Local seamstresses fashion gowns for NICU, stillborn babies

Judy Ebeling and Wilma Matherne

Friends Judy Ebeling, Joy Robert and Wilma Matherne love to sew, and they love to sew together. So when they can sew together and benefit a great cause – they said there’s nothing better.

For years now the trio has sewed with Threads of Love, an organization birthed in 1993 by Baton Rouge resident Sissy Davis.

A local doctor contacted Davis’ pastor and expressed a need for tiny burial gowns for infant patients who were born prematurely, stillborn or died shortly after birth. Davis volunteered to help.

“It all started when I raised my hand at a women’s Bible circle meeting and said I would love to help,” Davis said this week. “When the appeal for seamstresses was made, God was speaking to me … I had the time, sewing skill and a heart for helping others.”

Threads of Love has grown into a ministry consisting of 100 chapters in the United States and Canada, and has even branched internationally into countries including South Africa and England.

“All I did was raise my hand at church and said I would help,” Davis said. “God got involved and it took off.”

Davis said God used the death of her own infant brother to tug at her heart to volunteer for the sewing.

“His eight and a half hours here on Earth meant something,” she said. “It started something.”

Davis said in 1997 she decided to make labels to be sewn into the care items, and as of last year she had ordered nearly 3 million labels.

Ebeling, Robert and Matherne sew with the New Orleans chapter of Threads of Love, which meets monthly at All About Sewing in Harahan. The group sews caps, blankets, gowns and other memory items for different hospitals.

“I get a lot of mental and spiritual fulfillment out of making these items for these babies,” Robert said. “It’s important work.”

Matherne has been sewing with the organization for over seven years.

“You can’t think about it when you’re sewing, because it makes you tear up,” she said of who the items are created for.

Many gowns are embellished with lace and pearls, Matherne said, making each one unique and special.

“I hope they feel the joy of knowing that someone put love into what they are given,” she said of the babies’ parents.

Ebeling has been a part of the sewing club for two years. She hopes the group serves as a reminder to parents dealing with the loss or illness of their baby that there are people who are there to help, even if they are anonymous.

“We don’t know them and they don’t know us,” she said. “We’re like hidden angels.”

Robert said Threads of Love is just one of the many groups the trio sews with, but that it is the most special.

“We do a lot,” she said. “But Threads of Love is our heart.”

Debra Gares, the chapter leader for the New Orleans’ Threads of Love, funds most of the group’s projects out of pocket. Davis said anyone wanting to donate specifically to the New Orleans chapter can do so by visiting threadsoflove.org and mentioning the New Orleans chapter in the PayPal memo.


About Monique Roth 240 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

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