In 2007 we began a unique charity knit program, Knitted Knockers, to provide soft, comfortable, and free knitted prosthetic breasts to breast cancer survivors.
Word soon spread among mastectomy patients and their caregivers, leading most recently to a news story on our knitted knockers effort that was picked up by CNN. As a result, we have been flooded with requests for knitted knockers from survivors, information on where to obtain the pattern, and advice on how to start a knitted knockers group.
To better help the knitting volunteers and survivors find each other, and hopefully inspire more knitted knockers groups, we have attempted to organize information on the program in one location. While this portion of our website will be a work-in-progress, we hope that you find it helpful and will keep us posted on your knitted knockers!
Knitted prosthetic breasts for mastectomy patients. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Yet, when placed in a bra, these knitted breasts take the shape and feel of a real breast. They are lighter and more comfortable than silicone prosthetic breasts. The knitted fabric breathes and prevents the heat rash experienced by many women wearing the silicone ones.
Did you know that just one silicone prosthetic breast costs between $300 and $500?! Without health insurance, they are out of the reach of most breast cancer survivors. Even those with insurance are limited to a new prosthetic breast every two years. If it springs a leak that is not covered by the warranty, you are out of luck.
With a knitted breast, you can have a different one for every day of the week. Perhaps add a little embroidery for that tattoo you always wanted!
As many of you know, The Knitting Experience was itself born out of my personal experience with breast cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer at the age of 28 while pregnant with our youngest son. I had a mastectomy on my right breast on May 31, 2002. In September of 2006, a wonderful friend, Mary Ellen, presented me with the most thoughtful and joyful gift - a knitted boob!
In October 2006 I made an important decision. It was time. Time to have the other breast removed and start reconstruction. Because of my age and genetics, my chances of developing cancer in my remaining breast are high. By having a prophylactic mastectomy, I greatly reduce my risk. It took me a long time to be physically and emotionally ready to take this step, but now that the decision has been made, I am greatly relieved and a little excited.
I made an appointment to speak with the breast surgeon and the head of the Breast Health Center at MidCoast Hospital, Kim, sat in on the appointment. While we were discussing all my options, I asked them if they wanted to see my knitted boob.
My knitted boob.
They loved it. Kim instantly asked if I thought the local knitters would make some for the patients at MidCoast. Of course!
I took the idea back to the Knit at Night crowd and the response was overwhelming. Not only does everyone want to make a boob, they are telling their friends, who are telling their friends.
A local news station, WABI from Bangor, ME, did a story on our effort this summer. That piece was picked up by CNN Headline News, and suddenly the knitted knockers are global. We have heard from survivors looking to obtain a knitted prosthesis and knitters wanting to contribute to the cause.
We have a movement here!
Consider joining us. Why? Because knitting a boob is fun. It is a great conversation starter. And because it means so much to women who desperately need a little giggle. You might ask, why a knitted boob? Don’t they have silicone ones you can get at medical supply stores? Yes. They do. I had one. But I couldn’t get one right away. You can’t be fitted for a traditional breast prosthesis until you have been out of surgery for at least three weeks.
So, what are you supposed to do if you want to go to the store? Go for ice cream with your kids? Feel normal for a moment despite the fact that the big “C” is now part of your life? You can try to stuff a sock in your bra. That’s what I did, and let me tell you, it does not look anything like a breast. I felt horrible. I cried. I put on a BIG, BAGGY shirt and went out sorta hunched over so no one could see my chest.
I realize that most people weren’t looking at my chest. And maybe they wouldn’t have noticed the lumpy nature of the sock. But I noticed.
After three weeks of recovery, I was scheduled to return to work. Here I was, 28, 2 months pregnant, just had a mastectomy, and had to go back to work without a proper prosthesis. I called the fitting store and begged, pleaded, and even cried, in an attempt to convince them to fit me for my falsie early. Luckily they did.
But, if I had had a knitted boob right after my surgery, all that wouldn’t have happened. Yes, I would still have cancer. I would still have lost a breast. But, at least I could have gone out into the world feeling normal.
Prior to reconstruction, I wore the knitted boob most of the time. It is more comfortable than the silicone prosthesis and actually breathes. With the silicone one, I would get a heat rash on my chest during the summer or when the hot flashes get particularly active.
So... please consider knitting a knocker to help another woman with breast cancer feel a little more normal, and perhaps giggle each morning as she slips a bright red or orange or green - maybe stripes! - boob into her bra.
Knit a knocker - or two, or three...
Tell a friend about our project - perhaps they knit, perhaps they are breast cancer survivors.
Share the information on our program with your local hospital or oncology unit.
Consider organizing a knitted knocker group in your area.
Our goal is to see knitted knocker groups across the country and around the world. While we try to provide a knitted breast to every survivor who contacts us, it is difficult to keep up with the need. By establishing local groups in as many locations as possible, we will not only be better positioned to aid mastectomy patients, we will also spread the word to survivors, oncology units, and other medical professionals, that a free and comfortable alternative is available.
Where to begin:
First, knit a knocker.
Then, contact the local hospital, oncology unit, women's health center, or your local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Find out who serves as the liaison for breast cancer patients. Describe the knitted breasts and the tremendous impact they have already had. Feel free to refer them to our website and story and bring in the breast you have knit to show them exactly what it looks like.
Find other knitters to join you. Perhaps declare a knitting knocker day sometime in October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
If you want to just knit the knockers, we will gladly accept them. Please mail them to:
The Knitted Knockers Program
c/o Chesley Flotten
615 Harpswell Rd
Brunswick, ME 04011
Once we have more groups going, we will list their locations and donation addresses so that knitters may donate locally.
Women and breasts come in all sizes, so we need all sizes. Knit whatever strikes your fancy. Knit your size. Knit your sister’s size. Just knit.
When choosing a yarn, look for dk or sport weight. You want something that is soft, lightweight, and that breathes. My favorite yarn for the boobs is Cascade’s pima tencel, a cotton/tencel blend. Many are making their boobs out of Debbie Bliss’s baby cashmerino. Bamboo is another good choice. Avoid pure wool as it can be itchy when close to the skin. Check your stash, ask your friends to swap yarn, have fun and be creative!!
We stuff each breast with poly-fill, but always leave a small opening so the recipient can adjust the size by adding or removing filling, and then sewing up the seam themselves.
The Tit -bits pattern provides instruction to begin the front of the boob with a short i-cord that will be tied into a knot to form a nipple. I have found that most women prefer the knitted breast without the faux nipple. Just cast on, and begin your increases!
If you are a breast cancer survivor who is interested in obtaining a knitted breast, but do not knit yourself, please let us know. We will do our best to help.
Questions? Are you starting a group in your area? Let us know!