Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Fun Service Project

Way back in October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I began my now hopefully annual sewing service project--drain bags and comfort pillows for mastectomy and reconstruction patients.  I posted pictures of this project last year, but I can't remember if I posted the directions.  I will include them today.

I invited Leanna, Julie, and Megan to help.  Megan and Millie Janalee came over one Saturday and spent the entire day sewing (and visiting too!).  On that day Julie, Megan, and I cut out all of the pieces for the 72 drain bags and the 72 comfort pillows!  That's a lot of cutting!  Earlier in the week, I took the rolls of ribbon to Spartan XC practice, and several of the mothers cut all of the ribbon for this project.  Then we began sewing, serging, ironing, and turning.  And while we made a dent in the project, it was nowhere near finished. Such is the story of most of my great ideas and projects--they take way, way longer than I ever anticipate.

But not to worry!  I recruited Leanna to help with the sewing, which she happily agreed to.  She completely sewed, stuffed, and finished 36 pillows!  That was a huge contribution!  Julie and I made the other 36 pillows plus finished the drain bags over the course of three or four weeks.  I mostly sewed in 30 minute sessions (using my timer!) when I could find the time.

I enlisted Leah, Sam, Julie, and Clay to assist with pinning on the safely pins and bagging the bags and pillows.  Then, finally, on the second Monday in November, I delivered the finished project.  I divided the bags between the Women's First Resource Center and the Breast Care Center, both located in Tupelo.

I did not meet my goal of finishing and delivering this donation during the month of October, but that's ok!  Women have breast cancer surgery all twelve months of the year! 

Here are some pictures.

 supplies on my crafting table

 fun fabric!

 a close-up of how we attached the ribbon to the inside of the drainage bags

 finished, packaged sets

 a pillow

a drain bag holder

Here are the instructions--I am copying and pasting an email that I sent to a friend last year who requested these directions.  They really are easy to make!  

I did not have a pattern.  I just layed out the drain bags and pillow that the hospital gave me when I had my mastectomy and measured them, adding 1 inch to the length and width of the pillow for 1/2 inch seams and adding 1.5 inches to the length and 1 inch to the width of the drain bags for seams and to turn down the top edge of the bags.  We cut our pillow pieces 9" x 11", and the drain bag pieces 7" x 9".

We just cut two pieces for each bag and pillow.  We used a cutting mat and a rotary cutter.  I bought a yard of each different fabric--buying fabrics in sets of two coordinating colors.    I also bought matching rolls of satin ribbon.  You need two pieces of ribbon for each drain bag, and one safety pin per bag.  The bags are tied into bows or knots so they are hanging at the correct height for the patient, and then they pin the ribbon knot/bow to their bra strap.  You will also need polyfill stuffing for the pillows.  They need to be stuffed lightly.  It is not like you would stuff a pillow for your sofa or bed...just a thin layer for comfort--they are placed in the underarm area for general comfort, or on the side of your breast when you want to try to lie down on your side.  I am guessing we stuffed them about 2-3 inches thick.

We serged the top sides (the 7 in. side has the open top) of the drain bags before sewing them together.  Then we placed the two sides right sides together and sewed around the sides and bottom.  Iron down the serged edge one inch to the wrong side.  Turn the bags.  we used two ribbons per bag, cut to 18 inch lengths. We caught them into the seam as we top stitched the outside top of the bag.  (See photo above).

 The finished pillows are a little bit smaller than a spiral bound notebook, and the drain bags need to be able to hold 2 drains each and their tubing---the drains are about the size of your fist, but they are not that filled out.....they are squeezed when emptied and then they fill as fluid drains into them.  Two drains fit in the bags we made just fine.  Some women only have one drain per side.

We packaged our sets with two pillows and two drain bags per set inside 2 gallon zip lock bags.  I tried to choose happy, brightly colored fabrics. The drains bags will only be used by the patients for a week or so, but the pillows may be used for months.

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