WSU News

2,306 handmade pillowcases collected for sick kids

Barbara Bartolatz Littrell with piles of donated pillowcases.
(Photo by Rita Farro)
PUYALLUP – The pillowcases kept coming. Birds, cupcakes, elephants, peace symbols, princesses, butterflies, dinosaurs, flowers, robots – each design meant to brighten a child’s room at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.
Barbara Bartolatz Littrell watched as sewing fans brought their handmade donations to the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Wash.

“The stack was taller than my 5 foot 8 inch frame,” said Bartolatz Littrell, community development coordinator at the Tacoma hospital. “I thought we’d get 400-500, but by 10 a.m. on the first day we had 700.” By the end of the March 1-4 expo, 2,306 pillowcases filled a small table.

“One woman brought 22 or 23,” she said. “The main fabric was a farm scene. On the end, she embroidered animals, like a cow and the word ‘Moo.’ One with a monkey theme said, ‘Boys monkey around.’”

One was stitched with the words “Snuggled in love,” Bartolatz Littrell said, and a few had prayers: “God, please heal this child.”

More than 26,000 people attended this year’s Expo, according to Janet York, who helped organize the conference for WSU’s Conference Management unit.
“I was deliriously surprised by the number of pillowcases sewn,” York said. “It was absolutely amazing.” The hospital also received about $3,000 from an event sponsored by Coats & Clark, a sewing supply company, she said.
At past expos, attendees have provided money, caps and blankets for children, she said.
“Sewers are extremely generous people,” York said, “and really showed their support for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital by sharing their time and stashes.” The “stash” is a box or basket of favorite fabrics that sewing fans save for just the right project – or 2,306 projects.
“These women are so giving,” Bartolatz Littrell said. “They like to do things for their family. Doing things for children at Mary Bridge is just an extension of that. It was a beautiful marriage between two groups.”
One woman brought 45 pillowcases in little boy prints, said Rita Farro, who handles public relations for the expo.
“My mom loved to sew for her four grandsons,” she told Farro. “Pajamas, pillows, shirts, tents – you name it. Mom died last year and I knew this was the perfect thing to do with her fabric stash.”
Mary Bridge has 72 beds, and about 4,400 patients a year. When they leave, the young patients take the pillowcases home.
“We try to match them up,” Bartolatz Littrell said, “like a 4-year-old boy would get Tonka trunks or sports. Or if a girl loves the color green and frogs, we find her a green pillowcase with frogs.”
The pillowcases not only make children feel more at home – “It kind of melts their anxiety away,” Bartolatz Littrell said – they also help the parents.
“Sometimes the parents smile,” she said. “But if their child has just been diagnosed with cancer, you might just get a sigh and a sense that they know the child is in a good place, a place that cares for children.”

Mary Bridge accepts donations year-round. Please call 253-403-1599, or check the website.