The message Samantha Mutschler received from the mother was heartbreaking, but it still brought a bittersweet smile to her face: “The only reason we could have an open casket was because of your hat.”
Mutschler is on a childhood cancer crusade, crocheting hats to cover as many little bald heads as her time and money allows. Through Unraveled by Samantha Dawn, Mutschler takes requests from the parents of ill children and then finds yarn in the appropriate colors, grabs her hook and starts creating.
In just three years, the Winter Garden resident has fashioned 164 made-to-order hats for children as young as 6 months old and as far away as Holland and Australia. She has crocheted hats that look like cats, turtles, monkeys and sharks, as well as characters such as Superman, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, Minions and SpongeBob SquarePants. Her recent creations resemble the long hair and braids of most of the Disney Princesses.
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It hit Mutschler pretty hard when she learned Katie Karp, now a West Orange High School junior, was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 12. Katie had been in day care with Mutschler’s mother, so she had known the young teen for most of her life.
Wanting to do something that would comfort her young friend, Mutschler made a fleece tie-knot blanket for her. One blanket became two, then three, then four, and soon, she was making blankets for multiple children at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children through Katie’s Kause, a non-profit organization that brings encouragement to kids with cancer.
In 2013, she bought a crochet book and started crocheting hats to give with the blankets. The first ones were simply designed, like an M&M’s hat in a bold color with a white M in front. As she got better with the crochet hook, her designs became more intricate, and she was making her own patterns. After she began posting photos on her Facebook page, her hats became popular, and requests starting coming in from not only the United States but also from all over the world.
When Mutschler talks to the parents, she gathers specific details about the child so she can personalize the hat. She also tries to send something extra in the care package, maybe a Mickey Mouse doll to accompany the Mickey hat. If a girl requests a Disney princess hat, Mutschler might buy a princess dress or shoes to go with it.
Her creativity took a turn when she received a request to design a winter hat to match Rapunzel’s dress but couldn’t find the right purple yarn. She came up with a pattern and changed the hat to a princess’ wig.
Jalene Salinas shows off her Care Bears doll crocheted by Samantha Mutschler.EYE FOR DETAILS
It takes about a week for Mutschler, 24, to complete one hat, depending on the amount of detail required. She enjoys making the Rapunzel hat, with its yellow cap and long, one-sided braid. She crochets individual flowers that are attached to the braid, and then she glues on faux crystals for sparkle.
If a girl wants a brown-haired Rapunzel hat, she’ll make that happen, too. She once crocheted a hat with blue braids when she learned a teenager had dyed her hair blue after her cancer diagnosis. Her new hat matched the hair that eventually fell out once treatments started.
Mutschler is always on the lookout for yarn on sale. She estimates it costs about $20 for each hat. She has a GoFundMe fundraising page set up, and her mother and a few of her friends help support the crocheter’s passion.
Her latest endeavor is to make dolls to accompany the hats she sends to children. She recently crocheted a Care Bears doll for a little girl at Give Kids the World.
“It brings joy to them; it brings joy to me,” Mutschler said. “I know I’m doing what God wants me to do. My dream is to one day see a team of ladies working for me in getting more hats out to these precious warriors.”
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