For almost 10 years, a 90-year-old women has been knitting caps for newborns at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.
Barbara Lowe has knitted for most of her life. She taught herself how to knit in high school and for years made caps and blankets for newborns in her family and the families of friends and coworkers.
Lowe lives across the street from the hospital, and in 2008 a family member asked her if she ever thought about knitting caps for the babies that were born there.
“I told her, ‘No, but that’s an excellent idea,'” Lowe told Cleveland.com. “So I called the volunteers’ office [at the hospital] and they said they were interested. That was the beginning.”
Lowe already had a relationship with the hospital, as she spent a lot of time there while Milton, her late husband who died in 2001, was sick.
“My husband was sick for a long time and I practically lived there,” she said. “They were always so good to me.”
As of March, Lowe had knitted 2,072 caps for newborns to wear as they leave the hospital to go home with their families. Each one takes around four hours to finish.
“I feel like they [the babies’] parents gave them their first gift, which is life,” she said. “I feel like I’m giving them their second gift with these little hats.”
When infants are born, their heads are proportionally bigger than their body size, meaning they can potentially lose heat through their heads, according to Mary Bartos, a registered nurse and the director of Women’s & Children’s Services at Hillcrest. She explained that’s why caps are usually put on infants right after their born, as well as until their temperature stabilizes after their first bath.
“With Barbara’s hats, after their (the infants’) first bath, we have something lovely to give that’s from a volunteer,” she said. “It’s a nice gift for the parents. But we also use it as a teaching moment, which is important for us to do. We want to educate parents about how important it is to keep their baby warm.”
Lowe gets discounts on the baby yarn, which is softer and lighter than regular yarn, she buys from the Michaels craft store, as the store’s manager knows who she’s knitting for, and she also receives gift cards to the store from family members. It’s becoming more difficult to afford the yarn, though, as she has recently started taking two expensive medications.
“So what I’ve been doing to make a little money is sewing for ladies in the building who have arthritis and can’t do it themselves,” Lowe says. “I tighten buttons and hem pants. That’s my baby yarn fund.”
One time, Lowe was watching the news and saw one of her hats on TV during a segment about a newborn at Hillcrest. She knew it was her hat because it had her signature turned-up brim and knit flower.
“I was thrilled because I finally got to see a baby that’s not in the family wearing one of my hats,” she says. “I don’t think I slept that night. I was so happy.”