Making NHS Scrubs: Sharing Our Knowledge
Last week saw the launch of our campaign to produce medical-grade personal protective equipment for our beloved National Health Service. If we are entirely honest with ourselves, as luxury shirtmakers, at the start of this journey, we didn’t know a great deal about producing PPE. Therefore, we are very grateful to our phenomenal partners for their support and patience over the last few weeks.
Following our announcement, we received an overwhelming number of messages of praise and gratitude, from all corners of our community. Understandably, among these lovely messages, we also received a great number of calls from individuals wishing to lend their support also and get involved with the COVID-19 effort.
Accordingly, we wanted to take this opportunity to share the learnings of our journey so far in the hope that we can advance the cause beyond our limited capacities. Below we are publishing our knowledge in good faith, to encourage others to benefit from our mistakes and contribute where appropriate and reasonably possible. After all, we’re more powerful when we pull together, metaphorically, of course.
We sourced our scrubs fabric from Lancashire-based Carrington Textiles, with over 125 years’ experience manufacturing workwear fabrics, they can provide the correctly finished and navy-dyed polyester-cotton blend fabric to meet the NHS’s standards. It is also key to note that this blend allows for a 60-degree wash, which is the temperature advised for killing coronavirus.
Our specific scrub design requires a separate bound neck strip which required us to link up with Leicester-based bias binding experts, K Stephens, with our polyester-core threads sourced from Threads Directs.
Regrettably, Carrington Textiles’ warehouse was tragically hit by a fire, which has since impacted the stock availability of our particular fabrics. However, Klopman in Italy, Tootal in The Netherlands and Burlington Fabrics in the United States also produce medical-approved fabrics. And, for this very reason, these manufacturers are acknowledged as key workers and are thankfully still producing fabric.
The patented pattern for our NHS scrubs is owned by fellow Royal Warrant holders and medical equipment suppliers, Alexandra Workwear. Founded in 1854, Alexandra played a key role in developing patterns, producing and distributing protective workwear throughout the 20th century and beyond. Due to the patented nature of our pattern we are unable to share it, however, below we have included several links to other approved open-source designs.
Our key distribution partner is Alexandra Workwear; however, we are also working closely with medical supplies distributor ALSICO, both accredited as official distributors to the NHS.
In accordance with the NHS’s delivery requirements, each piece of PPE leaving our workroom must be sealed in polyester bags to ensure a safe and hygienic transit. We have therefore set about utilising a surplus of redundant polybags that were no longer suitable for customer-facing packaging for this purpose.
HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED
FREE DISTRIBUTION FOR UK MANUFACTURERS
If you’re a UK manufacturer and have turned your attention and resources to help support the efforts of our NHS and are looking for a distribution partner, Freight Brokers, the international courier broker dedicated to the fashion and luxury sectors, have, during these difficult times, committed to sending out a total of 1,000 parcels each month free of charge. Head over to their Instagram for more details.
OPEN SOURCE PATTERNS VIA SCRUB UP!
This volunteer-run platform of designers and sewers have collated open-sourced patterns for scrubs, masks and other items of clothing for novices or professionals to produce as well as facilitating you in finding the fabric and delivering the garments where they are most needed during the outbreak of COVID - 19. Follow their Instagram page or join them on Facebook.
British designer and developer, Roo Williams, has responded to the coronavirus crisis with the creation of his EVERYMASK project – an innovative mask design that enables us all to become PPE cottage factories, using as few materials as possible. His resourceful design is completely stitch-free, allowing for rapid production levels, and comfort to those in lockdown without a sewing machine or necessary skillset for other patterns.
BURLINGTON FABRICS MASK KIT
Manufacturer of medical-grade fabric, Burlington Fabrics, worked with White Oak to produce and distribute mask making kits. Unfortunately, they are currently sold out. However, you can learn more about their fabrics and those needed for the production of scrubs on their website.
EMERGENCY DESIGNER NETWORK
Empowering makers of all scales to make a positive contribution to the cause, a collective of designers and small scale manufacturers have united to form the Emergency Designer Network [EDN]. They are looking for skilled sewers to join their ranks, who collectively, can provide a significant volume of scrubs and robes to frontline medical workers. If you can volunteer your skills or simply make a financial contribution to the provision of raw materials, find out how you can help, here.