Knitting knockers: Sew Steamboat group knits confidence
October 14, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Stitching spirals of ultra-soft cotton and bamboo yarn, the Friday afternoon knitters at Sew Steamboat put their time and skills toward a number of charity projects.
They knit hand bags that hang over walkers for elderly people, and they knit hats, scarves and mittens for those in need.
For the past several years, they've also been knitting "knockers" — handmade breast prostheses for cancer survivors.
They knit them in all different cup sizes and skin tones and with or without a nipple. They can be modified with custom filling for irregular shapes, if survivors have had a lumpectomy.
"They're so much nicer than silicon prostheses," said Jan Fritz, director of cancer services at UCHealth Jan Bishop Cancer Center.
When the hospital has a need, Fritz lets the knitters know. They also knit them for friends and family members and send knockers to the Washington-based Knitted Knockers organization, which distributes the yarn prostheses across the country.
The nonprofit is run by a woman who came across the knitted option after being told she couldn’t use a silicon prosthesis on top of her scar for six weeks while she waited for reconstruction.
"These are ingenious," said knitter and Sew Steamboat partner Lynn Wunder. “And machine washable.”
Depending on knitting speed, a pair takes about three or four hours to make, she said. In the shop downstairs, pattern kits are available for purchase.
Silicon prosthesis can be hot, heavy and expensive, Fritz said.
These are soft, lightweight and comfortable. They can fit in any bra and are perfect for tender skin following surgery.
If a survivor elects for reconstruction, the knitted prosthesis can carry over in the time between surgeries. They can also be long term for those who don’t get reconstruction.
"It's just enough so you don't have to be self-conscious," Fritz said. "It makes you feel more complete."
Bust of Steamboat
WHO: A nonprofit created 17 years ago for local women fighting breast cancer
WHAT: Over the past year . . .
• Donated $13,000 for travel, wigs, medications
• Provided $2,000 in yoga classes
• Donated $23,300 for mammograms and other medical procedures for uninsured or underinsured patients
2018 Paint the Town Pink
WHEN AND WHERE: During October, individuals and businesses will host their own fundraiser and awareness campaigns to benefit the local fund.
For a list of event partners or to make a donation, visit: thebustofsteamboat.org.
Contact: P.O. Box 880483 Steamboat Springs, CO 80488
It's hard to understand unless you’ve gone through it, said Bonnie Madderom, a knitter, breast cancer survivor and volunteer with Bust of Steamboat. "Until you are there, you don't realize how devastating it is."
Fritz' primary message is to let people know the knitted knockers are available at the hospital at no cost, and if the size required isn’t available, the knitters will readily create custom knockers.
Whatever the project and need, said Wunder, the Friday afternoon knitters always say “yes.” They sometimes have as many as 20 knitters — longtime residents and those new to town — who gather upstairs with their needles around tea, wine and baked goods. It's a hobby she finds relaxing, Wunder said, and a nice social activity.
Cho Tin Tun Kirkpatrick, another knitter and Sew Steamboat partner, just finished a single knocker for a family member in her 80s who has used a heavy silicon prosthesis for 40 years. She told her relative about the knitted option, and she was intrigued.
"It's about how important it is to feel like a woman," Kirkpatrick said.