There are countless good causes out there that call upon the hearts and skills of makers, and today's post is about one of them - Knitted Knockers. (Yes, they're exactly what you're thinking - hand stitched boobs.)
What are Knitted Knockers?
As stated on the website, Knitted Knockers are, "special handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast." All knockers are made by volunteer groups around the world and distributed freely based upon requests.
The Knitted Knockers organization, based out of Washington state, grew out of one woman's need for a soft, comfortable way to feel herself again after a mastectomy from breast cancer. Once she tried a knitted knocker, it became her mission to provide these lightweight breast prostheses to all breast cancer survivors who wanted them. Today, the organization provides patterns and resources for distribution, as well as connects survivors to makers through a global registry. There are many groups who meet regularly to knit knockers (you can look on the Knitted Knockers website for listings), and that's how I discovered the organization.
Knitted Knockers Meet Ups
I found out about Knitted Knockers on the Black Mountain Yarn Shop's website - they have a bi-monthly meet up to knit knockers in the store. Since I had no idea about how to start a knocker, and I wanted to meet others in the community involved in such a great cause, I headed out to the shop for their most recent knocker meet up.
It was my first time in Black Mountain Yarn Shop. I will do a post on it soon to connect it with other fun things to do in the area, but in the meantime I'll let you know that the shop is a wonderful little place. I was instantly greeted at the door, and upon mentioning my reason for being there, was brought right over to the materials I would need to make my very first pair of knockers.
You'll see in the pattern, there are a number of 'approved' yarns to choose from. I was totally going to go with a standard, neutral color. But when I was standing in front of the rainbow of colors, I was immediately drawn to a brilliant purple. Neutrals are the most requested (so I'll likely stick to them later), but some survivors request bright, wild, colorful knockers too. So purple won.
I have since had a little flashback. A year ago, I took part in a 'Yoga for Cancer' training. We were a small group, and many of the attendees were survivors as well as yoga teachers. One woman in particular, I will not forget. She was in her 50s and had bright purple hair. She talked openly about her experience with breast cancer and her mastectomy. What I recall the most was her spirit for life - she was all about living life with joy and going for things that once may have seemed far fetched. I think in some small way, my magnetism to the purple yarn for my first set of knockers was a little nod to her, and her enthusiasm for life.
Making a Knitted Knocker
The materials you will need to make a pair of knockers are listed within the pattern on the Knitted Knockers website. I was told that the easiest knit pattern was the, "Bottoms Up Knocker for Double Point Needles." I won't be writing out the whole pattern here, but you can follow this link to print out this pattern or any of the other knit and crochet patterns listed. You can also check out their list of approved yarns.
As previously mentioned, certain yarns in certain weights have been approved so that the comfort and softness of each knocker can be standard across the board. There's about 30 of them, and they can be found at local yarn shops (that I just found out is abbreviated as LYS!), as well as online and through big box stores like Michaels.
Because I am still in the early stages of knitting, and I've only tried knitting on double pointed needles once - a long time ago - I asked for step-by-step instructions from one of the group members to get started. (There's nothing better than getting to see first hand how something is created, with the ability to ask questions and get help in troubleshooting, so I highly recommend going to a meet up! Plus you get to meet like minded individuals. Win-win.) For those that don't have the ability to go to a meet up, there are some video tutorials on the Knitted Knockers website that will hopefully help to clarify things.
This is a relatively easy pattern, once you get started. The woman who was helping me, Margie, had a simple trick at the beginning of the pattern to help with knitting in the round. I'll mention that here for any other newbies out there.
Materials I Used
- 1 skein of (purple!) Cascade Yarns ultra pima cotton yarn
- 1 set of double point needles - size 6 (because I knit quite tightly, I went up a size; also, I am using wood needles as they have much better grip, and when I'm working with DPN, I'm basically all thumbs, so I highly recommend wood for beginners like me!)
- 1 stitch marker
Now, instead of casting on 15 sts, which the pattern calls for, Margie told me that it's easier to co 16 sts. To divide your stitches among the needles, take 5 each on the first 2 needles. This leaves you with 6 on the original needle. When you go to knit your first stitch, move the last stitch from the original needle to the working needle and knit them together. This is the *only* tricky part - after you've moved the last stitch to the working needle, you will knit 2 stitches together and knit them in the front and back (increase). I couldn't actually get it on my first 30 attempts, so I watched Margie perform the action with my needles. I am happy to report that I was able to do it for the 2nd knocker all by myself!
I did try the pattern directions as listed, and couldn't quite get it to work, so I just kept along with what Margie told me (she's been knitting for 50 years, I trust her!) Once you've increased on this first round, first needle, don't increase on this needle again until round 2. Follow the directions from here (increasing by kfb on the last stitch for the remaining 2 needles of round 1.) Don't forget to place a stitch marker so you know when you come back around to start a new round! After that, it's all a matter of knitting in the round with increases and decreases on DPN, so watch those precious eyeballs! (I nearly poked myself in the eye a hundred times!)
Once you've joined your final stitches together, you can send your knockers off to the organization in Washington, and they'll handle distributing them based upon requests. Or, if you're a part of a group, they may have an established distribution channel for knockers. The Black Mountain group has several knockers going on a mission trip to Honduras in October, but they also distribute them through the registry. Barbara, she's in charge of distribution for the group in Black Mountain, stuffs them herself before putting them in the mail. You can decide whether or not you want to send yours stuffed, and if so, they recommend using a high quality poly fiber fill.
If you, or anyone you know, would like to request a pair of Knitted Knockers, the process is simple. Go to this page on the Knitted Knockers website and submit a request form. If you are a maker and would like to start a Knitted Knocker group in your area (or become a provider yourself) the website has information on that too.
I am grateful to have found out about this wonderful cause, and to become a part of a large community helping to share knocker love around the world. Do you make knockers, or volunteer your making skills for another cause? I'd love to know! Happy making.