ROME, Ga. (AP) — The term Knitted Knockers may sound a little silly but it's actually an international movement that's helping millions of women around the world.
Barrie Turney is leading to charge in getting local knitters to create handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies (the surgery to remove all breast tissue as a way to treat or prevent breast cancer) or other procedures to the breast.
When Turney opened Craft Yarn Co. in June here in Rome, a local knitter Jane Lawson approached her with an idea.
"I heard someone on the radio who had a mastectomy," Lawson said. "She said someone had made her new breast prosthesis by knitting them. It sounded unusual at first but she said they were very comfortable."
Lawson did a little research and found out about Knitted Knockers, an nonprofit organization that connects volunteer knitters with breast cancer survivors and also collects knitted breasts for those who need them.
Lawson hoped that Turney could use her store and her connection to local knitters to collect enough knitted breasts to either send to Knitted Knockers or better yet, to help cancer survivors right here in Rome.
Turney loved the idea.
"When you get a mastectomy they remove your breast or breasts and you're fitted with a silicon prosthetic," Turney said. "From what I understand they can be hot and uncomfortable and they rub against your skin. And I think they can be expensive as well. And it wasn't until later that I realized I carry two of the specific brands of yarns that Knitted Knockers approves for making these."
The organization provides specific patterns and yarn requirements to knitters so that those receiving the breasts get the highest quality prosthesis made to certain approved specifications.
Knitted Knockers are made of a soft, durable machine washable cotton yarn. They're filled with polyfill and are customizable by removing or adding filling.
These breast shaped knitted (or crocheted) pieces can be made in any size desired and any color desired.
"So they can fit right into the bras you already have," Lawson said.
So Turney decided she'd be a hub for local knitters who'd like to create Knitted Knockers and donate them. Her store at 226 N. 5th Ave., is a drop-off for anyone who'd like to knit or crochet them. She collects them and mails them to the Knitted Knockers organization to be distributed to women who need them. But she'd also like to collect enough of the knitted breasts to donate to a local cancer organization.
Local women who are interested in receiving a pair of Knitted Knockers can visit or call the store. Turney will take their specifications of color and size and relay that to a knitter.
"If we get 20 matching pairs, we can donate them to a local cancer center such as Cancer Navigators," Turney said. "That's our goal — to donate locally. We're trying to get enough knitters to help us do that."
So far, she's got 10 local knitters (including Lawson) working toward their goal.
Her store, Craft Yarn Co., provides all the materials a knitter would need to create the Knitted Knockers including the colorful yarns and the needles as well as patterns.
Twice a month, Turney hosts a Knitted Knockers gathering at the store. It's for knitters of all skill levels. She will teach new knitters how to work with the pattern and more experienced knitters are welcome as well and may even be able to help the newbies out.
Turney said she realizes there are those community members who may want to help but have no knitting skills.
"We have online kits available that anyone can purchase for $16 and includes everything a local knitter would need to make a pair of Knitted Knockers," she said. "Because the women who need these breasts are never charged for them, all the knitters volunteer their time and materials so it's a big help to the volunteers if people buy the kits and donate them."
On a clean, white table in the Craft Yarn Co. store just off Fifth Avenue, Turney empties a small bag. It's contents are soft, light, colorful knitted breasts. They vary in size and color. There are only a few, however. She needs many more to be able to donate locally and hopes the community will rally behind this effort to provide local women with a chance to feel whole again.