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How to Best Knit for the Elderly: Tips & Free Patterns

Advice and tips from experts, plus free knitting patterns

How to Knit for Elderly

Do you want to knit for elderly folks but aren’t sure where to start?

Over the years, I’ve been heartened to hear of the many knitters who enjoy knitting for people in assisted living facilities, for elderly neighbors, for folks suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, and more.

Knitting for senior citizens is one of the most loving ways I can think of to thank generations before us for all they’ve done for us. I find it especially gratifying because so many of them spent a lot of their own years knitting for people in need.

However, senior citizens often have special needs that you should take into consideration before you get started.

To help me spread the word about the best ways to knit for elderly folks, I turned to experts!

Sue McGorie ran the knitting charity Sunshine International Blankets of Love, or SIBOL.  Bev Q runs the website Bev’s Country Cottage, featuring all kinds of knitting for charity.

So read on for some great tips on knitting blankets for the elderly, and then take a look at the links to some terrific free patterns!

Knitting Blankets for the Elderly

(Note: SIBOL is no longer running, but her tips are still quite valid!)

Sue’s tips:

1. Elderly residents love bright colors. So if you have some bright yarn colors in your stash that no one else seems to want because they’re “loud,” those would be great for blankets for the elderly!

2. Lacy patterns are not terrific for nursing home residents because their fingers tend to get caught in the “holes.”

3. However, any other visually interesting stitch pattern is encouraged. As Sue points out, “They sit for hours with nothing to do and it’s nice to have textured square patterns which have raised stitches.”

Any kind of geometric interest is a great idea. Basketweave, herringbone, even moss or seed stitches would add interest. (If you have a stitch pattern library, this is a great excuse to go wild!)

4. For an extra-practical touch, sew a simple pocket (just a little square) on one side of the blanket. This makes a nice storage spot for tissues.

Bev’s tips:

1. Most nursing facilities appreciate small afghans/lapghans (36″ x 45″ or so), shawls, gloves, wheel chair and walker totes, and slippers or handknitted socks.

2. Handknitted slippers need to have some kind of skid-resistant paint, or material on the bottom for obvious reasons.

3. Nice soft yarn is wonderful for aging, fragile skin, and lovely bright colors are terrific to brighten their days!

Thank you, Sue and Bev, for the great tips! Now, how about some patterns?

Free Knitting Patterns for the Elderly – Full Sized Blanket Patterns

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t link to Bev’s Country Cottage’s fantastic page of patterns for seniors. This is probably the best set of links I’ve seen.

Next, here are some beautiful full-sized blanket patterns you can knit:

Ten Stitch Blanket: this results in a gorgeous geometric design and is a fantastic stash-busting project.

Eleventh Hour Blanket: I will always find this pattern enchanting. The textured stitches are gorgeous, and I love the border. If you’re looking for quick and simple, look no further!

free blanket knitting patterns
Sutter’s Mill Throw
Photo: Lion Brand

Sutter’s Mill Throw: This beautiful Lion Brand pattern pops with gorgeous cables. Since you create panels that are then sewn together, it makes a more portable project. (Scroll down to the buttons next to the photo to find the “download free pattern” button.)

Quilt and Cable Blanket: This blanket features some of the most unusual cables I’ve ever seen. It looks far more difficult than it really is and produces a quilt-like fabric.

Ten Stitch Zigzag: By the designer of the Ten Stitch Blanket, this produces a striking textural zigzag pattern.

Basketweave throw
Red Heart Basketweave Throw
Photo: Yarnspirations

Red Heart Basketweave Throw: I knitted this afghan myself a few years ago and loved it. The afghan it produces is so warm and cozy!

Universal Yarn Afghan Knitalong: This is actually an afghan knitalong collection of many different squares. You can take whatever squares most appeal to you and include them in your own afghan, then sew them together at the end. This is a great portable and stash-busting project!

Color Block Blanket: Another portable project that you can work in individual pieces and then sew together at the end. You can make this blanket as small or as large as you wish.

Another great way to knit for seniors: twiddle muffs! Get free patterns here.

Free Knitting Patterns for the Elderly – “Lapghan” Patterns

Finally, here are some “lapghans” — small afghans to place over your lap to keep your legs warm, especially great for wheelchair-bound folks. While these are technically baby blanket projects, they are actually the perfect size for a lapghan.

Sunny Blanket: Here is a wonderfully square-textured pattern with lots of visual interest.

PomPom Cuddle Blanket: Be forewarned, you may find knitting with the pom-pom yarn this project requires tricky. However, if you’re up for the challenge, I think you’ll find the results are worth it. It creates a fabulously squishy-textured lapghan.

Honeycomb Stroller Blanket: Did someone say “visual interest”? This blanket is absolutely packed with it. The gorgeous honeycomb stitch pattern is positively eye-popping!

Fluffy Brioche Baby Blanket: This fantastic small blanket pattern features a brioche stitch that produces a gorgeously rich waffle-like texture.

Heart Baby Blanket: As you might have guessed, this lovely blanket features textured hearts.

Four Corners blanket
Four Corners Baby Blanket
Photo: Rina Shaikh-Lesko

Four Corners Baby Blanket: Finally, this blanket uses simple miter squares and purl ridges to create interesting textures that look a lot more difficult than they are.

Armed with these tips and patterns, I hope all you wonderful knitters are ready to dive into charity knitting for the elderly!

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. I so enjoy your emails when they come. Living in Afrca is somewhat isolating, and it is great to see what others are doing. Thank you for your time in getting the emails Oglethorpe and sending the, to us.