Teen makes blankets for children at local hospital

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By Calen McKinney



She ties the knots quickly. By now, she's a pro.

In about 20 minutes, the time to explain how she makes the blanket, she is nearly done with one. With only a little more work to go, the blanket is almost ready to provide comfort - physically and emotionally - to a sick child.

Sarah Januski, 17, began making blankets out of poly fleece material about three years ago. She calls her labor of love Blanket Blessings.

Sarah recently took about 30 blankets to Taylor Regional Hospital's children's wing to be given to sick children.

Blanket Blessings is a twist on the Linus Blanket project. She said she made some blankets for the Linus project, but wanted to bring it to Campbellsville.

"They only offer blankets to larger cities," she said. "I decided to change that."

The Linus project also requires people to send blankets to the organization and staff will decide where they are distributed. Sarah said she wanted to be sure that blankets made for Blanket Blessings stay in Campbellsville.

"We wanted to do something just local," she said.

Sarah, who attended Taylor County High School and was then homeschooled after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet compression syndrome about two years ago, graduated in May, a year earlier than scheduled. She will attend the University of Kentucky, and she leaves for school in a few days.

Thoracic outlet compression syndrome causes compression in the nerves or blood vessels around the neck. This can cause pain in the shoulder, neck and hands.

A self-described "crafty" person who likes to knit, crochet, cook and paint, Sarah said she began making blankets about six or seven years ago when she served as a volunteer with a local Girl Scout troop that her sister, Megan, belonged to. The Girl Scouts were making blankets for the Linus Blanket project.

She did some research about the project and got the idea of making blankets to benefit the children in her hometown.

"It makes it more real, I think," she said.

And, about three years ago, Sarah's sister Megan had foot surgery and got a blanket herself.

"She still sleeps with it to this day," Sarah said.

Her mother, Meg, said the blanket helped Megan get through the surgery.

"She was very nervous," Mrs. Januski said.

Sarah said the children who receive blankets from the Linus Blanket project sleep with them as they battle their illnesses - some even until their death - and then the blanket is given to their parents.

"It's kind of a comfort item while they're there," Januski said.

And Sarah said the name of her project - Blanket Blessings - came from a dinner table conversation with her family about the goal for her project. She wanted to provide support for children who are sick and to bless them.

"Each child gets a blanket. That's a blessing. Each blanket blesses one person," Januski said.

After taking on the project as a family for three years, Sarah said she wants the community to get involved and make blankets, too. Anyone can make the blankets, Sarah said. No special sewing skills are required.

"It's a way somebody can make a blanket and make a difference," Januski said.

"It's gonna be in God's hands at this point. I think Sarah's planting a seed and God will determine where it goes from here."

Sarah said she hopes to eventually get enough people involved to donate blankets to hospitals in Greensburg and Columbia.

Making blankets has not only helped Sarah help others, but it has helped her. While battling thoracic outlet compression syndrome, she has had to stay in hospitals and be on many different types of medication. She said she would have loved to have received a blanket when she was in the hospital.

"If someone had brought me something ... it would have meant a lot to me," she said. "I would have appreciated it if somebody had done this for me."

She said it shows that a person put time into something to try and make someone else feel better.

"It makes such a difference to the sick person," she said.

Her mother agrees.

"You don't feel forgotten," Januski said. "Or that you were on somebody's mind. That somebody thought enough to do something for you."

During her illness, Sarah said she sometimes felt forgotten and as if those around her were able to go on with their lives but she wasn't. Making blankets, she said, occupied her mind and gave her a goal to reach.

"It was a way for her to start planning," Januski said. "It was something to take attention away from her pain and suffering and do something for somebody else."

Sarah said she feels better now and is living with her illness.

Those who want to help with Blanket Blessings can make the blankets out of any material, though the finished product should be sized for children. Sarah makes her blankets by cutting and then tying fabric.

"You do not have to be a crafty person to make one of these blankets," Januski said. "We're hoping it will catch on."

Sarah said people of all ages can make the blankets, such as grandmothers making them with their granddaughters.

See the sidebar to this story for step-by-step instructions to make blankets like Sarah's.

Those who read the instructions and want to help but don't believe they can make the blankets can donate money toward the purchase of fabric.

Sarah said each blanket uses about $20 worth of fabric, or a bit less if it's on sale. She said she and her family stock up during sales.

Sarah said she stays away from licensed patterns because they typically cost more, and she tries to select unisex fabrics so the blankets can be given to any child.

She said blanket kits are also available with materials already cut and directions included.

Those who want to donate to Blanket Blessings can go to Taylor County Bank or Citizens Bank and Trust Co. and tell employees they want to donate to the project.

"It's a lot of work for one person. But if they only write a check ... "

And there is also a way for those who want to make blankets but can't purchase fabric.

"I'll give you the fabric if you'll just make the blankets," Sarah said.

Sarah said she will gladly talk to people about Blanket Blessings and give tips to help those who want to make blankets.

Sarah can be contacted via email at sarahjjanuski@gmail.com.

Steps to Making a Blanket

Sarah Januski, who has organized the Blanket Blessings program to make blankets for pediatric patients at Taylor Regional Hospital, said making a blanket is easy and can be done by anyone, from the young to the old.

She provides the following steps to making a blanket and said anyone who can cut and tie fabric can be involved.

To make a blanket, Januski said, people must have one to two yards of poly fleece fabric. There must be two pieces of the fabric, and it looks best if one is a solid color and the other has a pattern.

To make a blanket, follow these steps.

1. Spread out both pieces of fabric on a large surface.

2. Fold the piece of fabric into a square. It should be in fourths.

3. Cut one inch, or more, just enough to trim off the rough and uneven edges.

4. Repeat step three on the other piece of fleece.

5. Leave the fabric folded into fourths, and cut a 5-inch square out of the open corner, where all the corners of the fabric meet.

6. Repeat step five on your second piece of fabric.

7. Cut 1-inch fringe all the way around with a fabric rotary cutter or sharp scissors. It is easiest to leave the fabric folded into fourths while doing so. Use either a plastic fringe cutter or a tape measure to cut each piece 1-inch wide and 5 inches long.

8. Repeat step seven on your other piece of fabric.

9. Lay both pieces of trimmed and fringed fabric out, wrong sides together. Make sure that all corners line up.

10. Start with one corner and beginning tying the fringe together. Januski found it is best to use a double knot, but not too tight otherwise the blanket will not turn out rectangular. Remember to tie each fringe to the opposite side. For example, the green fringe of the fabric should be on the pink and the pink fringe should be on the green side.

11. Donate the blanket to Taylor Regional Hospital's children's wing at the nurses station.