Human Interest

Premature babies receive warm heads and hearts thanks to knitting group


Having a premature baby in the NICU can be a difficult experience, but one organization is helping to provide support to these babies and their families through knitting.

Kathryn Huang, a civil engineering major at the University of Southern California (USC), is the co-founder of Madhatter Knits, a nonprofit organization aimed at supporting preemies and their families with knitted goods.

The group started after Kathryn first learned to knit. Huang’s cousin, Tiffany Chang, began teaching her family members to knit small doll-sized hats, having recently learned the skill from a teacher at her school. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s sister, Christie, was a volunteer at the San Gabriel Medical Center. After a visit to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Christie learned that they were in need of hats for newborns. The girls made a competition of it, and by Christmas of 2014, they had knitted 160 hats for the NICU at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

READ: World’s most premature baby, born at 21 weeks, celebrates first birthday

Madhatter Knits steadily grew one small chapter at a time, from one school to another, and now operates with chapters in many states throughout the United States, as well as internationally, including Germany, Italy, England, Uganda, Costa Rica, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, India, and Ecuador. Last month, Madhatter Knits formed its newest chapter on the campus of Stanford University, according to a Facebook post.

“It’s a little bit overwhelming how many hats we have now,” Huang said, according to a USC News. “But just knowing that someone’s grateful for what we’re doing makes us happy.”

Since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, Madhatter Knits has also been providing what the group calls “maternal protection care kits.” The kits include nitrile gloves, disinfectant spray, masks, and information sheets. The group also developed a newborn face shield with a detachable flip-up shield and a comfortable memory foam headband, which the group makes available upon request.

Over 20 students at the University of Southern California have joined the local Madhatter Knits to contribute to the group’s mission of helping premature babies. “I didn’t really like knitting or anything of that sort, so I didn’t really pay attention to the club at first,” the chapter’s current vice president, Veronika Zilajeva, told USC News. “But then as [Huang] was talking about the impact it makes in the hospitals, I said I would try it and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

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