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Inspired by Jemma Young, chief knitter for the NHS!

5th May 2020

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Jemma, a cabin crew manager for an airline, was put on furlough in March. Despite being busy home-schooling her four-year-old son, and volunteering for her local community in South Wales, Jemma wanted to do more to help NHS frontline workers. She gathered some friends and they have made over 1500 mask adaptors so that NHS staff can wear their masks safely and comfortably. Helpforce has been supporting Jemma and her group to donate these to hospitals across the country.

Her inspiration in her words

I saw pictures of NHS frontline staff with their faces and ears red and sore from wearing masks and PPE for long hours. I have many good friends who are nurses, paramedics, radiographers, pharmacists, midwives and care home workers, and I hated to think of them suffering. I saw on Facebook that somebody had crocheted an item that would hold the elastics of a mask so it would fit secure and be soft. But I cannot crochet. However, I can knit!

How it all began

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I started by knitting one mask adaptor for my friend who is a nurse working on the frontline. She found it really useful, so I made a few more for her so she had some spare. Then I offered to make more for other friends who currently wear a mask to work, including staff at the local care home where my grandma resides. These mask adaptors proved popular.

I posted a picture on my Facebook and the comments combined with feedback from those I had knitted for, motivated me to make more. Requests started to come in, so I put a call out for spare buttons and got to work with the help of my friends Rebecca and Trudy. Together, we knitted and crocheted the first batch of the mask adaptors. We delivered them to our local care home and hospitals. Pictures of our mask adaptors were seen by others and the requests continued, not just for a few but for orders of 20, 40, 50, 100’s.

Some of my friends who also like to knit, asked me for the pattern, so they could have a go too. I typed up and shared the pattern, and decided that in order to get these made and distributed quickly to meet the demand, I would need to enlist some more knitting fanatics to join the Mask Adaptor Army. Within a week, there were 12 ladies busy volunteering their time and materials to make these mask adaptors. The orders continued and the army grew. By week two of the project, we had 25 of us busy at work making mask adaptors.

The Items

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The mask adaptors have buttons on both ends, so a mask can fit over the buttons which relieves tightness from around the ears and sides of the face. They are machine washable, and are washed before they get packed up into a sealed bag which is dated the day they get bagged. Recipients can choose to wait 72 hours before opening the items.

In three weeks, we have sent 1500 mask adaptors to hospitals, community midwives, GP surgeries, care homes and volunteer groups in our local area, but also further afield too. They have gone to the following areas: Cwmbran, Newport, Gloucester, Sussex, Shropshire, Abergavenny, Huddersfield, Llanelli, Birmingham, Bristol, Frimley, East Surrey, Birkenhead, Bedford, Norwich and Cardiff. We are continuing to supply more orders nationwide. In addition to mask adaptors, we also make masks, home-made scrub bags, and scrub hats for frontline staff. As Rebecca and I used to knit hats for premature babies, we thought we should still make them as premature babies are still being born during this crisis. So we continue to knit the prem baby hats, 33 were made and sent last week. My mother Elaine has set herself a lockdown challenge of making 100, she has so far done 65 in two weeks.

Thank you

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Finally, I’m pleased to send my huge thanks to my army, as without them, and their commitment, the volume of items made and being used in this crisis would not be possible. Thank you Rebecca, Trudy, Elaine, Sarahjane, Pat, Diane, Diana, Lisa, Nicola, Paula,Terri, Emma, Annette, Nadine, Glynis, Jane, Angela, Ronnie, Caz, Steph, Tara, Linsey, Jodie, Helen, Mandy and Sylvia.