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Pumpkin Patch Volunteers

Pumpkin Hat & Bootie SetVolunteers. That's what they're called. They sprouted forth on their own. From the pumpkins composting behind some bushes in our front yard. After surviving one of the harshest winters we've had in years, these volunteer pumpkin plants are now flourishing in this hot, humid and very wet summer. They delight us by growing in gigantic green leaps, providing a welcome contrast to the muddy destruction left by the floods all around us. Their huge, leafy stems snake their way around the azalea bushes, their orange buds peeking out, giving my husband, Rody, and me hope that for the first time in our lives, we may have grown our very own pumpkins.

And we do love pumpkins. The first Halloween costumes I ever made for my older two daughters were a kind of crocheted pumpkin dress with a matching hat. It's always been Rody, not the kids, who's on the look out for the perfect Halloween pumpkin. We both make sure that ours is carved, duly admired, and properly positioned on the front porch before the first trick-or-treaters arrive. So how could I resist the call from the Preemie Project for pumpkin hats?

I had been planning an essay on one skein charitable knitting using the new Vanna's Choice Baby yarn. The yummy colors were making me eager to knit something with them. There was even a creamy orange (called Goldfish) and a springy green (called Sweet Pea). Could I make the pumpkin hats in Vanna’s Choice Baby a worsted weight yarn?

A lot of the smaller preemie needs are better knit in baby or DK weight (see my earlier hat pattern) But what about larger preemies and newborns? Worsted weight would be a fine choice for them. Did they need hats, too?

"We never have enough pumpkin hats for 6-8 lb babies," Laura Aker, founder of the Preemie Project told me. That's when I gathered up my size 8 double pointed needles. Now all I needed was a pattern.

I knew from my past efforts with preemie hats that it's easy to be "off" in size with a project that is so small. And that being "off" in a tiny hat can make the whole donation unusable. I wanted to make sure that the pattern I wrote really fit a 6-8 pound baby.

I checked the head measurements with the Preemie Project, and later brought them knit samples of my hats and booties. Laura and her mother, Linda Aker, corrected my measurements and the hats as the pattern progressed. Finally I visited Iowa City Mercy Hospital, where a very tired, new mom allowed her 6.5 lb newborn to model a variety of my hats and bootees. A great fit! With a little room for the baby to grow, to say, 8 lbs.

Pumpkin Hat & Bootie Set Presenting the Pumpkin Hat & Booties Set Pattern. There are even booties to match. With a decorative leaf for good measure. One skein of Vanna's Choice Baby will give you three hats and two pairs of booties. You’ll need a couple yards of brown for the stem and green for the leaf for each item.

Share your pumpkins with the Preemie Project, Care Wear, your local hospital or the newest member of your family and community. You could knit this pattern in other colors. Even for other holidays. Think about keep an ongoing basket of the hats, both for charitable and personal use. Be a volunteer.

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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