Dartmouth woman's angel gowns help ease the pain of infant loss

Jul 8, 2018

At a workshop inside her Dartmouth home, Linda Raedel pulled a delicate ribbon drawstring, transforming a neatly hemmed strip of cloth into a tiny bonnet.

The bonnet is a component of an “Angel Gown” Raedel hand-makes out of donated wedding dresses for an important cause: burial gowns for stillborn or premature babies.

“Everybody needs to be buried in something nice,” she explained.

Raedel got the idea to make the gowns while talking to her husband’s niece, who had lost a baby. Her niece told her the bonnet from the burial gown she was given at the hospital was one of only a few things she had left of her daughter, and that she treasures it.

“If you can talk about it, I can do it,” Raedel replied.

She explained that the keepsake was clearly very meaningful to her niece, and she felt a need to provide the same thing to others. Now that she is retired, she has the time to do it.

She began by crocheting cocoons before finding out about the sewed gowns on Pinterest. Recently, Raedel got patterns online and sewed her first gown from a wedding dress. The gown is made of satin and adorned with a piece of beadwork from elsewhere on the dress.

For boy babies, the gown often has a vest, which could be made from a colored satin prom dress. Raedel has patterns to work from in a variety of sizes, with bonnets as small as a golf ball.

“I think about if it were my child,” she said, explaining the care she puts into the project.

She plans on making a duplicate bonnet or angel applique to go with each gown, which would serve as a keepsake for the mother.

The gowns will be brought to Women and Infants Hospital and Charleton Hospital, the two nearest hospitals with Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

Raedel is accepting donations of wedding dresses and colored gowns, and can be contacted on Facebook or by emailing ajrsmom@comcast.net.