WALESKA — Brightly colored fabrics pack the shelves of a 92-year-old woman’s room who sews pillowcases for sick children.
Trudy Miller of Waleska said she finished sewing Christmas gifts for her family early last year and was looking for something to do. When she heard about a hospital in Omaha, Neb., that gave children hand-sewn pillowcases instead of the hospital’s white ones, she knew this was her new calling. Miller donates pillowcases to three hospitals, Scottish Rite and Egleston in Atlanta and St. Jude in Memphis, Tenn.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed designing the pillowcases and sending them,” Miller said. “Since last October, I have sent 317 pillowcases to these hospitals. It gives me something to think about and something to do.”
Miller has lived in Lake Arrowhead with her daughter, Carolyn Burkholder, for two and a half years and has lived in Georgia since 1982. Miller was a dorm director in Roberts Hall at Reinhardt College for 15 years and retired when she was 75 years old. Miller said she’s been sewing all her life, since her mother taught her when she was young.
“I have four children; I have 14 grandchildren; I have 35 great-grandchildren, and I have five great-great-granddaughters,” Miller said. “So I sew something for them for Christmas every year.”
Miller makes baby quilts for all of the new babies in her family and said she has three great-great-grandchildren coming this fall. Miller’s daughter said she thinks her mother’s work is great.
“She does such wonderful work and the pillowcases are so unique, and she spends a lot of time designing them and getting the right colors,” Burkholder said.
On many of her pillowcases, Miller uses rickrack. Rickrack is a zigzag braid of woven fabric, which she uses to outline familiar children’s’ characters, animals or patterns on the center of each unique pillow case. She said she’s used “hundreds and hundreds of yards of it.”
Miller said she and her daughter go to the Goodwill store and buy almost new children’s sheets to use for material. She cuts out characters such as Dora the Explorer, Disney princesses, dinosaurs, giraffes and other animals, cars and plants, then sews them onto pillowcases. She then adds outlines in the form of rickrack, lace or other embellishment. The children who receive pillowcases get to take them home when they leave.
“The nurses tell me that the children get a lot of satisfaction out of having their own pillowcase,” Miller said. “Something that’s personal and that’s not just like everything else in the hospital.”
Miller keeps a scrapbook of the letters and thank-you cards she receives from hospitals and children who’ve received her pillowcases. She said she couldn’t create the pillowcases without her daughter, and said her sewing machine is a God-send. She doesn’t sell any of her creations and enjoys giving them away to friends and family.
In a letter from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Director of Donor Services Rebecca Farrell wrote that Miller had “answered the call for help.”
“They call me a hero at St. Jude’s,” Miller said with a smile.