Designer 'in awe of NHS workers' makes sleeping masks for exhausted Herts doctors and nurses

A children's clothes designer has created blackout sleeping masks for NHS workers across West Hertfordshire NHS Trust, including Hemel Hempstead Hospital - and each mask features a hand-sewn supportive message.
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NHS workers struggling with long hours and changing shift patterns because of the coronavirus pandemic should be able to get a little more rest and shut-eye, thanks to the sewing expertise of children’s clothes designer Dawn Clarke.

Dawn, who lives in Hampshire, usually spends her days making bespoke children’s outfits. But when she heard exhausted NHS staff from doctors and nurses to hospital porters were finding it hard to adjust to new shift patterns and get the sleep they desperately needed, she knew she could help.

Dawn said: “I’m in awe of our NHS workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. So when I read they had been asking for eye masks to help them sleep around crazy shift patterns, I knew I wanted to help.

Dawn Clarke with the eye masks she's designed for NHS workersDawn Clarke with the eye masks she's designed for NHS workers
Dawn Clarke with the eye masks she's designed for NHS workers

“All my usual commissions require quality fabric, so my studio is a treasure trove of beautiful scraps and offcuts - it’s such a pleasure to upcycle them into something useful.”

Dawn has created 50 blackout eye masks specifically for staff at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, where one of her relatives works. The hospital has a special place in Dawn’s heart because it’s where several members of her family were born and other relatives have been taken care of at the end of their lives too.

Dawn wanted to ‘bring a little ray of sunshine’ for the staff and so created the masks, which comprise a fun print on the front, quality blackout fabric in the centre and a pure silk lining.

They also come with an adjustable ribbon headband and a cotton pouch to keep them in. Dawn has added fun decorative details to a selection, while all are adorned with a small ‘hope’ rainbow and each mask comes with its own pouch, featuring a hand-sewn supportive message.

Eye masks by Dawn ClarkeEye masks by Dawn Clarke
Eye masks by Dawn Clarke

All the fabric is natural cotton or silk, and is hypoallergenic.

Louise Halfpenny, director of communications at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have been bowled over by the kindness shown to us. The sleep masks are extra special because they are handmade and will be a lasting gift for staff. The fact that each mask comes in its own pouch with a handwritten message of support for the wearer is a lovely added touch.”

Grace Sanderson, senior sister on Bluebell ward, is one of the hospital staff to receive a mask by Dawn. She said: “It will make a very nice change to wear such a pretty mask! Getting a good night’s sleep is more important now than ever so we’re really grateful to Dawn at Dawn Clarke designs for sending these in.”

Dawn’s day job is managing commissions through her business, Dawn Clarke Designs. She creates ethical, bespoke occasion wear, often upcycling vintage textiles or incorporating fabrics from other family-owned pieces.

Grace Sanderson wearing one of Dawn's eye masksGrace Sanderson wearing one of Dawn's eye masks
Grace Sanderson wearing one of Dawn's eye masks

Dawn will also be making royal blue scrubs for hospitals in Hampshire. These will have wrap-around tops so staff don’t have to pull them off over their head and risk transferring any trace of the virus to their face.

For more information about Dawn and her work, please visit

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