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One cap a day

Knitting to help cancer patients

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 4/8/23

Miriam Carrick likes to help out in her own way — by knitting caps for patients at Sarah Cannon Cancer Center.

With her talent, she said she’s knitted 2,541 caps (most of which take …

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One cap a day

Knitting to help cancer patients


Miriam Carrick likes to help out in her own way — by knitting caps for patients at Sarah Cannon Cancer Center.

With her talent, she said she’s knitted 2,541 caps (most of which take her a day or more to make).

She got started one day while visiting the cancer center and carrying a dishrag in her hand which she was working on. One of the attendees noticed and gave Miriam one of their cap patterns. The rest is history.

“I felt like I’m doing something to help somebody. I’m sorry that there’s that many people that need them,” she said. “I’m just glad I can still knit.”

A forgotten skill

Miriam learned to knit at the early age of eight, from her paternal grandmother. She holds up a small blue and white sock in a plastic bag — her very first knitting project. It’s a testament to her coming from a “crafty family,” most of whom could crochet, knit, or tat.

Miriam was raised on a farm on Normandy Road, where she helped shuck corn, drive the tractor, and plant tobacco in her bare feet. She said she was the “go-getter,” always running back and forth from the shop to bring her dad or grandfather a tool.

And though farm work taught her a good work ethic, it didn’t interest her. “I lived on a farm, and I knew it was hard work,” she said.

Instead, it was Shirley Temple she wanted to see. Being the star of the screen at that time, Miriam recalls running out to the field to ask her dad if they could go to the movies to watch Miss Shirley dance on the big screen.

“If we get through in time,” he would reply. So, Miriam would rush back inside and shell the corn, gather the eggs, and do everything she could to get ready. But, as farm life would have it, her dad wouldn’t be done until dark.

“And I’d cry and cry,” she said.

She went to a one-room, where all eight grades were together. But before Miriam graduated from Wartrace High School, her family moved to Oklahoma City where her father took on a new job.

It was also in Oklahoma where Miriam met her first husband, David, at a Sunday School event for the Leap Year. After going each other’s way for a while, they were finally married when she was 19.

That was during the “war years” of the Second World War and a time when clothing was hand-sewn and socks knitted by hand. Miriam remembers cloth was scarce and expensive, so she would buy feed sacks — which were made of decent cloth — to make her husband’s shorts.

It was the economical way to make clothing, especially since her husband made $18.75 a week in those days.

Miriam and her family stayed in Oklahoma City until 1948, when they moved back to Bedford to the “old homeplace.” However, the farm’s main house was burned by vandals, according to Miriam, who could only remember that they “took everything but the kitchen sink.”

Always one with a knack for math, Miriam went on to work as the engineer’s clerk for Model Sportswear — which made men’s jackets — until she took on the responsibility to take care of her parents fulltime.

She and her second husband also opened Scotty’s on the Shelbyville Historic Square; it was a “variety store” that sold everything from toothpaste to sewing thread. However, they closed the store after franchises, like Walmart, made buying toiletries faster and cheaper.

Then and now

Looking back, losing many of these mom-and-pop stores is just one of the many ways Shelbyville and its people have changed over the years.

But as the world changes, Miriam continues to do her part — on cap at a time.  

Like the days of her youth, using yarn collected through the years or in small bits, every stitch is done by hand. Every stitch means something when a mother hands Miriam a ball of yarn for her to knit a cap for her son who’s going through chemo. Or when Miriam makes sure to make a cap extra-long so a patient’s ears can stay warm through the cold months. Many are reminded of their mothers or grandmothers when they see the brightly-colored patterns of Miriam’s caps.

For now, she plans to continue knitting caps as long as she is able. “Because that’s about all I get done,” she said with a laugh.