Skip to content

Toques destined for DTES, a gift of warmth made by Maple Ridge students

A group of 20 students at Laity View Elementary made 85 toques for people living in poverty

The toque.

A knitted winter hat, usually with some sort of pompom on the top, is an item many of us have in our closets to wear when the winter weather turns cold.

But many Canadians don’t have that luxury – many who live on the streets, who don’t have closets, who can’t afford the proper attire to stay warm on winter days.

So, some students in Maple Ridge used their skills in loom knitting to make toques for those living in one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods.

A group of 20 Grade 6/7 students at Laity View Elementary used round looms to knit more than 85 hats which will be distributed to people on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The idea started probably eight years ago with our past principal, Shelley Linton,” explained Grade 6/7 teacher and organizer Kirsten Bailey. “We were watching some videos and learning how to loom knit using round looms and we enjoyed it so much we thought we’d buy a class set of looms for our school and I started using the looms to knit hats with my class.”

The project also fit well with the curriculum of Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies.

Donations of wool made to the school over the year were used to make the hats.

A few of the students already knew how to knit the hats, as they were in the class last year, and those students were able to teach the others who were new to the skill.

“The Friday before we started the project some kids were so excited that they taught the rest of the class so when I came back on Monday, prepared to teach, they already had started knitting and they were all doing pretty well,” said Bailey, noting the students were given class time for the project and were able to devote the afternoons to knitting and even take home the looms to finish up their work if they ran out of time.

RELATED: Beyond Hello: 10 years and counting for Maple Ridge principal

For students who picked up loom knitting fast, they could create a hat in two to three hours, but most students made on average one hat a week over the two week period they were working on the project.

This year they made a total of 85 toques, with one or two still possibly to add to the total, breaking last year’s record of 77 winter hats.

School principal Kristi Blakeway, who runs a project called Beyond Hello where she takes high school students to the Downtown Eastside to help people connect with loved ones through Christmas cards and letters home, will take the hats with her to hand out.

ALSO: Maple Ridge principal receives provincial award for helping others

The project is done on the heels of a global issues unit for the students’ social studies class where one of the themes students examine is the issue of poverty and how to help people living in hardship in the community.

“So this is a nice way for us to be able to do something,” said Bailey.

“It’s calming for my students. It’s got lots of fine motor aspects but it’s a way for us – right before Christmas – to be doing something for others and thinking about more than just presents,” confided the teacher.

Mostly, though, it’s really important for Bailey to find opportunities for her students to give back in a safe and comfortable way. And this project has an immediate impact that helps others feel thought of and cared for, she said.

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
Read more