With the national “For the Love of Scrubs” campaign in full flight, hobby sewist, Emma Dalzell set up the ‘Mid Cheshire Hospitals - Leighton/Northwich’ offshoot to respond to increasing requests from local hospitals for scrubs and other items required on the frontline as the health service continues its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“Having joined the national Facebook group, I thought I’d make a couple of pairs and that would be it, but in conversation with a contact at Crewe’s Leighton Hospital, I found there was a desperate need for scrubs in our area which motivated me to start the local group,” Emma recalls. In the space of three weeks since its inception in early April, it now has around 1,000 members and covers towns across Cheshire, from Macclesfield in the east, to Tarporley in the west and extends south into Shropshire.
“We have volunteer sewists funding their own fabric, sewing groups pooling their efforts and even non-sewing volunteers who drive and distribute the material,” she continues. “But one of our biggest challenges has been sourcing patterns.”
These are typically printed on paper, with the various sizes of each panel of the garment represented at 100% scale. The sewist cuts out the appropriate panel, pins it to the fabric before cutting that out and making up the garment. “Once we’d found the suitable pattern design, a lot of our members were printing them at home and sticking the A4 pages together, which as well as being time consuming can lead to potential issues with incorrect scaling,” Emma points out.
Located in Crewe, not far from Leighton Hospital is Hybrid Services, the UK and Ireland distributor for wide format printer manufacturer, Mimaki Engineering. “One of the team spotted a Facebook post appealing for help with producing the patterns,” comments Brett Newman, Hybrid’s chief operations manager. “As soon as we realised we could help, a number of the Hybrid staff volunteered to assist, returning to our office to produce the plans at A0 size to help the group with this challenge.”
Utilising the instantly dry UV ink on the latest 1.6m wide Mimaki UCJV300-160, the Hybrid volunteers were able to output at high volume and at the larger size, and soon increased the group’s stocks of patterns, ready for distribution across the county.
“We’re hugely grateful for the patterns and we’ve received significant help and donations from so many places,” Emma continues. “Our local Morrisons has supplied paper bags for packaging the finished scrubs – which is obviously environmentally beneficial and has practical advantages too, reducing the quarantine period we have to observe before passing them on.”
The group’s own fundraiser currently stands at an incredible £6,7500 and with continued pleas from frontline healthcare staff, the 400 (and growing daily) sets of scrubs already delivered are having a positive impact. “We have fabric and patterns ready for producing a further 600-700 more at present and we’re working really well as a team to get them to the people that need them most,” Emma confirms. With stories like the part time nurse, whose working hours have increased from one day to six days a week, but who, with only one set of scrubs was laundering them every night, the demand is still very much there.
“Our work now includes laundry bags, head bands and a range of different weights of scrubs that are suitable for using in different circumstances – from lighter weight sets that are worn on the frontline under full PPE through to heavier weight fabrics that are more suited to the requirements of district nurses,” Emma concludes. “With distribution hubs in all the main towns in the area and a named volunteer who collects and drops off the products locally, we’re minimising travel and observing social distancing whilst still helping an ever-growing group of frontline healthcare workers.”
Image caption: Clockwise (from left): Nurse Rachael Slater, Richard Williams (and his dog, Skye) - one of several volunteers at Hybrid who have helped print the patterns for the scrubs, Nurses in Knutsford sporting their new scrubs.