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Knitted Knockers: Comfort for Breast Cancer Patients, Created with Love

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It was late September 2020, seven months into lockdown. All the masks I had stitched were donated. I had to keep my hands, mind and soul busy. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

The October issue of my favorite positivity-inspiring magazine had arrived; I always read it cover to cover the day it hits the mailbox. A few pages in was a brief article written by Ruth Gates describing how a knitting project had lifted her from depression after the death of her husband. She had read a 2016 article in the same publication in which Barbara Demorest described her discovery of knitted knockers, a soft, lightweight breast prosthesis that can be used by women who don’t have breast reconstruction.

How could I have missed that article, especially since HERLIFE Magazine focuses on supporting breast cancer patients each October? I immediately consulted the website that Barbara had set up, Knitted Knockers Support Foundation, knittedknockers.org, and downloaded patterns for both knitted and crocheted knockers.

I reached out to Barbara for more information. “There are a number of personal components to knitted knockers,” she shared. “Knitted Knockers brought passion and purpose to my life. After being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a mastectomy, I was at a dark and empty spot in my life. When my friend made me this gift of comfort and dignity it changed everything for me. It was so light, soft and beautiful and best of all made by someone who cared. I knew immediately that we needed to provide these to doctors’ offices so women who were struggling with this difficult time could experience the same joy of knowing someone cared enough about them to make them this wonderful practical gift for no personal gain but just because they cared. Knitted Knockers has brought not only joy at a difficult time to thousands of women such as myself but also brought purpose to the many thousands of knitters and crocheters who make them knowing their crafting is making a difference.”

The group’s mission is connecting volunteer knitters and crocheters with breast cancer survivors to provide free knitted knockers “We do this by inspiring and equipping volunteers to make them, with free patterns and videos on how to make great knockers. The patterns have been downloaded over one million times!” she continued. Today, there are more than 4,000 individuals and groups registered with the 501(c)3 nonprofit, headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, in all 50 states and 33 countries.

“We didn’t invent Knitted Knockers,” Barbara noted. “A week after I received my first gift of a knitted knocker, I reached out to the young woman in Maine who had named them after making some for herself. I asked if I could use the name and share them freely with others; she was thrilled as she was no longer able to do so.

“Many women find the traditional breast prosthesis hot and heavy. Knitted knockers are made with a carefully compiled list of approved yarns for our knitters and crocheters. Approved yarns have been tested and proven to be washable, stay soft after air drying, breathable, durable, the correct weight and make beautiful knockers. Our challenge has always been to identify yarns that are preferred by our recipients, available and affordable. The list has over 30 choices that can be purchased at local stores or online at a variety of price points. The cost per average-sized knocker using these yarns can vary from about $1.20 to $2.00 per knocker. They are very affordable when you think about the difference it makes to the women who wear them! For the wearer, it is crucial that the knocker fiber not exacerbate a highly sensitive part of a woman’s body that may have already suffered from surgical scarring, nerve damage and possible radiation burns. To minimize the chances of this happening we ask that knitters and crocheters choose a yarn that we’ve already tested and know that every knocker created will be gratefully received and loved by the wearer. We receive constant affirmation that these ladies truly appreciate the time and talent that a caring volunteer took to make these for them.”

A glance at the website or Facebook page for Knitted Knockers Support Foundation reveals that women and men of all ages and around the world are involved in creating these soft puffs. And women of all ages and around the world request them. Three weeks ago, I connected with a woman who was looking for a pair of swim knockers, and I’m halfway through the second one. She said, “Thank you to all who knit and crochet for those of us who can’t! Surgeries and treatments are expensive, and the best is that these are free.” 

The next best is the connection to other women. Pick up your needles and hooks and get going!

Sources: knittedknockers.org.