Lightning Fast NICU and Preemie Hats, Free Knitting Pattern

The Lightning Fast NICU and Preemie Hats are knit with larger needles making them an extremely fast knitting project. Mix them up with stripes or a super cute flower too! If you plan to donate your hats, most hospitals require machine washable yarn so they can be washed and/or sterilized before being distributed to the babies.

Picture examples shown here are knit with worsted weight acrylic yarn (for donation purposes), but feel free to experiment with other yarn weights or luxury yarns for gift giving.

This pattern includes two variations of the hat; one with a simple ribbed brim and one with a roll brim. Also included are instructions for a quick flower.


  • Worsted weight yarn in bright cheerful colors.

  • US 10.5 (6.5mm) straight needles (hat is knit flat, then seamed)

  • Tapestry Needle


  • 11”-12” circumference


  • 14 Stitches and 19 Rows = 4 inches


  • CO – Cast On (I used the long tail cast on and left an extra long tail for seaming up later.
  • BO – Bind off (knitwise)
  • KFB – Knit front and back of stitch
  • K2tog – Knit two stitches together

Instructions for NICU and Preemie Hats:

Roll Brim Hat:

CO 40 sts (leave an extra long tail for seaming up later)

Work in stockinette until hat measures 6” from CO edge.


Row 1: K2, K2tog across row

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: K1, K2tog across row

Row 4: Purl

Row 5: K2tog across row

Using tapestry needle, break yarn leaving a long tail. Thread through remaining stitches and pull tightly. Seam up the back and weave in ends.

Ribbed Brim Hat:

CO 40 sts (leave an extra long tail for seaming up later)

Work 6 rows of K2, P2 ribbing

Switch to stockinette until hat measures 5” from CO edge.


Row 1: K2, K2tog across row

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: K1, K2tog across row

Row 4: Purl

Row 5: K2tog across row

Using tapestry needle, break yarn leaving a long tail. Thread through remaining stitches and pull tightly. Seam up the back and weave in ends.

Flower Appliqué:

Looks equally lovely for baby girls in a contrasting color or in same color as hat.

CO 5 sts.

Row 1: KFB each st (10 sts)

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: KFB each st (20 sts)

Row 4: Purl

Row 5: KFB each st (40 sts)

BO and attach to hat.


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87 thoughts on “Lightning Fast NICU and Preemie Hats, Free Knitting Pattern

    1. My granddaughter was an early bird, and we can't keep socks on her. Do you have an tiny sock patterns, or are booties better?


  1. Gosh I love your stuff.. You are a great designer keep it up..I love doing hats for charity and these are just perfect! Thanks!

  2. Oh my gosh, thank you so much!! I really love designing and have been enjoying t tremendously…thanks again!!! 🙂

  3. Thank you for the pattern. Daughter is 35 1/2 weeks and is in labor. We may be needing one or two of these ourselves!

    And if not, then the local hospital will have a couple of these on stand-by.


  4. Glad you like it! I love this project because it it so fast, you could knit one in the waiting room!

    Best of luck to your daughter and the little one, I bet you are so excited!! Wishing them both a happy and healthy birth day!

    PS The Baby Bunny Hat pattern on this site (link at the top of this page) is also sized for preemie and newborn, and is so cute for spring babies!

  5. I just learned how to knit this Spring and so excited to try this NICU hat! I also have a charity and these hats will be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much! I also added you to my Blog List – Love your blog! Yarn Hugs! Beth in VA

  6. Awesome!! And thanks too for your kind words! Happy knitting!

    PS So wonderful to know you are helping the littlest ones stay warm and cozy!

  7. I just came across your blog and love this pattern!! I am expecting a baby girl in December and want to have 1-2 of these ready before she arrives. I'm a beginner when it comes to knitting hats. Any chance you have this pattern using circular needles? That's what I do best with. I'm not sure if that makes a difference or not.

  8. Absolutely!

    After casting on in the round, be sure not to twist and place a marker…

    For the ribbed brim hat, work k2, p2 rib as instructed, then knit all rows until you come to the decrease…for the decrease part, follow as steps as instructed, except on rows 2 and 4, knit instead of purl.

    For the rolled brim hat, knit all rows and on the decrease part, follow as instructed, except on rows 2 and 4, knit instead of purl.

    Hope that helps and congratulations on your little one!

  9. Just made one for my soon to be newborn due in feb. Live in Florida but those hospitals can be cold lol. This was only my second finished product and I love it. used size 7 US needles though cuz that is all I had not in use. but still turned out wonderful. Just hope it fits and he doesn't ending up having a reaction to the yarn shouldn't but ya never know.

  10. @ Anonymous…the pattern was written for preemies, but you can totally modify it for a newborn (I have before and it makes a lovely and quick new baby gift)Just make two simple changes:

    Cast on 48 sts (instead of 40)
    Knit for 5.5 inches in stockinette (instead of 5 inches)
    That's all…keep everything the same, this will give the little one a tiny bit more room.

    Happy Knitting!

    1. thanks! was just going to estimate or figure out on my own and this saved me the time and trouble, very helpful :))

  11. I would really really appreciate a crochet version for these preemie hats as I only crochet please and thank you Jean

  12. Can anyone tell me, how do I know whether to end the stockinette on a knit row or a purl row before I start the decrease?

    1. Hi Leslie!

      The first row of the decrease is a knit row, so you would end your stockinette portion on a purl (wrong side) row.

  13. Hi there! First off, I love the pattern. Second, I made another hat with the same amount of stitches and with the same size needles as this pattern. It was supposed to be a preemie size, but it fits my teacher's five month old son. I want to make sure that this hat fits its intended wearer. Any advice?

    1. The hat is pretty stretchy, I know a few babies I have made this for that wore the hat a a tiny baby and them went on to wear the hat for the next few months. How did your gauge work out? 🙂

  14. Im a beginner knitter but make shoes hats and hoodies for Sleeping Angels N.I we knit for hospitals to provide clothes for still born babies. Id love to find some easy dress patterns and maybe little waistcoats. The flowers are adorable x

  15. Kniting hats for Preemies is very close to my heart as I was a preemie (1 pound 10 ounces) back in 1981. I was 12 and 1/2 inches long. Thank You to everyone who knits these!! I had a little knited hat. Love, Erica Dawn

  16. I am on a mission to make 100 for my local hospital (currently have 7/100 with #8 on the needles) after that: 100 teddy bears for angel babies
    Thanks for the pattern!

  17. I made this hat for my new granddaughter and loved it. I would love to make it now for a 3 1/2 yr. old and a 5 1/2. Can it be done or do I need to find another pattern. what I loved was that it was made on straight needles not circular ones. Thanks

  18. Just knitted this hat up in baby blue colour for a little boy of my friends due in 2 weeks time….
    Only thing I did differently from the pattern above was used a smaller needle (5.50mm) for the K2, P2 ribbing and then changed to the 6.50mm needles as above for the stocking stitch:)

  19. I am going to be a missionary to Haiti so I will be making these for a lot of kids, thank you for these easy patters!

  20. Just knitted 6……. 3 girl ones and 3 boy ones for the local hospital…. I know what I will be doing this winter!!

  21. I am going to knit at least one for the Period of PURPLE Crying Campaign for the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), Ontario. Thank you for offering free patterns.

  22. hello,
    thank you so much for the patern i'm making some hats for a midwife to take to India. For the rolled brim hat should the 6 inches be measured from the CO edge when the brim is rolled or stretched out?
    Many thanks


  23. Ok been years since I have knitted, what does KFB, I know the K is knit but want to make the flower for my great


    Thank you in advance

    1. It means Knit in the front like normal but before you drag it off the left needle, knit the back of the same stitch then drag it off ending in two stitches instead of just one. Some patterns call it a increase stitch. I believe that is what it is I hope I am not wrong.

  24. Hi, I'm a beginner knitter and this is my second project after an infinity scarf. For the decrease when the instructions say K2, K2tog across row does that mean knit two stitches, then knit two together and repeat pattern (i.e., K2, K2tog, K2, K2tog, etc). Or does it mean knit two, then only knit two together for the rest of that row (i.e., K2, K2tog, K2tog, K2tog…etc.)?

  25. Hi
    Just saw this question and if I might answer: K2, K2tog and keep repeating this set to end of row. Anonymous your first proposal was right ! Happy knitting.

  26. Hi Jennifer, love these hats and I have two babies to knit for. I also saw your bear hat, where you said to c/o 48 sts instead of 40 for regular newborn size. Can I just do that for these or will I also need to adjust in other areas as well? Like the decrease stitches? thanks.

  27. Thank you for these easy patterns. Our prayer shawl group is knitting red baby hats for heart patient who will then donate to hospital for preemies and newborns. We are all knitting these cute little hats. You have been a great help for ease of making as many as we can before January.

  28. Have been making the preemie hats as a new hobby. They are so cute and babies need to keep those precious little heads warm.
    Looking forward to more EASY knitters.
    Thank you

  29. Wow! I can't believe that I'm actually reading a pattern! 🙂 I hardly ever use patterns since they are often confusing but your pattern is very straight-forward. I’m about 25 rows into it and I’m noticing that the length is rather short. Will a 10-inch circumference be too tight of a fit for a baby? The hat stretches quite a bit… up to 13 inches but is that still pushing it? Should I restart the project?

  30. Is this size good for a newborn baby also? If not what directions can I use to enlarge for a newborn size?

  31. Thanks for providing these knitting tips..
    really liked them, will follow while knitting a hat for my kid 🙂

  32. I love it. I called our hospital & the need right away 10 – 15 right away for the preemies. I love your pattern. Thank you. On the flower what does KGB stand for?

  33. I love your patterns. I'm making preemie caps for the hospital. Thank you. On the flower what does KGB stand for?

  34. This is a fantastic pattern I have made a few times. What I love most is using the straight needles! My 10yr old son would like a hat just like this. How can Adjust the pattern (keeping the straight needles)?

  35. I would like learn to crochet a hat for kids with a brim.
    My grandson is 15 months and would love to make him one. Specially when they look lim3 it has been knitted. I love to watch your videos they are so easy to follow and love the way you teach. Thank you for taking the time to share your lovely work.
    My name is Maria

  36. I have been asked several times to make baby hats for hospitals. I love this pattern. Thank you so much for sharing.

  37. For the last oouple years, I have been making preemie hats using your pattern. 2018 was 52, 2019 was 60. Such fun making them in a variety of bright colors. The hospital is always appreciative and it is a joy for me.

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