When we shut our workshop doors for lockdown in March, we didn’t know what the future held. We still don’t. The uncertainty of the strange times that we find ourselves living through are unprecedented in living memory. There has been so much destruction, heartbreak and despair, but hand in hand with the dark days, we have been given beautiful gifts. Lockdown gave me the gift of time with my daughters while their schools closed their doors. The distance from loved ones was a brutal sacrifice to our community that we all made. My 80 year old mum gallantly navigated FaceTime and took up residence on a shelf in my kitchen appearing via FaceTime as if she was peering in through a newly cut window. I was locked in an East London flat with my 3 amazing daughters. It was hard, but such a time to cherish. We hit the couch to 5k during our 1 hour of exercise, until our park was closed. Then we ran around the local estate, Jo Whiley encouraging us to keep going in our headphones. Homeschooling became the challenge of the day – 3 such different people at such different stages of their childhood – a soon to be teenager in her first year of secondary school, a 10 year old hyper-energetic gymnast who normally trains in a gym for several hours every night and was suddenly locked inside, and my little 6 month old baby. Along with a psychotic cat and a brand new kitten, all while mourning the loss of our beloved dog Goose who died just after the baby was born and just before the pandemic hit. And then our internet went down. For 2 weeks. It was the most beautiful 2 weeks of the entire lockdown. Downfall and twister were played with violent competitiveness, the cats were decorated, as was the baby. Hormones savaged emotions. It was raw, female and brilliant. And very very scarey.

I have worked all of my life. Suddenly stopping was like opening a door to all of the projects that I had kept couped up in my mind with no time to do. I became a craft maniac. LETS MAKE THIS! LETS MAKE THAT! GET OFF THOSE SCREENS, STOP WORKING AND COME AND HOLD THIS HOT GLUE GUN! I may have not been working, but my kids still were – it was very frustrating as a slightly irresponsible mother who really likes spending time doing stuff with her kids. We made a macrame/knotted screen for our window to stop the cats falling out – a bit like a giant fishing net, made out of knotted bricklaying neon string. We made a beautiful blanket out of old cut up cashmere jumpers that had been left to me by my departed step mum. We made cakes. Always gluten free. Gluten free flour became a serious black market commodity. Friends would find a bag and drop it on my doorstep. I would thank them with a freshly repotted Aloe Vera baby (yes… another project for my poor exhausted Coeliac children).

We were worried about dear friends and family who worked in the NHS. WhatsApp groups became a source of brilliant memes, but also heartbreaking tales of lack of PPE, lack of protection for healthcare workers. I applied for Creature Clothes to make PPE for the government on our first day of being closed. They did not want our help. And then one of the local mental health care professionals in our community put out a plea asking if anyone could make some face masks. Her team had no PPE and were going into homes and around our neighbourhood unprotected. I jumped at the chance. We discontinued some bandana designs on the Creature Clothes website and used the fabric to make face coverings. A triple layer design with an internal pocket for a filter. My kids cut the fabric, my husband ironed the pleats, while I sewed like a mad woman. We made the masks for the mental health team. Then we made more masks and put them in the entrance hall to our block of flats with a sign asking people to take one to protect themselves. Then more nurses got in touch and we made more masks. Then doctors asked for them for their families. We then made a massive amount of masks for our local primary schools, to keep all the teachers safe as they stayed open to care for the children of front line workers. It kind of snowballed.

I also discovered that I am really bad at sewing scrubs, but one lovely nurse friend now immunises babies dressed head to toe in unicorn scrubs that are more than a little wonky.

As the mask making drove on and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand, I made a little video and put it up on our Creature Clothes instagram, showing others how to make the masks. Teacher friends used the video to do run face mask making projects in their schools, learning to sew with their pupils. Friends used the video to keep their isolated elder relatives busy sewing. Masks were being made left right and centre. And those that couldn’t make the masks asked me to start selling them on our website. Which we now do, and because we are us, you can buy a bandana for your dog in the same print as your mask – because that is super cool. And for every bandana that we sell on our website, we give one to a front line worker for free.

You can find my little lockdown video tutorial on our instagram page here. It is also available on you tube – see below. If sewing isn’t your bag, they are available on our website as single units, as bundles, or with a dog or cat bandana too.

Happy sewing! Stay safe. Wear a mask x

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