On 23 March 2020 shirt production at our Andover workrooms stopped. Albeit temporarily. Covid-19 and the government shut-down forced us to stop and our staff to be furloughed. As we write this blog and continue to process online orders and emails from our customers throughout the world, we eagerly await the news that we can start to resume normal service and once again do what we do best. Our customers have been tremendously supportive throughout this unprecedented time and we are enormously grateful.
With so many skills, goodwill and resources within Budd, we could not leave the machines and lights switched off in Andover for long and for the past few weeks, our re-configured workroom has been a hive of activity. Working on a voluntary basis and coordinated by our Chairman, Stephen Murphy and workshop managers, Gwenda Witts and Di Bainbridge, our staff have been cutting and sewing vital PPE scrubs and masks for frontline workers in the Hampshire area. Our mask making endeavours were well underway when we were approached by a local party, requesting whether we could make up an emergency supply of 60 masks for a local care home. This was just the tip of the iceberg and immediately flagged up the shortage and necessity for vital PPE elsewhere.
We were introduced to the amazing team spearheading the local branch of For The Love of Scrubs (Basingstoke, Winchester and Andover), led by the inspirational and tireless trio of Pauline Glassock, Lauren Ritchie Freitas and Emma Brabazon (pseudonym). To date the group counts 800 local members, sewing together scrubs, head scarves, scrub bags, mask extenders and other PPE for healthcare workers in the area.
Whilst many are very proficient at a sewing machine, accessing and cutting patterns can prove tricky and cumbersome, and for many pretty intimidating. Our Cutters, Darren Tiernan and Sophie Whiting, assisted by other members of our workshop have therefore been preparing pre-cut scrub bundles, kits that contain everything that is needed to machine together a top and bottom set. For members of our staff that are also sewing scrubs, the generous loan of two overlocking machines by Nick Tait of Import Sewing Machines has proven invaluable.
The sentiment amongst the majority of the Budd team is that contributing their time and skills has made them feel useful at this unprecedented and taxing time and raised the spirits. Whilst we are all left dumb-stuck by the gaping failures in the supply and sourcing of adequate PPE, we are emboldened by the power of working together and the contribution we can make. Involvement with the For the Love of Scrubs initiative has created a sense of community and connectivity. The group comprises of everyone from enthusiastic amateurs through to professional seamstresses and members draw on the strength and weaknesses of each other. Some, unable to sew, lend their hand to the logistical side of operations, coordinating cloth procurement or collecting and delivery the work produced throughout the county, allowing for an efficient cascade system.
Finding cloth that is suitable for scrubs has proven an enormous undertaking. Fabric needs to be tough enough to stand up to being worn for long periods to time, cool enough to sit underneath other PPE garments, comfortable against the skin, and finally, be able to stand up to laundering at high temperatures in accordance with NHS guidelines and to ensure good hygiene. The country’s pull-together attitude in stemming the shortfall, has meant that demand for cloths have been high. Whilst we were able to make up some scrubs in our own shirting materials, we were aware that we also need something more heavy-duty (and economical). Thanks to the tireless efforts of Emma Brabazon, cloths were sourced and generously donated from members of the textile industry, including prestigious names such as Colefax, Linwood, Soane, Titley and Marr and Ivo Textiles, the latter of whom pledged 700m. There has also been plenty of creativity amongst the scrub making community, with many using old bedsheets and tablecloths…upcycling at its very best!
Still in need of basic, suitable material (unfortunately not everything donated is practical for scrubs, but great for bags and caps), Emma eventually tracked cloth down to a company in London’s Brick Lane, Epra Fabrics. On something of a mercy mission, she explained to them that whilst the preference was for darker cloths, we would take whatever was available. They took her at her word. There are now dozens of healthcare workers turning up to shifts in (beautifully made) lime green, canary yellow and bright orange scrubs! If anything, they will brighten up people’s days and at the very least, stand out (Orange is the New Black also springs to mind).
Our voluntary work at Andover continues and will continue for as long as there is a call for what we are doing. Given the generous nature of Gwen, Di, Darren and the rest of the team, we imagine we shall also keep going when furlough ends and normal service resumes. In the meantime, beyond scrubs, our mask production is in full flow too, with hundreds of masks sewn and sent out to date.
Budd’s cotton masks are being donated to frontline workers in the first instance, however, we shall soon offer them online at a cost of £15, where for the first month, proceeds from their sale will go to two homeless charities local to Budd’s Piccadilly shop; The Passage (in London) and Crisis UK. Soon to be a part of our daily lives, they are made using our Swiss cotton shirtings and are cool and comfortable to wear. Made with triple layer, they contain a pocket for a filter, tie either at the back of the head or with ear loops and are machine washable at 60 degrees.
Should you wish to contribute to Budd and For the Love of Scrubs’s efforts of supplying vital PPE, donations can be made via Just Giving.