Hats off to winter cap project

With goal of 500, more than 1,000 hats have been donated

Recorder/Paul Franz
Liz Sorenson and John Nove, both of South Deerfield, are covered in some of the 1,100 hats they have collected so far in their 500 Hats Project.

Recorder/Paul Franz Liz Sorenson and John Nove, both of South Deerfield, are covered in some of the 1,100 hats they have collected so far in their 500 Hats Project.

SOUTH DEERFIELD — That ‘cat’ with the hats has come back.

South Deerfield bookbinder John Nove set out with his partner, Liz Sorenson, to collect 500 hats to celebrate the 75th anniversary of “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” the second book by Springfield’s own Dr. Seuss ... and also to warm needy heads up and down the Pioneer Valley this winter.

Nove got more than twice what he bargained for: 1,023 knitted and crocheted handiworks, as of Thursday, from as far away as California and Indiana. And he expected at least a few more by the end of this month, which the couple set as their deadline for collecting them.

“People travel to Massachusetts and they learn about it, and they respond,” said Nove, who got the idea in his own head after stumbling last fall on an article about a “Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!” exhibit at the New York Public Library.

The knitting for noggins idea was born.

With help from five yarn shops up and down the valley — including Sorenson’s own new “Sheep and Shawl” shop in Deerfield’s Tibetan Plaza — they began collecting hats of all kinds from senior centers, libraries, knitting clubs and other contributors here and there. Some shops, like Metaphor Yarns in Shelburne Falls, Webs in Northampton and others, hosted knitting bees to churn out chapeaus.

“Traditionally, knit shops have collected hats and shawls, but not on this scale,” says Nove. “This is certainly a large influx of hats!”

One Springfield library group of eight or so knitters, called “the Knit Lits” has managed to produce nearly 250 hats, while two women who work at Walmart in Northampton knit 35 hats between them. Jones Library hosted a knitting party as part of a street fair when University of Massachusetts students returned back for the fall, and it held another knit-in Thursday evening, for a combined total output of nearly 80.

The total output, now stored in eight large plastic leaf collection bags in Nove’s living room, includes: woolen hats, acrylic hats, some of felt, some with ear flaps, balaclavas and hats with tassels, some even decorated with squirrels.

“I’m happy,” Nove declares. “I thought we’d be lucky if we hit 500.”

“Now let the sorting begin!” you can almost hear the late Springfield author proclaim, in preparation for a planned Nov. 6 celebration, complete with cider and doughnuts, in the Seuss Sculpture Garden of the Springfield Museums. That’s where the hats will be distributed to six social service agencies, including the United Way of Franklin County, the Amherst and Northampton survival centers, ServiceNet, the Springfield Rescue Mission and Providence Ministries.

Anyone with hats to contribute can still bring them to Tilton Library in South Deerfield, World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield, Metaphor Yarns in Shelburne, Sheep and Shawl, as well as to Jones Library or The Creative Needle in Amherst.

Already, Nove is looking ahead to his next challenge: “How I can quit the project responsibly and still meet the needs of people who want to keep making hats? I just don’t have the time to pick up hats everywhere. What I want to see is if the agencies taking them have some kind of storefronts or place where people who want to keep making them can bring them.

“I want to see if this kind of thing can be self-propagating, minus me,” he says.

On the Web: www.500hats.org

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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