Diana Coatsworth, co-founder of The Sewing Army, leads a group of thousands of volunteers that responded to the shortage of PPE for healthcare, frontline, and essential Workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Diana Coatsworth, co-founder of The Sewing Army, leads a group of thousands of volunteers that responded to the shortage of PPE for healthcare, frontline, and essential Workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

An idea that started with 10 people five weeks ago on a Zoom call has morphed into an army of sewers, volunteers, and cheerleaders 3,400 strong.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, like most, Diana Coatsworth, owner of Diana Coatsworth Design in downtown Toronto, Ont. felt mixed emotions. All her biggest shows such as the One of a Kind Sale were cancelled. She was forced to close the doors to her store. She wondered, like many artisans and small business owners, what to do.  After reading countless articles about the desperate need from the healthcare community for gowns, scrub caps, and face masks, the answer came easily: start sewing.

“Thank god I had the wherewithal to think let’s do this together,” Coatsworth recalls. “I knew there would be a whole bunch of people interested in helping, I just needed to find a way to organize and reach all of the home sewers.”

With the help of colleague Melinda Deines and countless volunteers, the fashion designer, former actress, and small business owner, used her entrepreneurial skills —and her network—to rally the troops. A Facebook page was created. Every day, as word spread, more sewers, from across Ontario, the rest of Canada, and even from other parts of the world, heeded the call. Hobbyists, children, senior citizens and professional sewers volunteered. The Sewing Army was born.

An idea that started with 10 people five weeks ago on a Zoom call has morphed into an army of sewers, volunteers, and cheerleaders 3,400 strong.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, like most, Diana Coatsworth, owner of Diana Coatsworth Design in downtown Toronto, Ont. felt mixed emotions. All her biggest shows such as the One of a Kind Sale were cancelled. She was forced to close the doors to her store. She wondered, like many artisans and small business owners, what to do.  After reading countless articles about the desperate need from the healthcare community for gowns, scrub caps, and face masks, the answer came easily: start sewing.

“Thank god I had the wherewithal to think let’s do this together,” Coatsworth recalls. “I knew there would be a whole bunch of people interested in helping, I just needed to find a way to organize and reach all of the home sewers.”

With the help of colleague Melinda Deines and countless volunteers, the fashion designer, former actress, and small business owner, used her entrepreneurial skills —and her network—to rally the troops. A Facebook page was created. Every day, as word spread, more sewers, from across Ontario, the rest of Canada, and even from other parts of the world, heeded the call. Hobbyists, children, senior citizens and professional sewers volunteered. The Sewing Army was born.

The core Sewing Army team: Diana Coatsworth, Melinda Deines, Vic Chan, Michael Chan, and Renee Strasfeld pictured here celebrating their success after only one month of operation.

The core Sewing Army team: Diana Coatsworth, Melinda Deines, Vic Chan, Michael Chan, and Renee Strasfeld pictured here celebrating their success after only one month of operation.

By creating video tutorials and posting easy to follow patterns to make masks, caps, and gowns, Coatsworth made it easy for anyone to help, whether or not they had any previous sewing experience.

By creating video tutorials and posting easy to follow patterns to make masks, caps, and gowns, Coatsworth made it easy for anyone to help, whether or not they had any previous sewing experience.

It’s such a caring group. People love that they are associated with a mission that is not only practical, but it has so much heart … that is why it is so positive and why so many people want to be involved. – Diana Coatsworth, Sewing Army

“It’s such a caring group. People love that they are associated with a mission that is not only practical, but it has so much heart … that is why it is so positive and why so many people want to be involved.”

– Diana Coatsworth, Sewing Army

Initially, The Sewing Army were too busy to count how much PPE they had made, but recently a group survey determined the following conservative numbers: they’ve collectively created 26,000 pieces of PPE that have been distributed mainly to front-line essential workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and cleaning service businesses.

No one knows when the need for PPE will end. Until then, the mission that inspired this army of volunteers remains the same as when those 10 volunteers jumped on that phone call five weeks ago.

“Get PPE to those that need it as quickly and as efficiently as possible, with a lot of love!” Coatsworth concludes. “I have so much gratitude to everyone involved.”

The Sewing Army is always in need of more sewers. To volunteer, or learn more about this group with a huge heart, reach out to them via: Facebook or Instagram.

Initially, The Sewing Army were too busy to count how much PPE they had made, but recently a group survey determined the following conservative numbers: they’ve collectively created 26,000 pieces of PPE that have been distributed mainly to front-line essential workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and cleaning service businesses.

No one knows when the need for PPE will end. Until then, the mission that inspired this army of volunteers remains the same as when those 10 volunteers jumped on that phone call five weeks ago.

“Get PPE to those that need it as quickly and as efficiently as possible, with a lot of love!” Coatsworth concludes. “I have so much gratitude to everyone involved.”

The Sewing Army is always in need of more sewers. To volunteer, or learn more about this group with a huge heart, reach out to them via: Facebook or Instagram.

Written by: David McPherson

Written by: David McPherson