Red toques top off the traditional look at Festival du Voyageur and if you look closely during the 10 day winter festival, you might be able to spot a very special collection of handmade hats.
Every year, 50 limited edition toques are sold at the festival. Each one is knitted by members of the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba.
“We have other red toques available but these are very, very special,” said Darrel Nadeau, executive director of Festival du Voyageur.
The red toques have a long tapered peak that folds over onto the shoulder with a playful pompom at the tip.
Months of work goes into getting the 50 special toques ready for the festival.
“We hope that people cherish these toques and get to know the story,” Nadeau said.
Volunteers start working on them during the summer months to ensure the annual order is complete by February.
“The ladies who do the toques regularly can do maybe half a toque a day,” said Beverly Dunlop, a member of the knitting group at the Stroke Recovery Association.
There are several individuals who knit items that are sold to raise money for the association — everything from scarves and socks to dish cloths.
But there are only two women who currently knit the red toques sold at Festival du Voyageur.
Dunlop says she started knitting for her family before she had a stroke. After discovering the knitting group at the Stroke Recovery Association, she decided to try her hands at the hobby again.
“I started doing more things in the round. I did neck warmers instead of scarves, I did all kinds of work that kept my fingers going.”
Money raised through the sale of the knitted items is used to keep the association running.
The centre offers a variety of programs for stroke survivors and their families, including art, games, exercise classes and camaraderie.