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Posted 09.04.20

Makers HQ produce PPE out of hospital curtains for local surgery

By Naomi Girdler

Unique challenges have arisen from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) global pandemic putting pressure on many of our essential services. Makers HQ, a community interest fashion sampling studio and training centre in collaboration with Plymouth College of Art, Millfields Trust and the local Stonehouse community, have responded by putting their sewing skills to use during the lockdown, producing protective gowns for a local medical practice.

In response to an urgent callout for personal protective equipment (PPE) from GP Dr Amanda Harry at West Hoe Surgery, Makers HQ jumped into action producing vital clothing construction kits. Local volunteers from Plymouth College of Art and the wider community, with technical knowledge of fashion design and production, are now using the kits to manufacture gowns and scrubs from medical curtains — fabric usually found dividing patient beds in hospitals. 

Makers HQ Studio Manager Sophie Glover tries on a prototype gown

Makers HQ provides high-quality sampling services to the fashion and textile industry as well as offering a diverse range of qualifications and short courses from pattern making to stitching. The studio has now made its machinery and skills available to facilitate the production of vital PPE.

Makers HQ have now received a delivery of fifty curtains from the surgery along with a sample and a pattern to get started. After a tweak to the pattern by pattern cutters, machinists at the studio have cut the curtains to size, ready for distribution. Elastic for the cuffs, threads, instruction manuals and domestic sewing machines have then been organised into kits for volunteers to create in the safety of their own home. 

One of the hospital curtains before being cut into patterns

Heather Martin, Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion, has coordinated a number of volunteers including Plymouth College of Art academics, technicians and supporting staff as well as students across multiple creative disciplines. So far over 100 kits have been produced, and within one week over 30 undergraduate students from the college have offered to give up their time to support the needs of local industry.

Heather said: “It makes me very proud to teach, as so many of our fashion students have joined forces with Makers HQ to produce PPE for the NHS. This interest is testament to the kind of socially-minded students that we have in our course and at Plymouth College of Art.”

“This is a function over form project that encourages our students to understand just how transferable and valuable their skill set is. It reaches beyond the next trend to solve real-world problems that can benefit our local communities.”

"...We want to do everything we can to help the NHS, and it’s great that we’ve been able to draw on our partnership with Plymouth College of Art to support this project."
- Sophie Glover, Makers HQ Studio Manager

Year three BA (Hons) Fashion student and volunteer River Smith said: “My mum is a nurse within the NHS, so I’ve grown up understanding how important the NHS and its staff is. I’ve wanted to help and contribute towards the PPE shortage, but staying at home makes it feel like we’re doing nothing. We’re doing our part, but when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to get involved and do some good.”

Student River Smith with his PPE construction kit. Photo courtesy of River Smith - Instagram @hesnosaint

Makers HQ Studio Manager Sophie Glover said: “This is a difficult time for our business as we’ve had to pause most of our operations and furlough some staff. At the same time, we want to do everything we can to help the NHS, and it’s great that we’ve been able to draw on our partnership with Plymouth College of Art to support this project.”

“Our hope is that we can coordinate with all the relevant bodies so that we can help the NHS on a bigger scale while also being able to sustain our business and put more of our employees back to work.”

Makers HQ is a community interest company operating as a fashion sampling studio and training centre, providing high-quality services to the fashion and textile industry. Supporting designers to get their collections ready to show and sell, Makers HQ provide essential sampling facilities to established brands. The studio also offers a diverse range of qualifications and short courses from pattern making to stitching skills.

For more information on the college’s response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) please visit our guidance pages or contact