ANDERSON — Knit one, purl two. Or was that knit two, purl one? With no less than 1,600 hats behind her, it’s a mystery how Carolyn Riley manages to keep track. The woman doesn’t leave home without her knitting needles.
“That is my waiting time and my navigational time,” said Riley. That means that if she’s in a waiting room, she’s knitting. And while her husband of 51 years, Rich, is driving, she navigates while she knits.
She rarely knits at home, so her knitting supplies are gathered in a big bag, ready to go with her out the door. Inside the bag are her bamboo needles, circularly connected with nylon.
“I never know how long I’m going to have to sit and wait,” said Riley.
Riley, 73, remembers knitting in her teens. Born and raised on a Grant County farm, her mother taught her the craft. Once she started, she was on a roll. By the time she graduated from high school in Fairmount, her knitting career was launched, including sweaters, baby blankets, hats and scarves.
“She knitted me a sweater when I was about 20,” husband Rich recalled the bright red sweater that didn’t quite fit.
“I ended up ripping that sweater out and making something else with it,” Riley said, laughing.
Nowadays, Riley mostly knits caps — a lot of them. She launched her charitable cap effort in 2005.
“I saw an article in a magazine about chemo caps,” said Riley. “I went online and got the pattern.”
Riley knitted up about a hundred hats. A friend from church, Belinda Gillaspey, was a nurse in the outpatient oncology unit at St. John's (now St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital). Riley approached her to see if the hospital patients undergoing chemotherapy could use the caps. Riley's been making deliveries ever since.