Hello and Sewing for COVID-19?

Hi all,

I am Rikki - a new-ish member (joined the end of last year) but I am new to the discourse conversations - so hello all!

I mainly paint but I grew up with a home-economics (sewing and cooking) teacher and a wood shop teacher, so I have always liked making things.

I wanted to ask if anyone had been using the sewing machine to make face masks or scrubs. There are a few groups in South London working on this. Is that something I might be able to do? Either bringing it home or coming in at certain times to work on it?

Thanks in advance!


We’re very keen to support this

The sewing machines are idle at the moment…but we’ve had a couple of requests to take smaller machines home for PPE production

There’s likely to be a huge need for washable face mask for the general public (assuming NHS supply is sorted soon…)

@Ty_design has worked up some brilliant everyday-wear mask designs BTW, watch this space)

I’ve asked @textilestechs about which machines are suitable (there’s a few small ones knocking about, don’t know which work)

Working in the Space: mostly focused on shield production at the moment, but there’s a PPE booking calendar, so we can look at timings

It’s one person at a time at the moment with an air change break of an hour in between to keep it safe…and there’s a clean on arrival routine

We also have funds to buy some more sewing machines if this was needed and could be demonstrated to be helpful as a response to COVID-19…probably cheapish but good machines which we’d look to donate or sell on afterwards

Also: I’m personally keen on getting a couple of mask trees going locally – places where the public can pick up a free mask and a link to a donation page if they want to support…would love thoughts on this. The idea would be to make a couple of prominent ones and hope it takes off as an idea


This sounds like a great idea.

I have been checking a lot of German and Austrian resources as the have announced a rule on mandatory masks in shops and on public transport. The government has asked the public to sew their own masks so there are some great resources which are quickly tried and tested.

There have been a lot of other sewing initiatives that started up to help like scrubhub who sew scrubs for the nhs. They seem to have certain people that cut the parts out and then create kits to be sewn by other volunteers. Similar to our system with the face shields and it seems to work well.

Although there have been a lot of discussions around the best fabric to use the consensus thus far sees a double layer of 100% cotton as the best option as it is washable at a higher temperature and sturdy.

For our purposes I think a pattern that is quick and easy to make while still giving full protection would be best so we can have sewers with different skill levels join in. Probably something with as few parts and seams as possible.

There seem to be 2 types of masks people sew. The first is the rectangular surgical mask type with folds and the second is a more fitted shape curving around the nose and cheeks.

Both have they advantages and disadvantages but the surgical mask type is a one size fits all and more adjustable.

Colour wise I think sticking to muted monochrome colours would be best. Although patterns and bright colours are certainly more fun they need to appeal to a wide variety of people and people who will be given them won’t get a choice like if they went to buy one.

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Some thoughts/resources gleaned from PPE forum

Look for patterns that:

  1. promote a good seal, including over the nose and sides of the face, and under chin (fitted masks are better than surgical at this, generally(
  2. allow a pocket for paper towel or similar if wanted,
  3. have a channel for a nose bridge
  4. ideally removable nose bridge for washing but maybe that’s a luxury
  5. allow multiple strap options easily aside from just ear elastic
  6. are easily adjustable in terms of strap fit and nose fit
  7. have multiple sizes for child to large male adult, not skipping women
  8. a pattern that can be chained off in large numbers is nice too. ;).
  9. Oh, and don’t forget to use different colours on the inside versus outside to help differentiate between face side and danger side.

The Olson mask was developed for hospitals, but is washable/adaptable and ticks a lot of those boxes:

A video about efficient production of it

However: any mask is better than nothing…so it’s better to start on the one you’re drawn to and develop from there

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We’re happy to fund materials for this – possibly even some time if people are unwaged at the moment

The sewing shop in Balham/Tooting is doing Click and collect is someone wants to draw up a shopping list (we have random fabric in the Space…but who knows what…)

I would be happy to get the ball rolling and gather information and a list of material needed and I am happy to fund some of the material costs - and welcome the suggestions and ideas/participation from others too!

Thank you so much for your support on this!


Brilliant – I’m sure quite a few members will want to get involved

Gowns and coveralls (what are they?)…

Guys and St Thomas’ say they’re okay for most PPE but…

At present our immediate need at GSTT is for Protective gowns and coveralls that need to be made from a fabric that is compliant with the PPE standard EN13795 in relation to fluid repulsion properties; currently there is a shortage of compliant fabric which I understand is not readily available in the UK.

I checked with a group that supplied hundreds of gowns in Hampshire and they used Ripstop (100% polyester, @techfolderkites is this kite material. and do you know where to get it?). did a quick Google and it seems to be available. Phoned Sewing and Craft shop at Tooting Bec, but they don’t have any

They had this feedback::

For the gowns - got an email back from a group that’s produced thousands over in Hampshire. they used Ripstop material (100% polyester) and didn’t think there was a supply issue. This is feedback from local trust “PHT (Portsmouth Hospital Trust) contacted me yesterday, congratulating you all on your efforts. Their Infection Control Lead ran a test with glow-spray which helps to test the permeability of the fabric and they are delighted to see that they are to the standard they would also wish to see” - if GSTT will accept ripstop then we can probably get them some gowns

This is the pattern: Clinical-Gown-pattern.pdf (180.0 KB)

If someone wants to get making then we’re happy to buy/reimburse for materials

We’ve had a request from http://www.tootingcommunitykitchen.co.uk/ for 50 face masks of the Olson type linked above (do check out the video as it’s full of tips, improvements and efficiencies)

That’s still quite a lot of masks: do people want to volunteer to tackle a number of them?

Same guide as for face shields: heightened hygiene, COVID-free/non quarantined household, cover mouth + nose (with the first mask you make?) . Washing masks upon receipt is a common guideline too

Anyone up for this? And what’s needed?

P.S. I do realise this has gone off topic from the ‘Hello’ part…

I would be happy to get started. A neighbor has a sewing machine I can borrow and I will put in an order for the fabric and pick it up this afternoon if possible.

It looks like pipe cleaners work for the nose bridge (or copper wire) and coffee filters or HEPA fabric work as filters. I can likely order these on amazon.

That video is great and though it will take a little while to get going hopefully once I get the hang of it we can churn out quite a few. It has been years since I have been sewing but hopefully it will all come back.


Does anyone have the name of a fabric shop in the area or at least a bike ride away? I tried to call the ones in Brixton and Tooting and neither answered.

I did find this place on line: https://showtimefabrics.co.uk/epages/eshop641520.mobile/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/eshop641520/Products/AR1478

and it looks like 100% cotton sheets would work if people have extras at home.


DM me your details and I might be able to drop some material off

Hi I have a 19 metres of calico (used for developing designs) which is 100% cotton -& have 2 old domestic sewing machines which need servicing. Can I donate to the space or if anyone wants ?

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Any idea of thread count/thickness? Mostly that’s hard to find

The guide seems to be pillow case thickness and holding against your mouth and checking how breathable it is (bearing in mind the surface area will be larger in a mask, but material will be doubled, and often with a filter layer. I trust someone else will update this if they have better knowledge!

It’s a wider weave so more breathable than pillow case but heavier as well. If you don’t use it for this the space is welcome to use it for future projects. Otherwise I’ll donate to a friend.

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So…we now have 4 sewing machines available to take home for maskmaking and other COVID-related endeavours

Trying to get kits together, but short of elastic right now

A kit will have:

  • a portable sewing machine
  • several metres of 100% cotton fabric
  • some pins
  • pair of scissors
  • the pattern
  • spare needles
  • thread
  • a seam ripper

And some elastic (if I can pick it up in the morning)

Taking a kit represents a commitment to make a bunch of face masks (or equivalent) – we may introduce a booking system/period of loan. Let’s see what works (maybe a week?)

Any suggestions of what a reasonable metreage of fabric would be anyone?

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That is wonderful to hear!

And thank you Dermot for dropping off some fabric. At the moment I have fabric, scissors and 18 m of thin elastic - but the sewing machine I borrowed is missing the plug (a critical part!).

If I can take one of the machines (along with some thread) I can get started.

I also ordered about 20 metres of fabric that I am hoping will arrive in the next couple days and I am happy to share.

Thank you again!

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Just had a request from Nightingale Nursing Home in Clapham South

350 staff, and they’d love masks for them for travelling to and from work (they know the Olson design, but only use medical manufactured masks at the moment for close caring contact)

They said any masks would be great though. So don’t be daunted

Picking up elastic at some point today, and can get kits ready from there

I am very happy to help out. I can sew but I am not the best and efficient. Can see myself knocking out 50 masks. Maybe 10. I would be happy to cut patterns and get them sewers if that is of any help? I’ve seen that system with other groups and it seems to work really well.


Experiment with cutting the pattern via the power of lasers…

Little notches added to aid identifying/orienting the (very similar, almost symmetrical) parts

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