Why I am Sewing Quilts and Giving Them Away.




I keep rewriting this post. For some reason it is a tricky one to get right.

Let's give it another go then and see if I get it this time. 

I finished the quilts for Craft Hope Project 13. The second quilt is still waiting on a binding, but I'll finish that in an evening. Then off they go to two families in crisis to create some sense of security in an insecure moment of their lives. Seven years for one plus four years for the other and the quilts are finally done. I'm giving them away.

In truth, these two quilts are stitched to some of the most insecure moments in my own life. They don't carry the heaviness of the crisies we've weathered along the way but they are linked inseparably to that time in my life. Above all else the quilts carry my heartfelt and honest belief that everything is truly okay. That we are going to make it through. That no matter how unreal it may seem right now there will be a silver lining somehow, somewhere.

I hope that is the energy they bring to the families to whom they ultimately end up. That yes, this is a frightening and unsure time but you are safe and held in love.

Our story goes like this…

When Sage was two he ended up in a pediatric ICU, unresponsive, intubated, and hooked up to more machines than I can remember the names for. There had been a prolonged seizure and a Flight for Life and a spinal tap and lots of rushing about by furrowed-browed specialists. There were so many wires and monitors and so many hours of simply not knowing how this was going to turn out. Indeed, we stood there at that precipice that few parents do, wondering which way it was going to go and holding fiercely to the believe that everything was going to be okay despite the fact that nothing seemed to be looking that way. Somehow we never let go of the belief that we were going to be all right – all of us – and that our family was going home together and that our life would come back together just like before somehow.

But it was hard in that sterile, unnatural environment to not get shaken. Friends came steadily with homeopathic remedies, flower essences, amazing food, massage and chiropractic care, and their standing by us with the same belief – he was going to be okay. There was no other option. As one friend put it, "This is not Sage's legacy. This is not his story. He is going to be okay."

But the quilts. Back to the quilts. On day two in the ICU I left Sage with Pete so that I could take a shower. When I returned our stark hospital room had been brightened by a handmade quilt -just his size – that draped his still body.

It was from Project Linus, delivered by a volunteer during the few minutes I was away. I stopped in my tracks in the doorway of our room, staring at the quilt. Somehow that blanket transformed my experience in that hospital. Seven years later I still vividly remember the first thought I had upon seeing it: He is coming home. He has to come home. Someone made him a quilt.

We still have that quilt. It's red and black and white with cats and mice on it. Know these days as the "better-maker-blanket", it is requested only when Sage is feeling under the weather. He loves to snuggle under it so that it can work its magic on him. "Where did I get this again?" he asks occasionally and I tell him that someone we never met made it as a present for him when he was not feeling well and it made us all feel wonderful. 

That week in the hospital shaped my parenting forever. In so many ways. Much of what you see here I suppose you could say was born of that week in the ICU. And the power of that simple gift of stitching together some bits of fabric into a toddler-sized quilt has been profound for me too.

So that is why sewing these quilts became so important. The robot quilt was begun during that time in my life, just before Sage ended up on his helicopter flight alone to the hospital. The cowboy quilt I started when someone else in our small town found their own two year old boy hanging in the balance as well. So their roots are similar, and the shared vision of every stitch is the same: Hope.



Sage came home with us in just under a week that October. Things were not back to normal, especially in our own hearts and heads. Worry bordering on obsessive was the norm. But then, ever so slowly, things mellowed. Within a year our worry began to lessen. We began to believe our own story that everything was going to be okay. In the meantime we took exceptional steps to insure good health. And we've never looked back. In the end, I guess that journey was a blessing. While I'd never wish to repeat it, the experiences of that week led us down a path of finding better answers to questions pertaining to our own health and safety. Because of how dire it became we addressed issues that had been there all along. Issues that connected to food and allergies and spectrum behavior and sleep disturbances and… then everything changed.

And now – poof! All of a sudden the worry is truly gone and it is seven years later and everything is better than okay. It is fantastic.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

If you are interested in sending a blanket or quilt to Project 13 I would be thrilled to hear about it. The deadline is coming up in under 2 weeks, so you'll have to sew fast! There are plenty of simple options from receiving blanket types to new-sew fleece. No need to get all fancy-pants. Just make something! If you do send me an email after you ship it and I'll send you a LuSa Organics coupon code. Just for you. With gratitude. If you are local, bring it to my booth at the Dane County Farmer's Market on Saturday and I'll ship yours with mine (and give you a free LuSa gift to boot, for niceness.)

Thanks for listening to my story. It is a big one that I try not to tell very often. But it is important. It has shaped us. In a good way after all. So really. Thanks for listening.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Can I too, take a moment to thank the closest network of support during that time? Your love and attention during that time was more important that you know. PR, IL, KD, LJ. I could not have made it through that dark place without your laughter, light, and unwavering belief that all was well. Aunt Joye, you helped bring Sage back in. I know that. It was amazing. Mom, Dad, DS, AB, MZ, and so many others, and the community that gathered to hold space for Sage in Baraboo that Saturday. We haven't forgotten. Not for a second. – love – R

39 thoughts on “Why I am Sewing Quilts and Giving Them Away.

  1. Casey says:

    Wow, Rachel — I was not expecting to add tears to my coffee this morning. Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story — and for the reminder that we will ALL be okay.

  2. Tara says:

    My son went back into the hospital just 2 days after he was born with breathing problems. Beyond scary for a new mom and dad. The nurses brought him 2 beautiful quilts that he was wrapped in with all those wires hidden underneath. They made us smile, and removed some of the blahness of the sterile hospital room we stayed in for 6 days… Quilts can really make a difference. Thank you Rachel for sharing.

  3. Ami says:

    Stunning. And yes, everything is truly fabulous. Thank you for holding that space for me, as well, during a few of my moments that hung in the balance. Love.

  4. Emmy says:

    Your quilts are beautiful! They will be treasured by some family, I’m sure of it. We, too, have a story and three Project Linus blankets to go with those stories. I appreciate the vulnerability that comes with telling your story. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Cynthia says:

    Rachel, I passed this post on to my Mom…she and my junior high home ec teacher (the amazing woman who taught me how to sew in the 7th grade!) have been making Linus quilts together during the winter. They put much joy into making them and I know they will appreciate what that little quilt meant to you. It goes without saying that your works will bring much comfort to their recipients.
    Be well and know how much I enjoy these little peeks into your world!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for sharing this touching story. It puts so much in perspective and makes one know there is really alot of good hearts in the world:-)

  7. Lori says:

    Beautiful quilts – amazing story. We all have those moments, don’t we? When my Isaac was 8 weeks old he got RSV and was in the hospital for 2 nights. When I got there with him I mentioned to the nurses that he had been sleeping with me. They very sternly told me how they didn’t agree with that and had me sign some liability paper. After that every nurse that came in told me how wonderful it looked and how quickly he’s getting better. So I would lay there listening to his raspy breathing knowing that he would be fine. And he was, he got better very quickly after the two night of being on oxygen. Well he’s now 17 months, he still nurses and still sleeps with me and I hear constant criticizm about it – over and over. But I’m my heart I know he will still be ok. We as mommys know what our kids need – well or sick.
    Good job with the quilts, they will let 2 other families know that, yes, they too will be ok.

  8. sarah says:

    thank you for sharing this honest and intense story, Rachel. you moved me deeply with your words. the value of kindness is immeasurable. I have no doubt that the families that receive your quilts will feel wrapped in your love.

  9. marniduff@yahoo.com says:

    Thank you for this touching post. We too have some scary hospital visit stories, and a Linus Blanket story. Thankfully the memories of many of the scary moments have passed, and I remember more of the faces who were supporting us (my mama), the Linus blanket, and the nurses who were beyond kind and compassionate.
    Will you be doing any more shipments of quilts? I want to participate but I don’t want to stress myself out over deadlines, especially as baby and I are sick right now.

  10. Ina says:

    Wow, Rach. Yes, I am dripping in tears remembering every moment of this through the beauty of your words. The very moment you called as Sage was being flown on Medflight, how the whole world stopped turning and time and space became about keeping that sweet boy alive. What an amazing time, and what an amazing boy. Definitely not his legacy. This is fascinating waking up to this post, as I am in the same space of the world stopped turning right now. I am in the minutes of making flight arrangements to fly with the kids back to Wisco to see my mom who is on the very brink of transition, and I don’t know if we can get there soon enough, as we got word yesterday that the tumor has spread and she’s getting chemo today. I may be making peace, and I’m trying to find the strength to once again find life. Sigh. Thank you for doing what you are doing. As always, you are an inspiration, like those cranes that flew overhead that day. I love you, my love.

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    Tears here as well old friend. I spoke to Teo last week and have been holding you, your mom, and family in my heart ever since. If I can help hold you up right now in any way I am here. Love you so much. Blessing ~ Rachel

  12. Nancy says:

    Holy moly. This was unexpected & inspiring. Although I don’t have a similar personal story, it is all too familiar since I work with children who have cancer. After this morning, I will never again look at the Linus blankets the same. Thanks, Rachel!

  13. Denise says:

    Yowza. I remember all of this. . .a deeply scary time that has transformed into a beautiful tale of courage, love, and deep conviction for what matters most. Your quilts turned out beautiful!! I also remember the sweetness of watching little Sagey playing with all of those robot fabrics in the most creative ways. Much love to all of you.

  14. Tammy W says:

    Great story. I just took a break from sewing pillowcases for ConKerr. Last month my 6 year old son was hospitalized and given a pillowcase by our local chapter. I felt the need to give back so after 3 weeks away from home taking care of him, I went to work sewing. I have about 10 pillowcases cut out to sew. He had to be taken by air ambulance out-of-state where he had emergency surgery. Complications landed him in the ICU for a week much of which was spent on a ventilator. All the ICU patients were given quilts to lie on. Every time they changed his bedding, he was given on a fresh quilt. I found out some were donated through Quilts for Kids and others were made by local women. So I also have 8 quilts cut out and ready to be assembled to send to Quilts for Kids. Little touches are so important during a time of crisis–as is giving back. Thanks for the great post.

  15. Jessica says:

    I have a Project Linus blanket for each of my boys, and have wanted to make a blanket to donate someday as well (I just can’t sew!) I am also thinking of knitting preemie hats for our hospital’s NICU.

    Thanks for sharing your story – made me cry. I have been there, twice. My first was born at 26 weeks, and my second had a seizure at birth. Both are just fine. Like you, I had the instinct that all would be well with my children… and here we are.

    I discovered that the inherent knowledge that my boys would be all right was not a cure-all for daily anxiety regarding their health, but was rather more like a daily tonic. Slowly building within until I could see the resilience all around. You have a beautiful family, thanks for sharing.

  16. Jessie says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I am amazed every day at the love as I open my door to boxes of blankets for these people most of us will never meet. I truly believe the most important thing we can do in our lives ~ other then raising our children well ~ is helping those in need, in whatever way we can.

  17. denise says:

    We do some similar projects. And the thing is, not everyone has support and family and friends at those times. Sometimes we stand alone. I know if something happened to our family we’d be in that room alone. And sometimes the only thing that makes you realize the world is an OK place and that you are NOT alone is the kindness of strangers. And to give without strings, expect no thanks, and humbly is a good lesson for anyone.

    And how wonderful you have found a path that works for you and for Sage. And that he is now a healed boy. That is a long journey indeed.


  18. Kelly says:

    Beautifully written, Rachel. So much heart in this…
    As a mom with a child with epilepsy I have seen firsthand a bit of the scariness you describe and find it amazing that you were able to write your experience with such clarity and grace.
    I think by sharing our stories and also what can be done to offer hope and comfort – we are the silver lining.

  19. Pamela R says:

    You have been such an inspiration to all around you. You have shared with me so much about really living your life and surely some of that is part of your mom’s legacy as well. I hope you are there to share those last moments with her, they mean so much.
    So much love from me and my family, I haven’t talked to you in what seems like forever, but I think of you and your family often and I’m constantly wishing you happiness and silently thanking you for offering so much that helped me define my mama-hood as well as my person-hood. 🙂

  20. Pamela R says:

    I feel so blessed for having shared all of it with you. It is an experience that has defined who I am as a parent as well. I will be forever grateful for all that I learned in those hours and days. For that, I am ever thankful. Love, love, love you.

  21. Rosemarie says:

    AS many have said, my eyes filled with tears as I read. I am glad that things are fantastic in your world. I would love to make a quilt one day for someone else. I will look into it. Not sure if I can make it in two weeks but maybe for the Linus project.

  22. Mary says:

    Hi Rachel,
    Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal, and transformative memory. It brought tears to my eyes, as well as a smile to my heart. I appreciate your deep trust in this journey of life, and the gratitude, humility, and strength that you show. I appreciate you.

  23. Rachel Wolf says:

    I had not heard of the pillowcase project. That sounds wonderful. When we were in the hospital my sister went to a local organic shop and bought us a set of organic pillowcases for our hospital bed. It made all the difference.

    ~ Rachel

  24. June Smasal says:

    Our Sheboygan County Quilt Guild has been donation 250 baby quilts per year to Mt Sinai Neo Natal Unit for the past 25 years.
    We have a yearly workshop when we assemble to sit and sew. Our guild donates batt for one quilt. Members purchase king size batt on sale and continue to sew. It warms our hearts to make and give.
    Mt. Sinai hosts a coffee for members who are able to attend the yearly held “Thank You”.
    Some Moms send thank you notes and are placed in a scrapbook that is on disply each September at our annual quilt show.
    The guild has a budget eacy year for the quilt project.
    Happy Stitches, JAS

  25. Kelly says:

    Great post! My daughter also received a blanket from Project Linus when she was in the hospital for radical brain surgery related to her seizures. My students just finished making bracelets for craft hope, and now my girls and I are going to make a blanket of some sort this week for the tornado folks. As a quilter I know how much love goes into a handmade blanket, and your story illustrates it well. Maybe I’ll pull out the blanket I started when Abby was sick and send that in, because it is actually difficult for me to be around knowing how I prayed and cried while I sewed. Maybe if I put it together with positive thoughts it will serve someone else even better.

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