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Free Preemie Hats, Upcoming Patterns, and Portraits. Oh My!

Hello, lovely people!

My brain is so full right now, of ideas and deadlines, that I barely know what to say when I do have time to write.  Let me begin in the middle.

Christmas is coming (yay!), and that means we have five little people to buy gifts for (yikes!).  They are all super excited, especially since it snowed at our house overnight and they woke up to a wintery wonderland this morning.  I made the mistake of taking my two oldest ones Christmas shopping for their siblings at Chapters last week, and their wish lists instantly grew by about two feet that day.  Pokemon is the big thing in our house right now.  I am secretly horrified, but trying to look interested in all their cards with the weird names and diverse “powers.”

I’ve been knitting up a storm, trying to make samples, figure out new patterns, knit gifts, and fulfill special orders.  (I’ve recently taken up knitting for non-knitters who want hats.  They can be voracious.  Owl hats are a big hit, and I hope to write up a pattern for them soon, if I can ever find the time.)

Owl hat with plaid collageb

I’m also an artist of sorts.  I say “of sorts” because I’ve barely had a chance to draw or paint since my first baby was born nine years ago.  Now that my youngest is three, I’ve realized that maybe I can get back into painting again!  But first, I’m sticking with the simpler art of drawing.  Pencils don’t dry out when you have to leave them to make lunch.  I’ve decided to sell pencil portraits for the next little while.  It’s an experiment of sorts, trying to figure out just how much creativity I can fit into my life before the dirty dishes really do begin to overtake the kitchen counters.

(This is a drawing I made of my husband and our firstborn as a Christmas present to said husband years ago.  It’s actually a compilation of two photos, since neither of them had the proper expressions in one photo, of course.  Husbands and children never do.)

Pencil drawing of father and son.

I also received a surprise in the mail today.  I had sent my sample hats to Knit Picks before they listed my Merrick hat pattern in the IDP section, and today I received them back!  Eva immediately put the blue one on, and aha! — a revelation — it looks adorable on a three year old.  It turns into a cute little elf-like hat.  (She’s wearing the child size.)

Merrick child size

Merrick, child size

I’m in the end stages of getting Merrick‘s close cousin, Merry, ready for publication.  It’s an extended version, shall we say, with cozy earflaps and (optional) hilarious pom poms.  Adding the earflaps forced me to make entirely new charts, so I’m putting Merry out as its own pattern since it took just as much work as Merrick did.  I think, however, that I’ll offer it at a discount to those who want to buy both patterns.

I roped my neighbour and friend into being my model last weekend.  😀  She’s such a good sport.  Here’s a sneak peak:


Last, but not least:  Sunday was World Prematurity Awareness Day, and in honour of the four out of my five kids who were preemies, I’m once again offering all my preemie hat patterns for free.  The coupon code is only good for a limited time (until Friday, November 22nd at midnight), so grab them quickly on Ravelry with the coupon code preemieday.  Whether you know a preemie or not, sending preemie hats to your local NICU is such a nice way to encourage the families in your community.  Having a child born too early can be quite nerve wracking and traumatizing.  Many parents suffer from some form of PTSD afterwards.  The more support those parents have, the better.

My personal favourite of my preemie patterns is the Tulip Preemie Hat. It’s so much fun to knit it up with some self-striping yarn, and it’s so tiny that you can complete one in a couple hours (or less).

Tulip Preemie Hat





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Why Should You Care About Preemies?

“Each year, preterm birth affects nearly 500,000 babies—that’s 1 of every 8 infants born in the United States. Preterm birth is the birth of an infant prior to 37 weeks gestation. It is the most frequent cause of infant death, the leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children, and costs the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion each year.”   from the CDC website

That’s kind of a big deal, isn’t it?

Well, it is to me.  I have had five kids, four of which were born before 37 weeks gestation.  Crazy, right?

In my case, my doctors could find no underlying cause for the premature labours.  The best guess we had was “maximum capacity.”  Each pregnancy, I’d get a little bigger, and then — bam! — labour would start.  It worked out well for my fifth child, who was born full term.  It was terrible for my twins (numbers 3 & 4), since there were two of them in there:  less space, earlier delivery.  They were born at 27 weeks plus 2 days.

Yes, at that age, they count the days as being important.

We spent three months in the blipping NICU.  (It literally made blipping sounds all the time.  You could almost lose the babies in all the machines.)

During that time, Gideon had three cases of septicemia.  Xander had NEC (nectrotizing enterocolitis), with a perforated bowel, an emergency phone call home in the middle of the night, and an eventual ileostomy.  And that all happened in the first month.

Thankfully, both of our little cutie pies survived, and Xander even had his ileostomy reversed when he was 10 months old.  He has amazing scars on his belly, but otherwise, you’d never know what he went through.  He remembers nothing.

My first son was born at “only” 32 weeks, and stayed “only” 3 weeks in the hospital, growing and learning to eat by mouth.

My second son was born at 35 weeks, and seemed almost full-term to me!  He spent only one night in the NICU for observation, then we were both discharged from the hospital on the same day.  What a difference a couple weeks makes!

So why am I telling you all this?  Well, today is World Prematurity Awareness Day.  Why is it important to be aware?  Because modern medicine saved my children’s lives.   And I’m not the only one who goes through this: 1 in 8 babies are born too early.  Let me tell you, it’s not something you expect to happen.

There is this amazing medicine given to preemies who can’t breathe.  It’s called BLES (bovine lipid extract surfactant).  You put it in lungs that can’t absorb oxygen, even with a ventilator, and bam!  The vent works.

Did you know many of these technologies are here because of Patrick Kennedy?  He was JFK’s last child, a preemie, who died from respiratory distress.  The whole nation mourned him, and they directed money towards research and medicines.  My twins are alive today because of those technologies.

This is why awareness is so important.  There are still babies who die because the technology simply doesn’t exist to save them.

I get really excited when I hear about new medical discoveries.  You know how we hear about researchers trying to grow organs from stem cells (the ethically harvested ones)?  Well, can you imagine if they could build placentas that way?  Someday, they might….  But placentas are way more complex than most organs.  They are basically a life-support system for a baby, providing nourishment, oxygen, and waste removal.

The NICU does its best to replicate that system, but it’s a poor substitute, at best.  Most treatments used to save the babies’ lives also have serious side effects, like blindness, brain bleeds, sepsis, and more.  Thankfully, the NICU doctors are artists, carefully balancing medical intervention with moderation.  They do their best to make sure the babies not only survive, but thrive.  It’s not an easy job.

Nothing about the NICU is easy.  Not for doctors, not for parents.  It’s a high-stress environment, and our nurses lovingly referred to is as a roller-coaster ride.  It’s very common for parents who have experienced it to have long-lasting grief, even when their babies survive.

One way I have dealt with my grief over the years is to knit.  When I knit for preemies, I pour my grief into a hat, and it comes out as hope and compassion for other families.   Over the years, the grief has lessened, but my heart is still tender for NICU families.

I would like to offer you a gift for this week surrounding World Prematurity Awareness Day.  All of my preemie hat patterns are free until November 24, 2012, at the end of the day.  Use the coupon code ilovepreemies in my Ravelry store during check out, or just click this link to go directly to the cart to receive the Tulip Preemie Hat and the Viking Preemie Hat for free:

My other preemie patterns, which are always free, are here:

If you found my blog via the Preemie Awareness blog hop, welcome!  I usually write about knitting, but there are other preemie posts here, too.  If you’d like to, you can sign up to receive email updates at the top right of every page.  

I’d love to hear your preemie story.  Will you share it with me?


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When I was a kid, I remember reading a short story called “Impunity Jane.” I don’t know why I always returned to that story; maybe it was because I was a typical girl who loved dolls, and Impunity Jane just happened to be a doll. But really, I think it was the word impunity that had me so fascinated. I just couldn’t infer its meaning from the story’s content. It was a word mystery, and I was hooked.

The mystery remained unsolved, and, eventually, forgotten, until my high school English class. There, in my vocabulary book, was the word impunity! And the definition? Freedom from punishment. The perfect word, waiting to be used in the perfect situation. I love those types of words.

As I was typing up the description for this hat pattern, I realized that the thing I like so much about it is its use of variegated and tonal yarns. I have a love/hate relationship with those yarns, which you may have read about here. They always look so pretty in the balls, and so horribly blotchy in stockinette. Unless.

Unless you can come up with some interesting stitch pattern. Then, they shine. Then, you can knit them up with impunity.

For example, in my new pattern, which I named… Impunity. Shocking, I know.

As you can see, these hats have vertical ribbing to break up the colour changes. And the shaping continues right up to the top of the hat. Lots of springy, stretchy rings and visual interest. This hat looks great knit in any colour, for anyone. I’ve been making them for the gezillions of babies being born to all my friends this summer, and I plan to make one for myself, too. And possibly for my husband. If he’s good. After all, what’s the use in being a knitter if you don’t have an over abundance of hats?

The pattern contains sizing for Preemies, Babies, Toddlers, and Children/Adults. Because of the larger-than-normal needle size and the vertical ribs, these hats are stretchy and will fit between sizes. If in doubt, knit a size up. For instance, Preemie is definitely too little for a newborn of average size, but the Baby size will fit a newborn for quite a while. The size shown in the pictures is Toddler, and it fits the pretty little 20-month-old (if I do say so myself) as well as her 5-year-old brothers. But if you’re knitting for an 8 year old or older, I’d go with a Child/Adult size. Clear as mud?

You’ll need a 50g ball of fingering-weight yarn and size 3 US (2.75mm) needles for working in the round. I used two circular needles, but dpn’s or magic loop would work, as well. The yarn I used, that’s shown here, is one of my new favourites: Shibui Sock. Oh, the springiness! Oh, the colours! My hands are happy when I knit with it. The colour shown here is called Roppongi, and it’s a pink/orange mix. Bliss!

[box type=”download”]download now for free![/box]

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Hand-Painted Preemie Hat

I love buying hand-painted yarn, but then I’m inevitably disappointed when I knit it up. The gorgeous, vibrant colours suddenly pool or stripe in weird ways that make the ugliest little hats. But when I use a textural stitch, like seed stitch, suddenly the yarn regains its charm and the hat becomes delightful!

You can see how the stitches break up the lines of colour and give it an almost tweedy effect.

Top view

I’ve worked out the top decreases in the seed stitch pattern to keep the effect going right up to the top. I’ve tried decreasing in seed stitch a couple different ways over the years, but this pattern uses my favourite. I hope you like it, too.

The pattern for these little hats includes sizes from micropreemie up to a full-term newborn. You’ll need size 2 US needles for working in the round. I prefer using two circs, but any technique will do.

You can grab the free download here:
download now

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Viking Preemie Hat

I first knit a viking hat when one of our twins was in the hospital recovering from bowel surgery.  He (and his brother) had been a 27-weeker and was ten months old at the time of that particular surgery.  He became really sick afterwards, and his lungs started to fail.  My husband and I left our three other kids with their grandparents and spent the weekend at the hospital with Xander.

Sitting in the pediatric ICU is a funny experience.  The doctors and nurses are constantly moving, discussing, monitoring, and adjusting.  The parents are, well, spectators.  Xander was unconscious, so sitting at his bedside was like sitting beside a very cute lamp.  You can look at it, but there isn’t really much interaction.  So, to pass the time and to feel like I was doing something, I talked my hubby into a trip to *gasp!* Wal-Mart to get some yarn and needles.  (I have since learned to love non-acrylic yarn, especially super-wash merino.  At the time, I thought washable, cost-effective yarn only came in the plastic variety.)

Xander wearing his viking hat in the PICU

This is the “mighty warrior” hat I came up with.  I ended up knitting three of them during his stay in the hospital:  one for him, one for a baby beside him, and one as a special request for a nurse’s son.  Then I made three more when I got home for each of our other sons.

You might be glad to know that Xander’s lungs recovered, and his bowels are all better now, too.  But I’ll be the first to admit that his stay in the PICU was a big learning experience and definitely difficult.  The doctors tell us that he almost died that time around.  I could tell by their faces that they were pretty concerned.  But never have I been so certain that God is for us, not against us.  Even in the midst of suffering and uncertainty — especially in the midst of such things — He is a source of comfort and peace.  And He is powerful.

I knew that at some point, everybody dies, whether we like it or not.  I didn’t really know if it was Xander’s time to die or not.  I hoped and prayed it wasn’t, and I feel like God reassured me that at this time, it wasn’t.  But I was never 100% certain until the day Xander’s lungs started to clear.  In the meantime, I chose to keep trusting God, no matter what, and He became my source of strength and peace in the midst of fear and heartache.  And, on the same night that my pastor prayed for him at his bedside and my church called an emergency prayer meeting, Xander’s lungs started to clear.  They had been in a self-perpetuating cycle of stress, inflammation, more stress, more inflammation, and so on, until that night, when I believe that God stopped the cycle (since the doctors couldn’t do it) and started to make him well again.  He recovered steadily from that night on.

It’s funny, really.   We shouldn’t be surprised at such things, since the New Testament is full of healings and even contains the promise that Jesus’ followers will be able to ask God for healing and He will answer.  But we doubt.  We have so many rationales for why there’s another reason behind such coincidences.  But a friend of mine and I have a favourite saying when it looks like things fall into place too well:  “Coincidence?  I think not.”


I’ll be posting the pattern for Xander’s viking hat eventually, when I have time to sit down and write it out.  In the meantime, the pattern for the Viking Preemie Hat is available as a Ravelry download for $3.  It involves knitting in the round and just a tiny bit of sewing to attach the horns to the hat.  I hope you like it!

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Picot-Hem Preemie Hat

This little cutie is knit in Knit Picks Felici Fingering-weight sock yarn in "Rainbow."
Here it is again, this time on my hand to show some dimension.

This little preemie hat pattern comes with sizes for a head circumference of 6″(7″,8″,9″,10″,12″).  With that variety, you can knit one for practically every week of baby’s time in the NICU.  It is written for fingering-weight sock yarn and US size 1 (2.25 mm) needles and is knit in the round.  One ball of sock yarn will be enough to knit three to four hats, depending on the sizes you choose.

The picot hem gives it a very store-bought, high-quality feel and will impress everyone who sees it.  (We won’t tell them how easy it is to do.)  There are complete instructions for creating the picot hem in the pattern, and it’s a great skill to acquire if you haven’t tried it already.  It’s one of my favourite new techniques.  (Oh, and if you’re worried about sewing, don’t be!  There is none involved, and the edge will be as elastic as the knitted fabric.)

The pattern is now available as a free Ravelry download. Click on the link below to download it without being a Ravelry member!

download now

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Tulip Preemie Hat

Tulip Preemie Hat
Tulip Preemie Hat knit in Knit Picks Fingering-weight sock yarn
Tulip Preemie Hat knit in Knit Picks Sport-weight Felici sock yarn

Knit in the round on two size 2.25 mm circular needles (but easily adaptable to four dpn’s) with sport weight Felici from Knitpicks in Picnic, this tiny hat knits up easily in an evening or two.  You can make two to four from one ball of yarn, depending on the size you choose.

The pattern is available as a Ravelry download for $3 CAD and includes instructions for knitting sizes Tiny Preemie, Large Preemie, and Newborn in both sport weight and fingering weight yarns.

*Errata*I was just knitting another one of these and realized I do something “special” that I didn’t write in the pattern.  At the beginning of each increase/decrease round, I slip the last stitch of the previous round from its needle so it’s beside the first stitch on my starting needle.  Then I can do my cdd and have them line up properly.  Anytime you have a cdd at the very beginning of your needle, whether it’s at the beginning of the round or not, you must slip the last stitch from the previous needle to the next needle so it can be part of the cdd.  You’ll know you need to do this by counting 8 stitches between each set of cdd’s and m1-k1-m1’s.  There must be only 8.

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When You Knit for Preemies

I’ve been trying to think of how to describe the NICU for my fellow knitters.  So many different words come to mind: scary and unfriendly came first, but they’re not really all that accurate.  I must just be out of sorts today.

Sure, when I think back on my own experiences there as a mom, there was definitely some fear and trepidation involved — mostly because there was so much I didn’t understand — but there was also a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and camaraderie.

Have you ever seen a preemie?  My goodness, they’re beautiful!  Picture thin, delicate skin, tiny little chicken-wing arms and legs, and this funny little wrinkly old-man-like face and neck that melts your heart when they turn their heads.  (Body fat sure does make a difference in appearance … As I learned after being pregnant with twins — ugh.)  They have tiny little noses, and their fingers are so slender and small that they remind me of inch worms.  It’s pretty easy to fit daddy’s wedding band over a preemie wrist or even an ankle.

A little wee 1 pound 11 ounce micro preemie

Sometimes it was scary, not knowing what outcomes we might have with our kids, but mostly (and especially when they weren’t in any danger), I felt privileged to view a stage of development that most parents only experience through a padded, heartburn-filled belly.  Sure, there were some downsides, especially when my twins were born at 27 weeks and needed ventilators and other modern miracles of medicine, but I can actually look back fondly on my experiences there. (It’s three years since they were born.  I can say that now.)

One of the best things about the NICU, besides the ridiculously small amount of privacy while trying to breastfeed an infant who won’t latch on, was the abundance of knitted preemie hats and quilted preemie blankets floating around.  At the time, I took them for granted, but in retrospect, and as a knitter myself, I am awed by how much time and effort some caring people took to do something purely for someone else, with no credit or thanks to themselves.  I will never know who knit those little hats, but I still have them years later so I can marvel at how tiny the kids were as infants.  They are family keepsakes.

So, as a knitter and a mom of four preemies, I hereby bestow upon myself expert status and offer you my advice:

When you knit for preemies, make the hats beautiful and colourful.  The NICU is a drab place, no matter how many teddy-bear wallpaper borders they put up.  Add some colour to a family’s day and keepsake box in the form of a preemie hat that makes them say, “OOOOOoooohhhh!!!!  It’s so adorable!” in little high-pitched voices.  Seriously.  They’ll thank you.

Also, when you’re knitting preemie hats, unless you know a micro-preemie, don’t knit as many of the tiniest sizes.  Those little bitty micro-preemies are the cutest to knit for because the hats will make you think you’re knitting for a tiny doll, but… well, those tiny ones will likely be stuck wearing slightly weird-looking hospital hats that are specially designed to hold up their CPAP machines.  Make some small hats because some small babies have different needs for breathing help (or not), but if you’re going to go crazy making a gezillion tulip hats, make them in the bigger sizes.  It’s sad for me as a knitter to admit this, but the hospital can usually use the bigger ones more than the small preemie hats.

One of those funny little CPAP hats

When I knit for preemies, I pray for them and their parents.  I want every stitch of that hat to be filled with love.  I want my preemie hats to be visually stunning, but I mostly want those parents to know that they’re not alone.  Can a viking hat do that?  Maybe not immediately.  But, once the crazy days of worrying and wondering are over and life has gone back to normal and their little wizened old man has blossomed into a chunky baby who cries and wakes them up at night in their own home, they’ll look back and know that something amazing carried them through that whole roller coaster experience.

Was it a hat?  No, it was the love and care that surrounded them.  And now I get to be a part of that for someone else.  And you do, too!  Have fun knowing that you’re knitting with purpose, and send me pictures of your preemie hats.