Knitters are a curious bunch. We are intrigued by innovative patterns and techniques. We read knitting books, knitting blogs, and attend knitting workshops. And we wonder about other knitters and the lives they lead in cities, in small towns, on farms, and in countries we hope one day to visit. We hanker for their stories, for a chance to peer into their woolly lives.
So when Kay Gardiner mentioned to me that her friend, Sara Sprung, a Wall Street trader, knit 100 hats for a school coat drive, I was curious about the hats and the knitter. I was reminded of another community hat knitter, Mrs. Goldman, a character in my picture book, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman. Would Sara be like her? Why was she knitting 100 hats?
It Started with a Crochet Scarf
Sara’s fiber journey began on a rainy day in 1999 when she walked by a yarn store in midtown Manhattan and a scarf in the window caught her eye. She wanted to make that treble crocheted scarf in color-rich Noro yarn. Back then she was a young trader who had set her sights on Manhattan after graduating from MIT. Soon she learned to crochet, and finished her first scarf, then her second, and her third; she was on her way.
“You’ll like knitting better,” another trader told her. She was right. Before long, Sara was a knitter. She started her first knitting group. They made teddy bears; flat pieces later seamed together and stuffed.
In 2006, when the yarn store Knitty City opened in her neighborhood, Sara was a working mom with three young kids. Whenever she could steal a moment away from her busy life and family, she would go there, her tiny dog in tow. Her kids called Knitty City “mommy daycare,” and it was there that Sara found another community and learned more about knitting and herself. Now a knowledgeable knitter, she sometimes helped others, and by doing so, she discovered she liked teaching. Over time, she developed other knitting groups with students and parents at her son’s school.
From Responsibility to Joy
Is it any surprise that after two decades of knitting, Sara had stash, a bounty? Stored in clear plastic tubs, colors visible, Sara looked with love at wool left over from projects long ago completed, wool bought on travels, irresistible skeins. All worthy of becoming something, but what? What could she make with a hank of this, a ball of that?
The yarns kept calling out. “I wanted to turn responsibility to joy, to create knitting fun,” she said. How could do she that?
For years, Sara had helped with a coat drive at her son’s school. Gently used coats. What if along with choosing a coat, you could also choose a hat? A new hat; a hand-knit hat.
A hat for every coat meant knitting 100 hats. In January 2018, Sara knit the first one.
“The best of hats allow you to use color,” she told me. And Sara loves color.
If you let them, like Sara did, hats can be a knitter’s idea lab. Hats can push you to entrelac, brioche, cable, Fair Isle, and sequence knitting. They can send you to the store to buy cherry Kool-Aid and use it to dye your wool. Hats can give you pause to consider the recipient, to knit a range of styles, some with a more limited and subdued palette.
“Not everyone wants an exciting hat,” Sara explained. Instead, she strived to “make a NICE hat someone would want.”
With her characteristic resolve, Sara went far and deep knitting her hats, capably and elegantly, with confidence and mastery. A recipe knitter, her hats are all her own designs. Sara reached her goal of 100 hats in September, well before the coat drive deadline. Her stash of woolly beloveds is still robust, so she knits on.
Curiosity led me to write about Sara Sprung, and in getting to know her, I discovered she and my character Mrs. Goldman were indeed kindred spirits, generous souls, reminding us with each unique hat they create that we too are unique, deserving of warmth and beauty.
In early winter, arctic temperatures are already predicted for the East. No one should be outside without a good hat. Let Sara Sprung inspire you. Put your stash to work for others.