Fabric is in high demand, with many DIYers taking to their sewing machines to fill in the gaps left by the coronavirus-induced closures of manufacturers and retailers. From homemade masks to patching up worn out clothes, this global pandemic has revived the make-do-and-mend attitude of Britain.


Homemade masks are a fashion statement in themselves now, taking over from welding masks and paper bags. Although these masks are not PPE, as they will do little to protect someone from catching the coronavirus, they are helpful in the protection of others should you cough or sneeze, particularly if you are carrying the disease. The US has released a video instructing citizens how to turn a t-shirt into a non-medical face mask and many online retailers, like Boohoo, are seizing the opportunity to market masks, proving that not even a pandemic can stop fast fashion. Making your own need not be a hassle, as plenty of online tutorials can testify. Though environmentally conscious fashion used to be about sustainability, the meaning has evolved to being conscious of others post-coronavirus.

Aside from making a fashion statement, face masks are important in the stimulation of the economy, as manufacturers clamour to offer their help in producing PPE. The problem with PPE production is that it requires a specific fabric, SMMS, which combines non-woven materials, meltblown and spunbond. As any manufacturer can tell you, setting up a supply chain for these products is a difficult process which can take up to a year under normal circumstances. Some companies have managed to start supplying hospital-grade products, like Barbour, but there is more interest in the homespun protective equipment, as in Patrick Grant’s initiative with Community Clothing. Many individuals are also looking to lend a hand; Sarah Ashton is York is hoping to use her knowledge as a seamstress to sew for the NHS, but is struggling to find the materials, using 3.5m to make one set of scrubs. The long-lost art of the bedsheet outfit is being revived as manufacturers close their doors due to lockdown.


Online, we’ve seen trends of people upcycling their clothes from home due to an inability to buy new and an abundance of time to do it in. Sustainability champions never saw a global pandemic as a means to encourage people to reuse their textiles at home, but many people dusting off their thimbles in between Netflix marathons. Excess inventory in manufacturing warehouses may well be getting the same treatment as many cancelled orders have left textiles piling up. Marked down prices after coronavirus may present opportunities to get creative at home with fabric.

Covid-19 has had very few silver linings, but the rebirth of the Great British sewing machine is one of them, in the making of medical and non-medical PPE, as well as to fill the long hours between waking and sleeping and then doing it all over.

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