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Everything You Need to Know about Charity Knitting for Premature Babies

Charity knitting for premature babies is incredibly rewarding! Here’s what you need to know to do it well

Sometimes, you just want to knit something quick and have it immediately help someone in need. Right?

Scarves, hats, blankets, and other typical charity knitting projects are indeed rewarding, but they also take time. And that’s one thing that I know many charity knitters don’t have as much of as they would like.

Fortunately, there’s a perfect solution to charity knitting when large, time-consuming projects just aren’t for you: charity knitting for premature babies!

Sadly, preemies are nearly always in need some knitted love. Their tiny bodies struggle to regulate their body temperature, so they need things like hats and booties.

Even upon release from the NICU, they’ll still need tiny clothing to help them enter a big world. Preemie clothing often isn’t easily available–and when it is, it tends to get expensive.

Want more guides to charity knitting? You’ll find guides to charity knitting for seniors, charity knitting for homeless folks, charity knitting for soldiers and veterans, and more here!

Now then, let’s dive into the wonderful world of preemie knitting with some very important guidelines!

1. The Most Important Guideline to Charity Knitting for Premature Babies

The first and most essential guideline I can offer you regarding knitting for preemies is this:

NO SMOKING.

You know what first-hand smoke is, of course, and I’m sure you’ve also heard of “second-hand smoke.” But did you know there’s also a such thing as “third-hand smoke”? I hadn’t heard of it myself, but then I happened to stumble upon the phrase while reading the Preemie Project’s website. (Note: the Preemie Project is no longer running.)

I did a little more research and found this article from Scientific American. Basically, even smoke that clings to surfaces – carpets, furniture, clothing, and so on – after a cigarette has been extinguished is filled with dangerous toxins.

What’s more, this smoke — and the toxins it contains — cannot be washed out of fabrics. No matter how hot the temperature or how strong the detergent.

As you might imagine, these toxins are even more hazardous for children and infants. And they are astronomically disastrous for preemies.

For knitters interested in knitting for preemies, this means that if you live in a house with a smoker, you need to take two very important precautions when knitting for preemies.

  1. Knitting in that house is a strict no-no. You’ll want to knit in a completely smoke-free environment.
  2. You’ll also want to make sure that your knitting is completely enclosed in an airtight container or bag when you’re not working on it and it’s in your house.

2. Another Important Guideline Relating to Your Furry Friends

Many NICUs and charities that accept items for preemies also have guidelines for pets.

Check with your individual NICU or charity first, as these may vary. Some may not accept items from homes with pets at all (this often goes for smoking homes, too). Others may accept them, but only if they are washed in hot water first.

The bottom line: before you begin knitting anything for preemies, check the NICU or charity you want to knit for. They’ll let you know whether they would accept items from your needles!

3. The Best Yarns for Charity Knitting for Premature Babies

As you might imagine, the yarn you use is of utmost importance. You’ll find two overarching guidelines when it comes to preemie charity knitting: softness and weight.

Preemies have extremely fragile and delicate skin. Therefore, it is so very important that the yarn you use isn’t the least bit scratchy.

To check a yarn’s “scratch” factor, I usually rub it against my inner forearm. (That is, the skin that appears when you turn your hand palm upward.) If it feels soft on that sensitive skin, it should work for a preemie.

And it should always be DK weight or thinner. Most yarns labeled “baby yarn” (unless it’s labeled “baby blanket yarn” – those are sometimes thicker) will work for weight.

Again, check with your NICU or charity first, but most folks who care for preemies don’t want wool. Others are willing to accept wool as long as it is labeled as such. Wool can sometimes be an allergen, which is why NICUs tend to be careful with it.

Of course, in some parts of the world, wool is highly desired!

4. Who Do I Send Preemie Items To?

This is a question I get asked so often! My first response is usually, “Your nearest NICU.” NICU, in case you didn’t know, stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Most if not all major metropolitan cities have one, and often you’ll find NICUs in other cities and towns as well.

But — as I hope I’ve made clear above — I don’t advise you to knit first and then ship off to a NICU without warning!

It’s always best to reach out to your nearest NICU first. Tell them you’re interested in knitting for premature infants, and ask them what they need. You’ll also want to ask what kinds of guidelines they have.

Knitting for Preemies - Preemies of the Carolinas
Photo: Preemies of the Carolinas

Then, once you’re armed with these facts, you can start knitting.

One thing to keep in mind is that NICUs often don’t acknowledge donations. Sometimes they do, and it’s a wonderful feeling! But NICUs, unfortunately, tend to be very busy places. And sometimes “thank this kind knitter who sends us preemie items” falls rather far down on their list of to-dos.

So if you do knit for a NICU, be aware of that. And know that your kind gifts make a WORLD of difference to scared and lonely families of these infants.

5. Preemie Charities

If for any reason you aren’t able to send items to a local NICU, several charities do exist for the delivery of knitted items to premature infants.

Bev’s Country Cottage keeps an ongoing list of hospitals and charities accepting donations.

The following are some of the posts I’ve written about preemie knitting charities!

Care Wear

Mighty Miracles Foundation

Octopus for a Preemie (note: this is a crochet charity rather than a knitting charity – it involves crocheting adorable octopi)

Preemies of the Carolinas

Love seeing charity knitting in the news like this!

6. Free Patterns for Preemies

Again, Bev’s Country Cottage is the gold standard here! Take a look at her amazing collection of free patterns.

I’ve compiled a few free pattern collections myself (which include many of Bev’s patterns!). You can find them below:

21 Perfectly Precious Free Knitting Patterns for Preemie Clothes

Free Preemie Hat Patterns Use Little Yarn and Are Perfect Charity Knitting Projects

9 of the Cutest Ways to Knit Warmth for Tiny Heads

Are you excited and ready to start knitting? Great! Find a place to send your creations, grab a pattern (or 10), and enjoy the rewarding feeling of caring for preemies with your knitting!

Eager to knit for charity but unsure where to start?
Click here to sign up for my free email course, Getting Started with Charity Knitting, and subscribe to the free Knitting Nuggets Newsletter.
Knitting for Premature Babies

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12 Comments

  1. Hi, I always look forward for your weekly newsletter. I do have a question is project LINUS still active. I’ve been trying to connect with them. I have sent email filled out the blank form that they have and left phone message have never received any answer to any of them.

  2. knots of love is another charity that accepts NICU blankets. they have a great list of yarns that are good for preemies

  3. I would like to knit for stillborn babies. I need the pattern for the cradle, small hats, & blankets, colors etc.

  4. Hi
    why am I getting what looks like a ladder or two or three stitches really loose on the loom baby hats?I hope someone can tell me what I’m doing wrong.cecilia