Octopuses for Preemies: my contribution to the world Octo Project

My best friend has been working as a doctor in hospital for preemies in Minsk for many years. A while ago she suddenly asked me to crochet several octopuses for their little patients… I heard about a world Octo project before and my Facebook feed was flooded with articles about their benefits and positive influence on preemies’ health. But I didn’t know and was very surprised to hear Belarus also joined this project. And of course I was very happy to help!

An idea of giving crocheted octopuses to preemies was born in Denmark in 2013. And apparently it very quickly spread all over the world. As for today 32 countries have joined an Octo project (a complete list of countries and Facebook groups is HERE).

Why crochet octopuses are so important? The studies showed that preemies who cuddled up with these cute octopus toys in their incubators had more regular heartbeats, better breathing, and higher levels of oxygen in their blood. Not only that, but these babies were also less likely to pull out their monitors and tubes.

And that’s because the tentacles of the octopus apparently remind these babies of their mom’s umbilical cords, and the soft bodies remind them of the womb.

Last week my octopuses arrived to Belarus and after a proper wash were delivered to hospital in Minsk.

I have so many different feelings about this picture… Isn’t it precious? My octopus was gifted to this baby, and parents will take it home when she feels strong and healthy enough.

Before I started to crochet octopuses I needed to find answers to several questions.

My first question was which yarn to choose. Each country has its own requirements and there are even lists of recommended yarns (for example, HERE is the list of yarns approved in the Netherlands). Common rule is that yarn should be 100% cotton, preferably not mercerized, and with no fluff. I studied the list and chose Cotton 8 yarn* by Scheepjes for my octopuses.

Depending on yarn weight you might need a different hook size. Some patterns are written for Fingering yarn and others for Worsted. Some countries might have strict requirements on yarn, hooks and stuffing, so make sure to check them before you start making octopuses for your local hospital. Because I chose Cotton 8, I thought I would go with the smallest hook good for this yarn – 2.25mm in my case.

My next question was where to find an “official” pattern. The recommended size of the octopus is around 7-9 cm in length of the head and around 15-17 cm in head circumference. However the head’s size is not as important as the length of tentacles. Due to safety reasons they should not exceed 20cm when stretched at a maximum. So in my opinion it’s better to make them shorter.

The general rule is that octopuses should be crocheted very tight. Stuffing must not come through the crocheted fabric when the toy is a little bit stretched. Also tight fabric makes octopuses more durable. In hospitals they are washed often and at very high temperatures (up to 90C degrees).

Many patterns for Octo projects I have seen use a separate bottom part which is then sewn to the head with tentacles. In my opinion this adds more ends to weave in and I was trying to avoid this. So I made my octopus in-one-go without adding a bottom piece. In the same way as octopuses by Anastasia Popova (HERE is the pattern for worsted yarn). I also didn’t add eyes (neither crocheted, plastic safety eyes or embroidered). After many hard washes there is a risk ends can loosen and go out.

When I look at tiny hands holding my octopus, my heart is filled with happiness. And I encourage you to become a part of this wonderful project.

IMPORTANT !!! DISCLOSURE !!! If you want to join an Octo project and donate an octopus to hospital in your country, please, check THIS list of participating countries and Facebook groups, as well as exact standards for an octopus in your country.

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  1. Love this! I've been making these for over a year now for the UK group, just a couple a month but they all add up. Such a great project :)

  2. That sort of project is important in France too, it's so beautiful to see people giving their time to help others. ♥

  3. Thank you!!
    This is something I've wanted to join for the longest time and you're my sign to find out more now!!! I have a starting point!

  4. Love this! We also have a group here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we all love what we do for our preemies. When I saw my octopus in hands of a little baby girl, my eyes were full of tears and my heart was full of joy!


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