For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.  This short story, attributed to Ernest Hemingway, was the first thing that came to mind when I read the headline American babies are 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than babies in other rich countries.  The United States’ infant mortality rate is the highest in the developed world.  That statistic shocked me.  It’s a form of American exceptionalism we Americans don’t like to think about.  As the Washington Post put it, Our Infant Mortality is a National Embarrassment.

I thought about the parents of those little ones, whose crushing loss–losing a child before their first birthday–is immeasurable.  The cost of 23,000 infant deaths on our country is unimaginable.

The loss cuts deeper because infant mortality is a problem we understand pretty clearly.  It is not Democrat or Republican, Red State or Blue state.  It’s not about who is President.  The causes of infant mortality and solutions to it are well known.  It is a problem other countries have solved.  And it is something we have ignored.

As a visual artist, I believe in the power of art to change hearts, minds, behavior, and the world.  Think about the famous AIDS Quilt, a community art project commemorating the loss of more than 80,000 lives.  By ‘drawing’ a picture of a problem, we can see and feel the enormity of it.  Our country, our leaders, and lawmakers need to see exactly what infant mortality looks like in America.

My vision for is that each of the infants lost in a given year will be remembered with a unique, handmade, heartfelt little elegy.   I am asking the fiber art community to come together to make 23,000+ pairs of baby booties.  This is the number of American infants who die every year.

Whether sewn, knitted, felted, woven, or crocheted, I am asking for donations of handmade baby shoes in the colors of mourning:  black, white, and gray.  Gathered together, these small elegies will paint a picture too big to ignore.  Time is of the essence–my plan is to collect 23,000 baby booties from Labor Day, 2018, until we reach the goal.  Once these booties are collected, I will create a travelling art installation designed to advocate for policy changes that can save lives.  Our work will be both a visual reminder of a national tragedy, and what we can do about it.

I can’t do this alone.  Are you with me?

Mary Vaneecke


Click here to learn all the ways you can get involved.

Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about

Click here to help spread the word online and in person.

Click here for links to free baby bootie patterns.

Click here to learn more about the problem and solutions.

Click here for the Baby Bootie Permissions Form and Instructions.

Click here if you want to host a baby bootie making party!

Click here for a Brief Talking Points handout about infant mortality.

Are you a yarn or fabric store owner?  Click here.

Click here if you need support in grieving the loss of a child.

How many baby booties have we raised to date?  Click here.  

Get your swag!

Click here for a link to our GoFundMe page.

Click here and join The Mourning Project’s Ravelry group!

Click here to like the Facebook Page.



heart image courtesy of

Comments (6)

6 Responses to “”

  1. Carol lewis says:

    I will make booties to send to you

  2. Mary Jo Stipe says:

    Hi Mary,
    I’ll make a pair of booties. I’ll also take this information to our art quilt group here in Santa Fe. I, too, was appalled by the infant mortality statistics in the US. In truth, we have a less effective health care system than many other “developed” countries and this is one of the results. I have to be in Houston during Quilt Festival. My husband is having surgery at MDAnderson. Being able to attend Quilt Festival is the silver lining of spending a month in Houston. I hope to see you there.

    • Thanks so much Mary Jo! I plan to be in Houston to promote this project, so let us plan to connect before then. I hope all goes well with the surgery. And thanks for supporting the project! There is lots of great ways to share the project, online and in person. Be sure to check out the ‘Downloadables and Sharable’ documents under tab.

  3. Cynthia MacMillan says:

    Hello, I will make a pair of baby booties and send it to you.

    Great project!

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