Category Archives: Charity Crochet

Stitches Make A Difference, Crochet!


After some prompting from peers on the matter, I’ve decided to at least occasionally write about technique on my blog.  I’ve crocheted for over 33 years now, so there’s a lot of information and observations in my head and much of it is outside of the box.  I don’t always think about it, but some of it might be helpful to others as we continue together to promote and explore the art of crochet.  So though I’ll have to work on these entries in bites, we can add all this to the learning community.  I’ll also see in the future if I can get some of my peers to chime in and lend their expertise as well.  After all, crochet is a very large umbrella with many specialties.  And who knows, maybe we can drum up some give-aways here at some point.  I’m short on time, but I’m up for some game time fun.  You too?  Please remember though, if you find a post helpful or interesting, please be sure to give it a star rating, thumb it up and share it with others.  I appreciate it!

Today I want to illustrate the possibilities in creating soft structure that remains as comfortable to sensitive skin all crocheted up, as it feels on the skein.  I have learned a lot over the years from creating crochet for chemo patients who have extremely sensitive skin.  I also have always marveled at what people will create and put on babies, especially preemies and newborns, who also have very tender skin.  A good test is to rub your proposed end fiber (in a stitched swatch) on your inner wrist for a few seconds.  If it feels even a little uncomfortable, it’s not going to be comfortable to an infant.  And unfortunately, not only can they not tell you, they can’t stop you either.  This is always an issue to me when it comes to donations for preemies – please remember your end product’s actual comfort!  Use quality materials and careful stitches.  You can read more about crocheting for preemies here and chemo patients here.

OK, so let’s talk about structure.  What you see pictured here is just one of three different proto-types of a pattern I’m working on.  I wanted an eclectic look, something outside the usual “rectangle” style scarves you see.  However, I did not want to sacrifice warmth or the soft feel either. One of the reasons a rectangle scarf is a classic is not only its ease of creation, but the physics behind a single layer of stitches wrapped around a neck.

Carnival Twist Prototype

However, everyone has a classic style scarf.  When you are competing for attention, or simply want something different, you need a new edge of some sort.  In this case, I chose a new “twist” to the idea of soft structure.  This is one of my favorite design pieces, just for achieving a striking unique look and comfort simultaneously via stitch work alone.  This numbly scarf is buttery soft, made from some of the softest materials I’ve ever worked with.  And it was carefully crafted with the right kind of stitches so the feel of the yarn was preserved in-stitch.

Wondering what I mean?  Well, your stitches really do have a lot to do with how soft your end product will be, no matter how soft your fiber is on the skein.  It is entirely possible to take an incredibly soft (and expensive) yarn and crochet it into an incredibly uncomfortable and scratchy feeling garment on the skin – all based on your stitches.

One of the easiest ways to ruin the feel of your garment is to make your stitches too tight.  Tight stitches have their place.  You need them in many lace techniques.  You need them for many amigurumi techniques too.  But when you are working with something to be worn against the skin, take extra care to watch your tension.  Too-tight stitches make it difficult to frog errors and to work with fine yarns altogether.  And unless you are creating an industrial style piece that needs to be stiff and strong, I recommend a looser tension or a larger hook to carry out your goals.

As far as our example here, this particular scarf design also utilizes a-typical stitches as well, which lend to the shape as well as the skin sensation at the touch.  So when you are getting ready to create something new, take notice of the structure of the stitches you are preparing to use.  Some stitches are best suited for strength, as when being applied to a belt or a purse.  Others are more conducive to flow.  And some, like broomstick lace, are somewhat of a combo, with the large flowing stitches that show off the beauty of yarn, combined with locking stitches.  When softness is important to you, I highly recommend swatching, not just to be sure your gauge is correct and that your yarn will look good in that stitch, but also to test on your wrist and feel the result of the texture you will create.  You are also testing to see how your fibers behave.  You can get different results from equally soft yarns in the same stitch based on how those yarns are structured and what they are made of as well.  Alpaca and cashmere do not behave the same.  Equally, when you mix either with silk.  All are incredibly soft, but may feel dramatically different in the stitch.

So give it a whirl and make some swatches to see what I mean.  Leave your comments or write an article about your experiments and link it here.
I’d love for you to share your experiences and photos here to help others while we continue to promote the art of crochet and expand our creativity.

See you soon!

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Crochet for Chemo Patients…


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I have created many hats for chemo patients. Even sold some of my work to a local wig store who caters to chemo patients. There are far too many victims and survivors of cancer in my family. And I’ve received a lot of valuable input over the years from local patients that has influenced my hat designs and work.

With so many people asking questions these days, I decided to compile some of my various posts on the subject in one place for everyone’s reference. Not every item I design or make is with chemo patients in mind, but the vast majority of my life’s crochet work is. I hope you will find it helpful.

Where to start?

Materials: Chemotherapy tends to break down the skin, on the scalp especially. So patients’ skin is generally extremely tender, not just because they used to have hair and now suddenly don’t, but because the skin is not as strong. Using soft materials is very important for someone undergoing chemo.

Baby alpaca, pashmina and even cashmere and such are quite soft, but can still eventually become annoying or even painful. But I find this is largely tied to quality. I have purchased “baby alpaca” from totally different farms and found them to be drastically different in quality. Still, we’re talking expense and up-keep. Many patients are going through enough just trying to keep up with their appointments.

Some patients find themselves developing an allergy or sensitivity to animal fibers and many folks like to think in terms of non-animal sources. Soft cotton has been used a lot, but I have found that cotton is not always comfortable to all patients. I have heard complaints of cotton feeling rough to some tender heads. However, this may be due to the type of stitches used or honestly the way the fiber has been plied. If you want to use some measure of natural fibers, bamboo is a nice non-animal option.

Silk is an option that is usually hypoallergenic and is both durable and soft. But I must share that it is not impossible to be allergic to silk. I had a repeat customer who couldn’t touch it, but would buy my silk meditation shawls for his wife (what love!). I find silk fiber to be easy to do up too tightly when working with it. Silk is less comfortable without “flow.” It is also a unique fiber in it’s ability to both breathe and yet provide warmth, even in hair fine fibers.

Man-made micro-fibers certainly add a variety of options, some actually derived from plant bases, such as rayon. There are many micro-fiber possibilities including acrylics, nylons, and viscoses, which most of my chemo customers seem to prefer. Today’s micro-fiber technology has come very far in creating incredibly soft fibers and at a fraction of the cost of pashmina and the like. The up-keep is also easier.

All fibers to note. However, if scabs or cracked skin are present on the scalp, even micro-fibers may actually snag/tear at the skin, which is understandably uncomfortable. If you know your beneficiary, you’ll want to evaluate their situation and needs. When thinking about your beneficiary’s needs, keep in mind that acrylic fibers are generally preferred by most US hospitals for preemies in part because they can be sterilized. If you feel washing and sterilization might be a factor for your cancer patient, this should be considered when weighing what fibers to use.

Every person is different and their tolerance of chemo treatment varies. I find the skin sensitivity issues seem similar to what happens during labor. Everything that used to be comfortable to you suddenly may not be and may even be downright awful! Skin sensory input seems to peak during chemo and the skin breaks down, so it’s extra frustrating to some patients.

Tip: Use the inside of your wrist for a little help in the soft department when you are trying to judge your fibers. You want to rub it for a few seconds. Do this with a swatch as well. Inside of the wrist is a more tender area and better helps establish the feel you are looking for. I’ve been doing this for some time and after awhile you begin to intuitively recognize certain feels and stitch patterns that work better than others. Yes, even stitches change the texture and how a scalp senses the garment it’s wearing.

Stitches: Loose stitches are generally better than tight stitches. No matter how soft the fiber is, you can make it less comfortable to the skin with tight stitches. I also prefer to make items that breathe. Part of that is because down here in Central Texas, we don’t get much winter. Garments that breathe are both cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter – providing a “thermal” effect.

Style: Many female chemo patients have told me they really want to wear something not just to keep their heads warm, but so they don’t have to look in the mirror and see only a bald head, but see a pretty lady. Several ladies have been drawn to my hats because they “don’t look like chemo hats.” I think this emotional response is something important to note. Having cancer is hard enough, much less adding the emotional impact of your change in appearance. I even heard one lady reference the typical “turban” style as “death” caps – that she didn’t want to wear it because people associated it with emotional pain and dying. I’m not saying that every cancer patient feels this way. I am however pointing out things I have taken notice of when I go about the crochet designs I do.

Also, the patients I have talked to often want to have a handful of things they can wear to cover their head, not just one item. Personality plays a role, but some patients appreciate being able to treat their situation more lightly and with more adventure than others. One wonderful light described to me her new adventure into a world of style she’d never previously known.

Kids: I have to admit they are my soft spot. I read once about one little girl’s anxiety about being so sick, but also suddenly losing her hair and becoming bald. And it nearly broke my heart. It was then that I resolved myself to make and donate hats for children going through chemo. I like to make fun things for kids, because kids like to have fun and “be cool.” And they need compliments and smiles too. We adults have our insecurities about our appearances, but fact is – we’re adults. Kids are resilient, but depending on their age especially, are barely mature enough to deal with all the emotions themselves. Being sick and losing your hair can be scary. Something fun can make all the difference in their experience of their battle.

I hope some of this helps. If you are considering making something special for a cancer patient, what you are doing for them is very loving and wonderful. I would also highly recommend the charity “Spirit Jump” to you as well. It is a wonderful charity, whether for your crochet efforts, or to benefit someone you know who may need their spirits lifted. If you need more help, let me know.

Dorothy - Sweet and soft Cloche

Dorothy – Sweet and soft Cloche

I began crocheting hats for chemo patients in part due to my grandmother Dorothy who helped teach me to crochet when I was little. Everytime she has gone through chemo, she always had hugs and smiles for everyone, never complaining for herself and crocheted herself a cute new hat. Everyone has always loved her and she has many adopted grandkids. And every time she has a new hat, so do several people in her church as they love her hats too. You’d hardly know what she’s been through. She is and always has been “The Crafting Queen.” Believe it or not, she’s still alive at nearly 90 years and fighting lymphoma for some 15. The hat you see pictured here is named after her.

There are too many cancer victims and survivors in my family, now including my mother. As such, I now often crochet with these in mind; choosing the softest, highest quality materials I can find for the tenderest skin going through chemo. I’ve also been blessed to receive a lot of highly appreciated input from survivors over the years that has led to the development and creation of these unique designs.

May these creations bless everyone they touch.

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Some of my latest works for charity….


Named “Suzy Q,” this first image is of the cloche I designed especially for Alamo City Etsy Team’s silent action coming up to support breast cancer research. The hat is made from a sublime blend of the softest rayon, bamboo and acrylic fibers. Five different types of yarn are used in the making of this hat. After frogging it quite a few times, I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s perfect! I just finished it’s certificate of authenticity tag and will be shipping this tomorrow morning!

Suzy Q

Suzy Q

Pink Curly Q

Pink Curly Q

The following images are a couple cute puppet critters I made for Spirit Jumps. Making puppets like this came about thanks to school homework projects my kids have had over the years. Where they have been assigned a writing project involving writing a play, making props and of course, making their puppets – then later performing it for the younger grades. Pretty cool and creative, but when it gets assigned more than once, you start figuring out new ways to do it. And being a yarnie, well – of course I’m going to use my yarn! Anyway…. My kids and I have had a lot of fun perfecting this project.
A collaborative work.

You can find puppet kits in my store at: www.PixieWorx.Etsy.com.

Purple/Blue Puppet Critter

Purple/Blue Puppet Critter

Pink Puppet Critter

Pink Puppet Critter

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I Joined Spirit Jump and You Should Too!


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For those who don’t know me personally – one of my charity efforts is to give special crochet hats and items to people going through chemo or other major medical situations, especially to children.

Crochet is very meditative for me and as I create something, I focus the intent of joy and healing into what I make. I also focus intent toward the item being a beautiful experience to wear. It may sound wistful or romantic, but whether I give it away, or I sell my creation, I truly desire my work to be ongoing blessings to others.

Spirit Jump is a simple concept in sending encouragement to others. It’s as simple as a card to say hey – I’m pulling for you as you battle this; to say I send you Caring and Prayers. It doesn’t even require money to participate, only your time.

It’s perfect for my charity efforts, as I get to focus on the creation and am given permission to send someone prayers and encouragement through crochet, my favorite medium. And I dare say that if you are reading my blog, that it’s a perfect outlet for your charity work as well. There are no commitments other than what you set. You are not adopting someone, you are make a one time “reach out” to someone. And no money is really required.

Making a difference in this world one Light at a time.
Will you check it out?

This is the Flier for Spirit Jump!

This is the Flier for Spirit Jump!

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Crochet for Preemies….


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While on my latest trip, I was asked to help teach 3 young girls how to crochet simple “preemie hats” for a charity project in their area. It was a fairly simple task, however I’d never been asked to make hats for preemies before. Generally when I get involved “crocheted-ly” in a charity project, it’s been for children going through chemo. So I learned a few things regarding the needs for preemies-related handcraft.

Initially, the one basic bit of “requirement” guidance I received (3rd hand), as to what the hospital wanted, was to make a hat for about the size of a doll……

Ah hmmmm…. Well now…

Unless you have a good frame of reference, this guidance alone may seem confusing. As, after all, dolls come in various sizes – so just what does that mean? But the truth is, so do preemies.

Preemies can burn a lot of calories to keep their bodies warm. Something we don’t want, because then those calories are not there to aid them in gaining weight, etc.. So the need to keep little preemie heads covered, and save those calories to help them thrive, is great. NICUs can also go through a lot of hats as, once one has been dropped on the floor or the like, it cannot be put back on the baby. The parents are allowed to keep it, wash it at home or whatever, but it cannot be put back on the baby while still hospitalized. Needs for multiple sized hats are also high because they get outgrown pretty quickly. An 8 to 12″ circumference seems to be a good place to start for most preemie hats. But there are needs for preemie sizes even smaller.

After consulting with some of my crochet peers and researching the subject a little, here are a few more details that stood out as significant, most specifically for charities within the US.

1. Most US hospitals require “no natural fibers.” Preemies are born with their immune systems already fighting, so hospitals want to avoid all possibilities of allergies before they start. Also, fuzzier fibers are not allowed at all where oxygen is present, to avoid all static risks. So acrylic fibers only.

However there are other countries that do prefer wool as that’s something they are more used to than we tend to be in the US anyway. And a few charities up north request soft wool for warmth. There’s also the issue that your donated wool hats may also become history with a toss into the washer or when sterilized. Care tags are not helpful as hospitals will remove all tags before using with the babies. Check with your charity for specifics on their fiber requirements. Otherwise, stick to non-static acrylic yarns.

2. Make sure the fibers are soft. Believe it or not, I actually saw a hat made for a preemie out of old scratchy yarn scraps. And had to say something about it too. Because it’s important that they be soft to the most sensitive skin you have – realizing that a preemie (or any baby) is going to be even more skin sensitive than you. When taking on such a charity project, please consider your fibers and don’t skimp. Many hospitals are reluctant to say too much on some of these details because they are afraid people will stop donating and they don’t want to discourage the well-meaning. So nip it in the bud and consider it now before you get started and your donation doesn’t become one of the ones that simply can’t be used.

3. A lot of hospitals require that the hats *not* be laundered. Though I found some places where people do pre-wash them in Dreft or something else baby appropriate, I also found that many hospitals prefer this not to be the case, due to concerns of allergies and soap exposure, etc.. Preemies have unique medical concerns and needs. Of course, then again, you can make a case for gee, why wouldn’t you launder the hat! Unfortunately, when it comes to preemie hats, you are creating something that has the potential to expose an under-developed baby to foreign things, whether chemical in nature due to soap or environmental in nature because you own a pet or crochet around your kids, etc.. Either case can be a potential issue, so I’m not sure there’s an absolute answer here, except to follow your hospital’s requirements.

4. Consider making hats with a fold down flap or a hole in the top for tubes and scanning equipment, etc.. This makes it much more comfortable for the baby and easier on hospital staff so they don’t have to remove the hats constantly.

5. Avoid pom-poms and yarns that shed. These are typical avoids for any baby hat, but certainly for preemies. Pom-poms are one of the most nightmarish of choking hazards, because as one emergency worker put it to me, the fuzziness makes it near impossible to dislodge from the throat. The fibers just tend to “stick.” Yarns that shed easily can also be breathed or swallowed. Either way, they can get inside a baby, and that’s something no one wants.

6. Donations must be from a smoke free home/environment and made from new fibers. That old stuff you might have pulled out of Grandma’s attic unfortunately won’t do.

7. Consider checking with your hospital/charity of choice as to whether they have greater need for preemie hats or newborn NICU hats. Some hospitals receive a ton of preemie hats but their newborn nurseries run low.

Here are some additional websites that offer very helpful preemie-hat related info:

(Be sure to read!) Some very potent and detailed insight about preemie clothing from a nurse! http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/preemie-clothing-tips.html

A list of suggested yarns here: http://www.thepreemieproject.com/volunteer/yarn_list

Preemie growth charts: http://www.babylinq.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=107

Lots of crochet Preemie patterns links listed here: http://home.inreach.com/marthac/preem.html

Patterns for charity here: http://www.p2designs.com/Links-CharityPatterns.htm

These sources and information should give you a good frame of reference to get you started in your own fiber-related preemie charity efforts. However, as we sadly know that many preemies don’t make it, another consideration for fiber related charity work might be via bereavement needs. Charities like Emmazing Grace specialize in serving families who have experienced the loss of an infant. You can find them at: http://www.emmazinggracefoundation.org/index.html

Here you’ll find a list of patterns for bereavement items: http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/bereavement-gowns.html

Here’s a list of hospitals in need: http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/peds.html

Hopefully this information will help you in your quest towards charity projects such as these. If you found this info helpful to you, please let me know!

Copyright ©2008 – 2009 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Charity Crochet, Crochet Techniques