SGH’s seamstress who ab-sew-loutely loves her job talks about how it all began, and what kept her going for 45 years.

“Back in 1979, when I told my friends about my new job at the hospital, they thought I was off to stitch up bodies after post-mortem examination in the mortuary," Majima Binte Madari, 74, chuckles, recalling the amusing confusion among her friends when she announced her new job as a tailor at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

"None of us knew hospitals hired tailors. I stumbled upon this job thanks to a nudge from the MOM recruiter." In those days, job seekers had to go through the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to score a government job. 

"I had gone to MOM to ask about gardening work, but the recruiter found out I love sewing and suggested this tailoring job," Majima recounts with a grin. 

Her friends had nudged her to find work for a steadier income to support her children. At the time, she had her own home-based tailoring hustle, whipping up everything from dresses to curtains. 

Flashback to her twenties, when sewing meant heavy foot pedals and hand-cranked wheels, “Those machines were a workout! You'd either be pedaling away with one foot, or cranking with one hand, and wrestling the fabric with the other." 

Majima's preferred sewing machine - faithfully serving SGH for over 50 years, outlasting even Majima's tenure - for intricate work.

Joining SGH meant she had to contend with mending a wide range of items like patient gowns and pyjamas, scrubs worn by doctors and other staff during surgery, operating theater drapes, bedsheets, and curtains. After years of working with these fabrics, Majima is not stressed by them anymore.

Over the years, along with the hospital’s expansion and more patients coming in, Majima's role also became more intricate.

While she still focuses on mending torn linens, these days you would also find Majima giving her best attention to the hospital linens during their routine quality check, dabbling in sustainability projects, and brainstorming with nurses to make patients’ hospital stay a tad comfier. "We try to extend the longevity of the linen. Ever heard of embroidered surgical gowns ?" she grins, proudly showcasing an operating theater patient gown stitched up in a pre-approved, unisex embroidery design. You would not believe the piece of linen had a little hole on it.

Majima showcasing an operating theater gown patched up with an intricate embroidery.

When things are a little less hectic in the Linen Supplies Unit (LSU), Majima transforms old curtains into bags to hold soiled linen, and tote bags for LSU’s housekeepers to fulfil urgent patient gown requests from the wards.


These versatile upcycled tote bags are used by linen housekeepers for express linen delivery.

"From upcycling to recycling, we're on a sustainability mission," shared Charis Chang, Senior Operations Executive who is Majima’s supervisor at the Department of Environmental Services. From year 2019 to 2023, $123,000 worth of linens were recycled. The Linen Supply Unit receives clean linen from the launderer, and packs and distributes the linen to wards, outpatient clinics, A&E and Operating Theatre in SGH and OCH.


Repurposed from old curtains, Majima crafted these tote bags for express linen delivery to the various wards and outpatient clinics. With over 4 years of reliable service, these tote bags accommodate up to 5 blankets, or approximately 10 bedsheets.

Besides giving old linens a new lease of life, Majima also has a knack for turning innovative ideas into reality. She was part of a nurse-led team in 2022 that redesigned patient Operating Theatre gowns that are easier to put on and do a better job of protecting patients’ modesty.  “The old gowns would be open at the back because patients couldn’t reach around the back to secure the ties properly.  And these gowns didn't just risk exposure,” Majima explained, “They made care tricky. Drips sometimes gets yanked out accidentally when gowns are being changed.” Leading the charge in sewing prototypes, Majima and her team tried out tons of designs and materials before landing on the perfect one.

Sometimes "special requests" come in, requiring Majima to put on her thinking cap and come up with innovative solutions to these uncommon demands.

“In 2001, I had the honor of stitching up custom bed covers for Ganga and Jamuna, the conjoined Nepali twins. Joined at the head, they needed extra-long beds and therefore special bed covers. We also customized  an additional top-hung cover to provide for some privacy during transfers. Seeing those girls snug and safe, and their parents' distress reduced; knowing that my little efforts can make a difference -that's what keeps me going after 45 years." 

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