Oldham College's Sewing Academy was forced to close when coronavirus put the campus in lockdown.
That should have meant for a quiet time for Beverley Whittaker, the college's Tutor Assessor for Fashion & Textiles, but instead she has turned her skills into sewing scrubs for NHS frontline workers.
Beverley is working with the Bury, Oldham and Rochdale ‘Scrub Hub’ as part of a network that has popped up all over the country, coordinating sewers willing to offer their services.
The supply of scrubs – the plain clothes worn by medics when dealing with patients – hit a shortfall after increasing numbers of NHS staff began using them as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE), which needed to be changed more frequently to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Beverley said: "The Scrub Hub has been fundraising to buy fabric, and they then drop it off to the volunteers, of which there are many.
"I'm aiming to make as many scrub sets as I can, but with the fabric I have, I have just got eight sets made and now I’m waiting for more supplies."
It has been a team effort too.
Chris McAndrew, in Campus Management at the Rochdale Road college, has been accepting fabric from the Scrub Hub delivery driver at his home and bringing it into Oldham College for Beverley to get to work.
She readily admits, however, that going in to work on an empty campus site has been a strange experience.
"It's been very odd not bumping into people on the corridor”, she said.
"I've just been putting the radio on and getting on with it. However, it's been good to see my beloved machines and get them going again!"
Despite the unusual working conditions, Beverley is also grateful to be able to help out in a time of need.
"It's fantastic to have a skill that I can put to good use and help the desperate situation for frontline workers,” she said.
"They are literally crying out for scrubs, and they can request them on the Scrub Hub sites which means hospital staff can then get the right sizes to fit them.
"It was also lovely to see Maria Carr, one of my ex-learners from our Sewing Academy, on the Scrub Hub also using her excellent sewing skills to help out."
Looking ahead, Beverley is looking forward to returning to work – but also hopes the Scrub Hub initiative has inspired others.
"I can’t wait to hopefully have lots of people wanting to learn more about sewing and develop their skills – now that so many are unearthing those sewing machines that have been stuck in their cupboards," she said.
Beverley at work on the project in the Oldham Sewing Academy and her first set of scrubs for the Bury, Oldham and Rochdale ‘Scrub Hub’.
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