Blankets for premature babies

I was looking for a new knitting project for this year, after spending much of 2016 on the knitted nativity characters, and 2017 knitting toys for my grandchildren and some young friends. Early in January I discovered this page about knitting for premature babies in the UK. The page listed several different sizes of blankets that various hospitals require, as well as some other smaller items.

A similar project in Cyprus (where I live) had closed, but I knew we would be visiting my son in the south-east of the UK in April, so I set to work with enthusiasm, using one of the patterns given on the site, and some purple yarn I had bought somewhat randomly from the local thrift store.

I intended to make an 18x18 inch blanket (yes, all dimensions are given in inches) but despite making an attempt to check my tension, I realised after about twenty rows that this particular pattern - which was the one called 'waffle stitch' in the knitting info pack - knitted fairly tightly, so my width was nearer 16 inches than 18.

I sent a private message to the group, wondering if I should start over, and they assured me that exact sizes don't matter too much.  And then, as I continued knitting, and was able to measure more accurately, I realised that it was in fact nearer 14 inches wide. So I kept knitting until it reached 14 inches in length, and by early February it was finished:

Fired with enthusiasm, I decided to attempt the more complicated looking 'basket-weave' pattern, using some rust brown yarn; I had realised by then that this size of blanket took between 50g and 100g wool, and I had about one and three-quarters balls of this colour.

This time I was more careful with the tension, and used 4.5mm rather than 4mm needles. The resultant blanket, which I finished a couple of weeks later, was close to 18 inches square.

I wanted to use more of my yarn stash before buying more, so as I didn't have any that was more than 50g, I choose two colours which I thought went well together, and decided to knit the pattern called 'double andalusian' in stripes.

Although all my wool is classed as Double Knitting, this one was apparently a bit thicker than the previous one, and the same number of stitches measured - after several rows - 20 inches. No problem, I thought, that's one of the sizes required.

However as that's somewhat larger than my previous attempts, I ran out of the darker blue (which had not been a complete ball) at around 15 inches in length. I had thought both balls were 'Stylecraft', bought in the UK, but after searching online in the hope of ordering some more, I could not find the colour. So I made a trip to our local small, friendly yarn shop, and found, to my relief, the exact same shade.

However, at 18 inches I ran out of the lighter blue, which is Stylecraft brand and not, as far as I know, available in Cyprus. I decided I would stop at that point, since it looked like a good size for a blanket, and since the exact sizes aren't too important. I was quite pleased with the colours:

However, all the edges curled. None of the patterns on the site said that they needed plain knitting at the edges, and the first two had turned out just fine; this pattern didn't seem all that different from the other ones, so I was rather surprised at the edges curling, as can be seen more clearly when I folded it:

I then decided - since I had plenty of the dark blue remaining - to do a double crochet hem all the way around. I'm not good at crochet, and never do anything beyond a line of single or double stitches, but I thought it looked quite effective:

The top and bottom stopped curling as a result, although the sides still had a tendency to curl inwards.

By this stage it was early March. I had bought a 100g ball of yarn when I went to the local shop, in a shade I liked, but rather than embarking on another blanket - since we were due to fly to the UK early in April - I decided to make some 'bonding squares'. These are a wonderful idea: pairs of identical small squares (three or five inches) which are used when a baby must be in special care, or away from his or her mother for any length of time. The baby has one square, the mother sleeps on the other, and every twelve hours or so, they swap. This way, each learns to recognise the scent of the other.

I cast on the number of stitches given in a pattern on the site, noting the recommendation of a plain knitted border, but then used one of the other patterns for the inside. I was quite pleased with the result:


Unfortunately, despite using the smallest recommended knitting needles (4mm) the squares were nearer 6 inches square than 5 inches. I hoped this wouldn't matter!  Next I knitted a pair using the pattern (approximately) as given on the site.. and they, too, were almost six inches square.

By this time we were due to fly soon, so I embarked on the simplest pattern of all, one I knew I could follow without having it printed in front of me, and which I could knit with other people around. Moss stitch (sometimes known as seed stitch) is one of the recommended patterns, and since I had 34 stitches I opted for double moss stitch rather than single (switching style every two stitches and rows rather than every one).

Moss stitch is stretchier than the other patterns... so was slightly more than 6 inches. But by this stage I had, as I thought, three pairs of bonding squares in addition to my three blankets.  As we were due to fly soon, I emailed the admin of the list, asking (a) where to send them on arrival in the UK (and whether I could use a drop-off centre in Epsom) and (b) whether the sizes of the bonding squares was an issue.  I had noted that the site mentioned having plenty of bonding squares, and that blankets were currently more in demand, so I said that I could sew them together to make a 12 x 18 inch blanket if that was more useful.

After various exchanges, I was told that yes, I could drop everything off at the Stitchmouse craft shop in Epsom, but that a blanket would be more useful than 6 inch bonding squares.

However, I could not find a way of arranging the six squares attractively to make a blanket, so decided to knit three more of the moss stitch ones, and then make a 18 x 18 inch blanket using all nine, with the moss stitch ones in the centre and corners. That meant I had to take my knitting needles with me, as well as a wool sewing needle.  

Since I could knit while talking to other people, and these squares were quick and easy, I soon had them completed. Sewing was a bit awkward - I don't enjoy it nearly as much as knitting - and since the moss stitch squares were a tad bigger than the others, it wasn't all that even. But I quite liked the resultant blanket, and don't suppose premature babies mind too much if the edges aren't perfectly even:

We weren't staying near Epsom at first, but in the small town of Alcester, where there's a lovely little wool shop in a side street. So I popped in and bought six 100g balls of Stylecraft yarn, for future projects.

Then I thought I would start one of them. I chose a pale green, and double moss stitch since it's so easy to do while chatting. I even did a small tension square to make sure I had the right number of stitches. I used 4.5mm needles and 90 stitches, and didn't think I'd get all that much done - I only had about a week left in the UK, and wanted to drop the blankets off a day or two after we reached Surrey.

But it was rather compulsive, and I discovered that I could knit in the car, so long as I sat in the back. The blanket grew... and after a marathon knitting session yesterday, I completed it, with about two grams of yarn left at the end!

So yesterday I dropped them off at the Stitchmouse, a lovely friendly little shop. I resisted the temptation to buy yet more yarn while I was there, and also to start another knitting project later in the day!  But my aim is to make around one blanket per month, and drop them off each time we're back in the UK - usually twice per year. 


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