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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/LARA JO HIGHTOWER Betty Johnson of Springdale stands behind the 300 kitted and crocheted hats she made to be worn by babies and children at the new Arkansas Children's Northwest children's hospital in Springdale. The project took her just about a year.

When Betty Johnson of Springdale, a member of The Needle Arts Project Club -- an Arkansas Home Extension group -- first started making hats for the babies and children at the new Arkansas Children's Northwest hospital in Springdale, she didn't know yet of what she was capable.

"I just started using what yarn the group gave me, and I kept going," Johnson said. When she finished, a year had passed, and she had 300 knitted and crocheted hats in front of her. "I had no idea I was going to make that many."

How to get involved

• Arkansas Extension Homemakers, 444-1755 or 271-1060

Arkansas Children’s Northwest volunteers

• Knitted Knockers, knittedknockers.org

It is truly a marvel, seeing that many hats in one place. Crocheted and knitted -- Johnson is multi-talented -- the hats range in design and include little chick hats, elf hats, Minecraft-theme hats, hats with crocheted flowers, hats with hearts and even a little baby ogre hat. Johnson said she used designs from the Internet to ensure there was a variety.

Mary Margaret King, president of the club, said the idea for the hats came from a speaker who addressed the Washington County Extension Homemakers clubs, part of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

"A speaker came to the annual conference, and he was doing brain studies on the preemies," at the Universirty of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, King said. "Some nurse said to him, 'You know, these extension ladies crochet all of these hats. Why couldn't we use those to anchor the sensors on their heads?" King said using the hats prevents harsh tape from being used and ripping the tender skin of the babies.

While Johnson's project is singular in its volume, it's far from the only donations made by this particular group of crafters. King said extension clubs make baby blankets, teaching dolls and pillow cases for the children's hospital, as well as items like mittens and socks for homeless shelters and the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Fayetteville.

Sally Whelan, another member of the group, is working on a "knitted knocker," a handmade breast prosthesis. She's made about 250 of them so far, and donates them to an organization which distributes them to women who have had mastectomies.

Johnson says that, after her 300th hat, she is ready to take a bit of a break.

"But I really want to encourage other people to do the same thing I did," she said. "Because those children really need them."

NAN Our Town on 12/28/2017

Print Headline: Crafty women bring comfort to children, veterans, homeless

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