the one hour preemie hat

I started making baby hats for the local hospital this summer, as a way of justifying my knitting habit, and as a way to meet people in a town that's still new to me. Knitting in public is something I love to do, and knitting something tiny in public is almost always a good conversation starter. People are curious, and little hats make them happy. Almost as happy as my red rain boots also seem to make them.

The hats I make started out as regular newborn size, and when I delivered my first batch, I threw in a few that accidentally came out too small (I thought). As it turns out, those little bitty hats are the ones most asked for by the nurses who distribute them. The last time I saw the volunteer coordinator, he showed me the two tiniest hats he still had, and told me they wanted more like those, and even smaller. What???

He had to be mistaken. No way could anybody be that little. I've certainly never seen a human so small. But I did some googling, and sure enough, there are some extremely tiny preemie babies out there, and they need to keep their little noggins warm.

Since that realization, I've been popping minuscule beanies off the sticks so fast I think I might be overdoing it. Last week I made 20. And every time I finish one, I hold it up and goo-goo over it a little bit before adding it to the growing stack.

More and more preemies are joining the world every day. About 10% of babies born in the US are premature (born before 37 weeks), and world wide, according to the World Health Organization, about 15 million preemies are born every year. I am kind of stunned.

The reasons for preterm births, and what it takes to care of these early arrivals, are things I know little of and can't do a thing about. But hats are something I can do, so I'll keep making them until someone tells me to stop. (Even then, I'll probably keep making them.)

I'm pretty sure I can't make 15 million hats a year, no matter how small they are, but maybe you'd like to make a few too. This simple pattern is one I worked out as I went along. It's fast and easy, and doesn't even require any tricky decreasing or binding off. You can use double point needles if you want to, but I prefer my mini circular needles. I use these cute little bamboo needles, size 6, 9 inch.

(The links in this post are affiliate links, so I get a small kickback from Amazon when you buy. I really do use - and love - these needles.)

I use only acrylic yarn for these hats. It's what's been requested, since the hospital does a super hot wash and dry before passing the hats along. Cotton - especially organic cotton is good too, but you might want to test the shrink rate before making a bunch of them. The main thing to consider in the yarn you choose is softness. It has to be really, really soft.

One Hour Preemie Hats
(Fast knitters will probably make these in less than an hour. I'm slow.)

Any soft acrylic DK (#3) weight yarn you like
Circular needles - size 6, (8 or 9 inch)
Yarn needle and scissors for finishing

Note: These are sized Tiny (36 stitches), and Extra Tiny (30 stitches). For a more standard newborn size, start with a cast on of 42 or 48 stitches. To go even smaller, use smaller needles. (These would make really cute Christmas ornaments!)

CO 30 (36) sts
Join the round, and knit 4 rows (rounds)
Purl 2 rounds
Knit every round until hat is about 2 to 2 1/2 inches tall
Do the final 3 rounds in 1x1 ribbing (K1, P1)

Do not bind off. Instead, cut the working yarn to about 18 inches long, and using the yarn needle, run a doubled strand through the live stitches, removing each stitch from the circular needles as you go.

Gather the top of the hat by pulling the yarn tight, then tie a square knot.

Pull the loose yarn through the small hole in the top of the hat, catch a couple of stitches to anchor the yarn in place, and tie another knot on the inside of the hat.

Cut the loose ends to about 1/4 inch long.

Turn hat right side out and weave in the beginning tail.

You're finished! Make another one!

Coming up soon: The Super Soft Double Loop Alpaca Cowl!

Question: What's your favorite yarn for baby hats?
Leave your answer in the comments! Thanks!


  1. Slow! You have to be the fastest knitter I have ever seen! Thank you for posting directions. I have given up on ever knitting anything that has fitting to it. I stick to socks, hats, and cotton wash cloths. LOL .. 💕💕💕💕🇫🇮🐣

  2. Those are absolutely adorable! What a generous gift of your time and skills. :-)

  3. Socks! I'm terrified of socks! Haha!

    Thank you both for your comments! xoxo!

  4. Kim, I don't knit but I do volunteer as a "baby rocker" at a local hospital when there is a little one who needs some cuddles. Recently there was a need and I saw how useful those tiny hats are. The ones at my hospital are crocheted but the concept is the same. Thank you for doing this.

  5. PA - that's so good to hear! I wish I could see the little hats in action, but it feels good just knowing they're useful.


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