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Yarn artists create warm hats

Caps for Kids, Madhatters stitch up thousands

— Yarn artists, garage sale scavengers and others are pooling their resources again to support projects that supply hats and other warm clothing to area children.

Caps for Kids, spearheaded by Vickie Ledger of Omak, last year donated 1,800 hats to the Omak-Okanogan Community Christmas Basket Project and to Okanogan middle and high schools. The previous year, hats left over after the basket giveaway went to Omak middle and high schools.

The Madhatters of Conconully give around 1,600 hats per year to preschool and young elementary school students in Okanogan and Ferry counties.

Ledger said she’s hoping to give as many this year and wants community members who are making hats to get them to her this week. The basket distribution will be Dec. 21.

“Last year they brought over 100 hats to our school and the kids loved receiving them,” Okanogan High School Principal Bob Shacklett said. “I still see them worn, now especially in this super-cold weather.”

Ledger and her mother, the late Betty Buchanan, started Caps for Kids in 2009. After Buchanan’s death, Ledger took over the program.

More than a dozen women knit, crochet and create hats on weaving looms. Some also make scarves. Ledger supplies much of the yarn, which people donate and she purchases at yard sales.

She also scours sales for coats, boots, gloves and hats, and Walmart donates a lot of items, she said.

The handmade hats “are beautiful, with the colors and variety,” she said. The 15 or so volunteers are very good at mixing colors and using scraps in concert with new yarn.

“It’s just awesome work,” she said.

Ledger said she’ll size, box and label the hats prior to Saturday’s giveaway.

She said it’s fun to take the surplus to the secondary school students, since elementary students usually get donations of hats and coats.

“It’s such a gift for me to be in this position,” she said.

“The students couldn’t believe they were getting these for free,” Omak Middle School Principal Kathy Miller said of last year’s donation. “You should have seen the excitement. So many students came up to me to show off their selections.”

A few asked if they could share with a younger sibling who had no hat.

“They were happy to have the hats, but also that someone cared enough to donate these to them,” Miller said. “Bravo to all of the people who do the Caps for Kids project.”

Ledger said anyone who wants to join the hat project can contact her. She has patterns and yarn. Hats made of fleece also would be welcome.

The Madhatters of Conconully also produce hats.

Those go to younger children through the state Early Childhood program, Head Start and kindergarten through second-grade students at North Omak Elementary, Virginia Grainger Elementary in Okanogan, Paschal Sherman Indian School, and Keller, Nespelem and Inchelium schools.

The Madhatters give about 1,600 handmade hats each year, not just at Christmas, volunteer Marilyn Church said.

They use mostly donated yarn from volunteers’ stashes and through scrounging rummage sales. Hats are knitted, crocheted and made on looms.

Church said most people who do crafting have made hats for all their children and grandchildren “and still want to do more.”

About 20 Conconully residents work on the project, plus another eight or nine who are residents of Apple Springs Senior Living in Omak.

Project founder Janyth Arvidson said members of the group go to Apple Springs once a week to work on hats with residents. Other donations come from people in the Seattle area and California.

Giving hats to children in the Early Childhood and Head Start programs is especially important to the group, since to participate in those programs children have to be from low-income families.

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