Wednesday, February 27, 2013


In my last post, I wrote about charity knitting circles and why people get involved in them. This post gives more information for those who want to start charity knitting. What I say here comes mainly from my recent experience working with five volunteers at our local meditation group who want to form a charity knitting circle. Our meditation group has already been doing cancer patient support activities for a full year. To date, the activities include light snacks, drinks, and reading materials taken to the chemo area of a local oncology hospital. The five knitting volunteers are more than willing to begin, but most of them feel they lacked sufficient knitting skills. So, I told them - and later announced to the entire meditation group - that I would teach all those who wanted to be part of the circle how to knit. As a first project, I proposed a simple pattern for loom-knitted chemo caps.

Most everyone knows some cancer patients, children or adults, who have lost their hair during chemotherapy and has seen how baldness is a major discomfort for most of them. In response to that problem, many groups, nationwide, are making chemo caps that cancer patients can wear at home for sleep and leisure. And some of these caps are so elegant that they can even be worn on the street. The caps mean warmer heads in cold weather. But they have a greater meaning, too. As cancer patients face the many challenges of their cancer, tenderly handmade caps can give them new hope and help them gather personal forces to combat their illness.

What kind of cap works for cancer patients?
Having decided to knit chemo caps, the next question is what style cap works well for these patients and still is easy to make. I suggested that our small group of volunteers begin with a really simple beanie cap that only involves beginner knitting skills. With these ideas in mind, I recommended loom-knitting and an easy pattern with some special features.

The caps, themselves, will be worn more comfortably if they are made from soft polyester yarns, cotton, bamboo, baby yarn, etc. Pure wool and wool blends are often too hot when worn indoors and some people have allergies to these fibers. Cotton and bamboo yarns are cooler, less allergenic, and much nice for hot weather. Also, the design should include stitches that are knitted fairly close together so that you don't see patches of baldness through the spaces.

Beyond that, solid color or slight variations on a color are better because they draw less attention to the wearer’s head. The more uniform colors also go better with more outfits. And thinner knits, rather than very chunky ones, and caps without seams are preferable because lumps are uncomfortable for sleeping and long hours of wear.

Once the cap is finished, it should be gently washed and dried before before being given to a patient. Washing helps to avoid passing on germs to a sick person who shouldn't be exposed to any kind of infection. It also helps to soften the yarn. No commercial fabric softeners should be used because many of them are allergenic.

Pattern for a seamless, loom- knitted chemo cap for women.
Materials - for an adult woman with an average head circumference.
- round peg loom, 32 to 36-pegs (3/4" apart)
- about 120 yards of chunky yarn or twice as much for thin yarn that must be doubled for this cap. Cotton and bamboo yarns are best.
- loom hook
- crochet hook
- yarn needle

Use 2 strands of a medium weight yarn or one strand of a chunky yarn in a light, bright color. Subtle differences in shades of the same color are acceptable.

Take up your loom and wrap a first counter clockwise row. The initial row should be wrapped tight for a better edge. You can crochet a chain for each peg or just turn the loops over, making a half knot for a wrap.

For the second row, e-wrap all pegs. Then lift off bottom loops, in a clockwise direction over top e-wraps (knit row). Make sure that you are knitting without any breaks since this is a seamless cap. E-wrap and lift-off for rows 2 and 4 and all the rest after row five.

Continue wrapping to the right (counter-clockwise) and lifting off to the left (clockwise).  For rows 3 and 5, e-wrap for the entire round. Then, take the loops out, one stitch at a time. Change the direction of the loop - pulled through from behind (knit stitch) to pulled through from the front (purl stitch). The first five rows form a small brim on the hat.

Knit about 28 e-wrap rows (a total of 8 inches) for the main part of the cap.

Next begin the gathered part by taking yarn off peg 1 and placing it on the second peg. Take yarn off peg 3 and place it on peg 4, 5 on 6 and so on all around. Then e-wrap the final row around on looped pegs, skipping the open spaces. Then one final lift-off.

With that row finished and the stitches still on the loom, measure out and cut off a couple yards of yarn on the same ball used to make the cap - without separating it from the knitted work. Put the yarn through the yarn needle and pass it through all loops from behind. Take all loops off the loom. Pull the yarn to make a fairly uniform circle and tighten it to form the gathered part of of the cap. Knot and cut the yarn. Weave the yarn end into the top part of the cap.

What else can be done with chemo caps?
There are some other activities that knitting circles can do along with knitting chemo caps. Again, I'll mention the plans of our meditation group. Organizational leaders will collect all the finished, hand-knitted chemo caps. Once or twice a month, the caps will be taken to the meditation room at regular meeting hours. The whole group will pray for the healing of those patients who receive caps. Each cap will be tagged with a specially decorated card that includes the name and email address of our organization. It will say something like: “Hand knitted for you with love and prayers for your healing.” Tags will also mention that, according to their wishes, people who receive a hat are welcome to contact the organization and the cap maker. 

The chemo caps will be given to staff members of local cancer treatment centers for their distribution. We are beginning our project with just a few volunteers. But, as other group members see how chemo caps make a difference in the lives of cancer patients, we hope to get more participants in our charity knitting circle. Others who want to support the knitting circle but can't find the time to knit can donate yarn and help with decorating the cards to be attached to caps.

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1 comment:

Clifford Thomas said...

That’s very thoughtful! I hope your charity will someway provide more courage and comfort to those patients who will receive those caps. We can see their suffering, but we don’t really know the full breadth of it. So, the least we can do is offer our support. And one way to do that is providing them things that will somewhat ease their discomfort. Thank you for your offerings, and all the best to your charity works!

Clifford Thomas @ Someone With