Yampa She's lived in Yampa for three and a half years, but Karen Tussey still gets emotional when she tells the story about what first brought her to the quiet South Routt town and what she saw when she got there.
Tussey prefaces her story by explaining that her husband, Doug, was working for Union Pacific Railroad and was used to stopping in Yampa on his way from Denver. She said Doug used to tell her about the beauty of the valley, and one day he brought her up to see it.
"Before we came up, I had this dream. I had a dream there was a beautiful valley, and the sheep and geese were singing in an orchestra. When we finally came through Wolcott and over Red Dirt Pass, everything was just like my dream, except the animals weren't singing," she said.
"I started crying, and I cried for about two and a half hours after that. I knew then that is where I belong."
Karen persuaded Doug to move from their Arvada home of 18 years to a small mountain town four hours away.
However, Karen soon learned that living in Routt County isn't quite the same as living on the Front Range.
"I realized that I needed warmth living up here. I needed a hat with a wide brim," she said.
Already artistic, Karen ex----panded her practice of acrylic painting and crocheting to include knitting hats.
"I've always crocheted, but I've never been a knitter. It's always cramped my hands. However, I love hats, I've always worn hats, so I started making hats," she said.
Teaming up with her daughter-in-law, Katy, Karen started KK Wools a little more than a year ago -- first to make hats for herself and then later to sell them.
"People fell in love with them," she said.
Karen's hats are made of 85 percent wool and 15 percent mohair, which make the hats fuzzy, she said.
Karen began making the hats in single colors but now combines colors and alters hats to match her customers' ages and lifestyles.
Karen said she sells hats to older women, young women and even snowboarders.
"I can custom build anything," she said.
The hats are thick and sturdy and come in a variety of brim styles, from wavy and flexible to tight and rolled.
"These hats are even watertight," she said laughing. "You could haul water in them if you needed to."
Karen said her felted and multi-colored hats cost between $55 and $85. A solid-colored hat costs $65.
In her short time in the hat business, Karen has appeared at arts and craft fairs in Steamboat Springs and Yampa, although her ultimate goal is to turn one of the many rooms in her two-story antique Yampa home into a co-op for Northwest Colorado artists and producers.
"I'd like to see artists who paint, work with jewelry, leather or other crafts, come together in this space so we could all work here a few days a week," she said.
In addition to painting and making hats, Karen is a Yampa Town Board trustee, secretary of the South Routt Economic Development Council and a member of the Routt County Economic Development Council.
She also has been involved in planning Yampa's centennial celebration in April.
"It's a great life. I feel totally fortunate. Everything I do is very rewarding," she said.