By Tia Lynn Ivey
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the Madison Artists Guild (MAG) launched a new program to give breast cancer survivors a unique gift. The “Knit a Tit” program invited crafty knitters to create “beautiful, lightweight, cotton prostheses for women to use shortly after mastectomies while their incisions heal, as options until they receive breast implants, or if implants have failed.”
According to MAG, “The finished items were donated to Knitted Knockers, a non-profit organization that distributes them for free to doctors, hospitals, and individual breast cancer survivors across the United States and around the world.”
“Knit A Tit, a Madison Artists Guild Art with Heart outreach program, collected over 60 knockers that were knitted and crocheted by 11 women,” said Sarah Wibell, who spearheaded the program at MAG. “A few individuals are knitting more to be turned in, so the total number that will be sent to Knitted Knockers – a non-profit that connects volunteer knitters with breast cancer survivors to offer these for free – will be higher. One participant has even decided to continue knitting prostheses for Knitted Knockers because she loves the project and what it means for the cancer survivors who ultimately receive the finished items.”
According to Wibell, the program was a giant success.
“Our three Knit Nights, attended in-person at MAGallery or virtually, were great fun!” said Wibell. “In addition to knitting, we offered special activities including Yoga for Knitters and meeting Debra Flagle who shared her experiences in raising llamas and alpacas and uses wool to felt beautiful shawls and hats. We were able to be social and share instructions, tips, information, stories, and laughter. Two women, who had each moved to the area right before COVID hit, said they hadn’t been able to be as connected in the community as they’d have liked. This project and venue provided an opportunity to meet fellow knitters and develop new friendships.”
According to Wibell, since so many have been affected by breast cancer, people in the community were eager to contribute.
“The program resonated with people in our community, and a number of women have reached out to MAG to share stories about a friend, family member, or even their own experience with breast cancer,” said Wibell. “The Center for Disease Control notes that breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer for women. Of those who are diagnosed and require mastectomies, these knitted prostheses are soft, lightweight options to use after surgery while awaiting reconstruction, if reconstruction has failed or is not an option. The women involved in Knit A Tit were eager to help.”
The testimonials of breast cancer survivors attest to how the Knit a Tit program aided women through such a difficult experience.
“”I just got my knitted knockers a friend ordered for me,” said Marcia P., a recipient of Knitted Knockers. “Yay! I am flat on [my] right side due to implant failure- and with Covid and some minor health issues- my reconstruction keeps getting put off. This will certainly make my life better until that happens- or who knows- maybe I’ll just skip reconstruction altogether. These are so light and comfy- I thank you all.”
“Being diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer after many years was extremely difficult for me,” said another recipient. “In the COVID environment I could not have my husband with me at all during my mastectomy. Due to previous breast cancer treatment I wasn’t an ideal candidate for reconstruction and didn’t want to spend more time alone in the hospital anyway. The oncology nurse sent me home from a visit with a pair of knitted knockers and I am wearing them everyday. I know I am not alone in this recovery. Thank you.”
Wibell, a proficient knitter and yoga enthusiast, was inspired to use her skills to aid breast cancer survivors.
“Before COVID hit, I became aware that MAG had intended to offer a variety of classes, workshops and outreach programs, and I started imagining ways to offer something with knitting,” explained Wibell. “As a knitter, I love when fiber arts are publicized and shown off. I think that category is often overlooked because it is typically functional, but the skill and craft required to make an object, piece of clothing or, in this case, prosthesis is an art form.”
Wibell aims to use her knitting skills to benefit others. The Knit a Tit project seemed like the perfect way to do just that.
“Over the years, I’ve learned how to use different kinds of needles and utilize various stitches and cables to create numerous items However, for me, knitting is most enjoyable when I’m making something for someone else – a family member, close friend, or good cause,” said Wibell. “If you go onto Knitted Knockers website, you can find testimonials from women who have received these volunteer-made prostheses. It is remarkable how something so simple can be so meaningful to breast cancer survivors.”
The Knit a Tit idea has been a hit with recipients.
“I got one last year as I waited for the silicon prosthesis! It made me feel better as my chest healed,” said Pam Stratton, a local breast cancer survivor. “I still use it sometimes. Thanks for doing this!
MAG provided the pattern, yarn and supplies. Knitters gathered at different times throughout the month of October or worked on their own. Although the original plan was to instruct people who had never knitted, this year the program sought people who already knew how to knit.
“I first encountered Knitted Knockers when I was in college and professors in one of my classes had students make them,” Wibell explained. “Knowing how much MAG loves to develop impactful outreach programs, I began talking to Co-Presidents Patricia DuBose and Karen Wibell about how to make provisions for COVID-19. Everyone at MAG has been very supportive and excited about it. Now we just need to get the word out to other knitters.”
DuBose noted, “This is a very meaningful fiber arts project that augments our existing Art with Heart outreach programs.” The Madison Artists Guild is located at 125 W. Jefferson Street, Madison, Georgia 30650. MAG is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.