We’ve launched The Big Community Sew to help ensure that every person in every community in Britain has the face covering they need.
There are around six million sewing machines in homes across the UK and if every one of those machines can be used to make just a dozen face coverings that would be enough for every person in the UK.
Sewing is an intensely practical act of kindness and we want this campaign to build on the community efforts established during the pandemic. Check on your neighbours to see if they need face coverings, just as we asked if they needed help with shopping when we first went into lockdown.
Find out who in your community needs face coverings, and get making. And if you’ve not sewn in a while, we’re providing how-to videos, patterns and guides to help.
Facemasks needn’t be a chore. The team at the Big Community Sew are on a mission to make face coverings fun, especially now that it’s mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport and in the shops (unless you are exempt).
The NHS and other healthcare workers continue to deal with the pandemic, so it remains important that the public don’t buy supplies of medical grade PPE.
Which means we want you to keep sewing – and we want you to get those creative juices flowing. We are launching a competition to find the BEST home-made face covering (the most creative, the most sustainable, best fitting). We want people of all ages to enter so we have three categories: 12 and under; 18 and under; and over 18s.
The winners will be chosen by our panel of judges: Joe Lycett and Patrick Grant of the Great British Sewing Bee, and Dr Ellie. Each category winner will receive a brand new sewing machine courtesy of Singer.
How to Make a Face Covering
Making a face covering is incredibly simple. Improvised face coverings can be made from things we all have in our homes, the most effective being a pillow case or duvet cover, or a cotton t-shirt. Essentially you need a fabric that’s a good trade-off between filtration, breathability and comfort. And a few inches of elastic, like an elastic hair band. Two layers is slightly more effective than one, and just one pillow case will make six two layer masks.
Follow the download instructions below to get started, and see also the videos from expert designer-makers to help you along.
Pleated Face Covering
This simple face covering is ideal even for beginner sewers, and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.
Shaped Face Covering
This face covering is made of two layers of fabric and has a curved seam down the front to create a snug fit.
We’d love you to share pictures and videos of your makes with the hashtag #bigcommunitysew.
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Helping Dress Medics
For the Love of Scrubs
Liverpool Ladies Sewing for the NHS & Keyworkers
Sewing Scrubs for James Cook JCUH
For the Love of Scrubs - Worcestershire
Sewing Masks for Frontline Workers - Llanelli
Sewing Masks for Selby
Masks 4 All Ireland
Radcliffe Mask Makers
Sew for Keyworkers Glos
For the Love of Scrubs - Monmouth
Emma Willis Sewing Studio, Gloucestershire
Sew Scrubs Fylde Coast
Scrubs for Losh (Leicestershire)
Sew Grateful Bucks
Barnes Women's Institute
For the Love of Scrubs Hillingdon
Aneurin Bevan Scrubbers
Bag the Bug
Nottingham Sewing for Key Workers
Sewing for our NHS & Barnet Community
Let's Face It Together (Bristol)
For the Love of Scrubs Swansea
Sew 4 Good, Greenwich
ER Sewing Angels (Glasgow)
Baymade Scrubs (Torbay)
Nailsworth Scrubs (Gloucestershire)
Caradon Face Mask Group (Cornwall)
Tamworth Sewing Volunteers
Masks for Extraordinary People (London)
Anglesey's Random Acts of Kindness
Standish Stitchers, Chorley
Secret Society of Hertford Crafters
Otley Maker Space
Connection Through Crafting Scrubs (Cambridge)
Team Scrubbers (Southampton/Portsmouth)
Make Do and Mend Ringwood
Scrubs for Corsham
Derry Mask and Scrubs Group
Bacup Sewing Group
Shelagh's Sewing Circle (Dronfield)
Masks 4 All (Kent)
Scrubs for Heroes - Redhill, Reigate & Horley
Salisbury Makers Hub
Community Mask Trees (Salisbury)
For the Love of Scrubs Herefordshire
For the Love of Scrubs - North Warwickshire
The Scrub Team (North Wales)
UK Free Masks
For the Love of Scrubs - Hornsea, Hull & Surrounding Areas
Edinburgh Mask Makers
The Dolwyddelan Sewing Bees
NI Big Community Sew Group
The Sewing Collective, Bath
Rotary York Ainsty
Norfolk Scrubs Volunteers
For the Love of Scrubs - East Dorset
Warwickshire Sewing Bees
Get Furness Masked
Mask Crusaders Tain
Meppershall Wednesday Craft Club
For the Love of Scrubs: Hornsea, Hull & Surrounding Areas
St Leonard's Makers for NHS & Keyworkers
FreeFaceMask - NHS Staff
The Government is now recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces where social distancing is difficult, like shops, at work and on public transport. For more information on how guidance applies to where you live, please visit the links below.
Wearing a Face Covering
A cloth face covering is NOT PPE. They are not intended for the personal protection of the wearer – they are designed to prevent people who have COVID-19, but might not know it, from spreading it to others. In simple terms, if I wear one I protect you, if you wear one you protect me.
A cloth face covering can be very simple. The important thing is that it should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably.
Face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing or washing your hands regularly – and they need to complement these behaviours. Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off. Try not to touch your face, or the face covering while you are wearing it.
Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched. Regular household cleaner works fine.
After wearing them store your worn face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them. You should wash a face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal laundry detergent. It does not need to be a hot wash, it’s the detergent which destroys the virus.
A message from Patrick Grant
2nd July 2020
It’s still less than two months since we launched the Big Community Sew and I can’t believe how quickly Britain’s sewing community has taken it to their hearts. Over 80 sewing groups have now signed up in support and every week we receive hundreds of messages from around the country telling us how sewing volunteers are supporting their communities. Such is the interest that sewing machines have been selling out everywhere!
Now that face coverings are compulsory on public transport, it’s become even more important to ensure there are sufficient coverings to go round – and I’m incredibly proud of how our sewing volunteers have risen to the challenge.
I’m also proud of how businesses across the country are getting involved. Aldi is backing the campaign and has donated 1,000 fabric bundles to the cause. Blackburn Rovers Community Trust is paying for fabric for volunteers to make face coverings and SPAR Northern Ireland has partnered with us to make 20,000 face coverings for local communities.
Together we are building a strong safety first culture and not only looking after neighbours and key workers, but also some of our most vulnerable communities. Through the partnership with Blackburn Rovers, for example, every person in Blackburn receiving foodbank parcels received a free face covering. Likewise, a partnership with Virustatic Limited and the Felix Project has seen 10,000 face coverings distributed to elderly people across London.
The kindness, creativity and dedication of sewing volunteers never ceases to amaze me – and there are so many people to thank. Shelagh’s Sewing Circle in Dronfield (lead by the wonderful Shelagh Cheetham) are one of many volunteering powerhouses. Shelagh’s group has made and donated over 25,000 face coverings. They are also working with software developer DC Tech with help from Salesforce to create a free app that will make it easier for sewing groups to accept, monitor and distribute orders. This is being rolled out soon. Marcelle Porteous, the founder of Brum Scrubs, is another inspiring figure doing amazing work to support frontline workers in the Midlands. So too is Naomi Betts in Wiltshire, who is aiming to get thousands of mask trees set up across Wiltshire so every community is provided for.
I don’t have the space to thank everyone. But the hugs I’ve promised mega-makers will be in the bank until better times are here. What’s especially moved me about the Big Community Sew is that it’s been embraced by both young and old. I’ve loved the fact children are sewing for the first time and I’ve heard many wonderful stories of grandparents getting stuck in too. The story of 89-year old Mary and her daughter Mo making face coverings for family, friends and neighbours in the Scottish Borders is one I won’t forget. Mary has dementia and the two have been self-isolating together, with her daughter telling me how the act of sewing has helped her mum.
In many ways they embody the spirit of Big Community Sew. Looking after and looking out for others. You are all wonderful. Please keep making – and keep sharing your stories.
With deepest thanks,
21st May 2020
It has been over a week since we launched The Big Community Sew and I have been bowled over by the extraordinary response.
A great big THANK YOU to every single one of you who has made even one face covering for someone else. This simple act of kindness will allow them in turn to keep other people safe.
Very many of you were already sewing for your communities but many more of you have joined in.
We know that over 130,000 of you have visited the website, and over 3,000 of you have shared your makes using the #bigcommunitysew hashtag. Your stories have inspired many others to get involved.
Over 50 groups, from Shetland to Torbay, from Llanelli to Newry, have been in touch to say they’re making face coverings for their friends and neighbours. We’ve listed those who have shared their details on the website, but if you are part of a group and we don’t have your details please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to the list.
And to anybody who has been thinking about joining in but has yet to make that leap, please, get involved. Making face covering is ever so easy. They don’t have to be works of art, they just need to work. There are still thousands of people, including some of the most vulnerable in our society, who don’t have face covering. They may not know people with sewing skills, and even if they do they may not be able to afford the fabric and elastic necessary to make their own. The Big Community Sew want to get face coverings to everyone so we really need your help!
Finally I would like to send an extra special thank you to those people who have gone above and beyond; the mega-makers. To Lynda Nicklaus in Newry and Debbie Gooden in Sheringham who have each made over 1,000 coverings. You are AMAZING. There are hugs coming your way when this is over.
Tracey Wilmot in Helmsley has, with the help of husband Robert who ironed them all, made over 500 (PS Robert, let’s not leave it another 20 years before you pick up that iron again!). Samantha Brown from Wales High School in Sheffield has made over 250 for local carers and her school. And Natalie Smith from Walsall, who with engineering help from husband Ross who dismantled, repaired and rebuilt her sewing machine mid-way through (I’ve seen the pictures, it really was in pieces!), made over 250. She and her daughter Frey (7) have given them out to local care homes. An extra big thank you to you to you all.
Please keep sharing your stories, please send us your totals, and of course please keep making! You are doing something truly fantastic for your communities.
With sincerest admiration
12th May 2020
I want to start by thanking Britain’s sewing community for the selfless and tireless work they have put in since we went into lockdown. Collectively this army of unpaid volunteers have sewn nearly a quarter of a million pairs of non medical scrubs, and countless scrub bags, hats, headbands and face covering for our health and social care workers. This has been achieved while juggling working from home, home schooling, raising small children, and dealing with all the other stresses and difficulties that the lock down as presented. I have been moved by many of your stories on social media. You are all amazing and I salute you.
But I want more of you to get involved. There are six million sewing machines in the UK, so there’s probably one on just about every street. If each machine were used to make just a dozen face coverings that would be one for everyone in the UK. (We could probably do with two.)
Sewing has a long history of rising to the challenge at a time of emergency – during the war, the Queen Mum held sewing bees in Buckingham Palace with the palace staff sewing to support a national effort – and now is no different.
I was incredibly moved by the way in which local communities came together at the start of the lockdown to look after one another, offering to run errands, or get shopping. I’d like any of you who have a sewing machine, and can make a covering, to find out who amongst your friends and neighbours needs one and make them one. If you don’t know how to sew, there couldn’t be an easier thing to learn to do.
And I know you can have fun with this. Some of my sewing friends who’ve made how-to videos have shown you the way; get the whole family involved, customise and jazz up your face coverings, get creative.
And please share pictures and videos of your makes with the hashtag #bigcommunitysew so we can see how you get on.