Because hand knit or crocheted projects are a long distance hug making garments for our friends and family is a fun way to show we care.
Sometimes the emphasis is less on the fun and more on the caring.
One of the women in my stitching group (we knit and crochet) has started chemo therapy. For a while we were all signing a card every week to give her spirits a boost. Then, at the beginning of the month, the call went out for chemo caps.
Since this is the first time I’ve had to make a chemo cap I quickly realized I knew nothing about them beyond they should be soft. To get myself up to speed, I emailed Robin at Delaware Head Huggers for advice. Over the past three years she’s helped coordinate the donation of well over 6,000 caps, which makes her an authority in my eyes!
Where to Donate
Delaware Head Huggers, which Robin founded in 2009, is an affiliate of the Head Huggers group started by Sue Thompson in 2001. Their goal is to get caps onto the heads of people who need them. In addition to making caps themselves, they collect them from around the world and distribute them to individuals and organizations where they can be put to good use. Since there are Head Hugger affiliates around the world, a list of active groups is maintained online so they are easy for people to find and contact.
“From Hawaii to Florida to Colorado to Vermont, our hats travel far,” Robin says. Sometimes she is told about hospitals or centers that need caps and sometimes she researches places to send them.
If you don’t have an active Head Hugger group in your state, and don’t want to send your caps away, Robin advices contacting your local hospital to see whether they can use caps. “Call first to be sure, but most hospitals and chemotherapy and radiation centers are thrilled to receive hats that they can give to the patients,” she says. ” You can also contact local chapters of the American Cancer Association or any local cancer coalitions, for example, Delaware has a Breast Cancer Coalition. If the coalition can’t use caps, they can usually tell you who can.”
All though all those organizations will probably be happy to receive any size hat, if you are interested in making caps for children specifically, check out Kozy Kaps 4 Kids.
Now that you’ve determined where to send your cap, what features should it have?
Fortunately, most of the elements of a successful chemo cap are things you probably look for in a project already.
“A successful chemo cap is first of all made with love,” says Robin. “Soft yarns are wonderful to use since patients scalps can be sore.”
If you use yarn with wool or other animal fibers you should include the ball band, or a list of the yarn content, so that people with allergies can steer clear. This will be more important if you are donating your cap to an organization. If you are making a cap for a friend you can probably run the selected yarn by them in advance to make sure they like it.
As for styles, the field is wide open. My friends and I are able to select patterns based on our friend’s fashion tastes, but don’t feel you have to do plain hats if you are donating them. “I usually tell people to make what they like to make – there really is a patient for every cap,” says Robin. “One thing to be careful with is to not make a hat that is too open or has too much lace. You don’t want someone getting sunburned in your cap pattern.”
It had never occurred to me to worry about getting a sunburn through the cap so I’m really glad Robin mentioned it! With summer coming my stitching group has been looking at cotton yarns and hats with lace patterns. This was a good reminder to include a variety of styles so our friend has a good selection.
Making caps with holiday themes and seasonal colors is also a good idea, Robin says. And wild hats for children are usually well received.
If you are anything like me, you probably have plenty of hat patterns on hand already, but there are a number of resources online where you can find more. Your local yarn store will also have a wide selection of patterns you can purchase. Since you’ll be there anyway picking up yarn, you might as well flip through the books!
There are patterns on the Delaware Head Huggers website.
There are patterns on Robin’s blog.
There are patterns on the main Head Huggers website.
There are patterns on the Knit Michigan website, which is a good resources for information and suggestions as well.
A “chemo cap” search on Ravelry will produce a number of knit and crochet patterns both for purchase and for free.
There are also several free hat patterns on the KFI website.
The blue hat at the top of the post is the free Mirasol Hacho Hat. The pattern is worked flat with a diagonal rib pattern. This is a good pattern for an advanced beginner since you don’t have to worry about working in the round. I just made this hat for my friend.
The burgundy hat at the end of the post is the Cressida hat from Louisa Harding’s Nerissa book. You can buy this book at your local yarn store. Nerissa is a 100% Cotton chenille yarn. There are two versions of this cap. The beanie version takes one ball of yarn and the ribbed hat version takes two balls. This is the next hat I’m going to make for my friend.
Have you made chemo caps? Share your advice and suggestions in the comments or on our Facebook page.