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Knitters are a curious bunch. We are intrigued by innovative patterns and techniques. We read knitting books, knitting blogs, and attend knitting workshops. And we wonder about other knitters and the lives they lead in cities, in small towns, on farms, and in countries we hope one day to visit. We hanker for their stories, for a chance to peer into their woolly lives.

So when Kay Gardiner mentioned to me that her friend, Sara Sprung, a Wall Street trader, knit 100 hats for a school coat drive, I was curious about the hats and the knitter. I was reminded of another community hat knitter, Mrs. Goldman, a character in my picture book, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman. Would Sara be like her? Why was she knitting 100 hats?

It Started with a Crochet Scarf

Sara’s fiber journey began on a rainy day in 1999 when she walked by a yarn store in midtown Manhattan and a scarf in the window caught her eye. She wanted to make that treble crocheted scarf in color-rich Noro yarn. Back then she was a young trader who had set her sights on Manhattan after graduating from MIT. Soon she learned to crochet, and finished her first scarf, then her second, and her third; she was on her way.

“You’ll like knitting better,” another trader told her. She was right. Before long, Sara was a knitter. She started her first knitting group. They made teddy bears; flat pieces later seamed together and stuffed.

In 2006, when the yarn store Knitty City opened in her neighborhood, Sara was a working mom with three young kids. Whenever she could steal a moment away from her busy life and family, she would go there, her tiny dog in tow. Her kids called Knitty City “mommy daycare,” and it was there that Sara found another community and learned more about knitting and herself. Now a knowledgeable knitter, she sometimes helped others, and by doing so, she discovered she liked teaching. Over time, she developed other knitting groups with students and parents at her son’s school.

From Responsibility to Joy

Is it any surprise that after two decades of knitting, Sara had stash, a bounty? Stored in clear plastic tubs, colors visible, Sara looked with love at wool left over from projects long ago completed, wool bought on travels, irresistible skeins. All worthy of becoming something, but what? What could she make with a hank of this, a ball of that?

The yarns kept calling out. “I wanted to turn responsibility to joy, to create knitting fun,” she said. How could do she that?

For years, Sara had helped with a coat drive at her son’s school. Gently used coats. What if along with choosing a coat, you could also choose a hat? A new hat; a hand-knit hat.

A hat for every coat meant knitting 100 hats. In January 2018, Sara knit the first one.

“The best of hats allow you to use color,” she told me. And Sara loves color.

If you let them, like Sara did, hats can be a knitter’s idea lab. Hats can push you to entrelac, brioche, cable, Fair Isle, and sequence knitting. They can send you to the store to buy cherry Kool-Aid and use it to dye your wool. Hats can give you pause to consider the recipient, to knit a range of styles, some with a more limited and subdued palette.

“Not everyone wants an exciting hat,” Sara explained. Instead, she strived to “make a NICE hat someone would want.”

With her characteristic resolve, Sara went far and deep knitting her hats, capably and elegantly, with confidence and mastery. A recipe knitter, her hats are all her own designs. Sara reached her goal of 100 hats in September, well before the coat drive deadline. Her stash of woolly beloveds is still robust, so she knits on.

Curiosity led me to write about Sara Sprung, and in getting to know her, I discovered she and my character Mrs. Goldman were indeed kindred spirits, generous souls, reminding us with each unique hat they create that we too are unique, deserving of warmth and beauty.

In early winter, arctic temperatures are already predicted for the East. No one should be outside without a good hat. Let Sara Sprung inspire you. Put your stash to work for others.

Knit on!


Illustrations by Michelle Edwards.

About The Author

Michelle Edwards writes about family, friendship, and community. Her work chronicles the large and small victories and defeats of everyday life. She frequently posts her illustrations on Instagram, her website, and at StudioScrawls, her Etsy store.


  • I love this story! Perfect for a damp Monday morning in Scotland and food for thought Sara sounds amazing, 100 hats is a monumental achievement ! (I also really love the illustrations for this piece and would like to know the artist please?)

    • Birdie, thanks for writing from damp Scotland. Sara is amazing and so are that her hats. I am the author/illustrator. You can see more of work on my website or #studioscrawls on Instagram.

    • Michelle Edwards is the artist as well as the author of this article.

      • Thanks, Rodeorose! Knit on!

  • WOWIE ZOWIE! Thank you for the beautiful story & the inspiration. While I have knit charity hats for a few years (this past Fall, I knit/gave 6 for a friend’s charity hat project), Sara’s project-goals allow me to dream on a wider scale. Kudos to you, Sara, & thank you, Michelle, for your article.

    • Thank you So much Martha, this project has given me such joy, your comments multiply it!

    • Martha, great to hear from you! Sara is inspiration to taking knitting for others to a wider scale, but every hat is important, so thank you for your contribution.

  • Good Morning, Your story was delightful!

    • Thanks, Deb!

  • Did Sara photograph them? Would love to see.
    Thank you for the lovely story and beautiful illustrations.

    • Yes, Kay will post them soon. Your comments cheer me, thanks!

    • Please ask if Sara will share a photo of the hats! We would love to see them! This is wonderful inspiration for us all.

      • Stay tuned…you never know!

  • I loved this. I still have my copy of Knitter’s Home Companion because I revisit it for the language from time to time – I know all the stories quite well but good writing never gets tiresome. This story was lovely and the illustrations brought me right to my happy place. Thank you for this lovely gift on a cold Monday morning.

    • DEBBI2 Thank you! It thrills that you reread AKHC. I am making the Split Pea soup recipe from the book for dinner tonight. It’s bitterly cold in Iowa now. Stay warm.

  • What a heart warming story to read on this very cold wintry morning. Thanks so much.

    • Thank you! Stay warm.

  • My goals are more modest than Saras but I always have a hat on the needles (along with several other projects), in my case for a local organization called Hats for the Homeless in Minneapolis. I try to make at least 25 a year, although some years i do better. We all have stash, or that leftover ball at the end of a project, and this is a wonderful way to use it. This is a lovely story about a topic close to my heart.

    • Good to hear from you and about Hats for the Homeless. I like the idea of always having a hat or community knit on your needles. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks for sharing – loved reading about Sara.

    • Sara is amazing! Good to hear from you.

  • I was a colleague of Sara’s and she started a knitting group for Charity as well as teaching people to knit. We started by knitting baby hat’s, toys and washcloths. This grew to baby blankets as well. The group continues to meet and crochet has been introduced as well. Sara’s love of knitting touched so many and grew into a wonderful charity group as well! Thank you Sara!!!

    • Arlene, our knitting group at work was an inspiration to me, You and the other members are one of the reasons I set this goal of 100!

    • So much goodness and kindness comes from Sara’s needles! Great to hear about this, thank for writing.

  • Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I love knitting hats for charity and imagining the fun a child might have playing outside.

    • A child playing happily outside is such a lovely way of thinking about what a warm hat could mean on a cold day. Thank you.

  • Can anyone recommend a relatively generic hat pattern that would work mostly for kids in K-4 or 5? This is such a good idea! Especially since it’s 9 degrees outside right now! Something to “grab and go” knit all year long.

    • I always recommend knitters to own Ann Budd’s Knitter’s Book of Handy Patterns. All the patterns [hats, mittens, gloves and sweaters] include directions for a range of sizes and gauges. She also has schematics for the projects. You can easily make a hat from any yarn in any size with a little help from Ann.

  • Sarah is my knitting sensei. I’m sure I’m one of many many of her fiber acolytes. I would also love to see a photo of all the hats in one place.

    • They are lovely.

  • Something I already knew , knitters are wonderful people!❤️

    • Agreed! Warm, woolly, and wonderful.

  • This was charming, and food for thought. I was given a bunch of random yarn for Christmas. Maybe children’s hats are what it wants to be?

    • Thanks, Robin! Children’s hats is a great way to have fun with beautiful yarns, experiment with patterns and colors, in a very sustainable project. A beautiful hats that keeps a cold head warm is a noble knit.

  • My knitters guild (Puddletown Knitters Guild, Portland, OR) made 125 hats last year for an organization that gives away hats, coats, mittens, food, etc. But that was probably 75 people — to make 100 hats all by yourself is fantastic! This year it’s blankets for a women’s and children’s shelter, made from a very generous donation by Knit Picks; I can hardly wait to get started, but first…

    I’m knitting Twelve Hats, one for each chemo treatment, but it’s more to mark the END of each treatment than for purely altruistic reasons. (Nevertheless, my friends appreciate them.) I like the idea of having a big project and an ambitious goal.

    • I love the name Puddletown. What a great guild project! A big project with an ambitious goal is all relative. Twelve hats for each chemo treatment is big in heart. Best wishes, and knit on!

  • I have been blessed to discover za knitting group, From the Heart, Richmond, Virginia, there are many chapters,groups, and independent Knitters. I am an almost life long knitter, 60+ years,so I have yarn. But so do they, many donations allow them to pass the yarn along and produce various warm, wonderful itemsfor so many groups. One of the cheeriest projects is making Red Hats for newborns in all the area hospitals for Heart Month, February, 1500. What a loving, giving, group look for their website, there is another in Fredericksburg and they are very welcoming.

    • Paulette, what a great group! Thank you for telling me about them. The sight of red new born hats in February must bring a lot of cheer.

  • This post warmed my heart on a frigid morning in coastal Connecticut.

    • Thanks for writing. Stay warm!

  • I’ve been knitting hats for orphans in the Ukraine – a connection made through my brother-in-law. I haven’t done a hundred, yet, and I’m probably close to halfway there. I seem to be doing it for many of the same reasons: use up stash, quick project; I’m easily bored; kids almost anywhere need hats sooner or later. For these same reasons, I knit mittens and hats for my local Mitten Tree, sponsored by The Hen House Restaurant here in St. Helen, MI.

    • A lot has been written about Mitten Ladies, Google and you will see. I have written about them, too. We need to hear more about hat knitters! Thank you for knitting for others.

    • What a great story. I too knit hats all year for my family. When our family group got too large for me to buy Christmas presents for everyone, I decided to make hats. All year long I crochet or knit hats and put them in a large basket…about 25-30 hats. On Christmas day, I take the basket to our gathering and at gift giving time, everyone chooses a hat. It is great fun! Hats fly across the room as people try them on and pass them to others. Every one finds a hat from the youngest to the oldest, sometimes two! I wasn’t sure how this would go over the first year, but it was so successful that I could hardly wait to do it again. Now my family tells me that it is their favorite part of the day. If there are ever any spare hats, they will go to the Cancer center.

      • Brilliant! I adore this idea and I love imagining the hat session. Thank you for sharing your story.

      • What a lovely story. I can imagine the joy in your knitting, and at the distribution of your handwork by both giver and receiver. Thanks for sharing this.

      • I love this idea! Usually I try to envision what hat a particular person might like, and that bogs me down because of course I want it to perfect for that person. By making in whatever colors and patterns I see that intrigue me, the hats will actually get made, and they can pick out what THEY like. Win-win!

        • I agree. Knitting for others is a gift for the knitter too.

  • I love this! I used to work at a daycare and read your Mrs. Goldman book to my kids there. They may not have understood knitting, but I loved showing them that we can all do good for other people. Now I’m off to look up winter clothing donation programs in my area!

    • Thank you, Emily! We can all do good for others. It’;s so important to remember that. Onward!

  • Perfect story for today! — it was minus 5 degrees (before the wind chill) when I went to an appt. this morning, and I was also reminded by the news today that many people observe the ML King holiday by doing community service. Love the illustrations!–will now hunt down a copy of her “Knitter’s Home Companion” book.

    • Thanks, Lorraine. Good to hear from you! I hope you enjoy A Knitter’s Home Companion!

  • What’s amazing to me is that she had that much washable ten in her stash!

    • Amazing women often have amazing stashes. Or so it seems.

    • What a lovely story to start my day. Beautiful words and drawings.
      Thank you so much.

      • Lorraine, It’s great to hear from you about my story and illustrations. Thanks!

  • Such a heart warming story about the hundred hats! The second such one that I’ve read in the past 24 hours. I just read on Facebook yesterday about an 87 year old woman who knit 75 hats for needy children. Each hat was placed in a plastic bag and her daughter went to a park (I think in the Boston area) attached each plastic bag to a fence with a clothespin. Her intent was that any child who needed a hat could come and take one. As the story ended, there were only four or five hats left.

    • Diane, what a great story! Thanks!

  • Great story of what one woman can do. Such generosity – we all have lots of leftover yarn to keep others warm.

    • Sara inspires us all. Knit on!

  • Lovely post. Thanks

    • Good to hear from you!

  • I also started knitting hats of no particular design other than what I made up as I went. Hats are small projects that are ideal for color work, intarsia, slip-stitch, adding spangles. lace styles, bulky yarns mixed with thin, wool with acrylic. I’ve learned which needles work better with acrylic yarns or wool yarns. hats made great gifts and donations.

    • Hats can be a great knitting sandbox. I bet you have made some really beautiful hats by experimenting.

  • What a great story! What wonderful illustrations!

    • Thank you, Laura! Your comments mean a lot to me.

  • Our local stitch and bitch meets at the library twice a month. It’s full of crocheters and a couple of knitters. ( I do both.) We devote every January to knitting and crocheting donations, in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Last year, we donated 385 hats, scarves and lap blankets to the local cancer center. This year, we’re donating to the cancer center as well as two elementary schools. Hats are flying off of needles, hooks and looms. It really is a wondrous sight to see the donations pile up! I mean, the best part of knitting and crocheting is helping to keep people warm, right?!

    • Right! Wow, you are a part of really amazing group. Love the image of all those knits piling up, getting ready to serve up some warmth.

    • Whew!! Way to go!

  • Thank you for this story and for the charming illustrations! In addition to Sara’s generosity of the hats, she is incredibly giving with her time and expertise. Her passion and conviction have led her to create communities through fiber. She leads a parent crafting group with other school parents and she’s teaching middle school boys how to knit. I am so impressed by her passion for knitting, for community and for connecting her interests to larger meaning.

    • Sara is incredibly generous. I regret that in this story I could only focus on the hats. Thank you bringing in her other notable contributions.

  • Love love love the illustrations! and of course the story!

    • Thank you, Wendy! I love love love hearing your feedback!

  • Lovely article! If anyone is feeling inspired the ’52 Hat Challenge’s group on Ravelry is a very inspirational place to start!

    • Thanks, Hazel! Good suggestion.

  • I started in August 2018 and did knit about 50 hats; most went to a soup kitchen, a few to our local hospital for cancer patients, some to “hats for sailors”. Had to take a break to rest my hands, but it was very rewarding.

    • There’s something about knitting a hat for a cold head, isn’t there? I hope your hands are rested now.

  • Great article, Michelle! congratulations!

    • Thanks, Isabel! Lovely to hear from you.

  • What a wonderful story about a wonderful person! I wish I was an accomplished knitter like Sara who could make patterns up as I go! I love imagining the children being able to choose their own hat. It makes me all wooly snide . For all of those who makes hats for cancer centers, I want to say thank you. I am currently in the midst of chemo (my second time in 20 years) and there are loads of hats scattered about for anyone who might like one. I have not found “my hat” yet, but I’m on the lookout! I would really like to knit my own colorful, fun hats, but being a somewhat novice knitter I don’t know where to look. Any suggestions would be most appreciated! One last thing to note: Michelle’s illustrations are absolute perfection!

    • Thank you, Sara is a wonderful person and I felt privileged to write about her. I think Chemo hats are the hardest to knit. I think they must be a bit more than a hat to keep a head warm. I have knit many and I am always on the lookout for a great Chemo hat pattern. As for hat knitting advice I think if you could start with the most basic hat pattern, and knit one from beginning to end, getting the feel of it. Then knit another one, this time making a small change, like adding a stripe of fuzzy yarn. Hats are fairly easy to master. They are just tubes, really. I think after knitting a few, understanding how a hat functions, you will find lots of ways to innovate. I suggest as I did in another reply to a reader asking about hats, that you get a copy of Ann Budd’s Knitter’s Book of Handy Patterns. It’s a great resource and will help you along your hat journey. Be well, and all my best to you.

  • This touched my heart! I especially loved reading about the care and attention given to making the hats interesting but still wearable — as the designated collector of give-away hats at my organization I have come to realize that there is a not-so-fine line there! I wonder what I can do to improve the quality of our organization’s hats — one thing that comes to mind is donating good yarn from my stash. Superwash wool surely beats acrylic any day!

    • You are right about the fine line. There are some lovely blends and mid priced yarns out there. Another option is appealing to knitters to donate the bits and pieces in their stash — an inspiration for experimentation! Knit on!

  • Wonderful, Michelle! Happy New Year!!!

  • Michelle! Sara! MDK! You are all a balm for my soul and the world! ♡

    • Thank you! Onward!

    • Onward all of us!

  • Although I don’t live in the frigid Mid-West, there is nothing more important than a warm hat. What a wonderful person and this article just made my morning

    • There are all kinds of warmth, another knitting wonder. Thanks for writing!

  • Reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

  • Great piece and illustrations Michelle! Love the story.

    • Thanks, Kristin! Good to hear from you.

  • Michelle, I love your writing! The entire way through, I kept thinking who is this interesting person? And then I read about Sara & her generous heart. We need more positive stories in order to off-set the news today.

    A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is wonderful! We really do need hats to keep all those keppies warm.

    We also need children’s books with diverse characters. As a Reading Specialist & executive director of a non-profit whose mission is to bring free books to children living in ‘book deserts’ , I know that little ones need to see themselves in books. They need mirrors, windows (to look into other cultures,peoples, & religions) & they need doors in order to enter places previously closed to them.

    Please follow Bree’s Book Bus on all social media (website coming soon). We would love to add knitters to our supporters. Maybe we should give hats along with the books? A warm hat goes well with a warm story to warm the heart.

    • What a wonderful idea, a warm hat with a warm story.

  • I just want to a knitting class about two days ago . I started out with learning the stitch . But I can’t seem to take the stitch from one needle to the next. So can you please give me hint how to do this . I’m not going to give up. Thank you terry Mazur.

  • Hello I just wanted to say I love the story of the 100 hats and I am a fellow knitter myself trying different things. I love yarn and creating different things to give to people, this is why I know hats for a program called click for babies.

  • I sat in Knitty city watching some of Sara’s handiwork. She is not just an idea person – Sara sees her ideas through!

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