OCEAN PARK — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So, when knitters gather this month at Colleen Smith’s Tapestry Rose Yarn for their usual mid-week sessions, many will be following the guidelines of Knitted Knockers to make soft, comfortable, attractive alternatives to commercial breast prosthetics. These will be donated to the CMH/OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative in Astoria, where they will be gifted to breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies.

Tapestry Rose Yarn takes up the back half of Smith’s other establishment, Adelaide’s Coffee & Sweet Shoppe. Knitters from beginners to advanced get together and create everything from sweaters and scarves to hats. But this month’s projects will have many working on what is more like a gift of love to strangers who are having a rough time.

From one of the tables near the yarn racks, Smith said last week that the Knight center had requested her group make some Knitted Knockers. Smith explained that they consider Knight “their charity.” She said that “Knitted Knockers is an international organization that supplies these prosthetics to women who have had mastectomies and need a little support before they move into reconstructive surgery.”

The name Knitted Knockers was chosen by the founder to add a little lightness to a situation that has seen women go through some dark times. Knitted Knockers.org is a complete site that has patterns for Knockers, suggestions for the type of yarn to be used and how knitters can connect with individuals or charities that can use these handcrafted donations. And that information is just part of what’s on the website and also the Knitted Knockers page on Facebook.

The woman behind the creation of these Knockers was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. After a mastectomy, she was exploring the possible use of a commercial silicone prosthetic. But her surgeon said that a lot of women aren’t happy with those because they are heavy and uncomfortable. That, coupled with the fact that she couldn’t put anything on her scar for six weeks left her in a quandary. Necessity fuels invention, so she began designing soft, pliable, lightweight knitted or crocheted alternatives and that’s how Knitted Knockers was born.

Skill level and how to do it

Smith said that knitters or crocheters should be at intermediate level to make these.

They are crafted and then stuffed with a lightweight material. Cup sizes are figured into the patterns, which are available on the Knitted Knockers website.

Smith said there are three main ways to make them: “There are flat, round or crocheted ones.”

All around the world they go

One of the regular knitters at Smith’s is Shelly McSweyn. She once traveled to Europe and while attending the Loch Ness Knit Fest in the Scottish Highlands, met a group of women that were part of a Knitted Knockers group.

“Every country has their own little organization,” McSweyn said. “They go to different festivals over there and put up a booth and help people by giving them patterns and talking about different yarns.”

The group she met at Loch Ness, “were so fun and they were so organized. It was very nice. They made a ton of Knitted Knockers and donated them.”

She continued by saying that Smith’s group of knitters can also join the cause. “We’ll make our contribution to that.”

It’s not just for October

Cancer doesn’t take months off. Knitters can work on Knockers year around. And they don’t have to be in an organized group to take part. Anyone can knit them at home. But if they want to join a group, at least to finish their creations, Smith has a solution.

She and McSweyn are working hard on organizing the peninsula’s first Columbia Pacific Fiber Festival, which will be held Nov. 8 through 10 at the Chautauqua Lodge in Long Beach. There will be vendors, demonstrations, mini-workshops and classes. Smith said there will also be some times when people can get together and just knit, sort of like a yarn jam sessions.

“We would like to invite everybody to make Knitted Knockers, “Smith said.

If knitters have some in progress, she said they can work on them at the Fiber Festival. “We can just sit there in a group and see how many of these Knockers we can get out. We’ll have the stuffing up there. We can finish them off.”

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