It’s the eighth week since lockdown began and, true to the “slow sewing” bit of my blog’s strapline, I’ve finally finished four sets of scrubs which I’ll deliver this morning to the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in Wandsworth. The hospital sent a message to my place of work just as we were all shutting down, asking if anyone would be able to make some scrubs for them – and while it’s taken a lot longer than it should have, I’m very pleased to have now got a batch ready to deliver.
The hospital’s email had suggested a pattern – one produced by PDF patterns boutique and imaginatively entitled ‘Classic doctor’s scrubs for men’. The important bit was that they are/were being printed by Blue Sky Printing at cost – so for only a few pounds and in only a few days the printed pattern and instructions were at my door. Similarly Fabricland were prioritising orders for people supporting the NHS through sewing, and so about a week later I had 15m of blue cotton which I was washing and ironing – on a beautifully warm and sunny day over Easter (obviously). And it turns out that ironing 15m of anything takes a pretty long time.
I was so proud that the whole family pitched in with this one – husband on cutting out, eldest daughter as my co-sewist, youngest daughter on ironing the interfacing – and middle daughter on embroidery. Embroidery is her new lockdown hobby, and it’s pretty gorgeous if I do say so in a proud-mum way.
We were aiming for six sets of scrubs, but while we have six tops assembled, we’re out of fabric for the trousers for the last two sets. I’ve recently had a duvet cover donated that might work, but if not I’ll order a little more fabric and get the last two pairs of trousers done as soon as I can.
So, other than a sense of being able to do something that’s useful at this time of national stasis, there are a few sewing things that I learned from all of this.
Firstly, sewing anything four (or six) times really does build your skills up in a way that sewing lots of different things doesn’t. You can feel yourself adapting as you go and using the knowledge of only a few minutes before to improve the next seam/line/pressing etc. It’s pretty dull work though and tiring – you don’t get the same sense of progress when you sew the same things six times over and that takes a bit of adjusting to.
Secondly, while I knew that my eldest daughter would sew along with me (she’s off to study costume design this September if the world gets itself a little more settled, and has amazing design and construction skills), I hadn’t anticipated how much more you can get done when you have a whole family of willing helpers. I wouldn’t have dreamed of adding embroidery – and if it were a requirement, frankly the hospital would have been waiting a lot longer for a far poorer result. My husband was happy chopping cotton, and even my ten year old was keen to help – not just with appropriate signage, but with specific tasks like applying interfacing. It’s been a really lovely team effort.
Thirdly, instructions for this pattern were sparse to say the least – but that’s OK. I’ve not used this type of pattern before, and it was effectively diagrams with the odd note. Not what I’m used to (spoiled by the step-by-step hand-holding of most indie patterns these days) but actually sufficient. The garments being made were not fitted, and were basic and simple. I wouldn’t opt for this kind of instruction for anything more complicated – but it gave me taste of how sewing was in the past (vintage patterns have very little guidance) and how some of those more experienced dressmakers can ignore a pattern’s text and just read the pieces based on their own experience.
I suppose finally, it’s been good to have something that I have felt in some way obliged to sew during these bizarre and difficult times. My sew-jo up and left at the beginning of all this, and the hoodie dress I cut out in March is still unconstructed. Having this (slow) project going on has kept me sewing even when the impetus has left and I’m in awe of people who have done so much more. My friend at work ordered 30m of fabric in the first wave of this, organised her street to do construction and then between them they’ve crowd-funded for more fabric and collaborated to do loads more. Respect.
Right now, I just find it hard to be creative in the same way as usual – I’m learning to crochet and am working on a blanket that will probably take the rest of my days. It’s simple, repetitive and quite contained – and that’s working for me right now. I’m looking forward to when my excitement about sewing gets back to its usual levels – and I don’t doubt it’s out there – like everything to do with lockdown, it’s just a matter of waiting.
Tea finished and the sun is up (sleep has also been elusive of late), so I’ll finish this post now and get ready to deliver to the hospital on my way to work. Stay safe everyone.