AN ARMY of volunteers in Ilminster has been giving a crafty comfort boost to the district’s invaluable NHS staff.

The team, who have dubbed themselves the Community Sewing Army, was launched by Ilminster woman Sue Curtis.

Armed with two decades of experience in homecare, she designed some headbands for doctors, nurses and care workers who now have to wear masks for long periods of time.

Sue said: “A couple of months ago, I was hospitalised with a bad flare up of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

“I was in for 11 days, approximately nine of which required me to wear a oxygen mask.

“It was very uncomfortable and made my ears red raw.

“I started looking in to the best way to stop this and make a pattern. 20 years in homecare, seven years of which I was self employed, gave me enough knowledge to no what was needed.”

Sue has also previously had a battle with cancer which means she is now high risk, but feels like she owes the NHS a lot.

She added: “I made up a few samples headbands and gave to a friend who works on the frontline at South Petherton Hospital.

“The feedback was they were brilliant and fitted the spec. They tie up so are one size fits all. The material is cotton, and nurses hook the elastic over the bottons on the headband, and so there is no pain.”

Although she has had a deluge of volunteers, now up to 40 after just over two weeks, Sue and her sewing helpers are always looking for more materials - especially buttons.

“I posted on Facebook asking for buttons and any cotton duvets or pillowcases I could cut up to make the headbands.

“The response is amazing with people volunteering to sew with machines or even just to sew on buttons.”

The group specifically needs buttons which are the size of a 10p or bigger.

“My sitting room turned into a haberdashery,” said Sue.

“People drop off donations on my doorstep in a box. They pick up supplies or the headbands come in and then go out to have buttons put on.”

The community sewing army started by delivering 25 headbands to each of the local care providers, and has now handed out around 600.

This includes hospitals in Chard, Crewkerne, South Petherton, Yeovil and Wincanton, as well as GP surgeries and care homes.

She added: “The volunteers are amazing and the people have really got behind this. Without them I couldn’t have hoped to have achieved this many.”

A sub group has even been launched in South Petherton to pick up materials and drop off headbands.

If people in Ilminster do have supplies for the sewing army, there is a box to drop them off in at 84 Adams Meadow.

As well as offerings of buttons and cotton duvet covers, the box has also received a donation of three face shields from Chard firm Numatic.

They were passed on to South Petherton Hospital.

Sue is always looking for more help, especially buttons larger than a 10p, and people to sew them on.

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