A stitch of women were sewing together in the basement of the Locust Valley Library. Their purpose? Knitting alternative breast prosthetics.
The group is not unique to the North Shore. Knitters across America have united their sewing needles to create handmade breast prostheses for women who have had mastectomies.
The project was started by Barbara Demorest, of Washington state, in 2011 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she searched for comfortable breast prosthetics after her mastectomy, her doctor recommended knitting her own “knocker,” and gave her a link to a video on how to stitch the pattern. The finished product was a soft, lightweight substitute. It was then that Demorest decided to take this comforting concept worldwide.
The Knitted Knockers Support Foundation distributes breast prostheses hand-crafted by volunteers to breast cancer survivors free
Locust Valley’s legion of knitters meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month to knit the pieces, which are then mailed to the foundation in Bellingham, Wash. They are distributed to fill requests from all over the world.
Marie Augustine, of Sea Cliff, who worked at North Shore University Hospital for 27 years, sees great value in the project. “It’s a way to bring a smile to a patient who had a mastectomy,” she said. “It’s wonderful to do something that helps women.”
Sandy Janosick, of Glen Cove, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, and had a double mastectomy. Like Demorest, she struggled to find comfortable prosthetics after her procedure.
“[The Knockers] are much more comfortable, and they’re a good alternative for someone who can’t afford, or doesn’t want silicone implants,” she said.
The Knockers, which are knit into the shape of a breast, are crafted completely from yarn. The result is a soft and squishy breast implant that survivors can insert into their bras.
Janosick said she wanted to bring her knowledge of knitting to the project in an effort to help women battling breast cancer. “It’s a great way to make someone feel better about themselves, and we’re here not only to knit, but to help people learn how to knit,” she explained.
Augustine said that the local response to Knitted Knockers has been good, but she added that more people are needed to volunteer for the cause. “Everyone knows why this is important,” she said, “and there should be more groups like this.”
“It’s a small project that doesn’t take long to make,” Janosick said, “and you can take it with you to work on wherever you go.”
Getting involved in Knitted Knockers has been more than volunteer work for Augustine — it has also been a great way to create a community of sorts. “Women aren’t alienated just because they’ve had a mastectomy,” she said. “They can come here, learn how to knit, and make new friends.”
The group meets in the Locust Valley Library’s basement at 1 p.m. on alternate Wednesdays, and also at the Glen Cove Library at 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of every month.
For more information about the foundation, or to learn how to knit your own knocker, visit www.knittedknockers.org.