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Charity sewing: for the Angel Babies (Free Pattern)

Recently I posted about a special sewing project, and mentioned that I was cutting up a vintage wedding dress to make a sash. I promised to explain why I was disassembling the wedding gown, so here goes.  A lovely heartfelt project that is sweeping the country, is to sew “angel gowns”: tiny outfits for parents to dress their babies who won’t be coming home from the hospital.  If this is something that interests you, there is a list of websites for charity-sewing groups that you can join, at the end of this post.

The most popular item being sewn (literally thousands have been made and donated) is a back-opening “angel gown”, and for the tinier babes a simple “bunting wrap” blanket. Some nurses prefer a “cocoon” wrap for the very fragile newborns, whose skin may be too tender for putting on any type of clothes, and this is what I will show you today (my next post will be about making angel gowns). Then cocoon is embellished on the outside, cozy-soft inside, with a tiny blanket attached inside and a resting pillow:

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Pinterest link: https://www.pinterest.com/7pinedesign/free-sewing-patterns/

This design originated with Keira’s Adelaide wrap  which is a combination of   Jen’s Tri-Fold bunting and Shirley’s Annie Blanket.  The pattern is an extension of the Adelaide, expanded the pattern into multiple sizes. You can open it here (right click and open in new window):   PDFCocoon2016

You can then either download or print by clicking on this tab in the upper right corner of the new window:

print download

Please note that all of these patterns, or items made using this pattern, are not to be sold.  They are to be used / made solely for the purpose of bereavement support, whether for your own angel or to donate to a hospital or bereavement organization.  If you wish to share this pattern, please share the link to this tutorial.

The first step in making angel gowns or angel cocoons, is to cut up a donated wedding dress. The idea of transforming a sentimental but no longer used dress, and giving it second life as the only thing that a special child will ever wear….this appealing to both brides and sewists.  I didn’t have a dress to cut up so I bought one at a local thrift shop.

To make the cocoon you will also need:

  • poly-fleece: 1/2 yard
  • lightweight fusible interfacing: 1/4 yard
  • 1/8″ satin ribbon: 2 yards
  • thread and needle, scissors, sewing machine

Cutting out: there are 4 pattern pieces:

  • main body of the cocoon: cut (on fold) 1 of dress fabric, 1 of fleece, 1 of interfacing
  • inside “blanket”: cut  (on fold) 1 of fleece
  • inside “pillow cover”: cut 2 of fleece and 2 of lining fabric
  • inside “pillow stuffing”: cut 3 or 4 (depending on fabric thickness) of fleece

Cut the main Cocoon Body piece from the wedding dress skirt, and add lace or trim details from the bodice or sleeves. Sometimes you can find a decorative part of the skirt and use that: slide the pattern piece under the fabric to place the motif where it will best show when the cocoon is finished and closed, then fold the fabric  and place the pattern piece so that the center-back is on the fold:

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……

Interface the cocoon body piece to give it more structure (you can skip this step if the fabric has plenty of “body” such as brocade or slipper-satin):

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If there is no decorative motif on the skirt fabric, you can un-stitch one from elsewhere on the dress, and applique it to the Cocoon Body outer fabric.  The easiest way to un-stitch is to use a “Third Hand” clamp on your cutting table, so that you can use one hand for holding the fabric taught and the other hand for your seam-ripper:

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It’s also helpful to use a razor-sharp seam-ripper (I know, this seam-ripper looks quite dangerous, but since it requires no force at all, it is actually safer than a dull one….same concept as kitchen knives: sharp ones are safer):

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Applique the decor to the cocoon body using a small zig-zag stitch, being careful to avoid any pearls or sequins (alternatively, you can use Fabri-Tac liquid adhesive):

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After cutting out, interfacing, and decorating the Cocoon Body, unfold it to  cut a matching piece of poly-fleece, and then cut 3 or 4 pieces of Pillow Stuffing also from the fleece:

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….

Also in fleece you will cut: 1 piece (on fabric fold) for the Blanket, and 2 pieces for the Pillow Cover.  Cut 2 more pieces of the Pillow Cover, this time from a smooth fabric which will make it easier to stuff later (I used fabric from the dress lining):

IMG_8483…..IMG_8484

Next cut 2 yards of 1/8″ satin ribbon into 8 pieces at 9″ each, and heat-seal the ends to prevent unraveling, using a candle or lighter:

IMG_8491……IMG_8492

Now to sew them all together:

Blanket: pin 2 ribbon ends to the inside of the blanket, about 1/2″ from the fold, then fold the fabric  down over the ribbon, right sides are together, so that the ribbons are enclosed, now stitch along the 2 long edges with a 1/4″ seam (leaving the bottom open), turn inside-out:

IMG_8494…….IMG_8496

Cocoon Body: fold the dress-fabric piece in half along center-back, right sides together, and stitch the “hood” closed with a 1/4″ seam. Do the same for the fleece Cocoon Body lining.  Turn both pieces inside-out, and press lightly at low-temperature:

IMG_8497……..IMG_8498

Pin the  Blanket to the right side of the fleece Cocoon Body along the bottom edge,centering the blanket, then stitch together with a 1/4″ seam:

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Pin 2 ribbons to the outside of the decorated Cocoon Body piece,  near upper and lower edges (these will tie the cocoon closed when finished):

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Pin the Cocoon Body fleece lining to the Cocoon Body outer piece, right sides together, enclosing the ribbon ties and the blanket.  Stitch around the edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance, starting and stopping at the edges of the Inner Blanket, removing pins as you stitch.  Trim seam allowance and clip off corners:

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Flip inside out: sometimes a chop-stick helps to get the corners pushed out completely. Press edges lightly at cool temperature. Tuck in the seam allowance where the Inner Blanket is attached, pin down, and edge-stitch all around perimeter of cocoon:

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Hand-stitch the rest of the ribbon ties.  Inside, fold up the blanket and mark the spots halfway up the height of the cocoon (4 1/2″ up for 9″ cocoon, 5 1/2″ up for 11″ cocoon, etc), stitch ties onto cocoon body fleece at each side of the blanket:

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Outside, fold the cocoon closed and  pin the last 2 ribbons to the outside cocoon body , matching top and bottom placement of the previous ribbons. Hand-stitch the ribbons in place:

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Last step is to make the Pillow:

Pillow Cover: pin together, with 2 layers of fleece inside and 2 layers of satin outside. Stitch around outer edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving bottom straight edge open. Flip inside out (satin will now be on the inside, which will make stuffing easier):

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Pillow Stuffing: Pin together all of the layers, machine baste, and slip into Pillow Cover (a chopstick makes this easier!), hand slip-stitch closed:

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Now put it all together.  Place Pillow inside Cocoon, fold up the Blanket, tie little bows:

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Close up Cocoon sides and tie the last bows, and you are finished!

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If you are interested in joining a charity sewing group that makes angel gowns, wraps, and buntings, you can do a web-search using “angel gown” and the name of your state or country.  Each group has their own policies and hospital connections, so it is important to find out that information before sewing!  In my next post, I will explain how to make a basic angel gown that is used by “most” of these groups:

In the U.S.:

  • https://newbornsinneed.org (throughout the United States)
  • http://angeloutfitters.blogspot.com/ (throughout the United States)
  • http://www.carewear.org/ (throughout the United States)
  • http://www.threadsoflove.org/ (throughout the United States)
  • http://www.angelgowns.chauglie.com/ (Washington State)
  • http://www.thepreemieproject.com/ (Iowa)
  • http://mikaylasgrace.com/ (Wisconsin)
  • http://www.nicuhelpinghands.org/(Texas)
  • http://www.marymadelineproject.org/ (Nebraska)
  • http://www.littleangelgowns.org/(Indiana)
  • http://www.touchinglittlelives.org/ (Ohio)
  • http://www.angelrobesalabama.org/ (Alabama)

In Australia:

  • http://angelgownsaustralia.org.au/

In Canada:

  • http://angeldressescanada.com/
  • Manitoba Angel Dresses
  • http://www.manitobaangeldresses.com/
  • https://www.facebook.com/ManitobaAngelDresses/

In the U.K:

  • http://needleshooksangelsandpreemies.com/

AngelCocoonPattern copy

32 Comments

  • Shirley Hill

    I so love this Idea . Im Native i make cradel board. We use creadel boards also for our angels . I m going to make this for our community. Thank you .

  • Rosie Mendez

    I had heard of the angel dresses, but never the bunting. My great niece was miscarried at just 22 weeks gestation on Valentines Day 2017. I saw your bunting and decided our little angel needed to have this special bunting. I was able to make it from her grandmothers old wedding gown which made it that much more special. Thank you for sharing this pattern.

  • [email protected]

    HI Elaine, I’ve emailed you the link to this pattern….ou may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the file. If it doesn’t work please let me know because I can print the pattern here and mail to you by USPS

  • Carlene

    I have a wedding gown to give to you if you want it. I know how to sew but can’t make the burial gowns without crying while I’m doing it plus I crochet hats and blankets for the NICU if you want to text me your address I will send you the gown at no cost to you my number is 412-378-8670

  • Patti

    I printed this precious pattern for angel babies. I work at a local hospital and we have a great need for these, Thank you so much for the free pattern. Patti

  • Barbara Mavencamp

    I have made a number of Angel Gowns and Bereavement Cocoons and haven’t been able to find a place to donate them – can you help? I have pictures to send.

  • [email protected]

    First I would try your local hospital NICU unit, they often have a volunteer coordinator who can advise you of their needs. If you don’t live near any such facility, the Star Legacy Foundation is a group that distributes angel gowns all across the United States. You can contact [email protected] for the mailing address.

  • Joan Demetrioff

    I finally found the instructions to this cocoon and a complete tutorial as well. I am one of the admins from the Manitoba Angel Dresses. From our seamstresses thank you for this page. We would appreciate if you could add us to your site under Canada. At present we have a Facebook page under our name.

  • [email protected]

    Absolutely Joan, I have just updated the post with a link to your Facebook group. I noticed on your FB banner that your group currently has enough dresses to dissemble, and I find the same to be true for many groups. There are often posts asking members to temporarily stop taking in additional wedding gowns…is it easier to find gown donors than seamstresses? Just curious….Best regards, Janet

  • [email protected]

    Generally NICU departments choose bunting size by weight. The largest size 15″ is for infants around 4 lbs, size 13″ for weight 3 lbs, size 11″ for weight 2 lbs, size 9″ for weight 1 lb.

  • Shannon Grist

    I have been looking for a project to honor my own little angel. Thank You for publishing this pattern. It will be a part of my journey to healing.

  • Diane Monkman

    Hello, Diane here from Manitoba Angel Dresses, I’m one of the admins for the program. We have made a changes to our program our new Facebook site is https://www.facebook.com/ManitobaAngelDresses/ and our new website is http://www.manitobaangeldresses.com The addresses listed above is our old site which we have moved to secret so people will have problems gaining access.

    Our volunteers have adopted the use of the 7 pine design patterns and tutorials. Thank you for allowing the groups access to use the patterns.

  • Marylou Ferreira

    Thank you for sharing. I would love your patterns as I’m wanting to make these for our local hospital. I have an angel & I feel she’s pushing me to do this for other mom’s. Unable to get them to print. Please send to my to my e-mail: [email protected]

  • [email protected]

    Hi Marylou, I have sent the pattern as an email attachment…if you have any difficulty opening the file or printing it please let me know your mailing address and I can print/mail to you!

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