George Brown graduate starts up Sewing Army to protect essential workers

Diana Coatsworth medical cap and mask

George Brown College alumna Diana Coatsworth is spearheading a sewing army that has swept across Canada, providing much-needed face masks, surgical caps and hospital gowns to health-care and essential workers who need them.

Coatsworth, a graduate of George Brown’s fashion program, is a fashion designer and small business owner of Diana Coatsworth Design.

“I used the knowledge I gained from college to start my business,” she says. “In the last year, startGBC has been a great asset to help my business grow. It's been quite awesome having that support.”

Like many small business owners, Coatsworth found herself out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon reading about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), she knew she had the skill and the means to help.

That’s why Coatsworth quickly started a Facebook group called the Sewing Army, where she and other members help thousands of people develop patterns and source materials for face masks and other PPE. The Sewing Army has grown from 10 sewers to more than 3,000 sewers and helpers across Canada. The group has made thousands of face masks and other PPE that are helping to protect health-care and essential workers.

“In this pandemic, with everyone isolated, it’s good to have a team of like-minded helpers who are supporting and encouraging each other,” says Coatsworth. “We’re in the Facebook group all day and night, answering questions and guiding people.”

The Sewing Army is made up of both skilled and novice sewers, as well as helpers who assist with the delivery of supplies, and contribute needed materials and monetary donations.

“You don't need to be a professional sewer to help,” explains Coatsworth. “Some people have sewed for the first time as part of the Sewing Army. We offer a lot of support, information and love in the group.”

The Sewing Army needs more help to keep doing their great work. Anyone who is in a position to contribute can help by sewing, delivering supplies or donating. Go to thesewingarmy.com for more information.

“We need to grow this group to accommodate the needs of our essential workers,” says Coatsworth. “We must do everything we can to help keep them safe.”