The Tiny Noggins group started in March and by the month’s end more than 100 hand-made crochet hats had been stitched with love, and were keeping tiny heads warm in style in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) at several hospitals.
At the senior living center in Elkin, Chatham Woods, Property Manager Nicole Perkins said she watched with amazement as ladies with a purpose continued to turn out hats, and added mittens.
By April, they were supplying five North Carolina hospitals with an abundance meeting a need to keep “preemies” warm.
Perkins said when her son, Jonah, was in the NICU in New Hanover Regional Hospital in Wilmington, she discovered the caring of people through crocheting.
Through the ordeal, Jonah, while in critical care, sported a Carolina blue knitted hat hand-made by someone who cared.
Perkins said the experience “inspired the thought of ‘giving back’ to the community and blessing other families with these handmade keepsakes.”
Perkins added that she doesn’t believe people realize how many hospitals house babies in NICU.
So, when June Spelman and Carol Chapman approached her to form a crocheting class, no time was wasted.
Instead, the women in a team effort took it further, and the weekly group called Tiny Noggins was born and continues to meet weekly at Chatham Woods Senior Living Apartments.
They began sewing with a fire immediately to meet a huge need, said the Chatham Woods property manager.
The groups averages at minimum 60 items per month, said Perkins.
Since April, complete care packages of colorful and uniquely designed hats and mittens are being placed in five North Carolina Hospitals — New Hanover Regional, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Forsyth Medical Center, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital and Wilkes Regional Medical Center.
In the Tiny Noggins group are senior-aged women, June Spelman, Carol Chapman, Edith Nicholas, Maria Edmonds , Celeste Weathers and Nancy Ford.
They said meeting together also has provided them time for friendship, to talk and laugh. They smiled at the thought of their group as being a form of crocheting Golden Girls but in Elkin. As a group, they said they wanted others to know the importance of being willing to learn something new when they are older.
Ford called herself the group’s “newbie.” Since being with the group three months, she has turned out many a hat, some in neon colors, and does so with a round loom found at Walmart. Ford said it is a great way to learn hat making.
Ford said years later, she discovered that it is possible to teach a dog new tricks. She called it rewarding to still keep kids warm since hers are grown.
The group as a whole said there are no excuses for anyone older not trying at something they desire to do.
Nicholas said she had crocheted all her life and did not quit once she developed arthritis. Instead, she said, “I’m not letting my arthritis get the best of me,” and also uses a loom, to make hats, saying it helps make yarn work easier.
Each have their own favorite tools to work with, some smaller or larger crocheting needles.
Edmonds said she likes her golden G-sized needle, because it has been easier to learn with it. She said Spelman and Chapman inspired her to learn. She watched her mother crochet all her life, but never got the time to learn while working and raising her kids, she said.
She said, “You have to put your mind to it, and have the right people to teach you.” She enjoys knowing how it is helping others.
Chapman, one of Edmonds’ inspirations along with Spelman, brings patterns for the group to work by that are simple and understandable. The group said as a whole, Spelman’s and Chapman’s teaching has made a huge difference in how fast they learned.
Chapman took the time to illustrate single and double stitch and with a C-type needle in a dainty yellow pattern. She gave away one of the pattern secrets as being a slip stitch and knowing how to turn the work. One group member smiled and said about Chapman, “She is amazing.”
Spelman said to this day her son has an afghan she sewed while he was a teenager, it is draped across his couch. She said it is important to her the group came together to meet a need.
They reminded men can learn, too.
At this week’s crochet and sewing gathering, Tiny Noggins participant Celeste Weathers described how she brought sewing into the mix. She makes mittens and hats with scrap material and ribbon.
Weathers’ mitten sewing designs included a pair made of purple and lavender-checked fabric. Another was styled in vivid green and pink.
Perkins said she will always be grateful to the New Hanover Regional staff and remains close to them.
Currently, a traveling nurse from Mount Airy, Diane Wolfe, makes the stop at Chatham Woods to take hat and mittens care packages back to Hanover Regional. Perkins said Wolfe has been extremely impressed with the work done by Tiny Noggins.
Tiny Noggins are accepting donations of yarn, narrow ribbon , and scrap material to help with the project. Donations may be sent or dropped off at Chatham Woods (c/o Nicole Perkins), 232 Hawthorne Road, Elkin, North Carolina 28621.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.