KENTVILLE, N.S. – Wearing an octopus on her head is not only about keeping warm, it’s about making a statement.
All it takes is whimsy and yarn for Kentville crafter Stella Middleton to bring her crocheted hats to life. She’s made dozens of hats, but it’s her first hat that remains her most-loved – a brown and bright orange octopus that sits proudly on her head when she steps outside in the winter.
Crocheting has become a hobby Middleton says has given her a voice after years of feeling voiceless as a result of matters relating to mental health.
“I felt invisible, like I didn't exist, that no matter how loud I screamed no one heard or saw me. The octopus hat tells people I exist without speaking,” she says.
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Middleton started crocheting four years ago, after wanting to gift homemade items to her grandchildren at Christmas. She taught herself to make hats and scarves with online tutorials and picked it up quickly, so quickly she soon tired of plain designs and found herself wanting another challenge.
She then found a pattern for an octopus hat, and says she was hooked instantly.
“I’ve always been a little strange, and I love the out-of-the-ordinary, so as soon as I saw the octopus, I was sold,” says Middleton.
Combining creativity with colour, Middleton has crocheted designs including unicorns, whales, crocodiles and elves. She sells her hats to customers and also donates many to charity, and sometimes sees people walking outside in Kentville wearing one of her creations.
Most hats begin as five separate pieces which are then stitched together, but her octopus required all eight tentacles to be crocheted separately, along with each individual sucker, its eyes and its mantle – all of which took six hours.
“I isolate, so when I do that, I have my crocheting and my painting and that’s what helps me – it’s how I can still talk, without having to be around people,” says Middleton.
“It’s got to be different; I like being different.”
Middleton says crafting – she also paints at art-therapy classes – is the only outlet she’s found to help her focus and destress. And even beyond that, she feels her hats have given her a sense of confidence.
Middleton wears her loud hats proudly – and with purpose. She is making a statement.
“At first I was a little bit nervous – because you know, I’m an older woman wearing an octopus on my head – but then I thought, you know, I just don’t care, and I just went for it,” she says.
“It’s very much about speaking out.”
To reach Stella Middleton, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.