The Mourning Project Introduction

The heartbreaking headline read 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.  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 create an image of infant mortality with 23,000 pairs of baby booties.  This is the number of American infants who die every year.

Each one of the 23,000 pairs of booties is one pixel of the 38′ by 38′ overall design. Each square of the grid represents 100 pairs of booties. Request your panel pattern today by emailing

We’ll create 225 panels of baby booties with 100 pairs of baby booties each to create a massive 38” square image (see above).  Booties can be sewn, knitted, felted, woven, or crocheted from any pattern.  Gathered together, these small elegies will literally form a compelling picture too big to ignore: a 38′ by 38′ image of a heart with baby feet inside.  This image requires 15,000 pairs of white baby booties alone. I love the way this new installation plan is like the problem of infant mortality itself:  dependent on all of us getting together to do our part.

If you or your guild feels strongly about this issue, you can become one of only 225 Panelists, those who collect 100 pairs of booties to create part of the design of the overall project.   If you wish to become a Panelist (you are awesome!), contact me at to get your piece of the picture.  Panels should be completed and mailed by April 1, 202o for the spring installation.

Time is of the essence–it would be great to complete the puzzle in time for the March of Dimes March for Babies in Phoenix on April 18, 2020.  Our work will be both a visual reminder of a national tragedy, and what we can do about it. is a massive community art project.  I can’t do this alone.  Are you with me?

Mary Vaneecke


Click here for a PDF of the GUILD CHALLENGE to take to your friends or guilds.

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 ownerClick 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 the GoFundMe page.

Want to get updates about the Project and exhibitions?  Please subscribe, and share on Facebook!



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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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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