It’s time for another knitting post! This time, I have knitted what might be called a “medical accessory”: Knitted Knockers!
Knitted Knockers are knitted breast prosthesis, designed to be comfortable, lightweight and soft. The Knitted Knockers foundation registers medical providers to sign up to receive knitted prosthesis for their patients. The foundation also gets the word out to knitters and crocheters all over the US to invite them to make and donate knockers.
Makers can choose from several different approved knockers patterns: click here to see all the different pattern options! The foundation also provides a list of approved yarns. The yarns must be cotton–no wool!
Once you’ve made your knockers from approved yarn and the official pattern, you mail them to the foundation (unstuffed) for quality control. They’ll take a look at the sizing, at your gauge, and at the quality of the knitting. If they meet the foundation’s quality standards, they’ll stuff them and get them out to medical providers and clinics who need them.
There is very high demand for these, and when I first heard about them I thought it was a brilliant idea. I didn’t realize how soon I’d need to make them for someone I loved.
In December, we learned that a family member needed to have a double mastectomy. Always a scary prospect, we were especially worried about her going into hospital due to Covid (this was before many people were vaccinated).
Thankfully, all went well, and once the procedure was over, the prognosis was very good. Of course, recovery wasn’t easy and naturally the scars from the procedure are significant and uncomfortable.
That’s when I thought of Knitted Knockers. Of course, offering to knit someone breast prosthetics isn’t covered in any etiquette guidelines I know of. I wasn’t sure how to proceed and I didn’t want to be indelicate or offend.
Thankfully, this person is a crafter herself, and we have always enjoyed chatting about knitting, crocheting and other crafts together. So I decided to make the offer in the most straightforward and friendly way possible.
My offer was well received, and it was taken absolutely in the spirit it was meant: with love.
The Knitty Gritty Details
We consulted on size and color, and I decided to knit a size A in Cascade Ultra Pima cotton yarn (color “buff”–as in, “in the–“!).
For the pattern, I chose the latest version of the knitted pattern: Bottoms up in the round on DPNs. The original pattern started at the front of the knocker (at the nipple, essentially), with only three stitches cast on, and increased from there. Many knitters found that to be difficult and fiddly, so the pattern designer, Claudia Barbo, wrote a new version in which you knit the knockers from back to front. In this version, you cast on 15 stitches, which is a lot easier to manage than just three!
My yarn was a DK weight, and the pattern called for 3.75mm needles. However, I didn’t have DPNs in that size, and since my gauge tends to be tight anyway, I went up to 4mm.
I have to admit that I am not crazy about working on DPNs. The pattern tells you to divide the stitches by three and always keep them on the same needles. This creates a gap between the stitches on each end of the needles. Usually, when I’m knitting on DPNs, I rotate around so that my needles don’t always change at the same spot.
I followed the pattern, and here’s the result:
The Knitted Result
Though pretty, I was not crazy with the unevenness of the stitches. Also, the decreases on the front of the knocker (what you’re looking at in this picture) created ridges which met in the middle and formed what looked like a “nipple”. Washing and pinning it out to dry helped to reduce that, but still. It could have been smoother.
Also, it was too small! When the knockers arrived at their destination and were stuffed, they were about two sizes too small.
No problemo! That’s an easy one to solve: just make it bigger!
The issue of the “nipple” created by the decreases required some trial and error.
There are several different patterns available on the Knitted Knockers site. I decided to try the original pattern, starting with just 3 stitches and increasing from there.
However, it was really fiddly. I had trouble keeping my needles straight and making it look any good.
Then, I tried using the pinhole cast on:
It’s a beautiful cast on, but even doing this there were ridges that wouldn’t have been smooth enough.
I tried a few more times, but I really wasn’t happy with how it was turning out.
Then, I had an epiphany:
I Know How to Crochet!
That’s right! I know how to crochet! And the crocheted knockers looked fantastic!
And so, I dusted off the ol’ crochet hooks. They haven’t seen daylight in quite a while, and I had to re-learn how to hold the yarn in my left hand. But muscle memory kicked in really quickly, and before long I had cast on using the magic ring and was chugging along.
Using the same yarn and a 4mm crochet hook, I whipped them up pretty quickly:
I was SO happy with how these turned out! Though denser than the knitted version, they are far smoother. I washed and dried them and they came out very soft.
Crocheted Knockers (not as catchy…)
So they’re not knitted, but they look great. They’re on their way to their recipient, and I’m awaiting feedback on these. Hopefully they’ll be as comfortable as their knitted counterparts!
I made two sets of knockers using one skein of yarn. I have a whole other skein, so I will either make more upon request for my family member, or I’ll donate some!