Want to make bonding hearts for premature babies? Here’s a free knitting pattern with 3 variations
I’m so excited to offer my knitting friends these patterns for bonding hearts!
If you don’t know what bonding hearts are, be sure to check out my article on the Mighty Miracles Foundation. In a nutshell, bonding hearts allow parents of premature infants to bond with them while they are in the NICU.
One thing I learned from talking to Amanda Dickinson, MMF director, is that parents of NICU preemies don’t get to spend a lot of time holding their newborns. How sad is that? Imagine having a baby that you can barely hold. It’s heartbreaking.
That’s why bonding hearts are so important. It gives parents a sense of involvement and allows their babies a chance to get to know them, even in their absence.
Original Pattern for Bonding Hearts: the Hugs & Kisses Heart
When Amanda shared her story with us, and told us about her care packages, the first thing I wanted to know (of course!) was whether bonding hearts could be knitted. She assured me that they absolutely could.
(They can be crocheted as well, but I’m not much of a crocheter, as many of you know!)
The only two guidelines for yarn-crafted bonding hearts is that they should be about 5” tall, and they must be made with cotton yarn.
As it turns out, Ravelry hosts a terrific pattern that meets this requirement. It’s called the Hugs and Kisses Heart. It features adorable cabling that creates a pattern that looks a little like a combination X and O.
If you love cabling, this could be a great way to proceed.
I don’t dislike cabling, but when I first set out to knit hearts, I didn’t feel like tracking down an extra DPN to use as a cable needle. (Yes, you can cable without cable needles. No, I don’t like doing it. Sorry!)
So I decided to attempt a version of this pattern without the cables.
My Version 1: Textured
My first variation of this pattern simply replaces a few rows of the pattern with non-cable stitches. In all, seven rows are altered.
Row 16: K3, M1, P1, work 8 (that is, work each stitch as it appears – so if it’s a knit stitch, knit it; if it’s a purl stitch, purl it), P1, M1, K3
Row 18: K3, M1, P4, work 4, P4, M1, K3
Row 20: K3, M1, P3, work 8, M1, K3
Row 22: K3, M1, P2, work 4, P4, work 4, P2, M1, K3
Row 28: K3, M1, P2tog, P3, work 4, P4, work 4, P3, P2tog, M1, K3
Row 30: K3, M1, P2tog, P2tog, P3, work 8, P3, P2tog, P2tog, M1, K3
Row 32: K3, M1, P2tog, P2tog, P2tog, P2, work 4, P2, P2tog, P2tog, P2tog, P2tog, M1, K3
For all the other directions, just follow the first pattern.
My Version 2: “Mindless”
The one thing I don’t like about the variation above is that you have to follow the pattern pretty closely to create it. It wasn’t something I could just whip up while watching TV or a movie. I wouldn’t want to try knitting it in church, either!
So I decided to create an entirely-stockinette version of this pattern, with only the point, borders, and top in more of a garter stitch. I find this pattern a lot easier to memorize.
For those of you who enjoy zoning out with your knitting and who want to make hearts… this is the pattern for you!
Cast on 3 stitches.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2 (right side): K1, Kfb, K1. (4 stitches)
Row 3 (wrong side): Knit.
Row 4: K1, Kfb x 2, K1. (6 stitches)
Row 5: Knit.
Row 6: K2, Kfb x 2, K2. (8 stitches)
Row 7: K3, P2, K3.
Row 8: K3, M1, K2, M1, K3. (10 stitches)
Row 9: K4, P2, K4.
Row 10: K3, M1, K4, M1, K3. (12 stitches)
Row 11: K4, P4, K4.
Row 12: K3, M1, K6, M1, K3. (14 stitches)
Row 13: K4, P6, K4.
Row 14: K3, M1, K8, M1, K3. (16 stitches)
Row 15: K4, P8, K4.
Row 16: K3, M1, K10, M1, K3. (18 stitches)
Row 17: K4, P10, K4.
Row 18: K3, M1, K12, M1, K3. (20 stitches)
Row 19: K4, P12, K4.
Row 20: K3, M1, K14, M1, K3. (22 stitches)
Row 21: K4, P14, K4.
Row 22: K3, M1, K16, M1, K3. (24 stitches)
Row 23: K4, P16, K4.
Row 24: K3, M1, K18, M1, K3. (26 stitches)
Row 25: K4, P18, K4.
Row 26: K3, M1, K20, M1, K3. (28 stitches)
Row 27: K4, P20, K4.
Row 28: K3, M1, K2tog, K18, SSK, M1, K3. (28 stitches)
Row 29: K4, P20, K4.
Row 30: K3, M1, K2tog x 2, K14, SSK x 2, M1, K3. (26 stitches)
Row 31: K4, P18, K4.
Row 32: K3, M1, K2tog x 3, K8, SSK x 2, M1, K3. (22 stitches)
Row 33: K4, P14, K4.
The top part of the heart is knitted identically to the original pattern. To wit:
Row 34: K3, M1, P2tog x 3, M1, K2, turn. (10 stitches)
Row 35: K10, turn.
Row 36: K3, M1, P2tog x 2, K3, turn. (9 stitches)
Row 37: K9, turn.
Row 38: K2tog x 3, K1, K2tog, turn. (5 stitches)
Row 39: K5, turn.
Row 40: K2tog, K1, K2tog. No need to turn; just slip the right-most 2 stitches, one at a time, over the first stitch on the needle. Break yarn and secure end to make a nice smooth edge.
Row 34: K2, M1, P2tog x 3, M1, K3. (10 stitches)
Row 35: K10.
Row 36: K3, P2tog x 2, M1, K3. (9 stitches)
Row 37: K9.
Row 38: K2tog, K1, K2tog x 3. (5 stitches)
Row 39: K5.
Row 40: K2tog, K1, K2tog. Slip right-most 2 stitches over the first stitch on the needle, one at a time. Break yarn and secure end.
Weave in all ends.
For both bonding heart variations, you’ll want to wet-block the hearts to get them nice and flat. I also recommend washing the hearts in hot water before you send them, since they will be used for preemies.
(Also, because they will go to preemies, be sure you don’t knit the hearts in a home with a smoker.)
I recommend using a worsted-weight cotton yarn for these hearts. You can use a slightly thinner yarn; just know that it’ll result in a smaller heart.
I hope you become as hooked on these bonding hearts as I’ve become!
For a PDF of these two patterns (plus 2 more other quick-knits!), click the button below to subscribe to the Knitting Nuggets Newsletter and get my free eBooklet, “Quick Charity Knitting Wins.”