From Burberry to at-home stitchers, the Yorkshire fashion army scrubs up to make vital PPE

As Covid-19 continues to put frontline workers at risk, Stephanie Smith celebrates the Yorkshire fashion designers, manufacturers, retailers and skilled amateur dressmakers producing scrubs, masks, bags and hairbands for the NHS and key workers.

Laura Sedman of Laurelle Woman tries out her scrubs.

Expert sewers across the land have answered the call to make protective clothing for NHS and care home staff. This army of makers includes current and retired professional seamstresses, pattern cutters and tailors, amateur dressmakers, fashion designers and students, all creating essential scrubs, washbags, masks and headwear to help keep those on the front line – and their families – as protected as possible.

Some are working from back bedrooms and dining tables, some in socially distanced conditions for clothing manufacturers stepping up to safeguard jobs and support NHS and care workers. In Castleford, at its trench coat factory, Burberry has been producing scrubs and has so far donated more than 150,000 pieces of PPE for the NHS and other care organisations. Barbour, based in South Shields in the North East, expects to make 50,000 disposable gowns by the end of May.

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Meanwhile, John Lewis has teamed up with the British Medical Association to deliver care packages to NHS staff, while Joules is sourcing thousands of masks and gowns. Marks & Spencer is donating “We are the NHS” T-shirts for staff uniform packs, clothing care packs for discharged patients, and 4,000 pyjamas to use as scrubs. Mulberry is making 8,000 gowns for NHS workers.

Volunteers Maddie, Ruth, Hannah and Susan making PPE at the McNair Shirts factory at Slaithwaite near Huddersfield.

In Huddersfield, designer Kevan Jon (and friends) have made 1,200 headbands for nurses and care home workers. “The thanks and response has been overwhelming. We’re just glad we could use our skills at this strange time,” he said.

Also in Huddersfield, McNair Shirts has changed its motto from “It takes a town to make a shirt” to “It takes a town to make a gown”. Director Natalie Stapleton said: “Huddersfield is famous for textiles and we use many local companies to make our performance shirts.

“It has been a rollercoaster, but one thing we haven’t struggled with is getting volunteers. They keep coming forward, and the team keeps growing. Our whole community, from all over Huddersfield, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Brighouse and beyond, have worked together.

“The desire, spirit and coming together to protect our local NHS and other carers has been truly moving and a lesson in the power of community.”

Volunteer Taru making PPE at the McNair shirts factory at Slaithwaite near Huddersfield.

In Leeds, Laura Sedman, of Laurelle Woman, joined the call for PPE after seeing the Facebook page For The Love of Scrubs, started by Boston nurse Ashleigh Linsdell. “I was put in touch with Kathrine Londesbrough who has been organising scrubs collections for Airedale General Hospital.

“I mixed up the scrubs bags a bit, too, and got creative with some superheroes ones – quite fitting for our NHS.”

Fashion designer and creative pattern cutter Lisa Gilbert, who lives in Barnsley and has a bespoke bridal and special occasion wear business in Mirfield, is founder of Yorkshire Born & Thread, a making and teaching studio. “The Covid lockdown/social distancing has stopped me being able to do a lot of the teaching work, which I enjoy. But when I saw that the NHS needed help with scrubs I thought that’s where I can help. My mum works in the NHS as a practice manager.”

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Lisa Gilbert of Yorkshire Born and Thread.

Lisa joined the Facebook group For the Love of Scrubs – Our NHS Needs You and also set up her own group with nearby fellow sewers creating funding pages to buy fabrics, while local companies including Brand Yorkshire and Bradford-based Downham Textiles also donated fabrics. So far they have sent out more than 600 scrubs sets, plus a similar number of essential PPE items including washbags, masks, hats and headband extenders to local hospitals, surgeries and care homes. Lisa says: “We will continue to help for as long as we can do and as long as our NHS needs us to.”

Lisa wants to pay tribute to the group of professional and hobby seamstresses, which includes: Julie Stubbs, Danielle McGilloway, Gill Smith, Terri Whitford, Maria Grzywacz, Jackie Ineson, Cathy Nixon, Kate Thompson, Julie Helliwell, Priscilla Dalton, Wendy Hawkins, Karen Taylor, Pammie Thornton, Kelly Clark, Barbara Searby, Karen Durnell, Georgina Williams and Judith Hobson.

To donate to Yorkshire Born and Thread’s PPE making, go to

North Yorkshire farming daughter and graduate fashion designer Sarah Thompson should be forging ahead with her promising career as a fashion designer but for now she’s stepping up to help the NHS by making washbags that nurses can use for the 
safe laundering at home of their uniforms.

Nurses in West Yorkshire wearing the scrubs made by Jackie Ineson of Yorkshire Born and Thread and #ForTheLoveOfScrubs using fabric from Downham Textiles.

Sarah said: “I made a few masks for friends and family using leftover fabrics from previous projects, which got me thinking how else could I help. I got in touch with some local nurses to see if there was anything they needed. Drawstring bags were a common response, as many have been using pillow cases to transport their work uniforms home to put straight into the wash.”

Using leftover fabrics and old curtains, Sarah came up with a simple design. “As a sustainable designer, I strongly believe in reusing/upcycling and I could not be happier to see my deadstock fabric be used for such a great purpose,” she says. Her drawstring bags have been distributed at Whitby Hospital and the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Sarah, 23, grew up at Dimmingdale, her parents’ farm 12 miles from Sandsend in the North York Moors National Park. She graduated from Sheffield Hallam University last November with a BA Hons in Fashion Design and was chosen to showcase her collection – made from repurposed farming garments – for Graduate Fashion Week Presents at London Fashion Week 2020 in February.

Sarah said: “I’m so happy to be able to help support our workers in the NHS. I’m hoping this can help keep families of our NHS workers safer too, and I just want to thank them all for what they’re doing.”

Sarah has also been making face masks for family and friends. Here is her step-by-step guide to making one at home.

Sarah Thompson’s Instagram: @t.o.m.o.d.e.s.i.g.n.s

Superhero wash bag made by Laura Sedman.

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Inside the Barbour factory, where wax coats are usually made.
Yorkshire fashion designer Sarah Thompson on her family farm with her wash bags made from leftover stock fabric. Click the link in story for a guide to making her face mask.