The clothing designer and judge of the BBC's Great British Sewing Bee, Patrick Grant, has called on the nation's sewing community to help people adapt to new Government guidance by producing millions of home-made face coverings.

Grant's intervention comes after the Prime Minister yesterday advised people to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn't possible and where you will come into contact with people you don't normally meet – for example, on public transport and shopping.

Grant, whose Cookson & Clegg factory in Blackburn has been manufacturing PPE since the start of lockdown, launched the #BigCommunitySew campaign and praised Britain's sewing community for the remarkable work they've done for the NHS, making scrubs, gowns and other items during the pandemic.

"I've been blown away by the efforts of our sewing community," he said. "The scrub making groups, sewing clubs and thousands of other sewing volunteers who quietly jumped into action to stitch for health and social care workers across the country have humbled and inspired me. But I want more people to get involved. There are around six million sewing machines in homes across the UK. If every one of those can be used to make just a dozen face coverings that would be one for every person in the UK"

He said many sewers were already doing this and pointed to the recent efforts of a group of sewers in Somerset who kitted out an entire village with face coverings.

"It would be fantastic if local communities could look out for each other in the same way they did when lock down started with all the messages on social media groups and notes through neighbours' doors offering help with shopping or any other jobs. I'd like to encourage those who can make or sew to find out who in their community needs face coverings and get making," he added.

The campaign has received support from Government and Michael Gove, The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster added:

"The Big Community Sew is a wonderful example of communities across the United Kingdom coming together to do their bit for the national effort. In pulling together in this way, we can ensure face coverings are available to the public to wear in enclosed public spaces, but crucially that medical grade masks are reserved for our frontline NHS and care workers"

Existing scrub making groups like Scrubhub, NI Scrubs, Help Dress Medics, Margate Scrubbers and many other groups are ready to redouble their efforts.

The Group Co-ordinator of NI Scrubs, Angeline Murphy, said volunteer sewers were already starting to make face coverings.

"Our volunteer group has over 9,000 members, and there is a huge amount of pride among them that sewing skills are being recognised and needed in these challenging times," she said. "Sewing is a simple act of kindness that can make a real difference. It's rewarding at the best of times, but sewing now, with the purpose of protecting friends, family and frontline staff takes that sense of pride and accomplishment to a whole other level!''

Amanda George, who runs the Scrub Hub for Bristol, said she was immensely proud to take part in what's been a huge labour of love.

"Thousands of sewers have joined forces to help the national effort and now there's a big appetite to help produce enough face coverings for every neighbourhood," said George. "We're a growing movement and we hope to get even bigger."

And many of Grant's friends in the sewing community have offered their help too, including fellow Sewing Bee Judge Esme Young, Presenter Joe Lycett, the winner of last year's Sewing Bee Juliet Uzor, Elisalex de Castro Peake of indie sewing pattern label By Hand London and several contestants from this year's Sewing Bee. They have home-filmed simple how-to videos that you can watch on the Big Community Sew website. There are dozens of easy to follow how-to videos already online.

"An average face covering takes less time to sew than it takes to boil an egg," added Grant.

The campaign website www.bigcommunitysew.co.uk also features links to the public health guidance on how to wear and care for your face covering.

And finally, Grant added, "Have fun with this, get the whole family involved, customise them, get creative. And please share pictures and videos of your makes with the hashtag #bigcommunitysew so we can see how you get on."

A sewing pattern is available at: https://dhuratadavies.com/blogs/things-i-make-and-do

Published May 2020