An Amesbury woman was named one of three UK Sewing Heroes recognised nationwide for their work supporting the community through the pandemic. 

Naomi Betts, 47, has made and given away at least 15,000 Covid masks for free since April 2020 when she realised masks would become mandatory and first started making them. 

Her efforts were recognised by Singer Sewing Machines after a nationwide request for nominations and honoured at a lunch in London with Patrick Grant, a judge on the BBC programme The Great British Sewing Bee. 

Naomi, who finished her PhD in Major Incident Response training over the pandemic, was inspired by people in the Czech Republic who hung masks from trees in their own gardens for people to take and set about organising the same.

The mother-of-two said: “I didn’t actually have a tree, so I started by putting out a hat stand in my front garden and hanging some masks from that.

"Almost from day one, we had queues of people in the garden, initially reticent to take one but happy to do so once they had been reassured they were free to help themselves.” 

As production was stepped up, Naomi's children helped with sewing and spreading the word and donations began coming in to fund materials.

“Eventually we created an interactive map so that people could find out where mask trees were in their local areas," said Naomi.

"There was no pressure for anyone to put their tree on the map but, at its peak, we had 422 trees registered with many more operating off-map."

Overall, Naomi estimated the Community Mask Tree network had made around 200,000 free cloth masks and she was “blown away” by the success of the project.

“It gave me a purpose and a way of trying to be supportive of my own community during a horrible, worrying time," added Naomi.

"It connected me with my community in a way I hadn’t really been connected before and I know many others who feel the same.”

She wanted to send a thanks all the volenteers, with a special mention to Carol Kite, Abi Lunn, Sian Clarke and Gill Kirk-Burgess, for coming together and supporting Community Mask Tree hosts and makers across the length and breadth of the country. 

The other two UK sewing heroes recognised by Singer Sewing Machines were Rosie Taylor-Davies, a costume designer from Putney, and Louise Drakes from Keelby, near Grimsby.

Rosie created a network of sewists that, between them, have made more than 28,000 items, including sets of scrubs for NHS workers, since the start of the pandemic.

Louise Drakes from Keelby, near Grimsby, made over 11,000 lip-reading masks for the hard of hearing, those working in care homes with elderly people, for street teams working with homeless people as well as masks, scrubs, and gowns for those working in the NHS.

Patrick Grant, a judge on the BBC programme The Great British Sewing Bee, commented:“The stories of these three sewers are inspirational and reflect the enormous contribution that amateur sewers around the country have made to their local NHS and to help their neighbours through successive lockdowns during the pandemic.

"It’s not an exaggeration for Singer to call Louise, Rosie and Naomi heroes and their local communities as well as the whole sewing community should be very proud of them and all of the other amazing nominees.”

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