Baby hats

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

It’s a long drive around the top of Lake Superior with few destinations for a knitting tour. So when Tee from Sioux Lookout asked if we could stop in and meet the Northern Knitters we were both excited and hesitant. Sioux Lookout is 80 km off the already very very long road.


When she said the town had an enthusiastic group of knitters and a great story that was a combination I had trouble resisting. Tex had been to the town before and knew we could fit it in between our visits to Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. So we turned left off Highway 17 onto 72 and headed off to meet the Northern Knitters.

Sioux Lookout is the transportation and service hub of the north. It’s facilities serve thousands of people, mostly First Nations, who live in fly-in communities in northern Ontario. It’s a uniquely optimistic little town of about 5,000 that seems to have plenty of employment opportunities for its citizens. It is surrounded by sparkling lakes and looks like a wonderful summer destination.

An enormous drum crowning the hostel attached to the Health Centre.

We met on Saturday morning in Sioux Lookout’s beautiful new Meno Ya Win Health Centre—a story in itself. Amongst the first to arrive was Peggy Sanders, one of Sioux Lookout’s most distinguished citizens, an Order of Canada recipient and avid knitter. Peggy started knitting bonnets for babies decades ago, and has made too many to count. Her goal was to send the new babies born in Sioux Lookout, home to the north in a hand knitted hat.

Peggy Saunders starting her colourwork.

In 2012, the centennial year of Sioux Lookout, the Northern Knitters committed to making hats for every new baby born in the hospital—that meant 500 hats! They did it. And they did it again the next year.


A wall in the new hospital is covered with photos of proud parents and beautiful babies wearing Northern Knitters’ hats. The hats have become collector’s items. Parents keep the hats each of their little ones received at their birth. Peggy says it has become a multi generational thing—mothers and fathers tell her about adding their baby’s hat to the ones their parents saved when they were born. She told us about the day when an excited young man came up to her in the grocery store and said, “I still have the baby hat you knitted for me when I was born. Thank you.”


I made my own renditions and will send them up to Sioux Lookout so the Northern Knitters can add them to their collection. I think they will only fit tiny babies...and one perhaps for a stillborn, in memory of my own baby I never got to bring home from the hospital.

Who would have thought that baby hats could have become such a wonderful thing? I love thinking about the beautiful babies who will wear my little toques.

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