A rural Minnesota doctor is giving a new twist to putting in stitches.

Dr. Erik Bostrom, a family medicine doctor at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, Minn., sews a personalized baby blanket for every infant he delivers.

Bostrom, 33, isn't an obstetrician. But in rural hospitals, delivering babies is part of a family doctor's job. And for Bostrom, it's become his favorite part.

"Much of my time is spent taking care of old and sick people," he said. But when a baby is born, "rather than sadness and hardship, people are full of joy and excitement. It's a really cool part of medicine."

Bostrom has been on staff for about two years at Riverwood, after graduating from medical school at the University of Minnesota. A native of Mora, Minn., he chose to practice in a rural area and entered a special U program geared toward rural practice.

As a new doctor hoping to build goodwill with his patients, Bostrom thought it would be nice to give a personalized gift to newborns.

A colleague suggested baby blankets, which had the doctor scratching his head at first.

"I've sewn a lot of people, a lot of skin," he said with a laugh. "But I never sewed fabric."

An experienced woodworker, Bostrom decided to give sewing a try. He watched a YouTube video and consulted with his mother and his sister-in-law, who has a small business making decorative pillows.

"They taught me how to use a sewing machine. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be," he said.

At first, Bostrom sewed only the blankets, putting "cuddly fabric" on one side and flannel on the other. Then he sent them out to be embroidered with the baby's name, date of birth, length and weight.

But after about a year, his embroiderer moved out of state. So he found a used, "very fancy" sewing machine that can do both regular stitching and embroidery, and taught himself to operate it.

"The best part of it in my mind is that it was made by Husqvarna, and that's the same brand as my chain saw," he said. "And I thought it was cool that I could cut down trees and sew baby blankets with the same brand of equipment."

Bostrom estimates that he's delivered about 240 babies, many of them during his medical school residency. He's given about 15 blankets so far, but that number is likely to grow quickly.

News of his sewing skills "is starting to get out now, so I think a fair number of moms are kind of expecting it," he said. Nonetheless, he's gratified by their response.

"They're usually pretty excited," he said. "A couple of them have teared up on me."

Bostrom spends three to five hours on each blanket, with the embroidery typically using about 20,000 stitches. He sews several blankets at once, then adds the embroidery later.

"Three years ago, if you had told me I would be creating gifts for people by sewing, I would have laughed at you," he said.

"But making something for someone makes it that much cooler. I never thought sewing could be so much fun."

He's looking forward to making a few extra-special blankets in the years to come.

"I'm getting married in May," he said, "and my fiancée is expecting me to make these for our children."

John Reinan • 612-673-7402