MAKING A DELIVERY!

I become a Coordinator for Project Linus UK in September 2009. Although this role keeps me very busy, I’ve met lots of lovely people, made new friends and I absolutely adore it! One of my new friends, Pat from Ludlow, loves making incubator covers and I donate them to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital Neo-Natal Unit, along with many neo-natal quilts and blankets made by numerous ladies in and around the Worcester area.

Recently, I made a personal delivery of Linus quilts to the unit and was lucky enough to be taken on a guided tour. My guide, Stella, showed me some very tiny babies from a distance and explained what the different wards in the unit are for; how the babies, ranging from the very poorly to those almost ready to go home, are cared for; and how the incubators work. In fact, everything that goes into running a special baby unit.

SPECIAL COVERS

The incubator covers provide protection from harsh lights and help to cut down the ambient noise. Both of these help the baby to feel they are still in a secure womb-like environment, so they are more relaxed and content.

The covers also help to brighten up the unit, which perhaps helps parents at what is a very difficult time. One of the Sisters told me that the covers are sometimes placed on the incubators with the pattern side facing down because even very young babies can distinguish patterns, which can attract their attention and interest.

The members of staff were so friendly and happy to answer my many questions. They were also very keen to convey their thanks to all the makers of the wonderful items I have the privilege of taking to the unit.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Project Linus UK covers most of the country, so if you feel inspired to make something useful and a little different, do please think about making an incubator cover and/or neonatal quilt; they will be much appreciated. Basic instructions for both are provided here and contact details for Project Linus UK are given in ‘What is Project Linus?’  

MAKING INCUBATOR COVERS

The incubator cover is essentially a roundcornered rectangle measuring approx 94 x 127cm (37 x 50in). A quarter-circle template with a radius of approx 38cm (15in) is ideal for rounding the corners.

The covers must be machine washable up to 60 degrees, so cotton fabrics are ideal. Any colour is fine, but please don’t use plain white fabric as a backing because it reflects the light which can be quite harsh. Polyester wadding can be used; quilting thread should be cotton or polyester. The quilting should not be too dense. As the corners are rounded, you will need to use bias binding.

If you are short of time, or don’t wish to bind your cover before quilting it, you can use the ‘bagging out’ or ‘pillowcase’ method to finish the quilt edges.

‘BAGGING OUT’ YOUR QUILT

If you wish to use the ‘bagging out’ or ‘pillowcase’ method instead of binding your quilt, the rectangles need to be cut 38 x 51in to provide a 1⁄2in seam allowance. With the cover top and back right sides together, place the wadding on top of wrong side of the cover top. Pin to secure and then stitch all round leaving a gap of approx 12in.

Remove the pins and turn the quilt through to the right side. Turn the raw edges of the gap under and slipstitch closed, or topstitch the gap closed approx 1⁄8in from the edge. Then quilt the cover.

Incidentally, this method of finishing a quilt is also called ‘birthing a quilt’ in the USA. Very appropriate!

MAKING NEO-NATAL QUILTS

Quilts of approx 43 x 51cm (17 x 20in) are preferred, which allows for a little overhang when the quilts are placed over the baby. Quilts of up to 61cm (24in) square can also be used. 

The quilts must be machine washable up to 60 degrees and robustly made so that they can withstand the rigours of a hospital laundry. The designs can be simple one-piece quilts with minimal quilting to more complex patchwork patterns limited only by your imagination. However, it is vital that there are no embellishments such as beads or ribbons which could be pulled off or snag tiny fingers.

Staff love the bright and cheery patterns of the quilts, which liven up the wards. As these small items can be so quick and easy to make, why not fit in a Linus quilt around your other projects? From just 1m of fabric, you could potentially make two simple neo-natal quilts. Your efforts will be much appreciated, especially by those babies who are given their special quilt to take home.

WHAT IS PROJECT LINUS?

Project Linus is a volunteer organisation that started in the UK in March 2000. It aims to distribute new patchwork quilts and knitted or crocheted blankets to provide warmth, security and comfort to sick and traumatised babies, children and teenagers. This also gives crafters the chance to contribute to their local community. Since 2000, over 126,000 quilts have been donated, with more than 11,000 made in 2010 alone. 

Quilts can be any size or type, as long as they are machine washable, robustly made and do not have any buttons or lacy bits that could get pulled off or snag tiny fingers.

For more information about Project Linus in your local area, visit projectlinusuk.org.uk, or email UK President Lyn Antill at projectlinusuk@hotmail.co.uk

CHECKING LOCAL REQUIREMENTS

These instructions are based on the requirements of the Royal Worcester Neo-Natal Unit, so it is best to check the requirements of your local unit before making. An alternative incubator cover design is available at http://projectlinusuk.org.uk/patterns-and-tutorials/incubator-covers/ Please note that this pattern and suggested colours are very different to those used in Worcester, so it is certainly important to check.