Janine Volkmar, Mad River Union / @ 7:38 a.m. / Our Culture

Meet a Humboldt Pussy Hat Artist


MEOW! Nancy Reichart wore one of Leblanc’s hats to the Eureka Women’s March. Photo by Janine Volkmar | Union.

A local woman has been making crocheted cat hats for years. With the current movement for wearing pink pussy hats as a political statement, her production has catapulted into overtime.

Lauraine Leblanc’s crocheted hats are now purring all over the country. 

Her hat-making frenzy was spurred by the Pussy Hat Project (pussyhatproject.com), and initiative co-founded by fellow Californians Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman. The mission of the project was to provide attendees of the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington D.C. “a means to make a unique collective visual statement which will help activists be better heard.” 

The impetus behind the inititive was to reclaim the term President Trump used in an infamous 2005 live-mic recording, in which he claimed to sexually assault women by grabbing their genitals.

Like many women, Leblanc got mad, then she got busy. “I made about a dozen pink hats that I sent off to D.C. with local women who went for the march,” she said. 

But Leblanc, an artist, published author, activist and editor of the Scene section of the Mad River Union, didn’t stop there. 

“After I donated hats to the D.C. crew, I still had some overstock from the last craft fair I did, so I brought them to SCRAP Humboldt and put them up for sale in the (Re)Boutique.”

SCRAP Humboldt, the innovative creative reuse depot in Arcata, sold all 20 hats in five days. 

“My entire share of the proceeds goes directly to Planned Parenthood,” Leblanc explained, “so we made $240 for them that week alone. Even after the march, I’ll keep making hats and selling them through SCRAP Humboldt to benefit Planned Parenthood.” 

Leblanc calculates that, in the past decade, she has made over 1,000 kitty hats. “I produce hats like a cat horks up hairballs,” she said. “One day alone, I made five hats. I have to be careful not to injure my carpal tunnel, so now I try to keep it down to two per day.”

Leblanc’s hats are all crochet, which her grandma Claire and her mom, Terrie, taught her. It took her a couple of years to perfect her pattern, with its distinctive earflaps and long braided ties with uneven ends. Many of her hats have fun fur trim around the ears and brim, though, she said, she did make one pink pussy hat with plain trim, “to represent hairless pussies too.”

Wearing one of Leblanc’s hats is an experience, as this writer can attest. Responses from passersby range from startled looks, Cheshire Cat-like smiles and happy comments. Sometimes people just walk up and meow, which can be disconcerting if you have forgotten you’re wearing it. Many ask where to get one.

Most of Leblanc’s hats are made of remnant yarn she gets at SCRAP Humboldt, where she  volunteers, aptly, maintaining the yarn section. 

It takes her a couple of hours to make a hat. She makes them during the winter months while “binge-watching sci-fi shows.”

Leblanc’s all-female household includes two dogs but no cats. Leblanc says she prefers to admire cats “from a safe distance.”

“My wife is very supportive,” she added. “Sometimes I lean my elbow on her while I crochet. She graciously tolerates being covered in balls of yarn while I work and even chases them when they fall off the couch. Meow!”

Keep an eye out for cat hat sightings but remember that they may look different from those pictured here. 

“Every pink pussy hat I make is different,” Leblanc said, “because no two pussies are the same.”

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Janine Volkmar writes for the Mad River Union. Subscribe here.


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