Over the years, I have made hundreds of fabric hearts for friends, colleagues, fundraisers and as surprise ‘thank you’ gifts for those who buy lots of our craft goodies.
I’ve also taught many friends and colleagues how to make them, as this makes a lovely activity for birth education groups, baby showers, pregnancy rest time or anyone who wants to make a special gift for a friend.
And here is the recipe for anyone who would like to know more…
I made the first of these more than a decade ago, when I learned that a friend was going to make decorations for her birth room.
I asked what she was planning, thinking that I’d like to make and send her something.
She told me she was going to make a garland, perhaps including hearts for the hormone of love, but that anything made with joyful natural birth wishes embedded into it would be lovely.
I made a few colourful fabric hearts that she could hang around the pool – the ones in the picture here – and posted them to her with happy birth wishes.
The hearts catch on…
And that might have been the end of the story, but for one thing.
Just before I had packaged them up, another friend spotted them and asked if I would be open to sharing the recipe. She had heard me speak about the relationship between craft and birth and wanted to use this as an activity to encourage relaxation and stimulate discussion around – and maybe even the release of! – oxytocin in her pregnancy groups.
I was happy to do this. It worked brilliantly, and the rest is herstory. Since then, I have passed this recipe on to lots of people. These little hearts were also at the source of our crowdfunding when we first launched the Birth Information Project in 2013. Some of you might still have yours!
The Birth Information Project is now supported by our seasonal Etsy shop, but I still have a soft spot for our hearts, and we often scatter a few on the table when we take my books and craft items to workshops and conferences.
And if you buy more than a couple of craft items from us, you might find that we pop one in to your package!
How to make birth hearts…
They are really easy (and inexpensive) to make.
There’s no need to worry about hems or fraying, as that’s part of their charm.
1. Cut two heart shapes out of a piece of cotton fabric. The ones in the pictures on this page are a variety of sizes, with the larger ones being about the size of the palm of my hand. You might want to prepare a heart-shaped template and draw round this on the back of the fabric before cutting out, or you can cut freehand if you’re more confident, perhaps folding the fabric in half first if you want to make the final shape symmetrical.
2. Put the pieces of fabric together, right sides facing outwards, and pin the fabric together to keep them from slipping apart while you sew.
3. Thread a needle with 2-3 strands of embroidery thread in a contrasting colour and sew a running stitch around the heart, keeping your stitches about a centimetre from the edge. Stop when you get to about 5-6cm before the point where you started so you have a hole through which to stuff.
4. Remove the pins and stuff your heart with craft filling. Optionally you can pop a few dried lavender flowers or other dried herbs in there as well. Just mind the gaps if your stitches are big!
5. Finish sewing round the heart and fasten off the thread by sewing over the last stitch two or three times. Cut the thread.
6. If you like, you can use a small sharp pair of scissors (nail scissors are great for this) to put a few ‘snips’ around the edge, roughly a centimeter apart from each other. Don’t snip in as far as the stitches, though. This will allow the edge to ‘relax’ a bit and gives a nice effect, but it’s totally optional.
7. Another optional step is to sew a button onto the middle of the heart, making sure that you sew firm stitches which go all the way through to the back of the heart if you want to get the ‘dimpled’ effect. Or add other embellishments of your choice.
8. Optionally, sew a piece of ribbon (or thread a loop of embroidery thread) onto the back if you want to be able to hang the heart up. It’s worth testing the location to see if the heart will hang nicely by pinning the ribbon or thread on before you sew it, though. If it’s too low, you might find that the heart tips forward when you try to hang it up.
What you might need if you want to try this:
Here’s a handy list of what you’ll need to pack if you want to make this a group activity.
- A selection of pieces of fabric. You’ll need about 10cm x 20cm of fabric for each heart.
- Heart-shaped templates (make from cereal boxes or similar).
- Pens (to draw the shape onto the back of the fabric).
- Scissors (3-4 people can share a pair if necessary).
- Embroidery thread.
- Pins (optional, and experienced sewers may not need them, but some people will find them helpful).
- Sewing needles (large eyes are great for non-sewers, but you need ones with a sharp point. If you are offering buttons, make sure the needles will fit through the holes.
- Stuffing (this can be toy stuffing, recycled fabric scraps or dried herbs, such as lavender).
- An assortment of buttons.
- Ribbon (or more embroidery thread) for hanging.
All profits go towards the Birth Information Project, which helps keep the information on this site free for those who need it.
A few tips…
When I use this in a group, I allow up to an hour for the activity, although experienced crafters will be able whip one of these up more quickly than that. Bear in mind when you work out how much fabric you need to bring that some people will finish one quickly and may like to make another. In any group, you’ll get some people who will make ten of these in an hour and some who will struggle to finish one in that time.
As an activity, this works on multiple levels, and it’s completely up to you whether you engage in/present it as a hand-centred task to help reduce stress, as a way of getting used to the idea of the arrival of the baby, as a focus to discuss oxytocin as the ‘hormone of love’ (and even as a possible means of stimulating oxytocin), as a shared activity to encourage group bonding and/or as a way of embedding hopes and wishes into a physical decoration for the birth room. Or offer all of the above ideas and leave it open for participants to choose which of those they can best relate to.
Offer a selection of fabrics, and/or invite participants to bring their own fabric. Perhaps something that has meaning for them. Always bring some, though, as somebody will always forget, not know what to get, or leave their fabric at home by mistake.
You don’t have to use cotton. Felt or similar fabrics can also work really well. I avoid fabrics like velvet that will ‘shed’ if their edges aren’t hemmed, or anything like silk that is slippy and hard to sew.
It is absolutely normal to wonder if people will question your sanity if you present this as a class activity. Like with any activity, feel the fear and try it anyway, accepting that not everyone will necessarily get it.
If you try this, please share photos! You can tag me on Instagram.
And if you find my content useful, please buy something from our seasonal Etsy store, and help us keep going. Thank you.
Want to stay up to date and get regular updates on birth-related research and thinking sent free to your inbox?