For breast cancer survivors who do not have reconstructive surgery, there is the constant issue of obtaining and replacing their breast prostheses every year or two.
And for these women, this is a personal preference, often based on comfort and cost.
In the world of knitting circles, there is often a philanthropic effort. In the case of Cape Ann, there is a group of women who pre-pandemic held a weekly charity knit night — whether it was making scarves and mittens for the homeless or helmet liners for the troops or breast prostheses for a group called Knitted Knockers.
The Cape Ann knitters at Coveted Yarn in Gloucester, Massachusetts, take this effort to heart.
There are requirements for the specific type of yarn and patterns to create varied sizes of Knitted Knockers, which are free to breast cancer survivors.
This activity on Cape Ann began several years ago after Astrid afKlinteberg and her daughter attended a knitting retreat in Maryland.
AfKlinteberg, who has been knitting since she was a child, said she learned about the effort, which takes place in pockets across the country, from a grab bag at this knitting camp. The bag contained a brochure about Knitted Knockers and a special kind of yarn designed to not irritate the skin.
When she brought the idea back to the knitting group at Coveted Yarn and shop owner Rob Porter, they were all in.
The Knitted Knockers Support Foundation was founded in Washington by Barbara Demorest — who created www.knittedknockers.org — after she underwent a mastectomy and was told it would be more than six weeks before she could try to wear a prosthesis. Furthermore, the website notes that typical prostheses may require special bras or camisoles with pockets and can’t be worn for weeks after surgery.
“Knitted Knockers, on the other hand, are soft, comfortable, beautiful, and when placed in a regular bra, they take the shape and feel of a real breast,” according to the website.
This summer, two women shared their testimonials through the website.
“Received my Knitted Knockers last week and am really thrilled with them. Had a mastectomy in 2011 and struggled with a prosthesis as I had problems with arm swelling with lymph node removals. My Knockers are a joy to wear. Thank you to all the lovely volunteers,” Colleen May wrote.
And Suzanne Griffith wrote: “After a bilateral mastectomy in March, I am still struggling with healing (some complications) and only Knitted Knockers are comfortable enough for me to wear. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time from your busy lives to knit these perfect-solution prosthetics!”
Monica Jean, who manages Coveted Yarn, said they have Knitted Knockers on hand and are looking for someone who may have a connection with breast cancer survivors to help get these into the hands of women who need them.
The daughter of a woman who was recovering from breast cancer surgery during the height of COVID-19 called the shop to inquire about the Knitted Knockers, and Jean was able to supply her with the soft prosthetic.
“For people who are interested, we can give them the patterns here or they are available on the (Knitted Knockers) website,” Jean said. “They are specific about what yarns can be used so they do not cause irritation and so that they wash well, and we carry a selection of the approved yarns.”
Looking ahead to a post-pandemic time, Jean said that knitting groups provide a supportive community, and the members of the Cape Ann group want to provide support to others through what they knit themselves in an atmosphere of fellowship.
For more information about donating or receiving Knitted Knockers, call Coveted Yarn at 978-282-8809.