What Is a Chemo Cap or Hat?

Hats for Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

Crochet cap with flower
Hats for cancer patients are a popular charity pattern. Kathy / Flickr / CC by 2.0

A chemo cap is a hat intended for wear by a cancer patient who is losing, or has lost, his or her hair due to chemotherapy or radiation treatments. They are also known as chemo hats.

Chemo caps are popular crochet, knitting, and sewing projects. Many crocheters and knitters enjoy creating chemo caps for charity. Local cancer centers and medical centers may welcome donations, as well as charities serving cancer patients.

See ​charities that accept crochet donations

Guidelines and Tips for Crocheting Chemo Caps

When crocheting or knitting chemo caps for donation, it is important to choose soft, wearable yarns. The skin of the scalp is very sensitive during and after chemotherapy, and may even be blistered or have sores. Avoid using wool yarn, which can irritate sensitive skin. The Knots of Love charity has compiled a list of approved yarns that have been tested by cancer patients and found to be acceptable. They only accept caps made with the approved yarn.

The cap pattern you choose should produce a thinner, seamless cap. Avoiding lumps and seams is better for wearing comfortably. Another consideration is that the pattern should be one that conceals the head rather than one where you can see through the weave to the scalp and the effects of the therapy. The person undergoing therapy may be bald or having hair coming out in clumps.

This is something they may prefer to keep hidden.

It's important that the finished cap is fragrance-free, including perfume, smoke, and pet odors. During treatment, chemotherapy patients can be very sensitive to any smells, even if they are ones they used to tolerate or even enjoy. It's wise to launder the cap before donating it or giving it to a patient you know personally.

Use a laundry detergent that is fragrance-free and do not use dryer sheets, which often impart a fragrance.

When choosing a color, think of fun, trendy, colorful, and stylish yarns that meet the other requirements for being soft on sensitive skin. You want to produce a cap that your recipient can wear in a variety of circumstances. Those include business environments, while shopping, dining, socializing, attending public events, and relaxing at home. Don't assume that the recipient feels so ill that she (or he) doesn't leave the house, clinic, or hospital. Also, you want to make a hat that they will continue to enjoy after treatment when their hair grows back.

Chemo Cap and Hat Patterns

Be sure to check with the organization to which you plan to make a donation to ensure your project meets their requirements.

In some cases, they may already have enough chemo caps and they can suggest other items they would prefer you create and donate.