What color would you like your bosom to be?
Pink with white stripes? Multi-colored? How about bright yellow?
Knitted Knockers, colorful and cozy breast forms for women who have had mastectomies, are giving breast cancer patients a lift all over America.
It started five years ago when Barbara Demorest of Washington state had a mastectomy and a doctor suggested this comfortable alternative to a silicone breast form. Since she started the organization Knitted Knockers, thousands of the soft bra inserts have been knitted or crocheted using a pattern at www.knittedknockers.org.
At the C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital, the handmade forms are available free of charge.
“They’re very popular. The ladies absolutely love them,” says Vickie Yattaw, oncology resource nurse.
In the past year, more than 100 Knockers have been made and donated to the hospital by the Tuesday Night Knitting Group that meets in the Village Yarn Shop in Granville, Washington County.
The woman who got them wound up about Knockers was Sarah Tatko, a retired teacher and Granville resident who grew up in Niskayuna and graduated from Niskayuna High in 1968 as Sarah Miller.
A breast cancer survivor of 15 years, Tatko told The Daily Gazette her story last week, as she sat in a chair during an intravenous chemotherapy treatment at the hospital.
According to Tatko, a Vermont friend who had a double mastectomy but didn’t want reconstruction told her the Knockers were available at a lingerie store in Manchester.
When Tatko went to the store and saw them displayed in a big glass jar, she couldn’t wait to tell her knitting group in Granville.
“They were so enthusiastic,” says Tatko, who was dressed for chemo in a hot pink shirt.
“We’ve just been doing Knockers ever since. Since last October, everyone knitted at least one.”
For the 20 women in the group, making Knockers is more fun than knitting socks, she says.
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They joke around as they decide what color or design to make them and whether to make the nipple big or small.
Last Christmas, red and green ones were stitched up.
One woman, an expert knitter, was especially creative.
“She pierced the nipple and put an earring on it,” Tatko says.
Knockers can be knitted on round or straight needles and the pattern allows for different sizes.
Each one is stuffed with Fiberfill and has a small opening so a woman can add or subtract stuffing.
“If you know how to knit, it’s easy,” Tatko says. “You have to know how to knit and purl, increase and decrease.”
Knockers can be made with many kinds of yarn, but if wool is used, they are labeled for women who might be allergic.
“They are soft, they are the right shape, they are washable and lightweight. They will fit into any bra,” says Tatko. “You could have a wardrobe of them.”
There are several uses for Knockers, according to Tatko and Yattaw.
After a mastectomy, women wear them temporarily until their chest wall heals and they can be fitted for a silicone prosthesis.
Women who have had one breast removed might wear them indefinitely instead of a prosthesis.
“They do everything that a regular silicone breast form does, it’s just a lot lighter,” says Yattaw, who is also a knitter and maker of Knockers.
Even if a woman has had a bilateral or double mastectomy, she could use them.
“As long as they have the right bra, they won’t ride up on them. Because if you have no weight in there, the bra is going to ride up to your earlobes,” Yattaw says.
Tatko has heard of women who add weight to the Knockers by inserting a stone that has an inspirational word stamped on it.
And then are the women in their 80s and 90s who had mastectomies decades ago and have been stuffing their bras with socks. They are also asking for Knockers, she says.
In the Tuesday Night Knitting Group, most of the women are not cancer survivors.
“They are all ages, all different careers. We do have some teenagers. They come with their mothers. But every single one knows someone who has had cancer,” Tatko says.
One knitter is recovering from a serious car accident, another just had a death in the family.
But the knitting group is not about being sad.
“We have grandchildren and daughters to talk about and many wonderful day-to-day things,” says Tatko.
“It’s nice to sit somewhere and have a friend to knit with.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or on Twitter @bjorngazette.