I started out with these red ones in four sizes, using some Lion Brand Microspun sport-weight acrylic that I had left from another project. I call 'em Eeenie, Meenie, Minie, and Moe:
I started with a simple roll-brim hat pattern from Knitting on the Net and adapted it for preemie sizes. For each size you will cast on some multiple of 9 stitches. Here's how to make them:
- Sport weight or DK weight yarn. (Ask to talk to the NICU at your local hospital about fiber. Some want NO acrylic, some want ONLY acrylic, and some will take any fiber so long as it is washable)
- Size 4 DPNs
Between 5 and 6 stitches per inch, depending on the yarn that you use. Don't fret the gauge too much. Just make lots of hats in lots of sizes. They'll fit someone sooner or later.
Eenie (Large, about 10" circumference -- nearly full-term)
Cast on 54 stitches on three needles (18 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until piece measures about 3 to 3 1/2 inches, then begin decreases.
R1: *K4, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R3: *K3, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R5: *K2, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R7: *K1, K2tog* repeat for the entire round
R9: K2tog for the entire round
You now have 9 stitches (3 on each needle).
R10: *K1, K2tog* repeat for entire round.
You should now have 6 stitches.
For a round-topped hat, cut the yarn and use a tapestry needle to run the yarn through these last stitches. Pull tight and fasten off.
For a "stem" on top, K2tog around, reducing the last 6 stitches to 3. Knit i-cord with these last three stitches to the desired length. Knit the last 3 stitches together, cut the yarn, and pull it through the last stitch. With a tapestry needle, run the yarn down the length of the i-cord, then cut.
Meenie (Medium, about 8 inches in circumference)
Cast on 45 stitches (15 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until the piece measures about 2 1/2 to 3 inches.
Begin decreases from R3 of the Eeenie pattern and continue as the Eeenie pattern directs.
Minie (Small, about 6 1/2 inches in circumference)
Cast on 36 stitches (12 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until the piece measures about 2 to 2 1/2 inches.
Begin decreases from R5 of the Eeenie pattern and continue as the Eeenie pattern directs.
Moe (Micro, about 5 inches in circumference)
Cast on 27 stitches (9 on each needle). Join without twisting.
Knit around until the piece measures about 2 inches.
Begin decreases from R7 of the Eeenie pattern and continue as the Eeenie pattern directs.
Now that you've got the basics, would you really like to knit up a load of smiles for the NICU? Get out your leftovers and see what your color combinations inspire. Check out these ideas (most of them done in Elann Sonata, an all-cotton yarn left from my Pondemonium project):
Watermelon: Two shades of green for the "rind," red for the flesh, and the "seeds" done in duplicate stitch with black yarn. This would be even cuter with a seafoam green instead of the yellow-green I had for the lighter shade, and a pinky-red.
On the left, a two-tone denim hat done in Rowan Denim. On the right, a patriotic red, white, and blue. I might try that one again in time for 4th of July, and use multiple narrow red and white stripes:
Here's a lovely cloche for some tiny diva. The leaf is Just a Leaf, a pattern from Ravelry. I made it a few rows smaller than the original pattern. The purple is Takhi cotton, another good choice for all-cotton hats since it comes in lots of brilliant colors.
Keeping the boys in mind, I made these two boyish hats, one in green and blue, the other in blue with three one-row white stripes:
And what's cuter than a bug? How about a ladybug hat? The spots are done in duplicate stitch, though they could be knit in with stranded knitting. To make the two antennae, when I had six stitches after the decreases I divided them between two needles and knit i-cord on each needle. Near the end, I increased in each stitch (by knitting in the front and the back of each stitch) then immediately reduced back to 3 stitches by knitting two together three times. After knitting all three stitches together, I cut the yarn, ran it through the last stitch, then used a needle to run the end of the yarn down through the i-cord and tugged until the slightly pointy ends turned round.
Now, what else could we have? Flowers for spring, pumpkins in the fall, oh, there are lots of ideas once you get started!
In order to avoid jogs where colors join, check out the Jogless Stripes article on TECHKnitting.