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Spokane knitter uses her talent to make hats for homeless

Peggy Parker places a hat on "The Joy of Running Together" statue on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, in downtown Spokane, Wash. Parker hand makes the hats and leaves them on the runners with a little note that says "If you need one, take one." (Tyler Tjomsland)
Peggy Parker places a hat on "The Joy of Running Together" statue on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, in downtown Spokane, Wash. Parker hand makes the hats and leaves them on the runners with a little note that says "If you need one, take one." (Tyler Tjomsland)

It was around Christmas, and Peggy Parker was feeling blue.

Flipping through TV programs, a story about a young girl who wanted to make Christmas dinner for a homeless person caught her attention.

“And I thought, if she can do that and she’s only 9, then I can do something,” Parker said. She decided she wanted to do something for homeless people downtown, and that’s when she remembered she had a bin full of yarn.

“I decided to knit hats for homeless people,” Parker said.

A naturopath, Parker worked as a chef in Dallas for many years before moving to Spokane in 1998. She usually throws a holiday party for friends and neighbors, but she decided to cancel the party and spend the money on fleece so she could sew hats, too.

“Sewing them is a lot quicker,” Parker said.

By New Year’s Day she had more than 40 hats ready to warm heads around Spokane.

That’s when she decided on a somewhat unusual distribution method: she took the hats down to “The Joy of Running Together” – aka the “runner statues” – in front of Spokane City Hall, and put them on the runners’ heads. Every hat has a little tag that says, “Take one if you need one.”

“The first 12 hats were gone in three hours,” Parker said. The next 33 were gone overnight.

Parker said she has extensive experience working with the homeless; it was important to her that recipients be able to choose a hat without feeling like it was a handout.

“I wanted it to be more like a shopping experience,” she said.

As word got out about her project, donations of fleece and yarn began to show up at her house. Neighbors are knitting hats and dropping them off. At fabric stores, other shoppers share their discount coupons with her.

“They know who I am when I walk in,” she said.

Some of her hats are simple, some are funky, some are loud and some are plain.

And she’s putting the final stitches into a special batch of hats for the children at Liberty Park Child Development Center.

She connected with the center because of her work as garden coordinator at Grant Park Community Garden.

“I see the kids there and get to know them,” Parker said. Center staff told her many of the children don’t have hats and scarves, so Parker decided to stop by.

“She came and talked to us and we measured some of the children’s heads,” said Michelle Park, family services coordinator at the center. “We serve many low-income families and she’s definitely filling a need.”

The children inspired new creativity in Parker’s hat making.

She went home and began making cupcake hats, kitten hats, rabbit hats and many other hats children can easily relate to.

“That took some time away from the other hat making, but it was great,” Parker said.

As the fleece piles up, Parker just keeps at it.

She makes hat patterns and sews appliqués on others. She can make a simple fleece hat in less than 20 minutes.

Parker is playing with the idea of turning her hat making into a side business, but for now she’s just hoping donations of fleece will keep coming in so she can continue to make fun and quirky hats for those who need them.

So far, she’s placed 150 hats on the heads and hands of the metal runners.

“I love the look on people’s faces,” Parker said while putting a hat on one of the runners. “It really changes their mood.”


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