McKenzie Mott, 15, was known for loving and living fiercely.
She played soccer with passion. She wrote notes with affection. She started projects with optimism. She hugged with abandon.
“McKenzie hugged everybody,” said Connie Mott, describing how her daughter could melt her with a hug if she was mad but also hugged as a greeting and a boisterous show of care. Her hugs weren’t gentle. They were intense.
“She had that ability to make you feel like you were special. She had that knack,” Mott said.
On Oct. 5, McKenzie died in a car wreck along with her best friend Josie Freier.
Today, McKenzie’s family is keeping her memory alive through a project they say feels like hugs from heaven. House of Twine is an online shop of scarves handmade by the family in her honor, with all proceeds slated for a scholarship fund.
The website states their sentiment, “We miss Kenzie’s hugs and have attempted to create her hug from Heaven through our scarves. Each knot, each turn, each loop has brought us comfort and is a hug from our home to you. When you wear this scarf, know that the yarn is filled with our love and our piece of Heaven.”
But the Kenzie scarf project didn’t start with sales in mind. It began when Mott noticed some scarves in November. She picked one up and had what she calls “a Kenzie moment.”
She showed longtime friend and University High School counselor Kara Twining, saying “We can do this.”
It’s something her daughter would have said.
“She was this person that loved to do things, loved to come up with things,” said Mott, recalling how McKenzie frequently found projects to try, often roping in her friends and family to stud shirts, make shorts or bleach jeans. “She was that kid who would say, ‘We can do that.’ ”
After seeing those scarves, Mott and Twining set up a scarf-making day with several of the women who missed McKenzie – her sister Mallory Mott, aunt Tonia Roeder and sister-in-law Jessica Mott.
As they made the scarves, laughing and crying together, the women said the task became a hands-on life analogy, from the knots and corners to unraveling the yarn and starting anew.
“We processed a lot in six hours,” Mott said, adding that since then they’ve continued to make scarves together, a therapeutic project that they called their life scarves at first. “It keeps your focus on something. It’s our connection, our way to think of McKenzie but not always bring it up. We can remember the good times and the memories.”
Soon the women were gathering to crochet, knit and loom scarves almost daily, and though they gave many away, their colorful creations piled up, as did skeins of yarn that filled numerous baskets.
To offset some of the expenses, Twining suggested they sell some of the scarves on the arts and crafts ecommerce site Etsy.com, just for fun.
Since House of Twine opened online in January, they’ve shipped about 30 scarves to buyers from Spokane to California, Arizona to Virginia. Two Seahawk-colored creations, they’ve since learned, were worn at the Super Bowl.
“It’s like a piece of Kenzie got to go to the Super Bowl,” Twining said.
Though the family is still surprised each time a scarf sells, they decided to put any proceeds toward the scholarship fund they’re setting up in McKenzie’s memory, which they hope will help a University High School soccer player each year who exemplifies McKenzie’s spirit.
“It is to love like she did,” said Mott. “That is what we miss so much. It would go to someone that can love like her.”
With that in mind, each handmade scarf is infused with a little bit of the girls they love and miss.
Some scarves, for example, have nine by 23 rows, representing the soccer jersey numbers of McKenzie and Josie, respectively, with color choices that reflect happy memories, inside jokes or goals from the girls’ bucket lists.
From the butterfly, rainbow, sunset and beach scarves to the Smurfette, camo, out-all-night and twerk scarves, each one has a story.
“Every one would remind us about Kenzie,” said Jessica Mott. She pointed to a vibrant green scarf around her neck, named Journey because as a child McKenzie asked her to tattoo the word on her foot and had hoped to name a daughter Journey someday.
The Favorite – Connie’s favorite scarf – shipped with a short note describing how McKenzie, the youngest of four, used to tease her siblings and joke that she was the favorite child.
The scarves all ship with a positive note or memory because, in a world of texting, McKenzie and Josie had made a pact to exchange handwritten notes daily.
“This was our way to help people remember,” Mott said. “Through every scarf we make, we share a memory. … They were lovely, wonderful girls.”
“People are getting a scarf from us,” said Mallory Mott. “When they wear it and someone says, ‘Oh where did you get that scarf?’ they can tell that story. They are wrapped in a memory.”