The lockdown sewing club has created thousands of supplies for homeless shelters and NHS staff – but shows no sign of slowing down, writes member Janice Hosegood
When I was put on furlough from my job in March 2020, like many others, I was immediately overwhelmed with a feeling of despondency. I’m used to being busy, and the need to feel useful and valid was strong. So, I began to search for something to help fulfil that.
I come from a northern family of seamstresses, all of them occupied at one time or another as production machinists in shirt factories or as assembly line stitchers – like a Yorkshire version of Made In Dagenham. I was taught how to thread needles and load bobbins from an early age, so when I came across a call for volunteers with Waltham Forest ScrubHub, I knew that was the outlet for my dormant sewing skills.
Together we made hundreds of sets of scrubs for medical practises and clinics: fundraising for fabric and thread, and utilising the group’s sewing, pattern-cutting, distribution and organisation skills. Other members made wash bags for the scrubs, masks, incubator covers and medical drain bags.
After months of fantastic production levels, the demand for scrubs began to slow, and many of the team had to return to work as the end of the first lockdown came into sight.
Certain in the knowledge that our skills could still be useful, a number of the original members – along with a few of us later additions – decided we could redirect our attention.
Strong connections had already been made with local food banks, refuge centres and schools, and the need for scrubs for hospitals and medical centres hadn’t completely gone away. And so the evolution of the team began and brings us to where we are today.
Refocussed and renamed as Sew Solid Crew, we’re a team of over 30 women and men in Waltham Forest and Redbridge.
We’ve now made and donated over 7,000 masks for homeless shelters, food banks, refuge centres, schools, hospitals and over 4,000 NHS wash bags, incubator covers and medical drain bags.
Maria is one of the original driving forces behind this band of volunteers and the woman who inspired me to carry on. She articulates it clearly: “We’re so grateful to everyone working within our NHS and want to do all that we can to help. It’s all about teamwork.”
We’re often asked if what we do is still necessary this far into the pandemic and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Extra scrubs, masks, caps etc are still needed as much as ever by our hardworking NHS – and as long as there’s a need, Sew Solid Crew will carry on sewing.
We’re currently working with some amazing rainbow fabric which was created specifically for the NHS, after momentous fundraising by eleven-year-old Noah Evans last year.
In these first few months of 2021, we’ve made and delivered hundreds of scrubs, masks, caps, gowns and headbands to Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals. Even the CEO of Whipps Cross, Alan Gurney, is seen sporting head-to-toe rainbow workwear now.
Up until recently, we’ve received donations from family and friends and a small grant from the Leytonstone ward fund of Waltham Forest, but in response to increasing demand, we’ve now set up a Sew Solid Crew JustGiving campaign.
All funds that are generously donated go towards buying fabric and threads and paying for professional cutting services. Everything we make, we donate.
Recent feedback from one healthcare worker is why we do what we do at Sew Solid Crew: “It’s so comforting wearing something handmade with kindness – it’s like wearing a hug.”
To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Twitter @sewsolidcrew
Or to donate, visit the Sew Solid Crew’s JustGiving page