A group of women based in Hamilton has been knitting furiously for the past several months. They’re not making mittens, hats or scarves. They’re making lightweight knitted bra inserts for women who have had a mastectomy due to breast cancer. They’re called Knitted Knockers.
Nancy Thomson of Waterdown founded the Canadian branch of the organization in March and since then she and her volunteer knitters have filled over 800 orders. She says many women who reach out to her are looking for a comfortable option, “the prosthetics that are typically used are made of silicone so they’re hot and they’re heavy. And as you can see these are really light.”
The yarn is donated by an army of roughly 300 knitters who make the knockers based on a specific pattern and send them to Thomson for stuffing. They’re then filled with a lightweight fibre that’s been donated by a stuffing company and mailed to the women in need.
Thomson says people have different reasons when they ask for one or two knockers, “I have women that reach out that say I’ve just had my mastectomy, I’m two weeks, I want to go back to work but my prosthetic’s not coming in, can I have a pair? If she just wants to wear it for two weeks, I’m happy she’s got something that is letting her get back to a normal life.”
Some women use them until their mastectomy scar heals, until their custom made prosthetic arrives or until they can have reconstructive surgery. Then there are women like Tracey Belisle, who rarely wear anything else. She has had breast cancer twice and lost one of her breasts each time. She has prosthetics but prefers wearing knockers, “you’ve got the prosthetic and it’s hard and it moves around a little bit and it’s heavy.” She says receiving a pair two months ago has helped her move past her cancer, “Starting to feel normal again. And I think that’s what it’s pretty much about. You don’t want people to look at you and say, oh, breast cancer, right? You want to kind of get back to the way you were.” Knowing a perfect stranger made them just for her makes her feel extra supported.
Knitted Knockers operates entirely on donations. Recipients don’t pay a dime so they rely on monetary donations for shipping. The organization has been sending out more knockers every month. In October they filled 300 orders. For information on how to volunteer or donate, visit the Knitted Knockers website.