12 Hats. 12 Days. Are you Ready?
Some babies need help when they are born. They may need extra care because they were born too early, and therefore still need time to be ready to enter the world. These tiniest of babies are often fighters, despite weighing no more than a couple of bananas! Even full-term babies may end up in the NICU, because they have troubles like breathing adequately, staying warm, or regulating their blood sugar.
Whatever the reason for the intervention, NICUs are a huge blessing to these little ones and their families. It’s also a very stressful time for everyone involved. Most mothers envision a day of snuggles and get-to-know-you time on their baby’s birthday, not seeing their baby attached to tubes, wires, monitors, and behind the glass of an isolette. It can be very lonely and very frightening.
I’m a newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) mom. Actually, I’ve been a NICU mom three times now, as three of my five children have needed the special intervention of neonatal intensive care. You can see my beautiful babies here, getting the help that they need from their wonderful doctors and nurses.
Our annual challenge is to each make 12 hats for these sweet NICU patients.
During their NICU stays, my little ones each wore a little hat crocheted by a stranger. I can’t begin to express how much those hats meant to me: that a stranger offered a little bit of comfort, knowing that they would likely not ever see the result of their gift, was such a blessing of love to me and my family. Some of the hats were very simple and some were elaborate, what mattered most was that someone cared about our struggles. Having now survived three NICU stays, I know that many moms are likewise comforted by this personal touch for their little one.
My annual NICU charity challenge goes along with the 12 days of Christmas. Your official challenge is to make 12 preemie hats in 12 days that you will donate to your nearest NICU. The challenge starts today (November 20th) and officially runs through January 6th (the traditional end of the 12 days of Christmas). This gives all participants a few extra days to finish up their 12 hats, since we all know the holidays can be crazy-busy. It also allows those who wish to make more some extra time to finish many, many hats. One of our participants last year made 144 hats (12 hats for each of the 12 days), commenting that preemie hats work up so quickly that she could do quite a few while watching a movie with her family.
Last year, we had well over 26,000 hats donated to NICUs all over the world. I hope that this year we will be able to increase that effort!
Twenty incredible designers have each contributed patterns to this challenge that you’ll get simply for joining the challenge. These hats are adorable!! When you join the challenge, you’ll receive each of the patterns via email. You are welcome to use all of the patterns, only one of the patterns, or any combination of repeats (or your own patterns) to make your 12 hats. We ask that you share a photo of your finished hats with us before you drop them off to your local hospital/birthing center/NICU. You can post the photos to my Facebook page or you can email them to me. We will post the photos both here on the blog and on Facebook so that all participants can enjoy the results. To receive the patterns and join the challenge, enter your email in the box below to subscribe to the challenge patterns newsletter. You’ll receive a new pattern each day of the challenge, beginning the day you subscribe.
It’s always a good idea to call your local NICU before you actually start stitching. Some NICUs have strict requirements about what fibers they allow. Others are happy with just about anything! If you’re unsure, crocheting with cotton is always a pretty safe bet! It’s usually best not to use buttons, flowers, or applique for a NICU hat, as they don’t like to have the potential choking hazard for a baby. The same is true with the braids on the bottom of ear-flaps. It’s better just not to have the risk with these little ones.
Check out this year’s beautiful challenge patterns:
The links below take you to each designer’s Facebook page. If you “like” all of the pages at once, Facebook may delete your likes and you won’t be connected to the designer. Each designer will be featured over the next few days, so you can “like” their page when they are featured as well.
Sunset Crochet, KT and the Squid, Cre8tion Crochet, RAKJ Patterns, Little Monkeys Crochet, Danyel Pink Designs, My Sweet Potato 3, Blackstone Designs, The Hooked Haberdasher, Sincerely Pam, Crochet by Jennifer, Charmed by Ewe, Susie J Crochet, Ashley Designs Corner, Knit in the Womb Designs, Hatched with Love, Two Brothers Blankets, The Stitchin’ Mommy, Mamachee * Crochet makes me happy!, and the Frayed Knot
When you sign up, you’ll immediately be emailed the first pattern. You’ll then receive one pattern each day via email. That email will also link you to a blog post about the designer with links to designer’s blog, shop, and other information. (Many of the designers included a coupon code, too!) In past years, I’ve sent out one ginormous PDF file with all of the patterns. There were a couple of issues with that – primarily, that many email servers blocked it from coming through at all. So this year, we’re doing it a little bit differently: patterns will be sent one at a time.
When you finish your hats, take them to your nearest birthing center or hospital that delivers babies. That way each participant is making a difference in his/her own community. You’ll get to go into the NICU and see the reaction of the nurses and, in some cases, the moms of little patients as they fish out a brand new hat to put on their little one. It feels incredible when you realize what a difference your gift makes.