Sinnissippi Quilters Guild hosts May 5-6 quilt show

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117812532828762.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Hannah Elizabeth Terpstra with her quilt from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rockford Memorial Hospital.‘);

Hannah Terpstra is a robust and vivacious girl of 9 who loves baby rabbits, baby lambs, and just about all baby animals. In keeping with her love of babies, Hannah just joined the leagues of charitable women who donate their time and talents by supplying quilts to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of Rockford Memorial Hospital. This Level III unit cares for up to 40 ill newborns, at any given moment, and between 400 and 500 babies per year.

In 1997, Hannah was a preemie at the NICU, and she is grateful for the special medical care she received and for the beautiful handmade quilt that adorned her isolette, a keepsake she keeps folded and tied with a shiny blue ribbon.

Quilters have been giving to the community for centuries, and the local Sinnissippi Quilter’s Guild carries on that legacy of charity. In 1996, they began to hold annual sew-ins devoted to making baby quilts, with women working in teams to complete the colorful quilts. Since they began this event in 1996, the 250 Guild members have made and donated more than 2,000 quilts to the NICU.

See beautiful quilts, win a raffle quilt and support the guild’s charitable projects at Sinnissippi Quilters Guild 2007 Quilt Show “Destination Rockford,” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 5, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, May 6. The event will be at Rock Valley College’s PE Center, 3301 N. Mulford Rd., Rockford. For more information, visit

Donna Langford, chairman of the Special Projects Committee of the Guild, said, “Quilters enjoy it so much that we find that we have too many quilts to use at home, so we start using it for community, to have a place, a destination for our finished ones.”

Mary Hoernecke, one of the 121 members of the Ogle County Home and Community Education Association, couldn’t agree more. Since 1991, they have supplied more than 700 quilts and blankets to the NICU.

The quilts in action

Mary Hongsermeier, a staff nurse at Rockford Memorial for almost 20 years, said she feels the artistic quilts add an important element of warmth to the neonatal environment, which is “very foreign; it’s very high tech, it’s sterile and cold. So, we have to work to make it a welcoming place.”

Beyond their beauty, the quilts play a practical role in the NICU’s routine. They protect the babies from light, and muffle sound, while they lie in their incubators.

Premature babies are very small and must be “grown,” explained Hongsermeier, from their premature state, to a newborn state. They are also used for kangaroo care and by volunteers through the “Cuddle Club.”

The isolettes are covered in myriad colors and textures. It sends a positive message to the parents, adds Hongsermeier, that “someone out there believes that their child could survive, against sometimes amazing odds.”

Deborah Kerr agreed that the quilts were comforting to her. Her triplet girls were born in December 2006, at 26 weeks gestation, and she spent a lot of time at the NICU. For Kerr, the quilts are practical in another way—identifying the location of her triplets within the unit. The green, blue, purple and yellow stand out in the design of the color-coordinated quilts for the triplets. “I look for the colors of the quilts,” said Kerr. The Guild also makes matching, or color-coordinated, quilts for quadruplets and quintuplets.

Quilters have quite a collection of thank you notes from the many parents who have received quilts through the NICU. Parents speak of the quilts as “keepsakes” and “mementos,” which the children and parents will cherish for the rest of their lives.

For some parents, the quilts play a much sadder, though equally important, role in their lives: it helps them grieve the loss of a child.

In the NICU, “life and death are so closely intertwined…and grieving is hard, but when you have a memento that’s as beautiful as a quilt, and that quilt is at a memorial service or still displayed in your home, it’s a wonderful reminder to families,” explained Hongsermeier, who has attended memorial services, which featured the baby’s quilt.

The circle is complete; just as quilters, who never knew Hannah, cushioned her arrival into the world with a rosy red quilt, now she is giving back that same support to the brave babies and parents at the NICU. She may have been born with two holes in her heart, but Hannah’s heart did more than heal. It continues to grow and give, following a long tradition of women quilting for charity.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!