LAKE STEVENS — For the past 10 years, Vicki Wahl has knitted scarves for teachers, seniors in nursing homes and unsheltered people.
On Thursday, she delivered 175 of them to the Snohomish County Department of Human Services.
“I love to knit,” Wahl said. “I do that almost all day long and then I stay up late at night.”
Wahl, 78, said anyone is welcome to the scarves, but the vast majority go to people who are homeless. Typically, Wahl makes one big donation every year before Snohomish County conducts the Annual Point-in-Time Count. It’s a convenient deadline, said her son, Andrew Wahl.
“She’s tried to use the Point-in-Time Count as a go-to every year,” Andrew Wahl said. “Homelessness has been such an increasing problem in Snohomish County. When she was growing up here, you didn’t see that.”
The Point-in-Time Count is how the county estimates the number of people who are homeless. The most recent was in 2020. It documented 1,226 people who were unsheltered or lacked permanent housing. The next count is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 22, after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
Vicki Wahl donated her first batch of scarves 10 years ago, when she worked at Tom Thumb Grocery in Lake Stevens. A coworker asked her to donate some for a charity drive. She made about 25.
Since then, it has become an annual tradition. Vicki Wahl looks for organizations that can give the scarves to people without homes. The number of scarves she knits keeps growing, though. Vicki Wahl knitted and donated about 70 scarves last year. She knitted more in 2021, because she found herself with extra time during the pandemic. She has already started knitting scarves to donate next year.
“I just love it,” said Mandy Jeffcott, a community services counselor for the county who collected the donation. “It’s nice just knowing that there are people out there who care and who are thinking of other people.”
Each scarf takes about a day or two to knit. Vicki Wahl mixes up the sizes and colors to keep it interesting.
“I don’t want to get bored with one color,” she said.
Vicki Wahl’s husband, who died in 2016, used to bring her yarn he found at garage sales. Andrew Wahl said his father “worked the garage sale scene like crazy.”
“Dad used to be a garage saler and he would get in trouble for bringing stuff home,” Andrew Wahl said. “They finally came up with a deal that he could bring her yarn to turn into scarves. It brought some harmony to the home.”
Andrew Wahl said people often donated yarn, after his father told them about the scarves. Vicki Wahl still has some leftover yarn her husband brought back.
She has knitted other items, like blankets for herself and her children, but they’re more time consuming. She prefers scarves. Vicki Wahl doesn’t remember the first thing she ever made, but guessed it was a scarf. One of her sisters taught her how to knit about 50 years ago.
“A bright scarf sometimes makes your day,” she said.
Katie Hayes is a Report for America corps member and writes about issues that affect the working class for The Daily Herald.