This summer my Grandson George will be four and he is very excited to be going to ‘big school’ in September.   Back in June 2014 I was helping my daughter plan his Nursery Bedroom so I was happily sewing some of my very first quilts for him.  Play quilts for him to lay on and roll about on of course, before anyone starts to explain the reasons why they are not really cot quilts.

This was my very first quilt for him [and not such a great picture I am afraid] but since then I have made several.  Nothing warmed my heart more than when he came to Grandma last Christmas and asked me to make him a quilt so he could play games with his sharks and whales Father Christmas had brought him and lately he ‘needed’ another for his dinosaurs too.

When George was born he had a few issues with his breathing so spent a short time on the Scunthorpe NICU which, as you might imagine, was a really worrying time for his parents and for me and my husband as his grandparents.  Fortunately it turned out to be only a night or two until he started to take a feed and then he was allowed home with my daughter with thankfully no lasting effect either.    I didn’t realise then how much of my life he would take over and nothing pleases me more than when he calls to see whether he can come and play.

We now have Chloe, his sister, who is usually about three steps behind her brother, and our Son has a lovely little lad, William who is not quite a year old.  Both of them also spent a few hours being helped at the same NICU as George when they were first born but again both of them were home quickly with no ongoing problems left to worry about.

I wanted to say thank you to the NICU for their help and being a quilter, albeit not as prolific as many I know, I decided I would look into what could be done.    Whilst researching across FB I came across a fabulous Group set up by Nicki ADM .. Helping Hands – Stitching and Sewing for Good Causes.  I posted an appeal for small quilts to donate to the NICU having already realised one quilt from me wouldn’t make a great deal of difference to the NICU at Scunthorpe,  but I thought perhaps people might want to help.  My goodness, it was as if the floodgates opened.  Every morning the Postman was knocking on the door delivering more and more parcels.

The quilts in these two pictures arrived in the space of a month, and more kept coming.  It was amazing and each time the parcels were opened I was crying with the joy of it all — I am known in our family for getting emotional and they laugh at me crying at happy endings in films, even though I have often not seen more than the last ten minutes or so.

My best friend, Jeannie, had recently had involvement with another NICU over in Chesterfield and equally wanted to help, so we divided up the quilts to benefit both places.   Her story is for her to tell which I am sure you will understand.  She continues her own campaign to help the babies there, and her daughter is her liason.

My neighbour Judith, worked at the NICU (still does) and happily agreed to be the liaison to ensure they reached the Ward.  She always washes them with the hottest wash possible to make sure they are free as they can be from any infections that they could have picked up along the way before she takes them to the Ward and makes sure they are always in the best condition when they reach the Mums.  Having said that I am happy to report every quilt that has arrived here is always loving sewn together and smelling as fresh as a daisy, but infection control is so important with tiny babies whose immune system is getting used to the world so Judith is doubly careful.

Here’s Judith back in 2016 with yet another lovely batch of baby quilts.   She tells me they are always cherished by the Mums who have them on the Ward or who take them home.   They sometimes have to be rationed, depending on whether the collection of quilts is dwindling and they tend to only go home with their longer term little guests, but having them there on the Ward, she tells me, helps make it look a friendlier place for the parents who must be so worried about what is happening.

But then the developmental hearts arrived .. a simple gesture to help with the bonding between Mum and Baby, especially if they are separated.  One heart lays with Baby to sleep on, with the second kept close to Mum’s skin.  Swopping them over transfers each others scent, helping them bond in the earliest days after the birth, whilst at the same time it helps Mum with her breast feeding techniques.   Judith brought the initiative into Scunthorpe and likes to give every parent a colostrum pack when she can.

Hearts are really quick and simple to make .. they are about the size of your hand. Corrinne explained all about these earlier too with instructions on how to make them.    The thing with Scunthorpe is they are not constrained by many rules but anything sent has to be washable at high temperatures to comply with infection control.   Every so often Judith stops me as I am passing and asks if I could appeal for more quilts or hearts, but there are still parcels arriving even now, almost three and half years after we first appealed.  Not quite the mountain we had at first, but it means there’s usually something to pop across for a neighbourly chat with when i drop them off.

There was talk of the octopus comforters at one point, but the chance of fibres being inhaled meant the powers that be vetoed them for the Ward and the worry too that the squiggly legs could have become a choke hazard.  

Almost every baby at the NICU has a little hat given to them at birth .. babies lose most of their body heat from their heads Judith told me .. so the parcels began to arrive with knitted hats and some of the tiniest bootee and hats I have ever seen which are given to the teeny tiny premature babies.  I took this picture with a pen in view to give a feel of scale, those little ones only just slipped onto the top of my thumb!

None of these donations would have been possible without the Helping Hands – Stitching and Sewing for Good Causes FaceBook Group, now looked after by Kelly Marie Johnson whilst Nicki sails around the world.   I am so grateful for finding this wonderful group and they have helped so many babies with the efforts of their members.   There are so many people who have donated so please don’t feel aggrieved I have not said your names.

This is the latest batch of baby quilts that arrived on my doorstep today .. from Vanessa Fox who regularly donates them.  Her parcels, and everyone else’s, always bring a smile to me.

There have been other causes equally close to my heart .. like the Little Yellow Duck Project that Em Arfee  supports and who now and then sends ducks to release to promote blood ,bone marrow and stem cell donations along with baby quilts and hearts.  You can find out more about LYDP here.  These are some she sent me last year.  I just love the character she sews into the each little duck.

There’s  the many Syringe Driver Bags that arrive from time to time and end up at the Castle Hill Queen’s Centre Oncology Unit, but thats a whole different story.    This story is about the wonderful Quilters out there who are making such a difference to babies lives by their charitable efforts.    Thank you to you all.