The mammoth effort of pulling together thousands of people to sew scrubs, scrub hats and gowns for hospitals, hospices, care homes and other caring professionals has drawn to a close with 106,000 items delivered to key workers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The brainchild of Clara Maybin at the start of the first lockdown, when nursing and care staff were facing shortages, it grew from an appeal to become an army of 9,000 sewers, including Great British Sewing Bee contestant, Angeline Murphy.
In addition a total of £75,000 was raised to purchase the material to make the items.
Now hospitals have said they have sufficient stocks but Clara believes NI Scrubs has started something great.
“The sheer sense of community we have created will last for a long time,” she said. “We have built a real sewing community in Northern Ireland where people have made friends and ask for sewing advice every day. It is a truly invaluable group to a lot of people, in so many ways.”
Angeline also believes the legacy will live on: “It was a great campaign that helped more than just the front line staff. It helped thousands of stitchers rediscover their skills, meet new friends and give back to society.”
It all started when Clara began collecting unused scrubs from dentists that were closing in lockdown.
“When I said I was doing that people started to say they could sew,” she explained.
“Overnight we had far too many people for the WhatsApp group and I had to set up a Facebook group
“The next day we had 80, the next week we had 800 and now we have nearly 9000.”
It was a challenge that consumed every waking hour for Clara.
“When I sit and think about it, it is madness,” she said. When I think of how tough it was it is very overwhelming. Every day got harder and harder, as more messages came through it was very hard to manage. And getting fabric to people up and down the country was so hard during the lockdown.”
Angeline became involved initially to join the scrub sewing army, but then realised her TV appearance meant she could do more.
“I initially got involved to start sewing but realised that to make an impact I would be better suited to helping raise awareness of it from my profile on Sewing Bee and social media so I was able to get my followers on my pages to help,” she explained.
And, while NI Scrubs is winding down Angeline wants to continue supporting the sewing community.
“I feel I have a duty to keep the stitchers together and use their skills for the greater good,” she said “I have formed another group NI Big Community Sew in line with the UK wide campaign to make face coverings for the vulnerable in society.”
As for Clara she said she now plans to rest, and can reflect on the wider benefits of NI Scrubs.
“The sheer sense of community we have created will last for a long time,” she said. “Not only have we helped front line staff, I have had several messages from those helping saying we have helped their mental health through lockdown, which is amazing.”
Angeline believes that it has also made a difference beyond the scrubs.
“Together we have made a big difference and all though seen as a dying art sewing is making a comeback,” she explained. “It also proved that when people work together great things can be achieved.”