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Blankets to comfort

Find out how you can put your sewing, knitting or crocheting skills to work to make comfort blankets for sick children. Lyn Alderson explains ...

Could you make a comfort blanket?

If you enjoy sewing, knitting or crocheting, you could use your skills to bring comfort to children facing health problems or other challenges. Lyn Alderson reports

The little girl was admitted to hospital in the middle of the night. She was seriously ill and needed emergency surgery. A nurse tucked her up in bed and gave her a beautiful, hand-made blanket to cuddle.

When the five-year-old went down to theatre, her worried mother took the comfort blanket and held onto it, struck by the fact that someone, somewhere had made a gesture of love and kindness. Someone had anticipated this moment of stress and uncertainty, and cared about a child and a family they did not know.

Scenes like this are not unusual thanks to the “circle of love” that is Project Linus UK. It’s a network of volunteers all over the country who use their patchwork and quilting skills to give children “a hug they can keep” – a comfort blanket to cheer them up and provide reassurance in a tough situation.

I heard about Project Linus UK about a year ago and the more I found out, the more impressed I was. It’s a very loving organisation and ideal for Christians who want to make a difference by using their needlework skills.

The concept began in the USA back in 1995, following the publication of an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Eddie Adams in Parade magazine. The story featured a small child with downy hair who had been going through intensive chemotherapy. The little girl had relied on her security blanket to get through the gruelling treatments.

The story inspired Karen Loucks, who had recently learned to crochet, to provide hand-made security blankets to the Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Centre in Denver. Karen spread the word to friends via the internet, and the idea quickly took off.

Project Linus got its name from the well-known cartoon strip Peanuts. Linus is a loveable character and he takes his comfort blanket everywhere. It’s very common for young children (and occasionally adults too) to become attached to these blankets or a favourite toy. Soft fabrics are a great comfort to human beings: who hasn’t curled up on the sofa with lots of cosy cushions and quilts when feeling unwell?

Doctors and psychologists recognise the importance of soft fabrics, which is why security blankets and cuddly toys are placed in police cars and ambulances, and offered to the victims of road accidents and other traumas.

Project Linus UK provides many of the blankets found in our emergency vehicles. The group’s president Lyn Antill, confirmed: “We know that in a variety of different stressful situations, our quilts and blankets make a real difference to children and families in distress. The need for them is enormous. Last year, we handed out more than 30,000 quilts to children of all ages, from tiny babies to six-foot tall teenagers, and the demand continues to grow.

They are always grateful for new volunteers to join the network. Lyn explains: “Wherever you are based in the country, if you decide to join a group, the quilts or blankets you make will be distributed somewhere in your geographical location.
“We give the quilts to a variety of organisations and institutions, for example children’s hospitals and hospices, and women’s refuges, and if they have special requirements such as cotton wadding for premature babies, the local groups will meet these needs.

Linus quilts vary in size from 18" x 12" for tiny babies to full sized quilts for teenagers and the good news is you don’t need to be an expert needle worker to make a Project Linus quilt.

“Don’t worry if you feel you can’t produce a creative master piece”, says Lyn. “Linus quilts don’t need to be fancy or tricky, just bright and cheerful. If you are an experienced quilter or knitter, just use your imagination, but don’t feel that the quilt has to be of ‘heirloom’ standard.

“We have lots of easy-to-follow patterns for knitted and crocheted blankets, and simple patchwork quilts. They can be made by anyone who has a basic level of skill.

“Over the years we have received some amazingly beautiful quilts, and we usually give them to children in exceptionally sad circumstances. But we also need large quantities of ‘ordinary’ quilts to give to youngsters living in poverty. On occasions I have been embarrassed by the effusive praise for a simple scrap quilt given to a family who are struggling to get by.”

Lyn explains that Linus blankets are symbolic rather than simply practical – they carry the message that someone cares.
Some quilts and blankets are donated to homeless families, and sadly, there are still homeless children and teenagers in Britain. But mostly the quilts are needed for comfort or to brighten a drab bedroom, or hide clinical white hospital sheets.

A vast number of children are admitted to UK hospitals every year, more than a quarter of a million according to the BBC. Imagine how many of those sick youngsters are confused or afraid as they go through tests and medical procedures.
Then there are the children who are terminally ill, and others who are disabled or disadvantaged in other ways. That’s a lot of children in need out there, even in our generally affluent country.

So if you enjoy sewing, knitting or crocheting as a hobby, why not turn it into a ministry for the Lord? As you create your quilt you can pray for God to bless and heal the child that eventually receives it.

“Caring for children is a natural instinct that we all have, and I find it deeply rewarding to use my patchwork and sewing skills to bring happiness to a young child or teenager,” says Lyn. “Sometimes making a quilt can feel like an act of thanksgiving for the health of my own children and grandchildren.”    

+ To find out more about Project Linus UK and contact your local co-ordinator, visit www.projectlinusuk.org.uk or you can call Lyn on 01694 722118 or e-mail: projectlinusuk@hotmail.co.uk

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