Friday, August 27, 2004

Bonnets and booties, oh my!

Valley woman knits for newborns


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

Lucille Pruitt, a prolific knitter, stitches bonnets and booties for newborns at St. Luke?s Wood River Medical Center. Express photos by Megan Thomas

At 81 years old, Lucille Pruitt breaks records almost every day. Armed with her knitting needles, the Hailey resident has knitted a record number of bonnets and booties for newborn babies at St. Luke?s Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum.

At last count, Pruitt completed 1,030 sets of booties and bonnets for newborn babies, donating 10,047.5 volunteers hours to the hospital.

?Mine go like wildfire,? she said.

The hospital gives the matching bonnet and booties to babies born at the hospital. The sets are made by a group of eight volunteers in the valley.

Pruitt?s prolific contributions recently earned her the hospital?s 2003-2004 Volunteer Service Award. The award recognized the 9,000 plus volunteer hours Pruitt donated to the hospital last year with a butterfly embossed purse.

?The person closest to me has 2,500 hours. Nobody can catch me,? she remarked.

She carefully keeps track of her hours in a handwritten log she keeps for the hospital. Recently she broke 10,000 lifetime hours as a volunteer knitter for the hospital.

?She knits far more than the rest of the knitters,? said Nancy Mulroney, manager of volunteer services at St. Luke?s.

Despite the mass quantity, the set of bonnets and booties are anything but mass-produced.

?If I sit all day, I can do one set a day,? Pruitt said.

The sets come in baby blue, light pink, white and mixed pastels colors. Handmade pom-poms decorate each carefully checkered bonnet. She also knits larger bonnets than those made by some of the other volunteers so that the babies do not immediately outgrow the hats.

?The babies can wear them for a long time,? she said.

Pruitt knits the booties with a collection of different stitches.

?I knit with three needles, there are no seams in mine,? she explained.

Pruitt learned to knit with the three-needle technique, which enables her to complete the sets without any seams.

?Some people think it?s more difficult. I get the stitches on three needles and just go,? she said.

The valley?s prolific knitter began stitching when she was 7 years old while living in Canada.

?My friend?s mother was a beautiful knitter,? Pruitt remembered. ?She taught me how to knit.?

Although she doesn?t remember her first knitting creation, Pruitt does recall completing a blue turtleneck sweater when she was just 7 years old.

?It?s one of those things I have done all of my life,? she remarked casually. ?I?ve knit for so many years I don?t have to stop and think.?

These days Pruitt owns a cedar chest packed with coats, skirts and sweaters she has made for herself throughout the years.

?When I wear them out, people can?t believe I knit all of those things,? she said.

When she isn?t knitting, Pruitt takes a daily walk for exercise. It is also her chance to chat with new mothers and make sure each newborn received a handmade creation.




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