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How to Make Hospitals Happier through Knitting

You can donate knitted items to hospitals worldwide through Care Wear, no longer a preemie-only knitting charity

Donating knitted items to hospitals - Care Wear

Anyone who has ever wondered how to use knitting to make their world a better place will undoubtedly relate to the story of Bonnie Hagerman and the charity she founded, Care Wear.

The History of Care Wear: from One Knitter Donating Her Creations to Many

In 1991, Bonnie read a magazine article about volunteers making hats and gowns for preemies at a local hospital. Instinctively she knew she’d found the perfect way to help others through her knitting expertise. Bonnie offered her knitted items to Children’s National Medical Center in nearby Washington, D.C.

Have you ever tried knitting a hat for a head the size of a lime? That was Bonnie’s first challenge; at the time, patterns for preemies weren’t as plentiful as they are today.

After a few false starts, she found success. In fact, she found so much success that she needed help to continue! Her preemie items were such a hit that she began to recruit other local knitters for her new charity, Care Wear.

How Care Wear Items Help Preemies (and Their Families)

Many babies are born far too early. Some are too tiny to make it on their own, and have to depend on a tangle of monitors, ventilators and tubes to survive. Sadly, survival is never guaranteed.

So doctors, nurses, and parents — everyone who loves these babies — welcome anything that can help the NICU babies. That’s where knitting for hospital patients can help.

In addition to warming preemies and reducing stress on their fragile circulatory systems, the adorable Care Wear caps soften the sterile hospital environment where these babies have to live. They also bring psychological comfort to worried parents.

Check here if you need baby yarn

How You Can Help Care Wear Donate Knitted Items to Hospitals

Care to try your hand at a teeny preemie hat? How about mittens or booties? Care Wear can use all these, and more. You can get all the info you need, including patterns, at their website. The vast assortment of patterns available is remarkable. You can find hats, booties, blankets, and much more!

Notice that Care Wear now provides a multitude of ways of knitting for hospitals, beyond preemie wear. As their website states:

Although the focus of Care Wear’s efforts has been premature infants, it has been impossible to ignore the pleas for assistance for larger infants, children, and even geriatric patients. There is the most demand for the larger preemie and full-term sizes of hats and booties.”

Care Wear’s website also includes a database of hospitals accepting preemie items. Before you send them a hat, make sure they’re not overwhelmed with them. They may need other articles — such as blankets, booties, or mittens — more.

Find more ways to knit for preemies here!

Guidelines for Knitting for Care Wear

It’s a good idea to take a look at the guidelines for the hospital you want to knit for before you begin. Many hospitals have specific guidelines; many others ask that you contact them first to ascertain their needs.

When knitting for Care Wear, be sure to use soft acrylic, cotton or cotton/acrylic blend yarns that can be easily washed and won’t irritate sensitive skin.

Ask the hospital if you can attach trims, pompoms, ribbons, and the like, if that’s something you enjoy. Some prefer that you don’t; be sure to always follow the given guidelines.

Don’t put powders or fragrances on your Care Wear items; they should especially be free of cigarette smoke odors.

If you live in a home with a smoker, or with cats or dogs, be sure not to knit anything for preemies at home. Keep your preemie knitting in a separate bag and knit only away from home.

Also, be aware that some hospitals won’t accept any knitting from a home with a cat or dog, even if you don’t knit those items at home. Check before you begin!

Deliver your donated items in plastic bags to keep them safe and clean.

You’ll always want to make your preemie items durable. Parents of preemies often keep their Care Wear items as keepsakes, in remembrance of a time when their healthy youngsters weren’t so healthy.

Why not join Bonnie in helping to make the world a better place for people staying in a hospital? Care Wear will help you find the perfect pattern and a local hospital where you can make a difference.

Want more free knitting patterns for charity? Click here for your copy of “4 Quick Charity Knitting Wins” and start making a difference today!

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  1. Hi, its Nerys, l live in the UK, l will post where the cannular sleeves, mitts and bonding squares, are needed, here or abroad.

  2. Hi, can you send me an address where l can send knitted cannula sleeves, mitts and bonding squares please and thank you.

    1. Hello Nerys, without knowing where you live, I struggle to ascertain where you might be able to send these items. You can, of course, contact your local hospitals and other medical facilities to see if they would be interested in any of these items.

      1. Hi, its Nerys, l live in the UK, l will post where the cannular sleeves, mitts and bonding squares, are needed, here or abroad.

        1. Hello Nerys, since you live in the UK, I would suggest you take a look at Knit for Peace UK’s charity list. This should give you a good idea as to where you can send your handknits.

  3. This is awesome!! For several years, I knit premie red hats for distribution in February for the American Heart Assoc. Then, they notified me that they we no longer accepting knit items. Care wear is certainly another deserving outlet. Thanks, Nicole. Sandra
    P.S. I can add Care Wear to my knit hats lift with Operation Gratitude, for the Deployed Military as well as for personal gifts. You certainly keep us well informed….and, I appreciate you. Take care.

  4. Hi Nicole
    Great reading about Care Wear it’s a great set up , iv emailed you in the
    Past and also told you what I knit and crochet for hospital care homes and Teddies for the buddy bag foundation England I love to read what you come up with good luck it’s great to hear all your news
    Jenny Redditch Worcester England

  5. Hi Nicole,
    I bought some lovely soft yarn that is 90%cotton, 10% cashmere and have made a few baby hats with it. I am in NY but will mail them anywhere. I have more of this yarn as well! Do you know anyplace that will take them? It does say hand wash on the tag, which I didn’t realize when I bought it.
    Thank you

    1. Hello Lynn! I would recommend either For the Children of Pine Ridge or Aid to Appalachia. Double-check the guidelines/requirements, but as long as your hats meet those guidelines, I’m sure either group would be happy to use your hats!

      For the Children of Pine Ridge: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/browse/show/for-the-children-of-pine-ridge-and-rosebud

      Aid to Appalachia: https://www.ravelry.com/groups/aid-to-appalachia

      Both of these groups are based on Ravelry, so if you’re not a member already, you’ll need to join first. But it’s very quick, easy, and most importantly, free!

    1. That’s going to depend on the hospital you are knitting for. Care Wear’s hospital listing is here: http://www.carewear.org/index.php?page=hospitals You’ll select the country, state, and possibly city (there’s also an “all” option if you’re not picky, or if your exact city isn’t listed). Some hospitals offer guidelines; others might simply say “contact us for current needs” or something similar. Hope this helps!

  6. my mum and I have been knitting baby hats,booties and mittens but the hospital in Gloucester doesn’t want them where can I take them.

  7. I have been knitting baby prem hats when I phoned local hospital they said not receiving any do you know where I can donate please live Southampton area