Edmonton grandmother knits 1,000 hats for the homeless

Jane Van Zyll Langhout, 85, uses her knitting skills to give back to the community.

Touques donated as part of the Share the Warmth Campaign

Jane Van Zyll Langhout knitted 1,000 hats for charity this year. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC )

Jane Van ZyllLanghout, an 85-year-old grandmother, first learned to knit as a young girl in Holland, but when her husband passed away 25 years ago, she committed herself to her craft full time.

“It [got] really lonely, and then I started knitting. I did it for the neighbourhood mostly,” she said.

Now, she knits every day.

“I could almost do it with my eyes closed” she said. “Touques are easy to make … and the older I get the more I like to sit down.”

For the second year in a row, she is using her talent and passion to give back, donating 1,000 hand-knit touques to the Share the Warmth Campaign.

To prepare for this year’s donation, Van Zyll Langhout spent about eight hours every day knitting, usually completing three hats a day.

The campaign was first started by retired NAIT teacher Gordon Smith 10 years ago when he heard there was a need for socks in the homeless community.

Wanting to help, Smith asked around for donations.

“All of a sudden I got two or three pairs of socks. Then 50 pairs, then 500 pairs – and then all of a sudden I’m in the sock business,” he said.

Since then, Share the Warmth has expanded to include socks, scarves, mittens and touques – all of which are donated to shelters across the city.

This year, the campaign has also gathered more than 2,000 warm clothing items for Edmonton’s homeless.

When asked if she was going to take a break from knitting after making her donation, Van Zyll Langhout smiled.

“I already made 20 other ones at home, after this.”

  • On mobile? You can see how much yarn Van Zyll Langhout used here