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2B Wednesday, January 3, 2018 Appeal Tribune
Aurora, left, and Phoenix Thompson Bailey, born Dec. 2, rest on Dec. 11 at the Salem Health Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The twins are wearing clothing made by inmates at the Coffee Creek
Correctional Facility and Oregon Corrections Enterprises. ANNA REED / STATESMAN JOURNAL
Unlikely partnership provides clothes
for preemies at Salem Hospital
SALEM STATESMAN JOURNAL
USA TODAY NETWORK
Aurora and Phoenix are snuggled in
an isolette in the neonatal intensive care
unit at Salem Hospital, wearing match-
ing sleepers with pink hearts almost as
big as theirs.
The Thompson Bailey twins, born on
Dec. 2, more than four weeks premature,
are oblivious to the camera and the spot-
They don’t know it yet, but they’ve
just notched their first modeling gig.
The twins are among the first babies
to wear customized preemie clothing de-
signed and manufactured by inmates at
Coffee Creek Correctional Institute, a
women's prison in Wilsonville.
A cute and comfy clothing line, made
with input from local NICU nurses, has
been developed through a unique part-
nership between Salem Health and Ore-
gon Corrections Enterprises.
Preemie clothing can be difficult to
find, and it isn’t functional for infants
with wires and tubes attached to their
fragile little bodies.
In the past, NICU staff browsed local
retail stores, which have limited selec-
tions, and snapped up all the preemie
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clothes they could.
“You don’t want a NICU nurse out
shopping when they’re supposed to be
doing their job,” said Jonathan Fetterley,
the hospital's former linens services su-
Fetterley was one of the project insti-
gators. He had a conversation with NICU
nurse manager Andrea Bell, and they
worked with officials at OCE, which has
been providing linen service for Salem
Health since 2009.
It took two years, but the first trans-
action recently was completed. A fresh-
ly laundered bag of 150 preemie outfits
featuring playful patterns with hearts,
stars, puppies and fish was delivered
It was an early Christmas present for
the NICU staff and its 18 current pa-
tients. The NICU cares for an average of
12 babies at a given time. The number is
higher now because there are multiple
sets of twins.
The Thompson Bailey twins are thriv-
ing. Aurora weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces
when she was born and Phoenix 3
pounds, 2.1 pounds. They now weigh 3
pounds, 10.7 ounces and 3 pounds, 13.7
The women on the production team at
Coffee Creek were thrilled to hear about
the twins' modeling debut. Team trainer
Tammy Traxtle spoke on their behalf by
phone from the prison.
“For the entire team, this is special to
us,” Traxtle said. “We’ve all given birth.
We’ve all been incarcerated over a year
and away from our children. Being a part
of a team that gets to make baby clothes
has been powerful for all of us.”
Nine women make up the team, which
is part of OCE's textiles program at Cof-
fee Creek. Oregon Corrections Enter-
prises is an independently-run program
that provides work and on-the-job train-
ing for inmates in 10 prisons across the
The textiles program trains inmates
in the basics of sewing, embroidery and
quilting. Top students are hired for the
None of them had experience making
baby clothing. Few had any sewing back-
What little experience they had was
limited to what Traxtle referred to as
straight lines on items such as quilts and
bags. She came to the project with com-
mercial sewing training through OCE.
They started from scratch by taking a
couple of regular-sized baby outfits that
OCE General Manager Dave Conway
had purchased and doing some reverse
“We shrunk it and shrunk it and
shrunk it,” Conway said.
He also bought an 11-inch doll for the
team to use for sizing. The inmates call
her Oceana, pronounced Oh-see-aw-nuh,
a play off the Oregon Corrections Enter-
prises name. She turns 2 in February,
and Traxtle said she has the best ward-
Sizing was important. Much of the
manufactured clothing for premature
infants is too big. So was functionality.
Retail preemie clothes are not made to
accommodate IVs and feeding tubes.
“In the beginning, it was a lot of trial
and error,” Traxtle said. “We made tem-
plates and then it was a matter of resiz-
ing and re-cutting, resizing and re-cut-
A quarter-inch on a preemie outfit
makes a huge difference, and the team
wanted them to be just perfect.
Once they were ready to begin actual
production, each team member was as-
signed a task, such as cutting fabric,
serging seams, overlapping seams, mak-
ing sleeves, sewing parts together, bind-
ing for snaps, ribbing on cuffs, and at-
The shop has 10 sewing machines in
the production area, four serger ma-
chines, and two cover-stitch machines. A
serger trims the seam allowance and en-
closes the edge of the fabric to prevent
fraying — all in one step.
Traxtle, in charge of quality control,
estimates two of every 25 garments
made for Salem Health was returned to
be fixed or remade.
Finding the right fabric was a chal-
lenge. With each sample they tried, they
washed and dried it multiple times to test
They chose a cotton and polyester
blend from a vendor in Pennsylvania. It’s
ultra-soft and has just the right stretch.
Nurses and moms on staff at Coffee
Creek visited the shop throughout the
process, offering their own suggestions.
Samples of a half-dozen different
types of outfits were delivered to the
hospital for NICU staff to review quality,
sizing and design.
The staff whittled their order down to
three styles: onesies, gowns, and sleep-
ers without feet.
Staff suggestions, such as relocating
snaps that would be in the way of medical
tubing, were adopted before final sam-
ples were approved.
“That’s one of the best parts about
this,” Fetterley said, “ultimate customi-
Fetterley, who now works in a differ-
ent department, joined other hospital of-
ficials for the first delivery of preemie
clothes. They posed for photographs
with OCE officials and Bell, the NICU
“This one’s perfect for tubes and
cords and lines,” Bell said, holding up a
white onesie with purple puppies and
She also loves the quality of the cloth-
ing, which she can already tell holds up
better wash after wash than what
they've purchased in the past at retail
stores. The fabric often is so thin it's easi-
Conway was excited to report back to
the women on the production team, who
cheered him earlier that day as he left
the shop at Coffee Creek.
“They make these clothes with a lot of
love," he said. "It's not a sweatshop.
These women want to be here. Some-
times in our world, people mumble and
grown about Mondays. Here, they are
lining up on Monday."
Conway and the women are hopeful
they can expand the program and even-
tually sell preemie clothing to other hos-
“Forward This” appears Wednesdays
and Sundays and highlights the people,
places and organizations of the Mid-Wil-
lamette Valley. Contact Capi Lynn at
clynn@StatesmanJournal.com or 503-
399-6710, or follow her the rest of the
week on Twitter @CapiLynn and Face-
“We’ve all given birth. We’ve all been incarcerated over a
year and away from our children. Being a part of a team that
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gets to make baby clothes has been powerful for all of us.”