“A chain of goodness” – How creatives and their neighbours in South London got together to sew 120 long-sleeve gowns for a local NHS clinic caring for Covid-19 patients
Social distancing can make people feel very isolated. But this latest project (quite different from my usual!) has made me feel more connected than ever: to NHS nurses and GPs I have never met, to fellow makers at Cockpit Arts, to neighbours near home, and to the supporters who have donated.
The outpouring of generosity from everyone involved gives me so much hope through the heartbreak and destruction caused by Covid-19.
Brenda Donnelly, my neighbour and a clinical lead nurse in Southwark mentioned to me in passing that her colleagues were urgently needing long sleeve gowns. Hospitals were being prioritised, and nurses and GPs at the Covid-19 clinic where she works were having to manage without long sleeve protection.
On hearing the question “Can you make long sleeve gowns?”, I thought: “I can’t sew… how could I possibly help?”
It turns out that a strong urge to help and 22 friends, colleagues and neighbours can achieve a lot together!
In close collaboration with milliner Karen Henriksen, we came up with an initial plan – to sew the gowns from a polyester/cotton mix, using a pattern from the Fashion Girls for Humanity charity. Polycotton is a compromise in terms of protection but is affordable and means the gowns can be washed at high temperature after each use.
The long sleeve gowns are being used daily by nurses and GPs caring for Covid-19 patients in the borough of Southwark, and worn on top of scrubs in conjunction with single use plastic aprons.
Thanks to individual makers at Cockpit Arts studios and neighbours helpfully spreading the word, an enthusiastic team of 22 quickly came together.
The group is made up of fabric cutters, stitchers and helpers – all safely working from home. Some team members are on furlough, while others are working, juggling home schooling and families and/or running businesses – meanwhile still managing to sew gowns in their spare time. The team has now produced over 120 long sleeve gowns.
Here is a short video about the South Southwark Covid-19 community clinic where the gowns are being used.
Giving something back to frontline workers
Among the team there is a strong sense of giving back, perfectly captured by bespoke tailor Jennie Adamson:
“My sister is an anesthetist in an intensive care unit, very much on the frontline working overtime and having to stay at a hotel, away from her husband and children (her husband suffers from very bad asthma). So, although not doing anywhere near as much as her, I feel that sewing these gowns is the best way that I can use my skills to help out.”
How to support the project
If you would like to contribute to the project, here is the Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/protective-gowns-for-nhs.
A simple share with your friends by e-mail or on social media is also a great way to help us.
Keep in touch
I do hope you’ve been keeping safe and sane during the social isolation period. Let me know if you are taking part in a creative or social project, I would love to hear from you. Sending my clients and followers all very best wishes.
–Cockpit Arts makers involved are: Clara Breen (jeweller), Karen Henriksen (milliner), Helen Johannessen (ceramicist), Amanda Ross (botanical artist), Jennie Adamson (bespoke tailor), Annette Bugansky (ceramic designer), Aimee Furnival (product designer), Bryony Phipps Wardle (knit designer) and Jesse Noy (leatherworker) and Yusuf Osman (leather goods designer).
–Local community team members include: Lizzy Rugman (Accountant and mother of a cheeky 17 month old), Suzie Freeman (Full-time mummy & upholsterer), Shana Maier-Taplin (Triathlete mom of three), Nicola Curran (Primary school teacher), Carolyn Trendall (Retired interior designer), Melanie Turner (Teacher of design, technology, fashion and textiles) and Charlotte Lucas (Costume supervisor & plant lover)