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The University of Southampton

SouthMasks making a difference in Southampton

Published: 16 July 2020
Facemask being sewn
The SouthMasks CV19 Support Group has processed over 1,600 orders for face masks and other PPE.

One of the innovative projects funded by the recently-formed Wessex Academic Health Sciences Centre (WAHSC) to tackle practical COVID-19 related issues has reached a major milestone and is now appealing for additional support.

Since launching in May, the SouthMasks CV19 Support Group has processed over 1,600 orders for face masks and other personal protection equipment (PPE), fulfilling requests from across individuals and organisations in Southampton as well as hospitals in Middlesex, Chichester and Salisbury.

The Group received £500 from the WAHSC to produce face masks for key workers in the community, thanks to a proposal submitted by Professor Roxanne Carare ( in the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine. The Group now has an extensive network of sewing volunteers across the community but is in need of delivery drivers to collect and redistribute materials, donations of unwanted fabrics (curtains, bed sheets, duvet covers, t-shirts, etc) and more sewing volunteers to keep up as request continue to arrive.

“It’s all happened very quickly and has just grown and grown,” says Tammy Thomas, SNIFSII Trial Manager in Medicine at the University of Southampton, and Chair and Founder member of the SouthMasks Group who has mobilised a large team of sewing volunteers across the community in recent weeks. “We’re providing a service for the community to protect the community.

“We have a great team of sewing ladies working in their own homes, headed by an amazing lady named Anne Waller who is running the show. We also have a volunteer driver who collects materials and helps to redistribute the masks when they’re ready but we are asking for more people to come forward to give some time – and materials, if you have them – to help us fulfil the many orders we’re receiving daily.”

Material of all kinds, from duvet covers to curtains (including a pair bearing the Southampton Football Club logo which have proved very popular) have been donated along with random bundles of accessories like ribbons and buttons that people have sent in.

“Did you know that with a set of two curtains, you can make 50 face masks?," Tammy enthuses.  “All of the material we take in is washed, ironed, cut, sewn, washed again and sealed within a bag so the finished masks are individually-wrapped,” Tammy added.

"And the lining we recommend is just kitchen roll which is equal to or better than most manufactured filters. Our colleagues in Engineering and Chemistry, led by Professor Bharathram Ganapathisubramani, experimented to show the material saturations of the air pushed through potential linings and kitchen roll proved to be equal or better than most manufactured filters,” she continued.

The website is the best way to connect with the Group for anyone wishing to help by donating materials, joining the sewing group or needing PPE themselves.

The Group is grateful to the support of Professor Carare and her Research Group for supporting this project and helping to set up the website.


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