Knitted Knockers Tbilisi: Bringing Comfort to Breast Cancer Survivors

Late in 2015, quite by accident whilst researching a business idea, Tbilisi resident Lesley Baxter stumbled across the website of an organization called Knitted Knockers Foundation. As she read about one woman’s experiences during her recovery from breast cancer and how she turned her experience into a force for good, another idea began to form…

Knitted Knockers Foundation is a charitable organization based in Bellingham, USA, founded in 2011 by breast cancer survivor Barbara Demorest. Complications following her mastectomy meant she was not able to be reconstructed nor wear a traditional silicone prosthetic. In despair, Barbara asked her friend to knit her a soft, light, cotton alternative using a pattern provided by Barbara’s doctor. Barbara was delighted with her Knitted Knocker and very quickly decided she wanted to support other women who found themselves in her situation – and the Knitted Knockers Foundation was born.

The inspirational story behind Knitted Knockers struck a chord with Lesley who, like very many people, has family and friends who have been touched by breast cancer. Anticipating a need for such an initiative in Georgia, she encouraged some friends to join her in forming a group of knitters, named the group Knitted Knockers Tbilisi, and began knitting Knockers to offer breast cancer survivors.

Traditional silicone breast prosthetics are expensive and not readily available to women in Georgia, and they can be heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable. Because Knitted Knockers are handmade from cotton yarn and are soft, light, comfortable, and can be worn inside an ordinary bra, they are suitable for most women who have undergone mastectomies and other procedures to the breast. Knitted Knockers are gentle against delicate skin and can be individually adjusted for size and shape by adding or removing stuffing.

Lesley’s small group of dedicated and happy knitters, who are known amongst themselves as the ‘Knockettes’, have knitted over 250 beautiful Knockers to date. They knit the Knockers to order - the recipient can choose their size, preferred colour and whether they need a single or a pair - and also maintain a stock of Knockers, making it easy to respond quickly to requests. As well as the knitters, and one or two who crochet, a number of other willing volunteers help with sizing, stuffing and packing. The Knockettes’ special message of love and support is included with every Knitted Knocker.

One of the first women who received a Knitted Knocker, and who is now a vital member of the team helping to connect with other breast cancer survivors, was Tamari: “I have to thank the group of ladies with ‘golden hands,’ and Lesley who introduced me to “Knitted Knockers” when I had a mastectomy. It’s very soft and comfortable to wear. One of the advantages – my skin can breathe! It’s also washable. But most important and rewarding - it’s free of charge and available for anyone. Thank you ladies for thinking of us!”

Knitted Knockers Tbilisi aims to help improve the lives of women who have experienced the emotional and physical trauma of mastectomy by providing this simple solution to all those who request Knockers, and, judging by the response so far, there could be quite a demand. During a recent visit to Gori to meet a group of breast cancer survivors, around a hundred Knitted Knockers were distributed in one afternoon to women who arrived from the city and surrounding villages to hear about Knitted Knockers. It was a heart-warming scene as the women eagerly chose from a range of sizes and colours, some happy to take extra Knockers to give to friends who were unable to attend the meeting.

Support and encouragement for Knitted Knockers Tbilisi has come in many forms, including donations of yarn and other materials, most recently a generous donation of yarn from the International Women’s Association of Georgia.

All that’s needed from the knitters is their time and their knitting skills. It is by no means necessary to be an expert knitter, only a little previous knitting experience is required and some spare time. With practice, a pretty Knocker can be completed within in a few hours.

The knitting pattern, which has been translated into Georgian and Russian, can be distributed along with kits containing yarn and knitting needles. It is hoped this will encourage women to knit for themselves or for friends and family members within their local communities.

In the meantime Knitted Knockers Tbilisi welcomes support from those who can knit, donate materials or help to spread the good word, and in particular encourages requests for Knitted Knockers from women who need a little love and support.

Contact Knitted Knockers Tbilisi at KKtbilisi@gmail.com or find them on Facebook.

Katie Ruth Davies

11 February 2016 19:34
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