Soon after Coronavirus/Covid19 reared its ugly head, I read a request on a Facebook post asking for ‘scrubs bags’. Staff working on the frontline would change out of their dirty uniforms and scrubs and place them into a bag that would be carried home. It was suggested that they were then put into the boot of their car and thrown lockstock into their washing machine. The idea was to reduce the chances of cross contamination and protect themselves and their families.

I shared the post on the Balsall Common Facebook page and offered to be a collection point for anyone making these bags. I would then distribute them where needed. A group chat on messenger of maybe 6 or 7 other people evolved into a Facebook Group of currently 61 members and so the ‘Balsall Common Sewing Circle’ was formed.

To date, we have produced and donated over 750 bags, hundreds of headbands (to ease the pain on the backs of ears from wearing paper masks), and hundreds of fabric hearts. Some members have also made full scrubs outfits, including hats. They have gone to Covid and non-Covid wards at Warwick Hospital, University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, various wards at Solihull Hospital, community nurses, student nurses, renal and cardiology units, the Marie Curie Hospice in Solihull and various local care homes. We have donated 170 to Coventry Council Waste Management Services and 100 to the Assistant Chief of West Midlands Fire Service. The furthest one of our bags has gone as far as Orkney to a retired nurse returning to the frontline.

I have received hundreds of donations of fabric, ribbon, bedding, thread and buttons from the Balsall Common community and distributed them daily to our stitchers from my motorbike.

Although the demand for our bags remains, talk on our Facebook page has turned to what happens next for the group. Already we have been asked to produce small birds to help build an art installation called ‘Fleeting Moments’ commissioned by John Taylor Hospice to commemorate their 110th anniversary. Some of our group have also started making their own bunting for the VE Day celebrations.

By Paul Bennett