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Published on October 27, 2020

These knockers are made of yarn

Knitting Knockers

Diane McStay has been knitting for 70 years, but she found a new favorite project two years ago.

That’s when she learned about Knitted Knockers, handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies. Since then, she and four friends have made hundreds of Knitted Knockers that have been donated to Cape Cod women.

The Knitted Knockers, which contain a PolyFiberFil insert, are placed in a normal bra and have the shape and feel of a real breast, said McStay.

“The patients really love them,” said Heather Moe, breast patient navigator at Cape Cod Healthcare’s Cuda Women’s Health Center in Hyannis. “They go like hotcakes. I can’t believe how many we go through.”

The standard silicone prosthetics can be heavy and expensive, said Moe. 

The Knitted Knockers, she said, “are nice and light. They're washable, they're easy to care for, they're comfortable, and they do the job. They feel natural and they mold to the chest wall and fill the bra. They can even be made to order if someone has a partial mastectomy and they just want a little extra to fill that space.”

McStay, who lives in Cotuit, learned about Knitted Knockers, an international group of volunteers, through an article in the Cape Cod Times. Knitting Knockers

“I had a mastectomy 20 years ago and there's breast cancer in my family, both my mother and her two sisters,” she said. “When I first heard about Knitted Knockers, I thought that was a no brainer. I thought, ‘Why didn't I think of that?’ because I'm always designing things. I wanted to be part of it right away.”

McStay’s group of five includes one woman who crochets; the rest are experienced knitters. “We are very fussy about the quality of the knitting and the quality of the product,” she said. 

It takes three or four hours to complete one Knitted Knocker, and the women often do the work in the evening while watching TV. They can be made in a variety of cup sizes, and the volunteers even sometimes use quick-dry yarn for prostheses that can be worn inside a swimsuit.

The completed Knitted Knockers, stuffed and labelled, are placed in small baskets in waiting rooms at the Cuda Women’s Health Center in Hyannis and the Seifer Women's Health and Imaging Center at Falmouth Hospital.

“I think it’s awesome that people would volunteer to make them and be so helpful to our patients,” said Moe. “It's so sweet that people would spend their time to do this and they even buy the materials themselves.”

In addition to being a dedicated Knitted Knocker maker, McStay is an advocate for mammograms. “I’m a big proponent for having those exams on a regular basis,” she said.

McStay’s group of volunteers, the Knitted Knockers of Cape Cod, is able to meet local demand and isn’t currently looking for new members. Instead, she recommends people send them to the organization’s headquarters in Washington state, which distributes them to where they are most needed around the world. Patterns and tutorials can be found on the Knitted Knockers web site. Making the Knockers takes some knowledge of how to use double-pointed needles, according to McStay.

Patients on Cape Cod are fortunate to be able to reap the benefits of the group’s handiwork, said Moe.

“We’re so grateful for what Diane and her friends do,” she said. “It's incredible how much work they put into this. “They've been very well-received by our patients. They really can make life a lot better for people.”