Name: Helena Leeming, you can contact Helena by clicking here to go to our contact form
What is the name of the project/ activity? Providing PPE to a local hospital
Where did the idea come from?
Seeing the demand for PPE on Facebook and Instagram, then seeing a friend in Huddersfield was making scrubs, and felt I wanted to do something, so I asked friend who is a nurse at BRI if they would like some early in April.
Was it developed as a new initiative/ project/ group? Or was it an existing organisation/ group changing what it did?
It was just an idea I had
What did you hope to achieve? What was your initial aim?
To help provide some PPE for nurses at the local hospital.
The friend put out an appeal for fabric and she collected all the offers and dropped it off to me. I sorted it out and there was a lot that wasn’t suitable as we needed cotton or poly cotton. I washed some of the material to ensure it wouldn’t shrink any more when washed in the future. I set up an appeal through GoFundMe and started to get donations to buy fabric, elastic etc.
I put a post on the Yorkshire Scrubs Facebook page and people contacted me offering to help; some people who were not on Facebook came via friends who had seen the request.
I put the pattern for the scrubs on my Facebook page, and people would copy it for friends who were not on Facebook. The nurse friend said the initial demand was for tops, later we went onto make full sets; there was more demand for medium tops and large bottoms.
I started to cut out the material ready for sewing as I had an electric cutter as I am doing a creative pattern cutting MA, and then started to deliver it to people to make up. Yorkshire Scrubs also gave me some material for scrubs to take out. I tried to collect and deliver at the same time, some people it was easy to get to but for others it was much harder to fit them into my normal schedule. I traced out several sets for a person to cut out but I didn’t get much back.
I was contacted by someone with a laser printer who wanted to make visors, I needed someone to make buttons as it was getting very hard to get hold of big buttons for the head bands, he put me in touch with someone who was willing to make the buttons and then I had a steady supply.
The demand grew once more staff were called back in and they needed PPE. Some of the sewers wanted to do more but I was limited in how many I could cut out and take around to people.
I am now closing the project as I need to complete my MA although there is still demand. I am making masks with some of the material left over. I need to sort out what has been made up and get it to the hospital. In time, I will make cushions and other clothing out of the material that was donated and then this can be used to help nursing staff in a different way.
Did you get the take up you expected?
I ended up with 12 people making a variety of headbands, hats, bags as well as scrubs. Some people who were keen at first didn’t do very much but they had a lot of material. Some people were not confident to make the scrubs but started on the bags, hats and headbands; a few then felt okay to make the full set of scrubs.
Did you make any changes as time went on and the virus became less acute for some people?
Other people started to sort out getting the fabric for me and getting other donations, such as a large supply of elastic for the trousers but then we found that many staff preferred having drawstring tapes.
Some of the people who were sewing had to go back to work or had other personal problems so they couldn’t do so much.
I ended up with many bags that people could put their clothes in and then wash them straight away, so now every set of scrubs goes with its own bag.
Based on your experience, what do you think that communities can do best on their own?
This project was good for my mental health and I know it made a big difference to other people who got involved, especially someone who was recently widowed and living alone as it gave them all something to do.
It all happened very quickly and we were trying to make the most of what equipment people already had – people needed to have sewing machines that could overlock to do the scrubs. As word spread so more people could offer help, such a making the buttons or getting hold of elastic.
Based on your experience, was there any help that would have made your work easier?
It was a lot of learning for me as I had never done anything like this before. I had a part time job but was not eligible for furlough, and my self-employment had been less than a year so I had to go onto universal credit.
Based on your experience, were there actions you wanted external agencies to take?
When I started this project the nurses were wearing patient pyjama tops and they were being told not to wear them but there was nothing else. At first many of the managers wouldn’t let staff wear the PPE we had made as it wasn’t up to their set standards; over time this changed with some staff, nurses and doctors and even GP’s contacting us directly or via Yorkshire Scrubs asking for our PPE and saying what sizes they wanted.
Without the friend who was a nurse just taking it in to the hospital we wouldn’t have got very far to start with.
We never got any requests from care homes and even when we offered we never got any replies. Some of the sewers in this project did supply scrubs and masks directly into care homes and to GPs through their own personal contacts.
Although there is still a demand some places will still not accept community made clothes and equipment.
What are your overall reflections on the project?
I needed to delegate more; to have had some help with the driving, dropping the materials off and collecting those made up made up. People could have mini collecting rounds so that more materials could be sent out and more collected.
It would have been helpful to have someone else with an electric cutter.
I was trying to do all this from my home and I didn’t really have the space, it would be good to find a hub to join and work from but I couldn’t do that when lockdown first started.