Archived Story

Progress: The Knitting Nova

Published 1:00am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hero: Karin Mattson

Secret identity: on Naeve Hospital Auxiliary, chairwoman of group who knit baby caps and donate them to Albert Lea Medical Center

Karin Mattson shows some recently knitted hats that she collected and donated to Albert Lea Medical Center. -- Photo by Kelli Lageson

Base of operations: Albert Lea Medical Center

Superpowers: time management because Mattson has many other duties with the auxiliary including working at the ALMC gift shop and coffee shop

Kryptonite: finding time to knit the caps, which take about two hours each

Affiliations: has four children, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren

Origin: Mattson is a life member of the Naeve Hospital Auxiliary and has been a member for more than 40 years. She prides the auxiliary in always having more than enough knitted caps for babies — each baby born at ALMC receives a donated hand-knitted cap. She estimates that more than 800 are donated each year, while less than 600 babies are born at ALMC. Mattson said that the group likes to donate more than needed because then any extras can be donated to other organizations. Nurses like to have a variety of sizes and colors to choose from because babies’ head sizes are all different.

Mattson organizes the group of volunteers who knit the caps and is proud that anyone who can knit can help. She said some of the volunteer knitters are home-bound or in nursing homes, and knitting caps is a way they can volunteer without having to be mobile.

Popular caps chosen by parents are multi-colored or ones with extra detail, like a different color stripe. Mattson said one year she made polka-dot caps and the nurses told her they were very popular.

Though Mattson keeps busy making caps and organizing volunteer knitters, she doesn’t neglect the other duties auxiliary members have. Knitting caps for babies is one small part of the auxiliary. Members also run the ALMC gift and coffee shops, distribute donated magazines throughout the waiting rooms in the hospital, give tours to first-graders, make comfort blankets for babies and donate combs and brushes for newborns and plush toys for children in same-day surgery. Auxiliary volunteers also visit with patients and family members in the oncology area and give two scholarships each year to high-schoolers.

“I think it’s really neat. It just makes it more personal. They usually come in after their first bath in standard gowns but then they have these cute stocking hats.” — Elizabeth LaFrance, mother of two children who each received hats after being born at ALMC

“They’re very cute. It’s a really neat thing that somebody makes them for the babies.” — Melissa Wittmer, mother of two children who each received hats after being born at ALMC

“That committee does a very good job at getting the knitters organized. When the hospital says they need more caps she gets its done.” — Shirley Enderson, president of the Naeve Hospital Auxiliary

“The parents really appreciate these. Babies lose heat from the top of their head and this helps maintain their temperature.” — Kirsten Meyer, staff nurse at ALMC

“It’s so neat to have something handmade. Every one is unique, like the babies. Parents can choose colors and keep them as a keepsake.” — Joy Shaft, outpatient nurse manager at ALMC