The Mourning Project Introduction

The headline was shocking: 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 loss is emotional, financial, and devastates marriages and families.  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 literally paint a compelling picture too big to ignore: a 38′ by 38′ image of a heart with baby feet inside.  This image requires 14,000 pairs of white booties alone.  I love the way this installation plan is like the problem of infant mortality itself:  we all need to contribute to solve this ‘puzzle.’

I am still collecting booties for the installation.  Make them black, white, or gray, and send them to me (click here for a checklist).  Tell your friends and ask them to help.  Make your booties in memory of a lost child.

Each one of the 23,000 pairs of booties is one pixel of the 38′ by 38′ overall design above. Each square of the grid represents 100 pairs of booties. Volunteers will create each panel, which will be a critical piece in the overall puzzle of solving infant mortality in this country.The Mourning Project is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of The Mourning Project must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Make your checkes payable to Fractured Atlas and send them to Mary Vaneecke, 2000 S Hermosa Drive, Tucson, Arizona 85713.  To donate directly to The Mourning Project via Fractured Atlas using your credit card, click here.  

Here is where we are to date.  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 a link to our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas and make a donation.

Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about

Click here for the latest news.

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 US infant mortality 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 and join The Mourning Project’s Ravelry group!

Click here to like the Facebook Page.

heart image courtesy of

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These booties are by Merle Eintracht in memory of Courtney Marie Campary.


22 thoughts on “The Mourning Project Introduction

    1. You can use any pattern you like to make booties. If you are making a panel, you need to contact me to find out how you will arrange your booties to become a part of the overall image. Chris, I will email you to give you the details.

  1. 15 pairs in the mail tomorrow Please let me know if they meet your needs If so I can make more

  2. I have just learned of this project! I’ll do my best to send some booties out by the March date. Please put me on your email list.

  3. I’m a little late in this project but I will do everything I can to make 10 booties. This is a FANTASTIC idea! I will be honored to participate.

  4. Mary, I am in for making some booties! Question: Do they have to be black, white AND gray, or could they be solid colors of each?

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