Like so many avid knitters, Jo Panayotoff has put her needle skills to work for a variety of charitable endeavors, from blankets for Radiance Women’s Center in Beaufort to baby gowns for preemies.
Looking for a new and different project, she came across the website for Knitted Knockers, a nonprofit group that creates knit prosthetics for breast cancer patients. Panayotoff knew all too well the need for an alternative to the standard silicone breast forms, having listened to her daughter, a breast cancer survivor, gripe about her cumbersome artificial boob.
“I remember my daughter complaining that her prosthetic was heavy and hot,” Panayotoff recalled. “She found it so uncomfortable she started stuffing her bra with a rolled-up sock.”
To create a Knitted Knocker, Panayotoff had to learn how to knit in the round with double pointed needles, an advanced knitting technique that uses four needles with points at each end.
“The first couple of knockers I knitted were wonky, but I got the hang of it,” the retired Lady’s Island resident said. “I knitted a pink one for my daughter and sent it to her to try out.”
Made with 100 percent cotton yarn approved by Knitted Knockers and proven to be washable, breathable and durable, the wonderfully soft, contoured tata was a big hit.
Having proven their worth, Panayotoff set off to find local recipients for her Knitted Knockers. Her first stop was Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Breast Health Center.
“I was sold the moment I saw them,” said Beaufort Memorial Breast Care Coordinator Chris Marino. “They’re light and soft and look surprisingly natural.”
The knockers come in sizes from A to double D and are stuffed with high-quality fiber fill that can be adjusted through a small drawstring opening on the back. Marbles or small stones bought at craft stores can be inserted into the prosthesis to get the weight in balance with a women’s natural breast. Knitted Knockers also come in an acrylic blend that can be used for swimming.
Recognizing she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand for the free prostheses, Panayotoff recruited Judy Algar, owner of Coastal Knitting in Beaufort, to help with the project.
“I sent a shout out to my clients and got an immediate response from eight accomplished knitters,” Algar said. “Beaufort Memorial needed C cups and they jumped right in.”
Knitters pay for the yarn themselves. A $5.75 to $10 roll of yarn generates eight average-sized knockers. It takes about four hours to create one knitted prosthesis. Since October, the volunteer knitters have completed some 35 knockers.
The artificial breast forms are especially popular with women who have just undergone a mastectomy and need to wait for the surgical site to heal before wearing a standard prosthesis.
“Every time I’ve shown it to a patient, her face lights up,” Marino said. “I had a woman who used one right away, even before her bandages came off.”
Although the industrious knitters have kept Marino supplied in knockers of every size and color, Panayotoff created an order form for any special requests.
“Women love them because they feel real,” Panayotoff said. “They have a little squish to them.”
For more information on Knitted Knockers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.