For the Love of Scrubs: Seasalt Supports Cornwall’s Sewing Community

We chat to sewing teacher Annie Lucas, who is galvanising Cornwall’s creative community to make protective clothing for NHS workers. We were delighted to donate some of our signature fabrics.

Sewing teacher Annie Lucas who is leading the Cornwall Scrubs campaign

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been so inspired by how the communities around us have pulled together to support one another.

This week, there has been lots of coverage about the shortfall of scrubs and hats, not only for frontline hospital staff, but for many other NHS staff who wouldn’t normally need to wear them. Joining the national effort of sewers across the UK, an ever-growing group in Cornwall is stitching scrubs for local hospital and healthcare workers.

The For the Love of Scrubs campaign began in Lincolnshire and soon spread nationwide. The Cornwall effort is being led by Annie Lucas, who runs her own sewing school on the north Cornish coast, having previously made costumes and bridal wear for a living. She now has almost one thousand volunteers across the county, giving their time to sew, wash fabric, cut and distribute additional protective clothing for NHS staff.

We were pleased to lend our support by making a large donation of spare fabric, in all sorts of beautiful Seasalt colours and prints. Annie felt our fabric, with its colourful designs, will be well-received as hospital hats, due to the isolated and impersonal experience that Coronavirus patients are having to face during their illness. We can’t think of a better use for it!

We caught up with Annie to find out more…

How did you get involved in the For the Love of Scrubs campaign?

A few weeks ago I was invited to join the UK-wide group, set up by an incredible A&E nurse called Ashleigh Lindsell. It had 700 members then. There are now 23,000 members and volunteers co-ordinating the effort all over the UK. It’s a tremendous example of the sewing community coming together, something which is a core value to me and underpins my own sewing business

What is your background in sewing?

I started sewing as a tiny girl when I found a bag of material one Sunday morning. Every weekend I would chop up a bit of something and I started to look closely at the way garments were constructed to try to recreate them myself. I went to Central St Martins and London College of Fashion to train as a costume designer and worked professionally in London, before moving to Cornwall and starting a bridal label. After the birth of my daughters, I launched my pop-up sewing school, Start to Stitch. This has been a real calling for me. Everything about the way I run my classes has been to bring people together in shared activity, it’s about community and friendship as much as it is about learning a new skill. I recently set up a group for the growing community of sewists in Cornwall called Kernow Sewcial and many of those people have volunteered to be part of the Cornwall Scrubs. Sewing has been a form of self-care for me for many years and the impact on mental health of a hobby like this can be so positive.

How have you found your sewing volunteers?

We set up a Facebook group and it just grew! By the end of the first day we had 500 people and at the time of writing this it is north of 1100. All our volunteers have registered on a purpose built database (designed by another wonderful volunteer) and we’re in the process of finalising a pipeline for production and distribution across the county to ensure that quality control is maintained and that the items can get to those that need them fast!

What items are you making?

We are making scrubs caps, scrubs and laundry bags – all the patterns can be found on our group page, there are also signposts to other places to find them if accessing the files is tricky. They’re are all pretty standard items, so there is a tight spec in terms of the fabrics we use and the methods for pre-treating if required. The scrubs are relatively simple as they are not fitted but if you are a beginner, the caps and bags are definitely more manageable!

Where are the items going?

We have been flooded with requests from hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes and others, all in need of scrubs and caps, to protect themselves from viral transmission. Many of these amazing people usually wear their own clothes but this is now completely impractical, so as you can imagine there is a nationwide shortage of scrubs from the usual suppliers. Anyone who works in a health care setting can make a request through our website and we have been fundraising extensively to ensure we can generate enough to meet demand. Donations of fabric such as yours are a vital part of this process because it means we can make more – and the bright colours and patterns of Seasalt, inspired by Cornwall and made by Cornish people, is symbolic in itself of the wonderful sea swell of support we as a community can give these people, risking themselves to keep us safe and well. Additionally the happy prints inject a bit of normality into an otherwise highly clinical situation, which we are sure will help lift spirits both among staff but also for the Covid 19 patients who are surrounded by almost faceless people and are separated from their loved ones. We are so grateful, thank you.

How can people lend their support?

We are getting so many messages of thanks, and it is becoming clear that for our community too, this is providing an extraordinary way of giving something positively at a time when we are otherwise utterly powerless.

It will probably be one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life to have been involved in setting this up, I am so grateful to everyone involved for making it happen!