WeeCare members sew clothes for premature babies at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews
Once a month, the Dogwood chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America gather to lovingly smock gowns for little babies they will never hold.
Dedicated to friendship and sewing for a purpose, the seven ladies who make up the chapter give local families with unexpectedly premature babies a special keepsake gown to be treasured.
Smocking, a form of embroidery that began in England during the Middle Ages, is used to gather fabric into a design. Typically found at the neckline and cuffs of a garment, the guild members – for now, all women – use their smocking skills to create tiny, doll-sized gowns for premature babies, who usually weigh 1 to 3 pounds. Using simple designs, the ladies’ work is intricate and beautifully crafted. Though they rarely meet the parents of children receiving the gowns, guild members hope their gift is a source of comfort and encouragement during an unpredictable time.
“I feel God has given me a gift. I am just sharing a God-given gift to someone who is hurting,” Virginia Martin, a 25-year member of the chapter, said.
As part of the guild’s WeeCare outreach, the women gather the first Thursday of every month to stitch intricate gowns for premature babies born at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews. The group also recently started making gowns for the Charlotte-based nonprofit Be Not Afraid, which provides support for expectant families who receive a poor prenatal diagnosis but choose to continue their pregnancy to term.
Knowing their work is going to a family with a fragile newborn, the ladies also acknowledge many of their gowns may become burial gowns for babies who do not survive.
Guild member Brenda Eckmair, of Charlotte, who began smocking five years ago, said she can relate. Her sister had a child who died during birth.
“I feel like I am at least a little aware” of what families are going through, she said, “and can better serve a family or individual in that sort of situation. These losses don’t get much attention.”
Joining the group in 1985, Martin has seen what a tremendous impact WeeCare can have on the community and she wants to draw more members to the Dogwood chapter.
You don’t need smocking experience or knowledge to join, just a desire to learn. “I was a complete beginner when I joined,” she said. “We would love additional members … and we will teach them to smock, and the WeeCare gowns are easy because they are small and you get to see a finished product.
“We are just people who enjoy sharing ideas and just visiting with each other,” Martin said.
Want to learn more?
The Dogwood chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America meets the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in community service room C at Presbyterian Hospital Matthews.
Find more information online at http://charlottesmockingguild.blogspot.com.