Saturday, September 10, 2016
Infant Burial & Bereavement Clothing Ideas
If you have followed this blog in the past, you'll notice it has been inactive for a very long time. The Stake Relief Society Presidency I was a part of back then was released in October of 2013, and this blog essentially "retired" permanently.
But as everyone knows, whatever is shared on the web STAYS on the web and lives on (and on, and on...) One post in particular, dated May 2010, has generated a lot of interest since then. It focused on a Humanitarian Project hosted by a ward in our stake: making burial clothing for stillborn and very premature infants. (That link is here: http://riverstakereliefsociety.blogspot.com/2010/05/welcome-new-8th-ward-presidency.html)
For six years now I've received email requests via the "comments" at the bottom of this post. This project touched many hearts in our stake, and also around the world. Many have asked where the patterns can be found for these tiny burial items. The women who served in the ward at that time have moved on, and I have lost their contact information.
With so much interest, I finally decided it was time to do something about it. I've spent several months now searching the web for patterns. I tried several of them out, drawn up a pattern myself, and compiled a list of other sources for additional patterns.
I'm sharing them with you below. Please feel free to share your own sources and links via a comment to this post (No spam please, and nothing for profit. It's heartless to make a profit off a mother & father's grief) Thank goodness it appears that most people involved in this labor of love are offering their talents out of the desire to serve. Feel free to pin & share to your heart's content - but please link back to this original source.
The question we all have is this: just how tiny are these babies this clothing is for? Depends. Losses occur in all stages of pregnancy, but it seems the most common sizes needed are between 1 to 4 lbs. (Ask your local hospital where you donate these items, or friends you know who have experienced a similar loss)
When a fetal death occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, doctors consider this a stillbirth. Here are estimated sizes at given weeks:
Week 16 (4 months) - 4.57" - 3.53 oz
Week 20 (5 months) - 6.46" - 10.58 oz
Week 24 (6 months) - 11.8" - 1.32 lbs
Week 28 (7 months) - 14.8" - 2.2 lbs
Week 32 (8 months) - 16.69" - 3.75 lbs
Week 38 - 40 (full term) - 19.96" - 7.25 lbs
Here are two sizing charts I found online. I don't have enough experience to know if they are accurate, so use accordingly.
I asked several people for their ideas on what is most useful and needed. A friend of mine has been a nurse in a neonatal unit, a well as losing her own baby at 7 months. She shared this: "The mortuary director told us that gowns that open down the back are best, and easiest to dress such tiny bodies in. Are you considering making two gowns for the parents? One for the burial and one as a keepsake would really mean a lot to the families."
I tried my first one using a pattern for a kimono (with sleeves). My advice is: Don't use a pattern with sleeves, if at all possible. The arm opening is just so tiny and takes so much time. It also makes it difficult to dress a fragile baby with a tiny armhole. Lining it is nice (I used white flannel because it was so warm and sweet) - but this will add significantly to the time to make it.
Here is a link to a great tutorial & video (and a pattern to download):
I then decided to change the basic kimono pattern to a gown. The first one I made had drawstring sleeves & bottom - sweet, but required a lot of effort. I tried to imagine why the drawstring would be easier and helpful to a family. The only reason I'd add drawstrings is for siblings & parents to be able to examine the tiny hands and feet. The next one I made was an open gown. Much simpler.
This pattern is laid out with the shoulders on the fold, then cut out the neckline with a slit down the back for an opening. I simply made a fold-and-turn stitch around the opening, with sticky-backed velcro at the neck for closing.
Here is my feeble attempt at posting a pattern for these gowns (above): Enlarge to full-size when printing, then attach the two pieces as instructed. (If you can't get it to print full size - email me, and I'll email you the original size)
Finishing the neckline can be tricky, because it's so tiny. I really liked the look of continuous bias binding made from the same fabric from the gown. Sew it to the neckline (right sides together) then fold it down and sew right next to the seam, trimming the back closely when finished. I made my own continuous bias binding (1-1/2"), which is very simple. It looks complicated at first, but once you've done it - you'll "get it", and gladly do it again. Here is a link to one of several websites that walk you through how to make continuous bias binding:
Here are some closure ideas you'll want to consider: clear transparent sticky-back Velcro, Velcro sticky back "dots", and Iron-Safe Nylon Snaps. Of course, you can also use ribbon closures, but think how awkward it would be to tie on such a fragile little body.
The next gown I tried was a tiny little "bunting" gown developed by Julie-Anne Carr of BC Angel Dresses. You can download any or all of her patterns from her Facebook page "BC Angel Dresses". This is a public group page - and you can find her patterns under the "Files" tab. Take a look at all of them, they are very sweet. The "Angel Dress Tutorial" is a Word doc that has a lot of detail in the instructions on how to add a facing, extra touches, etc.
After making the first one of these buntings, I decided it would be easier (and equally as nice) to put the bodice together with the bottom section and have it become just one piece - front and back. Then you can add lace or ribbon to make it appear to have a separate bodice (without the bulky seam) I'll post pictures when I actually do this on a few.
I prefer not to use facings - too tiny and time consuming. Instead, I like using the continuous bias binding around the very tiny necklines (shown above). Remember the back of the gowns will rarely (if ever) be seen. I think it's better to devote my best efforts and time to the front of the gowns.
*I use my embroidery machine to add the angel design. Blue for boys, pink for girls. I thought of offering to custom embroider the first letter of the infant's name when I know the family (instead of the "A"), but this might be difficult to keep up with. I'll see how this goes before offering that service for now.
I've pinned several ideas while searching on my Pinterest board "Bereavement Infant Clothing". Some of these are only photos that were uploaded by the contributor(s) without sources, but they are great ideas. I'll be adding more as I find them. There are literally HUNDREDS of similiar Pinterest boards on this topic - I follow a lot of them.
My own Pinterest board can be found here: