Sunday 20 May 2018

These amazing women are making tiny gowns out of old wedding dresses to help families of stillborn babies

The Shannon Angels group making tiny gowns for premature and stillborn babies
The Shannon Angels group making tiny gowns for premature and stillborn babies
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A group of women have joined together in Co Clare to transform old wedding dresses into tiny gowns for premature babies and those tragically stillborn.

Twelve seamstresses make up the group Shannon Angels, which makes use of old dresses to help Irish families during the "darkest hours" of their lives.

Since the group was founded in April, the women have created 86 tiny gowns for families in need, and the outfits have been gifted to families through Limerick-based group Knitting for Premature Babies, for children to be christened in.

Shannon Angels also supports Féileacáin, providing tiny dresses for children who tragically were stillborn, or passed away soon after birth.

Co-founder of Shannon Angels Alice Myers said making the dresses is an emotional experience for the group, particularly for those who have lost children.

"It's something we're really proud of, being able to help parents in what is their darkest hour is special. I've lost a child myself so I know how difficult it is.

Some of the gowns created by the group
Some of the gowns created by the group

"Often parents of premature babies have to go somewhere like Smyths to find clothes to fit a tiny baby, and take them from a doll. Four other members of the group have also lost babies, so it is an emotional thing. The gowns are so tiny, you'd almost cry over every one.

"Of course it's not all sad. Many of the gowns are little ones for Christening premature babies, and many of them go on to live so that's a lovely thing too."

The group of twelve has seamstress Michelle Hickey Legge to thank for intense workshops which taught them to accustom their skills to create minuscule dresses.

"Michelle was fantastic. Over a few weeks she held workshops where we learned the process of dress making, ripping these wedding dresses, pattern making, sewing. Now we have 12 experienced seamstresses, and by the end of it we created 86 gowns.

"It's difficult to sew such small gowns, but it's been an enjoyable experience as well. It's brought a lot of different women of all age groups together in our community," said Alice.

The group has been inundated with people's kind wedding dress donations, but have had to delay accepting any more until the autumn, due to storage issues.

Currently, the costs of other construction materials are being funded by the group, but Alice says it would be great to raise funds to support that aspect of the charity.

"At the moment we're paying for everything out of our own pockets, which is great, but you can't ask people to become involved in a charity at their own expense. We've been overwhelmed with people's generosity when it comes to donating dresses, but we've also set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to support the other costs involved in construction," she said.

The women have thought of everything it seems, as wedding dresses can also be donated in memory of a child they sadly lost.

"It's also nice for people because you can donate your dress in someone's memory. For me, I donated my dress in memory of my little boy Jack, and 12 babies had 12 gowns with a little note inside them that said 'in memory'.

"We also make two little keepsake hearts out of the material, one to go into the little gown they are buried in and one for the parents to keep. People have said to us that these little bits of material have become so precious to them," she said.

For more information on Shannon Angels or to get involved visit: www.facebook.com

To donate to the charity visit GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com

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