I am so pleased to introduce to you, my “Awesome, Talented Friend” for April,” Carolyn Fafinski. A retired Registered Nurse, Carolyn is still taking care of people. But now she is using her special talent as a seamstress to provide a measure of comfort to grieving parents by creating “Angel Gowns” that are designed as burial clothing for deceased infants. The clothing is created and sewn from beautiful wedding gowns that have been donated to Angel Gowns.
I first met Carolyn way back in 1971 when we entered school to become Registered Nurses. Retired after 40 years, she spent her career working in the ER, ICU, then as the VP of Nursing for 13 years. Wanting to return to patient care, Carolyn helped open the Dialysis Unit at the local hospital in her hometown of Dunkirk, New York and spent 16 years there before her retirement. Busy lady! An excellent seamstress since well before we met, Carolyn had difficulty finding the time to sew while working full-time at a job that was both physically and mentally challenging. When she retired she had the time to sew but she was looking for another reason to sew. Her daughter had 2 miscarriages, but also has 2 beautiful girls, so she found her reason to sew which was being “thankful for the gifts we have.”
And these beautiful little dresses are some of what she creates
When a local television news show featured a spot on Angel Gowns, Carolyn knew she had found her purpose.
Dunkirk is a small community in the Western New York Chapter of Angel Gowns, so Carolyn does the bulk of the work herself. Other chapters may have volunteers who deconstruct the dresses or other non-sewing tasks. She relates that most of the material comes from donated wedding dresses, but some lace, buttons, etc. are provided by the volunteer seamstresses. Once dismantled, she lays out the pieces and fits an Angel Gown pattern. She is very particular about the placement of design and the embellishments, so the process is time consuming. She carefully places the pattern on the straight grain of the fabric to prevent any distortion when it’s sewn. Each wedding gown can provide on average, 13-20 outfits depending on the size and style of the gown. She saves all the lace and buttons from each gown and may interchange lace from one gown and find use for it on another if the design allows. The Angel Gown patterns come in several sizes so she tries to make a few of each size for both boys and girls. The backs of the gowns and the pants are open in the back and use ribbon ties for ease of dressing the babies whose skin is so thin and delicate.
When completed, the outfits are given to area hospitals who will keep them until needed. One day, another volunteer seamstress along with Carolyn created a gown overnight because the hospital did not have a gown available for an infant boy.
These gorgeous pillows were designed and sewn by Carolyn when a woman who donated her wedding dress requested them as mementos to give her 2 granddaughters.
Angel Gowns also utilizes the talents of people who cannot sew but are able to deconstruct a wedding gown and carefully remove all the laces and decorations. And you know some of those gowns are so elaborate! Volunteers may also cut out the pattern pieces for the seamstresses. Some seamstresses like Carolyn prefer to do all the work themselves; others prefer just to do all the sewing.
Right now there is a “hold” on Angel Gowns accepting any more wedding gowns at this time. They currently have a back log of over 1,000 dresses to be dismantled and created into Angel Gowns. That says a tremendous amount about the support they receive from women and mothers. Sadly, I think most of us know of a family who has lost an infant, but what a kind, loving gift the volunteers, like Carolyn give these grieving families. You know…..when you are expecting a baby and your heart is singing with happiness, the last thing you expect is to leave the hospital empty handed. And never would you expect having to buy a burial gown for your wee one. The gowns and outfits created with loving kindness by the Angel Gown volunteers can help support grieving parents and families just when they need it the most.
The Angel Gown volunteers know their efforts are appreciated and families do send nice thank you notes, but it’s not expected or needed. Women know deep in their hearts how much these gifts mean to parents. Thank you Carolyn for creating these wonderful Angel Gowns so grieving parents may have a memory of their little angel dressed so beautifully.
Want to help? Angel Gowns is on Facebook and their website is: //www.angelgownsofwny.com/
Thanks so much for stopping by today and letting me share another of my Awesome, Talented Friends with you. And BTW…..pat yourself on the back, because one way or the other, you’re all awesome and talented!
I hope that wherever your journey leads you today, that you will be surrounded by loving kindness.
Hugs and love,
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