Everything you need to know about crocheting and knitting for preemie babies.
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Many years ago, I was inspired by an organization called The Preemie Project to make some beanie patterns, well, a combination of this organization and the 2017 GrannySpiration Challenge that I once hosted. The Preemie Project is no longer active, but they used to accept preemie hat donations, among other things, and put together items to donate to different NICUs.
While they are no longer active, there are so many awesome organizations and hospitals out there that are, and are in need of preemie baby items – not limited to hats, but also things like blankets, bonding squares and octopi.
The number one thing that I am going to recommend above anything else is first check with the organization that you plan to donate to. Each organization has their own needs, which can vary from time to time, and each one also has their own set of guidelines, like what kind of yarn and/or colors to use or not to use as well as things like if they accept donations from a pet friendly home.
I’m going to talk about what I find to be the most common across preemie organizations for crocheting and knit items.
Can I donate preemie baby beanies if I smoke or live with someone who smokes?
This rule pretty much goes for most organizations. If you smoke, or live with someone who smokes, due to the cigarette toxins that can embed themselves in fabric just from being around the smoke, most organizations will not be able to accept your crocheted and knit preemie donations even if they are washed.
Can I donate preemie baby beanies if I have a cat or dog?
Some organizations will accept donations from pet friendly homes if the items are washed prior to mailing off, and some do not accept donations from pet friendly homes. Simply put, pet allergies – that is the allergy to pet dander, saliva and/or urine (not pet hair), can cause symptoms similar to that of a cold, rash or hives, or even trigger a person’s asthma – and can affect not only the preemie baby, but those around as well. So, you’ll definitely want to check guidelines first to see if 1) donations can be made from a pet friendly home, and 2) if so, if the items need to be washed first.
What are the best colors for a preemie baby beanie?
Most of the calls you’ll see will be for seasonal and holiday themed hats and items, but outside of this, organizations also look for certain colors depending on the need. For bereavement packages, organizations usually request white or pale pink, green or blue. Yellow is not recommended as the main color for any item as it can make the preemie baby appear to be jaundice. Outside of this, preemie organizations love cheerful and colorful hats.
What is the best yarn for a preemie baby beanie or blanket?
There are a couple factors to consider when choosing a yarn for a preemie baby beanie, and while you should again check the guidelines first, soft and durable is across the board. You definitely want something that will withstand washing and drying multiple times.
First and foremost, worsted weight #4 yarn is as large as you’ll want to go as far as weight is concerned. Preemies cannot control their body temperature as well as full term babies. If their environment is too hot, they can easily overheat. You’ll notice a lot of baby yarns are lightweight #3 so I would say to keep it in the lightweight to worsted weight range.
Most commonly, some organizations say not to use wool yarn due to allergies. Instead, they request acrylic or cotton. Some say not to use Red Heart Super Saver (though I think this is a great yarn that really softens nicely after washing, and wears and washes so well).
Wools and wool blends are better for keeping warm against the cold and wind. I love WeCrochet Swish Yarn (and Swish DK Yarn). It’s 100% superwash merino wool, but it’s so soft, not itchy, and it’s so cozy, it feels like it’s giving you a big hug. Lion Brand Wool Ease (wool and acrylic blend), and Berroco Vintage (wool and acrylic blend) are similar, and also make lovely, soft, squishy and cozy beanies. All of them hold up well to wear and tear and machine washing and drying.
If you’re looking for an acrylic yarn, and can’t use Red Heart Super Saver (which would be my first pick of these), or want to try something different, Red Heart Soft, Premier Yarns Anti-Pilling Everyday Worsted, Lion Brand Basic Stitch Anti-Pilling Yarn and Berroco Comfort are nice options. I have heard some great things about WeCrochet Brava yarn, though I haven’t tried it yet myself.
If you want to use cotton, I do not recommend a 100% cotton as cotton is not able to retain it’s shape so it will grow out of shape quickly, and not bounce back. Instead, I would recommend a cotton blend. My favorites for wearables are going to be Lion Brand Coboo, Emma’s Yarn Comfy Cotton DK and Berroco Modern Cotton or Modern Cotton DK.
What is the best stitch pattern for preemie beanies?
When crocheting or knitting preemie beanies, you’ll want to focus on stitch patterns that don’t have much texture – the flatter and smoother, the better. As long as a baby cannot hold it’s head up, it’s at high risk for pressure sores, and any raised texture can contribute to this. Something I recently found out (thank you Ethel for sharing!), while in the hospital, part of the nurses hourly check is to make sure there aren’t any creases in the linens or any lines laying on the skin. Keep this in mind as you choose your stitch pattern, and avoid things like the use of post stitches.
Where can I donate preemie beanies to?
In the past, I have reached out to my local NICUs through the hospitals websites. There is usually a page for volunteers, and you can find guidelines, and the contact person on this page. Sometimes, it can get tough to navigate.
There are also lots of other great organizations out there that accept preemie beanies, and other items like blankets, bonding squares and octopi. If you know of any others outside of what I’ve listed, please share so I can add them to the list.
Check out these great organizations:
- Preemies of the Carolinas – hearts, blankets and beanies
- Knots of Love – beanies and blankets for chemo patients and the NICU
- Octopus for a Preemie US – crocheted octopi
- Octopus for a Preemie New Zealand – crocheted octopi
- University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center – hats, blankets and booties (thank you Kat for sharing!)
- UPMC Hillman Cancer Center – blankets, hats, scarves and shawls (thank you Diane for sharing!)
You may also like to check out Carewear, which is an organization in the US and Canada that works directly with hospitals & social service agencies. They have a running list of hospitals and their current needs, and you can easily search by your country/state too.
Free Preemie Crochet Patterns:
Dylan Claire Preemie Beanie (3 sizes & video tutorial) from EyeLoveKnots
Grace Tinley Preemie Beanie (3 sizes & video tutorial) from EyeLoveKnots
Lightweight Veronica Preemie Beanie (3 sizes) from EyeLoveKnots
Gia Afghan (8 sizes & video tutorial) from EyeLoveKnots
Through the Window Afghan (11 sizes & video tutorial) from EyeLoveKnots