Hailey hatmaker Jytte Mau has been making hats in the Wood River Valley for more than 20 years. They have been worn at local events, by Olympians and by heli-skiing guides. They have even warmed the heads of expedition team members at far reaches of the globe, including Antarctica.
Most recently, JYTTE hats were worn by a team of astronauts circling the globe on board the International Space Station.
Mau, 65, listened to a message at her Hailey hat factory early one morning a few months ago.
“A woman said she was an astronaut and that she needed some hats,” said Mau. “I thought, sure you do, and so do your little friends playing in the backyard.”
Jytte went back to work turning died Australian merino wool into hats on computerized looms in the Airport West light-industrial area.
“Later, I got a call from Houston, Texas, asking again if some astronauts could get some hats made. I thought, OK, so this is real.”
The queries were from NASA astronaut Anne McClain, a member of Expedition 58, a group of astronauts who would soon blast off from Kazakhstan for a six-month stay on the International Space Station.
McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled on Dec. 3, entered a designated orbit in nine minutes after launch and docked at the space station about six hours later, after making four orbits of the Earth.
The crew will conduct research and experiments in biology, earth science, physical sciences and technology.
“They will be wearing my hats in space,” Mau said. “Each country’s crew member has its own design.”
It turned out that Mau was contacted by an old friend for the space hat commission. Lt. Col. Anne McClain was working as a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor some years ago when she first wore a JYTTE hat. When it came time for her crew to find some quality-designed beanies to wear in zero gravity, she knew whom to call.
“I got a picture from Anne taken in Kazakhstan, just before the launch,” Mau said.
The photograph was posted on social media, and the story picked was up by news outlets around the country.
“Then one day I saw one of the astronauts wearing my hat on ‘The Today Show,’” Mau said. “Since then, we have been very busy and I have been working some late nights filling orders.”
Mau was born in Denmark and raised in Canada. Her father was an engineer who didn’t understand her passion for skiing and the outdoors—passions that led her to ski professionally and expand on the family tradition of knitting. She has lived in the Wood River Valley for 46 years.
“When I was a kid, I took swimming lessons at the YMCA wearing a knitted wool swimsuit,” she said. “We were raised to work hard and have manners. I was required to curtsy when I met someone until I was 15 years old.”
Mau displays a wide assortment of hats in her small, by-appointment-only retail space. Examples of her work include hats made for National Geographic, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the city of Ketchum.
She also has some hats she made decades ago by hand, spending six hours on each one, before investing in home knitting machines. She now has three part-time employees working with her on computerized knitting machines that crank out custom-designed fabric that will be cut, sewn and trimmed for shipping. Logos are translated from paper to fabric, stitch by stitch, and entered into the machines by a computer program.
Wool fabric remnants are made into cat toys, fingerless mittens and pet blankets.
Mau turned the craft-making of her childhood into a successful company with extra-global reach, all based in Hailey.
“I’m not the only person around here with a great idea who’s willing to work hard,” she said. “We should encourage other entrepreneurs to come to town.”