computerI learned how to knit in June of 2012, a few weeks after my daughter (we’ll call her “Blueberry”) was born. Blueberry was born at 30 weeks, two-and-a-half months early. She was a tiny baby — two-and-a-half pounds — and as a result of her premature birth, she spent five weeks in the NICU before she was able to come home.
Life in the NICU is often described as a roller coaster, in that it is full of ups and downs. Compared to the experiences many people have in the NICU, we were blessed with a relatively easy stay, but we did experience our share of setbacks, disappointment, anxiety, and all of the difficult emotions one encounters in a situation like this. We also experienced our share of milestones met, accomplishments, joy, pride, relief, and happy surprises.
One of the highlights that will always stick with me was one of the NICU happy surprises. One night while we were sitting by Blueberry’s isolette watching her sleep, one of the nurses came by with a handful of tiny hand-knitted hats. They were made and donated to the hospital by volunteers who do such things. The nurse gave us a few of the hats and went along the hall, distributing hats to the other families who were in the NICU. Those hats were such a welcome gift to us. Not only were they practical — they helped Blueberry regulate her own temperature when we were holding her outside of her isolette — but they were also whimsical and fun. They were full of color and really did a lot to brighten the atmosphere whenever Blueberry was wearing one of them.
As I looked at those hats, turning them over in my hand, I thought to myself that knitting hats like that was probably something I could learn how to do. I could almost see how the stitches were constructed, and I was sure that if I could get someone to show me how to knit, I would be able to make my own hats for Blueberry. That was something I really wanted to do, because a lot of my time while she was in the NICU was spent feeling helpless and watching her sleep. I thought that if I could give her some hats, that would be something I could do to help.
I found a simple hat pattern online — the Preemie Stocking Cap pattern from Lion Brand Yarn — and convinced my mother-in-law to teach me the basic stitches I needed to know to knit it. My wife had knitted scarves in the past, so we had some yarn around the house, and I found a skein that would work for a hat. After a little tutorial from my mother-in-law, I was off to the races. Knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two…. Get all the way to the end, turn it around, and do it again. After a few rows, I had a respectable band of ribbing on my needles and switched to the main portion of the hat. Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one…. Turn it around. Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one…. Turn it around. Repeat. And so on. Soon enough, it was tall enough. What is this “knit two together” that the pattern talks about? A quick demonstration from my mother-in-law, and I was decreasing. Soon enough, I’m done, with a triangle-ish looking thing hanging from a few stitches on one needle, curling over on the sides. How do I sew it together? Once again, another quick demonstration from my mother-in-law, and I’m sewing the seam together then weaving in my ends.
Imagine my joy when I was holding in my hand a complete, finished, tiny hat, hand-made by me, just for my daughter.
It was a day or two before we got a chance to put the hat on her head. And when we did, it barely fit (that’s a good thing — she was growing quickly!), so she didn’t get to wear it often before she completely outgrew it. But it really did make me very happy to look down at her in her isolette, wearing that hat. She seemed to like it, too.
After finishing that hat, I was definitely addicted. Knitting is a perfect NICU activity. As a parent, I spent a lot of time in the NICU, pretty much actively doing nothing. Knitting helped pass that time. And what fun it is when a completed project comes off the needles. I kept up my knitting when Blueberry came home and expanded to things other than hats. I knitted booties (that she only got to wear once before growing out of them). I knitted her a small teddy bear. I knitted more hats. I knitted the cutest frog toy — the body is stuffed with a tennis ball for added bounce and fun! I expanded my knitting audience to include hats for my wife and friends. I knitted geeky dishcloths for myself. I learned how to do simple lace work with a triangle shawl. I learned what blocking was, and how it magically makes something ugly look good. I dove into Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket — and loved it. Recently, one of my friends had a premature baby, so I immediately knew to go to my needles and whip them up a whimsical hat. I’m currently working on a cardigan for Blueberry, and my wife has already put in orders for sweaters for herself. She has a good time going into my Ravelry account and adding projects she wants me to do to my queue.
I’ve heard it said that knitting is good therapy. For me, it certainly is. I’m a software developer, and knitters are human computers. After a long day at the office, I love coming home, settling in my favorite chair, pulling out my needles and yarn, and getting a few more rows on whatever project I’m working on done. I can’t knit fast enough — there are so many projects I want to do, and just not enough time to do them. So I just keep adding them to my queue. Whenever I finish a project, I love going though my queue and picking out the next thing that is going to go on my needles.
So from one NICU Dad, on behalf of NICU parents everywhere, to anyone who has ever knit and donated an item to the hospital for preemies — thank you. Thank you so very much. I know you probably never get to see the recipient of your gift, that you never get to know just how meaningful a gift it is. I want you to know what a great joy it was to our family when we received those hats. I’ll never know who knitted them, so I can’t thank them personally. And in addition to bringing us some joy during our NICU stay, receiving those hats turned me into a knitter.
Last May, we celebrated Blueberry’s 1-year birthday and she’s doing great. I pulled out the first hat I knitted for her almost a year ago and put it on her head to get a gauge of how far she’s come.
Greg Cohoon is a husband, father, knitter, worship leader, amateur theologian, musician, IT professional, amateur radio (ham) operator, geocacher, baseball fan, marathoner, novelist, and poet. He’s KnittingDaddy on Ravelry and loves making new knitting friends.
A version of “My Knitting Origin Story” originally appeared on the With Hook In Hand blog as “Meet Greg Cohoon; Husband, Father, Knitter”.
41 thoughts on “My Knitting Origin Story”
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amazing ! you GO KnittingDaddy – LUV it !!
Thank you so much! I’m so glad I learned how to knit — it’s a wonderful world of fun, creativity, and friendship.
Slipped over here from Susan B Anderson’s blog linking to you. What a sweet story. I am glad that it turned out so well for you all. Looking forward to reading through more of your posts.
Thank you so much for stopping by to read my story. I appreciate your kind words and hope you enjoy the rest of the blog as well. I’m trying to get a post out tomorrow morning about the wonderful time I had at Susan’s workshop this weekend, so please do come back to check that out when I get it up.
Bravo Greg c’est vraiment beau … pourquoi pas un homme au tricot ? que ne fait-on pas par Amour ….. honneur à vous & des bisous à votre petite princesse <3
Thank you, Françoise! I’m so sorry that this comment sat in the moderation queue for weeks before I approved it. It slipped through and I didn’t notice it until tonight. And I don’t know French, so I ran it through Google Translate, which I trust did an adequate job of conveying your message. My little princess certainly gets her share of hugs and kisses. 🙂
What a sweet story! Way to go Knitting Dad, you rock! Blessings to your little Blueberry, she is a doll.
Thank you so much! Blueberry is definitely a keeper!
Hi Greg! I started knitting almost 1 year ago and I absolutely love it! I think I made the next step and gone into crocheting – it’s amazing too! I ‘ve been trying to find a charity to donate knits, so far with little success. Your story gave me an amazing idea – knitting for the babies in the NICU! I will get to it! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Hi! Thanks for the comment. It’s exciting to hear that you’ve gone into crocheting now, too. I haven’t made that leap yet — there are too many things I want to knit and not enough time for me to knit them for me to pick up another hobby right now. But I’m sure I’ll learn crochet somewhere down the line! I’m glad that my story inspired you to to look into knitting for babies in the NICU! The hats we received when we were in the NICU were very much appreciated. Preemie hats are quick and easy to knit, and they offer lots of opportunities to be fun and whimsical, too.
Please leave another comment when you get some charity knits completed and share some pictures of your NICU hats! Have fun!
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I am absolutely impressed and amazed. Kudos to you!! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. You are an inspiration!
Hi, Erica! Thank you so much for your kind words. It humbles me to think of myself as an inspiration. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog!
Wow. Sweet man! Swing by this group of Dad Bloggers.. when you have a second. I’ve shared your story there. https://www.facebook.com/groups/dadbloggers/
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I was so moved by this story! And now I KNOW that the hats I made for the NICU Challenge this past December will truly be appreciated. I hope it’s okay to include a copy of this story in the package I drop off at the NICU. I figure it might help some of the other parents.
Thank you so much, Juanita. I’m glad that you enjoyed my story, and I’m especially glad that it confirmed to you how much those hats are appreciated by the recipients. I wish I knew who knitted and crocheted the hats we received, so I could thank them personally. I’m absolutely honored that you’d like to include a copy of this story with your NICU donation. Feel free to share my story with whomever you want. 🙂
You might also enjoy reading about the preemie hat drive I hosted last year: Preemie Hats For Charity (where I announced the drive), Sizing A Preemie Hat (where I talked about how tiny the hats are), and Thankful (where I show off the amazing — and humbling — results).
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I’m so glad you found knitting, but more importantly – I’m so glad knitting found you and stayed by your side in your time of need. What a gorgeous little baby girl you have – my son was in SCBU for some weeks. He wasn’t premature, but his lungs were not willing to start working for a while. It’s a terrifying time and each day now I marvel at the mustache growing young man he has become. Love to you and your family.
Hi, Jacky — thanks for the kind comments! I’m glad you enjoyed my story and, yes, it’s great that knitting and I have found each other. I’m glad to hear that your son is doing well, and it’s a good reminder that not every child who has a NICU/SCBU stay is a result of prematurity — there are so many reasons some babies need some extra medical care at birth. Thank God for the amazing nurses and medical staff that work with those tiny patients. Thanks for sharing your story, too. 🙂
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Hi, from George in sunny South Africa, Greg!!!!!! Being someone who has been knitting since my schooldays (and I’m 51, now!!!!) I really enjoyed your story and it is such an inspiration!!!!! And I know exactly what you mean with ‘so many projects and so little time’ – I always have loads of projects waiting to be knitted!!!!!! I find knitting so relaxing and so rewarding when you have the finished project in your hand and it looks great and someone can wear or use it!!!!! I came across your story via Twitter and I have started following you there!!!!! I wish you many, many happy hours of knitting to come and thanks for sharing your story!!!!
PS. Your little Blueberry is such a darling – hugs to her and you!!!!!
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