Updated: Apr 22, 2020
UPDATE: We have had an amazing response to this post, and so many of you have been in touch about making bags for the NHS - we cannot thank you enough for helping! However, please note, we do not have links with all the hospitals in the UK. We are delivering to our local hospital via a staff member's Mum (who works there). If you would like to send your bags to your local hospital, then all your need to do is call the switchboard and ask to speak to the Public Relations department, and they will advise you where you can send them. As far as we are aware, all NHS hospitals are accepting the bags and are very happy for volunteers to send them in.
In recent weeks, since COVID 19 has taken over our everyday lives, my Instagram feed has been dominated by selfless sews; DIY face masks, scrubs for the NHS and most recently, wash bags so that medical staff can take their uniform home safely to wash each day.
Like many of you, I wanted to 'do my bit', but I wasn't sure which avenue to take. The masks, while accepted in other countries, are not accepted by the NHS, and the scrubs require navy blue cotton or polycotton fabric, which unfortunately we do not have in stock. So bags it was! Not having any medical experience myself, when I first heard about the bags, I wasn't sure if it was a very well meaning, but pointless, offer. Do the medical staff take their uniform home? Are they allowed to wash their own uniforms during these crazy times? I therefore turned to one of our lovely sewing tutors, Alex, who's Mum has been a part of the NHS for over 37 years, and a midwife for the last 35. It was a joy to hear that she absolutely LOVED the idea of the bags, and her whole team were really excited to receive their own wash bag.
Our NHS staff are doing an absolutely sterling job, every day that they go into work they are putting other's lives and needs before their own. If sewing something as simple as a drawstring bag helps give a member of the NHS some comfort, allowing them to transport their uniform home safely, without risking the health of their loved ones, then it is the least we can do to help.
So, I hear you all cry - how can you get involved?! Below is a simple step by step guide on how to make a drawstring bag. If you are really new to sewing, then this is a fantastic way to improve your skills and get comfortable with your machine, whilst helping out with a brilliant cause. The guide is written with ways to use what you have at home, however if you require any supplies, then we have everything you need. We will also give you extra supplies for free, allowing you to make more of these valuable bags (see end of post for more information).
YOU WILL NEED:
Cotton or polycotton fabric, if you have old (but clean!) bedsheets or pillowcases, these work really well (sizes below)
Any colour thread
Ribbon/drawstring cord (approx. 50cm per bag)
Sewing machine - or needle and thread if you prefer a bit of #slowsewing
Each of our bags were approximately 50cm x 40cm, around the same size as a school PE bag. As long as you could fit a couple of items of (adult) clothing inside, the bag will work.
Cut out 2x 50cm x 40cm pieces of fabric. If you are planning on making a few, it might be worth making yourself a template. You can use card, paper, baking paper, tracing paper... an old cereal box - whatever you have on hand!
Alex's Mum has suggested that having somewhere to write their names would be really useful. We therefore decided to add a white piece of cotton to the front of each bag. We are also lucky to have the brilliant Husqvarna 690Q machines in the shop, which embroider basic letters. We therefore used this feature to write 'Thank You' on each name square. If you don't have this feature on your machine, but you would like to you add your own thank you, you could always write on each bag - I'm sure the thought would be appreciated however it is added.
To add on the name square, pin in place, making sure it is not too close to any of the edges. Stitch around the square using a straight stitch. Feeling fancy? A zig zag or appliqué satin stitch would also work well.
Pin your bag pieces right sides together - this means the nice sides of the fabric facing each other, so the bag looks like it is inside out.
Stitch around three sides of the bag (don't sew it closed!), using a 1.5cm seam allowance. To do this, line up the cut edge of the bag with the line on your sewing machine plate that says 15mm or 5/8". Keep the fabric on this line, pivoting with your needle in the fabric at each corner. Remember to reverse/back tack at both the start and the end, to stop your thread from coming undone.
You now have a bag! Now, lets make it into a drawstring...
Keep your bag inside out, and fold over the open top of the bag by approximately 3-4cm - the wider your ribbon or cord, the wider the fold. Then iron and/or pin the fold in place.
Take the front/back of your machine off, this differs from machine to machine, but you want to be able to slip the open end of your bag over the machine. Line up the folded edge of the bag with the 2.5cm line, and stitch around the top of the bag. Remember you need to leave a gap!!! I usually start a few centimetres after one of the side seams, and end a few centimetres before the same seam, which gives me about a 3cm gap in which to thread the ribbon or cord.
Your bag is now almost complete, all that is left to do is thread through the ribbon or cord. If you are using a drawstring cord, then I would suggest you knot either end, to avoid the cord unraveling as you pull it through.
Take your safety pin and attach it to one end of your ribbon/cord, then pass the safety pin through the hole in the top of your bag, and push it around the tube you have created, until it is back at the beginning.
Turn back out the right way and voilà! You have made your first NHS uniform bag!
The NHS need as many of these bags as we can all make. If you really want to get involved, but you're not sure where to drop them off once made, then just get in touch and we will be happy to help you get them to hospitals. Remember, should you need to buy any supplies from us, then at the checkout just add a comment stating that that it is for the NHS bags, and we will add in extra supplies for free, to allow you to make a few more.
Just in case you need a little more convincing - below are some photos of some very thankful nurses!
Stay safe and happy sewing, Love Kate & the Sew Creative team x