In the name of fashion as art, which is rightfully the way it is studied, created and presented in culture, we seem to have forgotten the functional application of putting together pieces of fabric. Sewing and cutting are tools of expression, but they are also very, very useful. A commonly used phrase about fashion and the arts is “You are not saving lives after all!” No, we are not. But we can help those who are.
In the last few weeks fashion designers, creatives, and anyone who is able to cut and sew have started making scrubs for the ones at the front line of COVID-19, reminding us that this is an industry-driven by teamwork.
What are scrubs and why do nurses and doctors wear them?
Scrubs are the uniform of healthcare professionals that protect them from and help to identify their patients’ bodily fluids and general contaminants. They are easy to replace and they can be cleaned and sterilized at very high temperatures. Scrubs are easy to make and their large pocket space lets nurses and medics carry their equipment. During extreme conditions, such as a pandemic, there is a shortage of scrubs due to the need for more frequent cleaning and sterilization.
Art universities are encouraging their students to use their hands and sewing machines by making scrubs; the CSM Fashion & Textiles foundation course launched the initiative #CSMLOVESNHS and invites staff, students and the public to download patterns and to then email a member of staff for advice on how and where to send them.
To make the patterns you can use anything you have at home; Connect pieces of A4 paper, wrapping paper or newspapers.
Sustainable designer Elliss Solomon in collaboration with Rayon Vert, started the initiative SCRUB UP! , a volunteer-run platform that open sources PPE patterns and constantly updates professionals and novices on material specifications and hospitals that need and can receive scrubs in the UK.
Here are the pdfs for the patterns, with detailed information on how to pattern cut using objects that you have at home:
These are the hospitals that accept scrubs and the sizes they need: HOSPITALS UK
Always label your packages as “SCRUBS DONATIONS”
If you have a sewing machine but are not an expert, don’t be discouraged. The pattern links above entail an accessible step-by-step guide on how to do it. Check the Scrub Up Instagram for video tutorials.
Here are the hospitals in the US that are requesting masks: HOSPITALS US
Upcycling designer Erika Maish is making and donating face masks in the last weeks; “There are many big companies in Los Angeles that have converted to making fabric masks which address a lot of the major needs. In the beginning, I was questioning my ability to help because I don’t have a huge production capability but this whole mask-making crusade of home sewers has really inspired me in that small contributions add up to something big. From what I’ve seen the consensus on the best fabric to use has been 100% cotton as it is easy to sanitise. Masks 4 Medicine puts them in an autoclave before distributing them to hospitals. I also recommend sewing them with an opening to insert a filter. I’ve tried out most of the patterns and I think the surgical style is the most universal fit. The higher the thread count of a woven fabric the more protection it offers and multiple layers of fabric and filter also help.”
Here are the patterns and resources that Erika has been using:
“What we produce as a fashion industry is not vital right now but our skills are and that makes me very hopeful. Even though what’s happening is terrible through making masks I’ve experienced a great sense of being part of a worldwide community that I didn’t feel before. “
Designers and makers can also help by turning their offcuts into masks for people who are not high risk but feel more comfortable wearing one when outside. Given the huge shortage in medical face masks, it is vital to avoid buying or using tools that could be life-saving for key-workers and medical professionals. American designer Emily Dawn Long is using any fabric that is left (dyed in natural dyes) from the production of her designs to make masks for anyone who needs one.
There are many different ways that you could help. If you can’t make, donate. If you can’t donate, share. Many of you can do graphics: put any useful information on posters. Many of you can draw: put guides and instructions in images. This is the time to put our vast set of skills to use.