95-year-old Kentucky woman knit 4,000 hat to honor her late daughter

Published 6:00 am Saturday, May 15, 2021

Five years shy of her 100th birthday, Louisville resident Marie Vessels doesn’t get around as easily as when she was younger. But the arthritis that bothers her knees and ankles seems to miraculously have bypassed her hands, wrists and fingers.

“When I see my priest at St. Paul Church he always asks, ‘Marie are your fingers still working?‘” said Vessels. And the answer is “yes” — all 10 digits are working overtime.

In fact, this feisty nonagenarian’s hands are working so well that she’s known as “The Knitting Woman.”

“Since I was a little girl, I have sewed and crocheted and knitted,” she told the Courier Journal. “When my daughter Carolyn got sick, I knitted while I sat with her in the hospital. She’s the one who first suggested I make something for the nurses who were taking care of her.”

During Carolyn’s two-year battle with esophageal cancer, Vessels remained at her 60-year-old daughter’s bedside. To pass the time, she knitted hats in the same patterns as she had made for Carolyn when she was a child. Intricate designs made from multiple colors of yarn sewn into warm winter beanies.

After Carolyn died, her mother kept knitting and giving away her handy work in her daughter’s honor. In the eight years since Carolyn got sick, Vessels has knitted and donated over 4,500 hats, headbands and scarves.

Can you imagine, one person knitting more than four thousand pieces simply out of a desire to make others comfortable?

Vessels, who turned 95 in April, has no intention of slowing down her knitting process. She loads her handmade items by the dozens into plastic bins and with the help of family members, delivers them to local homeless shelters, church organizations and random people she meets at places like the grocery store.

“I always have a bag with a few of my hats and if I see a child who isn’t wearing a hat when it’s cold outside, I will ask their mother or father if it’s alright if I give them a hat,” Vessels explained. “I don’t like to think that anyone is not able to stay warm.”