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The Elves and the Shoemaker


For at least the last 11 years, since the new hospital opened in 2004, there has been a group of volunteer knitters steadily and quietly knitting baby hats for all newborns in the BirthPlace. “This has just carried on without a lot of fanfare,” said Kathy Emtman, who has led the efforts of volunteer knitters for the last five years to ensure every baby born at BirthPlace goes home with a handmade knitted cap.
“It’s such a nice things we do for new moms and babies at Pullman Regional Hospital,” she said.
The number of babies born at BirthPlace has steadily been growing each year with a record number of births – 455 – recorded in 2015.
That’s a lot of hats but with a small army of knitters, the job is covered.
The knitters were somewhat elusive when Kathy took over coordinating efforts from Carol Smawley, long-time volunteer at Pullman Regional Hospital who passed away in 2013.
Kathy jokes that it was a case of “The Elves and the Shoemaker” story when the shoemaker would put out pieces of leather in the evening and pairs of shoes would magically appear in the morning.
“I used to put yarn in the bins under the Information Desk at the hospital and I’d come back three weeks later and there would be bags of baby hats,” she said. “It was a challenge to find out who the people were that were knitting the hats.”
Since then, through investigation, a database of approximately 30 area knitters was developed and Kathy brought them all together for a knitting party and to meet each other before she turned the reins over to the new knitting coordinator Lucille Guettinger.
“It was great to get all the knitters together and we had some moms from the BirthPlace share their babies so we could see them with the hats on,” Kathy said.
The knitted baby hats are an Auxiliary funded project with yarn made available to knitters by the Auxiliary. Knitters can also use their own yarn. Debbie Brindamour from the Spot Shop in Pullman sews each label in to the caps which read that it is a gift from the Auxiliary.
“It’s so fun to see all the different types of hats,” said Lucille. “There are seasonal hats, pumpkin hats and hats made on a loom.”
One particularly enthusiastic knitter, Max, from Clarkston, is known for making beautiful pom-poms that adorn the hats.
“He also makes Cougar, Vandal and Seahawks hats, and knitted headbands for the moms,” said Kathy, who has been knitting since she was 6 years old when her grandmother taught her.
Lucille has been knitting for a few years. She jokes, “When I knit, I knit. I can’t carry on a conversation.”
The group is always looking for new knitters. If you are interested in knitting baby hats for BirthPlace, please contact Lucille Guettinger at 509-334-2628.