Hat’s Amore!

By Sarah Gintout

“Look Mom, there’s one of mine…the blue one made from Alpaca yarn,” I whisper. “That was one of my favorites.” The sight of the woman wearing it brings a tear to my eye.

I never thought it would evolve like this and it’s still hard to talk about. Recently my Aunt Sue taught me to crochet; we practiced every time we were together. Close for years, this was another shared hobby that brought us even closer. She would help me work through new patterns and explain techniques – after mastering the basics we decided a hat pattern would be fun to try.

I loved making hats! And so began my mission: Make hats; lots of hats – in every shape, size, and color.

I travel frequently for work, leaving time at night to crochet at the hotel. It wasn’t long before my suitcase was stuffed with skeins of yarn. The hats had buttons, stripes, brims and everything in between. I had begun to accumulate more hats than I knew what to do with. My friends had selected a hat to don their heads for the winter, yet my guest room closet was still packed with close to 75 homeless hats.

I decided to try craft shows; the shows came and went, but it wasn’t the feel-good experience I was looking for.

After hanging on to my prized hats for a few months and realizing they weren’t doing anyone any good sitting in a closet, I decided to donate them. Just as a particularly cold winter was approaching, I made some calls and found a contact at a local hospital. A week later, I took my bag of hats to Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University to donate for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

I dropped the hats off and went home, not realizing how this would forever impact my life and the lives of my family. A week later, I received a lovely thank you note from a woman who ran the hospital salon. She said my hats were very popular and much appreciated.

That was the only catalyst I needed; the next day I was off to the local craft store to purchase more yarn. I spent a lot of time thinking of colors, yarn textures and designs that would flatter and be comfortable for the patients. Wool yarns could be scratchy, some yarn was too bulky, I quickly found brands that met my needs and, hopefully, the needs of the people for whom I was crocheting. Winter went on, and I donated over 125 hats. I loved doing it and felt I was doing something to help the patients too.

And in a moment my world changed.

Three days after Christmas, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia. While her prognosis was good, it was a shock to our family – to any family. I stopped crocheting; associating crocheting with cancer – my mom’s cancer. It was painful, and we had enough pain in our lives.

Eventually, the time came in my mom’s treatment when she needed hats. We pulled my big bag out of the closet and gave her a hat fashion show of sorts. Seeing my mom wear my hats made my heart hurt even more – she had worn my hats before, but that was while hiking a nature trail near our home, not because her head was cold from losing all her hair in the middle of January.

The crochet needles stayed tucked away in the drawer.

One Friday in March, after being released from the hospital from her third round of chemotherapy, my Aunt Sue and I took Mom in for a routine doctor’s appointment. It was a tough day; Mom had no energy. The whole family was exhausted from endless days at the hospital, and we all just wanted our normal life back.

While in a large treatment room with Mom, I couldn’t help but look around…recliners lining every wall, surrounded with IV poles and patients receiving chemotherapy or some type of treatment. Typically, due to space limitations, the treatment room is for patients only, but being early in the day, the nurses let my aunt and I stay with her. As we sat with Mom and watched the bag of saline solution slowly empty, my eyes wandered…

Then I saw her…tucked in a corner with her daughter beside her, a woman lay in a recliner; trying to sleep, probably from exhaustion, but also to pass the time. She was curled up in a little ball, mountains of blankets covering her, and on her head was a hat I had made. I quietly pointed this out to my mom and aunt, then quickly changed the subject.

Thinking about it that night, I realized seeing my hats saddened me because I had never seen the faces of the people who wore them. I simply dropped them off at the hospital. Seeing my hats on patients gave a face to them, a reason for crocheting. My hats had purpose; they brought comfort and warmth.

That night I started to crochet again. With every hat I had a vision, an image of the person for whom I was making the hat. I pictured a young woman, trendy and edgy, in a black and purple striped hat. The ice cream hat as we called it, a zigzag hat with hues of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, was for an older woman and had a large brim.

The weeks of treatment continued, and it wasn’t long before we began to see more and more of my hats around the hospital. It always tugged at my heart a bit, but what once was sadness gave way to hope. Hope that my hats bring a little love and confidence to the person who wears them.

A year later, my mom is cancer free. While we are thankful for this chapter of our lives, I cannot forget the families that are just starting their fight. For them, I will continue to crochet…

About this writer

  • Sarah Gintout Sarah Gintout lives outside Richmond, Virginia, but considers Pawleys Island her second home. She is an airline pilot and has been published in the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

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3 Responses to “Hat’s Amore!”

  1. Sheryl Burrell says:

    Beautiful Sarah!!! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Brenda Mantlo says:

    Sarah, what a great article…..touched my heart. Your hats are beautiful. So glad to hear that your Mom is cancer free. Wouldn’t have seen this article if your Dad hadn’t tuned me into this website….Happy crocheting!!

  3. Marla Eglowstein Rich says:

    Hi, Sarah,

    What an awesome story! I am so impressed, and very glad I have had a chance to meet you! Thanks for flying me home and asking me about my crocheting. I hope that your Mom continues to be well. She must be very proud of you–a daughter who can land a plane, warm a head (and heart) and write about it expressively! Hope to keep on corresponding with you, and hope you continue to have great success and satisfaction in all of your endeavors–

    Marla (from the PHL-ALB flight, 4/4 PM)

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