecedented times’ and avoid ‘the new normal’. I do, however sincerely hope that you are all keeping well and that we will come out better on the other side of this.

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