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Capping a life of giving

Twylah Stewart's busy hands turn out dozens of knit caps for all occasions
by: Jonathan House, West Slope neighbor Twylah Stewart, 94, knits hundreds of caps and scarves every year to donate to Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s annual Toy and Joy program. She’s already completed about 40 for children as well as all of the knitted creations she plans to send to friends for Christmas.

Twylah Stewart's hands are always in motion, transforming colorful hunks of yarn into warm gifts for others in the community she has called home since 1949.

Every year the 94-year-old West Slope neighbor knits hundreds of caps, scarves, ascots and kerchiefs that she gives to people she knows and others who she will never meet.

Some of her handcrafted creations are set-aside for friends and loved ones in South Dakota and Nebraska.

Others are specially made for her daughter Nancy Stewart to give to her circle of friends.

But the majority of her caps and scarves are lovingly made to be added to gift boxes for needy children through Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue's annual Toy and Joy program.

In 2006, she donated 132 caps and several matching scarves to the fire district.

'I consider these my gift to charity each and every year,' said Twylah as she held up a few caps from the 30 or 40 she's already completed for Christmas 2007. 'I think it's an elaborate, good gift that is a big help to the firemen.'

For the past eight years, the fire district's Toy and Joy Committee has come to anticipate the arrival of Twylah's homemade gifts.

Knowing that her caps and scarves will brighten someone's holiday season gives Twylah joy.

'They make marvelous gifts,' she admitted.

Her daughter Nancy agreed.

'They look like hats that fancy ladies would wear, and they almost feel like velvet,' Nancy said as she modeled a few of her favorites. 'They're also so warm.'

Whip up something

During the years, Twylah's giving spirit has inspired neighbors, friends and family members to contribute to her knitting enterprise by keeping her yarn supply well stocked throughout the year.

'I use anything - whatever comes along,' Twylah said. 'Any yarn that is given to me, I knit.

'I just whip something up. Whatever comes to my mind as I'm knitting, that's what I do. With one ball of yarn, I can make four caps.'

Whether the caps will sport one color, two colors or have stripes, designs, sparkles or fringe, Twylah lets her mood determine what each new project will become.

'I can do marvelous things with Fun Fur,' she admitted.

Twylah taught herself to knit in 1948, after turning down an old neighbor who once offered to teach her the craft.

'I crocheted at the time and thought I could crochet anything that she could knit,' Twylah recalled.

When that same neighbor showed up one day with a colorful pair of argyle socks with bright red diamonds, Twylah was hooked.

'I remember seeing those socks and thinking I'll teach myself to knit,' she said. 'That was something I could not do, and I thought those socks were really charming.

'The small diamonds on those socks were so fascinating. I knew I just had to knit. I went and bought a book to learn how because I didn't dare ask her to teach me.'

Since then, knitting has become a creative outlet and interest for the woman who can't stand to be idle.

'I work all the time,' Twylah said. 'I can't just sit.

'It would just bug me. I've never been able to just sit.'

Hitting the streets

In the past, she's earned a reputation as a talented seamstress, ceramic artist, teacher and cook.

She's also been known to be a mover and shaker in the West Slope neighborhood.

'I have enthusiasm about almost everything,' Twylah said.

She was active in convincing her neighbors to annex into Beaverton rather than Portland.

She also walked door-to-door to get support for building a new school in the neighborhood.

'I decide what I think is right or wrong and walk the streets getting a petition signed,' she explained. 'I have remarkable neighbors.'

Twylah enjoys keeping an eye on her neighborhood and sits in a chair by her living room window while she knits her treasures.

'I've got to be able to look out and see what's going on,' Twylah said.