Reprinted with permission from The Watrous Manitou

By Daniel Bushman

As the Christmas season approached, a myriad of colourful mini toques and booties took up residence on Lois Fedrau’s counter in her Watrous condominium. However, it was not long after that the carefully constructed creations headed off to another destination: the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Saskatoon.

 Helping out: Watrous resident, Lois Fedrau has been creating mini toques and booties for premature babies at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

Helping out: Watrous resident, Lois Fedrau has been creating mini toques and booties for premature babies at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Photo by Daniel Bushman

With a pattern etched in her mind and knitting needles delicately maneuvering in sync, Fedrau has spent many hours knitting the delicate attire for premature babies. The grandmother usually creates a couple of batches  and then heads to Royal University Hospital where she drops them off.

“I wanted to get 15 and take them in for Christmas,” said Fedrau. “I think the last batch I took in was 17 or 18 toques so I have probably knit around 60 altogether. Then I knit little boots, sleepers and blankets and stuff like that. Whenever I have what I figure is a useful batch then I take them to RUH.”

Fedrau got involved with knitting the mini items for babies after her daughter Wendy mentioned the idea. “I asked someone if they knew of a certain size they wanted and someone in town said they had a book . . . the toque pattern in the book was even smaller than what I do but I made up my own pattern and the hospital staff said they were really good. It is hard to believe a head can fit into those small toques.”

The toques open to just five inches and fit over a baby’s head while the booties are tiny, with an adult being able to slip one finger in.

“Once I started and saw how much it was appreciated, I just kept on going,” said Fedrau.

Recently Lois had her picture posted on Facebook along with her creations and the 85-year-old said she received numerous comments from that.

“I got about 1,200 remarks on Facebook. I had knit a red toque and this woman said she had gotten a red toque last Christmas. After getting all of those comments on the toques, it was something that kind of thrills you that it is appreciated.”

Fedrau said one lady told her she had a premature baby and bought a shadow box to put his toque, little outfit and boots he wore from the hospital in.

“She said she was really proud of those.”

Fedrau recently knit a batch before Christmas, including a few with festive colours. The creations have been enjoyed and valued by those in the NICU in Saskatoon.

Fedrau recently knit a batch before Christmas, including a few with festive colours. The creations have been enjoyed and valued by those in the NICU in Saskatoon. Photo by Daniel Bushman

Lois receives wool from people and also finds other material where she can.

“I get flannelette, the type you wrap your baby in when they are real small and like to be snuggled up in. Some people donated wool. My niece decided she wasn’t going to knit so she gave me two huge balls of pink. I will have enough to knit some afghans with that. My sister used to knit and knit but she got sick and passed away. Her daughter knit a lot but quit knitting and gave me some wool. I have also got wool from Maggie Chamney and others.”

Knitting is not something new for the mother of five and said “we have a mitten tree at the church and I have knit piles of mitts for it and scarves. They hand them out to kids around town. My own kids I knit for as well. I have a grandson who is always losing mitts so he usually gets some when he comes. I keep knitting some and they keep disappearing.”

During the holiday season, she tries to make red and green toques to go with Christmas. Fedrau said she enjoys knitting during the evening. “I can make a toque a day but I don’t try to. It is not really hard to but is something to do in the evening. I will do it as long as I am able to knit.”

One of those involved with the NICU is family liason nurse at Royal University Hospital Brenda Andreychuk. Andreychuk said having a baby in NICU can often be traumatic for all involved and some babies can be at the unit for lengthy periods of time. Receiving donations like the one from Fedrau has provided a bit of a pick me up during that time.

“Our families are going through a very stressful time when they have a sick or premature infant in our NICU. I think the colourfulness of the hats just provide some comfort for the families. We do use them and when the families can hold their infants outside of the incubator, we usually use them so that the babies keep their temperature. A lot of times the hats end up becoming a beautiful keepsake for that family because they may fit into a small one initially, as their baby grows and develops and is able to go home they usually like to keep those for a keepsake.”

Andreychuk said the unit really appreciates Fedrau’s kindness and her generosity.

“She is thinking of our babies in our unit so it is being very thoughtful.”

The nurse said they take toque donations from people and always go through the hats. “It is amazing. They are much appreciated and just the talent and the fact that they are thinking of us because everyone is busy and it is something we can’t do. The parents really do appreciate the touch of something more normal to a baby than rather having a baby in intensive care with all the wires and tubes. Being able to dress their infant is comforting to them.”

Andreychuk added, “We appreciate it and are grateful for these types of donations and families really appreciate it as well.”