Sewing scrubs for the NHS

I've spent the last 24hrs in an internet-research hole figuring out how I can contribute to the effort to produce scrubs for frontline NHS staff. It's a little bit more complicated to navigate than you might think! So, I'm sharing what I've found in an effort to help others start contributing quicker.




Why is there a shortage of scrubs?

There's a shortage of scrubs because (I think) normally nurses wear a uniform which they can travel to and from work in and wear repeatedly. With the coronavirus pandemic, there's a sudden increased need for scrubs, as scrubs are taken off at work and washed. When you next come to work, you need a new, clean set of scrubs. Nurses, please tell me if I have got this totally wrong!

Where can I find a scrubs pattern?




How do I actually get the scrubs to where they're needed?

This is the trickiest part to negotiate! I absolutely love a grassroots anarcho-civic movement, and searching through all the different groups that people have created in order to organise this effort has warmed my heart like a back-garden bonfire on midsummers eve. Anyway:

Scrub Hub - Scrub Hub is like an umbrella name for a network of local 'hubs' each coordinated by a different person to supply hospitals in a particular region. You can search for your local hub here, and each has a different way of joining. The sense of order really appealed to me, as well as the fact that your Scrub Hub sends you pre cut fabric pieces so all you have to do is sew. I had to fill in a form to apply to sew and then found out my local hub (Newham) is over-subscribed for sewists, so I can't contribute through this route. It's probably a London thing!

For The Love Of Scrubs - This is a national group and also really well organised, though that isn't apparent straight away. Through them, there are a few ways of finding hospitals etc that are accepting scrubs donations:

  1. Check out this photo album where you can search by image (just scroll through!) for a hospital local to you. The written info will then specify what colours, sizes etc the hospital needs and how to make your donation.
  2. This Trello board has a really nicely organised list of hospitals that are (and are not) accepting donations. It's the same info as the photo album, just a different way of accessing it.
  3. There are also two topic-groups within the main Facebook group where medical staff can ask for specific donations that you can volunteer to provide. Check out the 'Cry For Help' topic group and the 'Medical Staff Looking For Scrubs' group.

What fabric should I use?
If you're sewing for Scrub Hub, you don't need to worry about this question as they'll send you the fabric pieces you need.

Otherwise, you'll need plain poly-cotton blend fabric at a minimum 125gsm. It looks like suppliers are running out of fabric all the time so you might need to do your own research on this one. Thanks to a recommendation from Fiona, I bought some from this nicely curated selection from Taylor & Abel.

Advice is to add a waist tie rather than an elasticated waist as elastic deteriorates quickly. You could buy twill tape for this, or just sew waist ties from strips of fabric.

Any other scrub-making tips?

Because this is sewing and sewing-people are amazing, you can find extra guidance on how to construct scrubs in various places.
  • Tree from Stitchless TV has made a video tutorial to help people sew scrubs tops.
  • Hannah has shared a detailed blog post on the modifications her Mum has made to speed up the scrubs-making process.
  • Dot N Cross have made a step-by-step tutorial on how to make scrubs and will be releasing a pattern, though the tutorial works without it.

Right, I'll leave it there, if you have any other scrub-making tips, info or resources please do share them in the comments and I'll add them to the post. Let's use our powers sewists!

Love from Rosie xx

Comments

  1. Amazing thanks Rosie! My best tip is to batch sew your scrubs. That means, try and cut out as many as possible to begin with (double your layers if your scissors/rotary blade can take it) then prep your hems on every top, prep your hems and topstitch all your pockets, prep your facings and so on. Then as you start to construct your tops it will feel like you are going faster as opposed to trying to finish one set at a time. Also for prepping hems, cut long strips of 1cm and 2cm card (depending on hem allowances) and use these to iron over hems. Saves time!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Clare! Sorry I am soooo slow to read blog comments. Batch sewing is a great tip, thank you. Wish I'd read your cardboard hem tip before I sewed all my scrubs last week too, that is genius! Next time....

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  2. thank you Rosie for your links and tips (and to Clare for her tips above) - there is an iniative starting here (Ireland) to get sewing for local homes and hospitals. I have volunteered so should be starting soon. A local nursing home has already been in contact with me explaining they need 70 sets as they had to take on new staff and other staff that are in self isolation have brought home scrubs so they are not constantly on the back foot (so no pressure).

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