Shirley Gadient has been crocheting since her sophomore year in high school. During World War II, a teacher asked a group of students if they wanted to learn to crochet and help create lap blankets for soldiers who lost their legs in combat. Each student created 8-inch crocheted squares and the instructor connected all the squares to create the finished blanket. Shirley said, “I felt like I was doing my part even though I was only 14 or 15 years old.”
After the war, she continued to crochet hats for her family. She and her husband had eight children. Today, Shirley has 25 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren. She continues to make hats for them. Recently, she made a hat for her great-grandchild that was blaze orange and used for hunting. This was important to her because she wanted her great-grandchild dressed appropriately when he went out into the woods and hunted for deer.
About 12 years ago, Shirley began making hats for charity. She has constructed dozens of hats for the Ronald McDonald House and the Salvation Army. It takes her about 24 total hours to create the hats using worsted weight yarn. “I don’t waste anything,” said Shirley. “I grew up during the depression. We didn’t throw anything away.” Shirley ties the ends of the yarn scraps together to create one long strand, and then she crochets the pieced yarn together. The results are stunning. She has a good eye for color.
Shirley has spent her life giving to her family, friends, and those in need. So, it wasn’t surprising to hear how she opened her heart to an 8-year-old family friend from Woodbury who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She said, “He had to come to the Clinic for treatment. I heard he was an avid Gophers fan, so I crocheted him a maroon and gold hat.” The young boy loved the hat, and he is doing very well.
When Shirley isn’t crocheting in her apartment while watching a Twins game, she is with her friends in the Knit & Stitch group at Shorewood Senior Campus. She enjoys being with her friends and watching their creative projects come to fruition.