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Tiny garments clothe wee babes

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The tiny blankets, teensy caps and itty-bitty booties look like they were made to dress dolls.

But the 60-some women of Sequim's Stitches from the Heart made them for special babies, the infants who were born before their time.

Parents of preemies otherwise might have nothing in which to take their newborns home from the hospital, a potentially serious problem. Because most body heat escapes through the scalp, one elfin hat can make the difference between an infant's living or dying.

The Stitches from the Heart organization started in 1998 when Kathy Silverton of Santa Monica, Calif., heard about premature babies who had nothing to wear because most commercial clothes and blankets were too big.

She started knitting for her local hospital and friends soon joined her. Now the organization has grown, with groups in all 50 states.


Groups meet monthly

The Sequim chapter has about 60 members. They meet at 1 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month at First Federal, 1201 W. Washington St. Another group meets at 1 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at Port Angeles library, 2210 S. Peabody St. at Lauridsen Boulevard.

At the meetings, members bring clothing and blankets they have completed and exchange ideas and patterns for new projects. The local chapter has made about 5,000 items this year. Organizer Gayle Cole sends off about six boxes each month with 50-120 items per box. One preemie hat is 4 inches around, about the size of a small orange.

Members provide their own yarn and welcome any donations of material or money to buy it and to pay postage. To donate, contact Cole at 681-6229.


Heartbreaking work

More than 1,100 hospitals nationwide are part of the network that gets items made by Stitches from the Heart. No North Olympic Peninsula hospital has asked to receive clothing because the need isn't here. Premature babies routinely are sent to Seattle, which is where Stitches' items are needed.

While most of the work warms members' hearts, one task is hard: making tiny shrouds for stillborns or infants who die soon after birth. They evoke so much emotion that they're hard even to photograph, but the stitchers understand the need and work to fill it.

Stitches from the Heart started out making items only for preemies. Members have branched out to making items up to size toddler 2.

Elders aiding infants

Their goal is to make sure every baby has a hat, blanket, sweater and booties when he or she leaves the hospital. They do not knit or crochet all the items. They also make tiny blankets from fleece and add a crocheted border.

Nurses from around the country write to let the stitchers know how much their work is needed and appreciated. Each item carries the donor's name and the organization often receives letters from parents thanking them for making homecoming special for their children.

Stitches does not, however, only help children. With donated yarn, members also offer older persons a chance to contribute their skills at stitching.

One woman in a retirement home recently told Cole that she feels useful again.

That's what may be unique about Stitches from the Heart. It helps people at both ends of life.


Reach Dana Casey at dcasey@sequimgazette.com

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