Baby/Preemie Items | Hats | Knitting Charities by Donation Item | Knitting Charities by Recipient | Preemies

How to Make Hospitals Happier through Knitting

knitting for hospital patients
Try knitting for hospital patients worldwide through Care Wear, no longer a preemie-only knitting charity

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.

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 knitting for hospital patients 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 proliferate 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)

Through no fault of their own, 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.

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

Care Wear Explodes After Nationwide Publicity

Care Wear really hit the big time after receiving attention from several newspapers, including the Washington Post. A few years later, Family Circle magazine also featured the charity. The response was so favorable that Bonnie was overwhelmed with tiny hats, booties, and mittens.

Nowadays Bonnie asks Care Wear volunteers to send their knitted items directly to local hospitals. She’s stopped counting how many items those volunteers knitting for hospital patients have donated over the years. In 1996 it was about 28,000, so you can imagine how many tens (and maybe even hundreds!) of thousands have been donated since then.

How You Can Help Care Wear

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 preemie jester cap pattern is especially adorable.

Notice that Care Wear now provides a multitude of ways of knitting for hospital patients, 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.


When knitting for hospital patients, use soft acrylic, cotton or cotton/acrylic blend yarns that can be easily washed and won’t irritate sensitive skin. Be sure to ask the hospital if you can attach trims, pompoms, ribbons, and the like. Some prefer that you don’t.

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 them in plastic bags to keep them safe and clean.

Whatever you do, be sure 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 through knitting for hospital patients? Care Wear will help you find the perfect pattern and a local hospital where you can make a difference.

Find more ways to knit for preemies here!