October 20, 2018
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This Mainer knits ‘crazy hats’ to inspire ‘childhood whimsy’ for adults and kids

Don’t be surprised if you see Yoda walking the streets of Bangor this winter. Or a hedgehog shoveling out a walkway. Or a Viking warrior driving to work.

It’s all thanks to Kathy Norwood, a craftswoman from Bar Harbor who knits unusual hats and sells them at Maine Jewelry & Art in downtown Bangor. From one-eyed monsters to baby owls, the characters she creates are both eye-catching and warm. And when you put one on, it’s impossible not to smile.

“You give me a flurry, and I’m in business,” Norwood said Friday, as she sewed eyes and ears onto a particularly furry hat, transforming it into a hedgehog.

Her small business, A Bee in My Bonnet, participates in up to 10 craft shows throughout the state each year, and in addition, she’s sold her hats at Maine Jewelry & Art for about three years now.

“They’re just so unique and have a character all of their own,” said Amanda Coburn, co-owner of the Bangor shop. “What I like about them the most is they’re not just for kids, because I feel like for adults, life can get a little serious sometimes, so I think it’s good to keep the childhood whimsy alive.”

Though Norwood makes the hats in all sizes, they were first inspired by kids — her own grandchildren, in fact.

Norwood, who grew up on Mount Desert Island, has been knitting since she was 4 years old, when she began to learn the traditional craft under the tutelage of her great-aunt Margaret. But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago, when Norwood’s first granddaughter was born, that her creations became increasingly fanciful and playful.

“It’s just so fun to match their personalities with crazy hats,” Norwood said.

Now a decade later, she has four grandchildren and seven grand nieces and nephews, and she knits hats for them all.

Recently retired after 42 years of working at the Jackson Lab, Norwood is finding she now has more time to get creative. This past holiday season, she supplied the Bangor store with a new creation: a green hat with big goofy ears, which is unmistakably the character Yoda. Since then, at least 10 customers have walked out the door wearing the Star Wars-themed accessory. The shop has difficult time keeping it in stock.

Norwood finishes about a hat a day, and the hats vary in price from $12 to $49, depending on the size, design and material used.

Earlier this month, Norwood got a special order for a hedgehog hat — another top seller — for a person who specifically wants to wear it while shoveling, perhaps to bring some joy to the monotonous task. And last week, Norwood began making her first Pikachu, a cute creature from the Japanese cartoon and game Pokeman. The bright yellow hat was a special order for a woman who has leukemia and has lost her hair in radiation therapy.

Norwood’s most expensive hat, the Viking, is felted creation, made to look like a traditional metal Viking helmet with horns curving up and out from both sides. And despite the price, it’s long been her bestseller.

“I’ve sold them to skiers, motorcycle people, a third-grade teacher — she told me she puts it on in the morning for her car ride to work and it gets her ready to do her job,” Norwood said.

Indeed, presiding over a classroom full of 8-year-olds may take the courage and energy of a Viking warrior.

Then there are Minnesota Vikings fans.

“These big burly guys you’ve never think would wear a hat with horns come in for these,” Norwood said. “And they walk out with the biggest grins on their faces.”

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