On Knitted Knockers: Advice for Awkward Crafters

When I’m not adding boxing art to my Pinterest board or submitting FOIL requests regarding missing public records, I like to crochet.

My favorite project thus far has been Knitted Knockers, prosthetic breastforms made of yarn for breast cancer survivors awaiting (or not wanting) reconstruction.

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A deflated B-cup yarn boob. Just imagine it all stuffed and perky. All photos by the author.

I mentioned them recently and someone looking for a new project asked for more information.

Knitted Knockers (also on Facebook) is a collective of volunteer crafters dedicated to creating and providing knitted (and crocheted) knockers, free of charge, to breast cancer survivors. These prostheses (which go up to G-cup!) are made from breathable cotton yarn and are a comfortable alternative to heavy (and expensive) silicone breasts.

And they’re free! Survivors don’t even pay for shipping. Knitting knockers is an act of love.

The Knitted Knockers website has patterns and video tutorials to help volunteers get started. There are also links to local Knockers groups that organize knocker-making parties and arrange for the prostheses to be donated to survivors. You can see more about Knitted Knockers here:

Experienced knitters and crocheters can probably whip up a few pairs in no time. For those of us who have basic skills at best, here’s some advice for awkward crafters by an awkward crafter.

First, choose your pattern. Double-ended needles, loop needles, crochet? Whaaa? If you’re afraid of possibly injuring yourself and/or others, crochet is a safe option, but I assure you that double-ended knitting needles aren’t as scary as they seem.

Second, read and understand the pattern. Don’t be like me and assume you can just pick a pattern, buy some yarn and start. No. That’s how baby hats turn into cat yarmulkes. Seriously. No photos of that mishap exist, fortunately, but let’s just say I didn’t quite understand the concepts of “yarn weight,” “hook size,” and “gauge.”

Moving on.

Diagram  the pattern to digest it. Draw pictures. It really does help.

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An early pattern diagram. Graph paper would have made things much easier.

If in doubt on how to execute a certain stitch, check Youtube. To be honest, I had a bit of a problem sorting out the math at first (yes, knitting and crocheting involves math), but they still came out looking like deflated yarn boobs, so it’s all good.

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Why, yes, I do suck at math and have to write out simple equations.

Breasts are sisters, not twins, but you still want them looking like they’re from the same gene pool. Be sure to indicate on your pattern diagram where you made changes and what you did so you can duplicate the change in the partner knocker.

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My final diagram.

Third, procure supplies. This means gathering yarn, needles/hook, and markers. For the sake of sanity, wind your yarn into a ball before you start to prevent mid-project mishaps. Recruit a friend or use two chairs and place your hank over the backs to keep the loop steady and stable while you wind or else it’ll fall to the floor, the cat will take notice and three hours later you’ll be hating yourself for the fur-covered knot fest sitting on your desk.

The Knitted Knockers people recommend Cascade Yarn’s Ultra Fine Pima.

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It’s soft and 100% cotton, but any yarn of similar weight and composition will do. A pair of A- or B-cup boobs will use a single ball of yarn, but the larger ones (C and up) will require more; check your pattern before you go yarn shopping.

All knitting needles and crochet hooks have letter or number sizes. If you use the wrong size hook you’ll end up with something that is monstrously off base (like the above-mentioned cat yarmulke).

Stitch markers will help you keep your place. Markers for knitting are closed loops (to be slipped off needles) and crochet uses pin-like ones that open and close for removability. Don’t be slick and think you’ll remember where the row started because something will happen, the phone will ring, the kids will get apple shmutz on the floor, and the cat will bat around your yarn bag as if it was a toy. It’s hard remembering which stitch and what row after all that.

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Each marker denotes the end of a set of stitches. Using differently colored markers is helpful.

You’ll also need a writing implement to mark off where you are on your pattern and a place for your yarn: a tote, plastic bag, basket, or one of those big plastic zipper bags that sheets and blankets are sold in. This will keep the yarn from rolling around and  prevent it from getting covered in cat fur (not really, but it’s nice to dream).

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Cats are never far from yarn-based projects
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No crochet session is complete without a cup of coffee and a cat sitting on your pattern.

Fourth, take deep cleansing breaths and begin. If you mess up a stitch or eight, don’t worry. Pull it out, re-read your pattern, try again. Yarn is forgiving. You’ll be fine. You’re making boobs for women who need them. That is awesome.

In a few hours (or days or weeks, it’s all good), you’ll have made a set of Knockers that will, at the very least, make someone quite giggly and very happy.

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