Knit a Boob for Breast Cancer Survivors

photo credit: bookgrl via photopin cc

photo credit: bookgrl via photopin cc

In June this year, Angelina Jolie revealed to the world that she had undergone surgery to have both of her breasts removed, after learning that she carried the BRCA1 cancer gene, which put her at significant risk (87 per cent) of developing breast cancer.

Since revealing her decision to have a double mastectomy,  the BC Cancer Agency says that the number of people being referred for cancer risk assessments has increased dramatically, suggesting that Angelina’s news could be responsible for the spike.  You can read more about this story at CTV News.

Angelina’s decision to undergo preventative surgery (and to go public about it) must have been a difficult one. As she says in this New York Times article, “Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness,” but, hopefully, by sharing her story she has helped to raise awareness about breast cancer risk and genetic screening, and inspired and empowered women into action.

So, with this recent news story in mind, and in honor of  Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which begins in October, I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about boobs. But not just any boobs….No.

You guessed it, this post is about knitted boobs (this is a knitting blog after all)!

Sounds funny, I know, but after reading more about Knitted Knockers & Tit Bits (and the personal stories behind them), I am absolutely inspired!

The original Knitted  Knocker. Photo credit: The Knitting Experience Cafe

A knitted knocker. Photo credit: The Knitting Experience Cafe

More about the boobs…

Beryl Tsang, is the founder and Chief Executive Knitter of Tit Bits: Hand Knitted Breasts. When Beryl lost a breast to cancer, she found it difficult to find a comfortable prosthesis that fit properly. So she knit her own. Soon, her knitted Tit Bits were in high demand, and now she is sharing her instructions on how to make them for free!

Furthermore, in 2007 the Knitting Experience Cafe launched a unique charity knit program, Knitted Knockers, to provide soft, comfortable, and free knitted prosthetic breasts to breast cancer survivors.  Apparently,  when placed in a bra, the knitted prosthetic breasts take the shape and feel of a real breast and are lighter and more comfortable than silicone prosthetic breasts. Also, the knitted fabric breathes and prevents the heat rash experienced by many women wearing the silicone ones.

Knitted Knockers

Beautifully Colorful Knitted Knockers – Photo credit: The Knitting Experience Cafe

Why knit a knocker? 

Well, apart from the fact that it would be fun to knit a boob… it would also mean a lot to a woman who needed one. Apparently, you can’t be fitted for a traditional breast prosthesis until you have been out of surgery for at least three weeks, so a knitted breast would be a welcome gift to a mastectomy patient in those first few weeks post-surgery.

Also, silicone prosthetic breasts are expensive and without health insurance (in the US), many breast cancer survivors can’t afford them. Knitted breasts, on the other hand, are affordable and accessible to everyone!

How to get involved?

1) Knit a boob (or two or three…).

Get the FREE pattern HERE (Note: for personal use only; you may not make Tit-bits to sell under any circumstances.)

2) Tell a friend about the knitted knocker project – maybe they knit, or are breast cancer survivors.

3) Get in touch with your local yarn store and see if they know about knitted knockers, ask if they are receiving donations, or are interested in starting a knitted knocker knitting group.

4) Consider starting a knitted knocker group in your area.

5) Join a Ravelry Group (or create one).

Here’s what they suggest on the Knitting Experience (Knitted Knockers) site:

First, knit a knocker. Then, contact the local hospital, oncology unit, women’s health center, or your local chapter of the American Cancer Society.  Find out who serves as the liaison for breast cancer patients. Describe the knitted breasts and the tremendous impact they have already had. Feel free to refer them to our website and story and bring in the breast you have knit to show them exactly what it looks like.

If you just want to knit some boobs, you can send them to the Knitted Knocker Project, where they will be gratefully received! Tempe Yarn and Fiber, made a call on Ravelry for knitted knocker donations just a few days ago. They have recently mailed over 100 knitted knockers to women all over the US and are looking for donations.

 

photo credit: .curt. via photopin cc

photo credit: .curt. via photopin cc

Check out the following links for more information:

TitBits – a website for women living with breast cancer

The Tit Bits Pattern – FREE

KnittedKnockers.info

Breast Cancer Information:

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

Canadian Cancer Society 

The Breast Cancer Society (Canada)

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (US) 

Pink Ribbon International

I’d love to hear about your knitted knocker projects, or any other breast cancer-related projects you happen to be working on, so please get in touch!

Now, I can’t wait to get started on some boobs!

Happy Knitting!

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Embracing Autumn and Honoring the Harvest Moon

Red Fall Trees

Today (Sept 22nd) is the autumnal equinox, which marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Autumn is a transitional phase; a time for change. The rise of the Harvest Moon a few days ago and the shortening days that follow, signals that we (and other living beings) must prepare for the colder, darker winter months ahead.  Birds rely on the Harvest moon to begin their migration to warmer climates, and other animals prepare for hibernation. The Fall is a stunning time of year, as trees shed their leaves, surrounding us with the brilliant (and inspiring) colors of fall – rich and warm, earthy tones of red, orange, yellow, and brown.

Fall Trees

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

For me, the fall is a time of transition, a time to slow down and reflect. As the days grow shorter and colder, I feel a need and desire to prepare, both physically and emotionally, for spending more time indoors. Over the next few weeks, I will share more about how I like to prepare for the colder winter months (such as cooking vata-balancing soups and stews; developing a rejuvenating yoga and meditation practice; slowing down and reflecting on goals and dreams; and generally de-cluttering the home). But today, I want to talk about one of the most exciting things about preparing for the winter months… Autumn knitting!

As the days turn colder, I can’t help but get excited about my knitting. I look forward to wrapping myself (and my family) in warm and cozy hand-knit yumminess, such as leg warmers, chunky cardigans, mittens, beanies and blankets. I have several exciting knitting projects lined up, including these lace boot toppers; these Mason jar cozies, and a certain Norah Gaughan cardigan for my Mum (though I can’t reveal which pattern I’m using, since I want to keep it a surprise). I also plan to design and knit a “wee man” sweater for Caelan, my two-year-old son.
Since the Fall is a time for refinement – of getting rid of things that are not serving us – I also plan to do some serious stash-busting this fall. This POP blanket by Tin Can Knits, should do the job nicely! It’s the perfect project for the Fall. I have so many small balls of leftover yarn, in bright and vibrant colors, just craving to be knit up into this stunning and luxurious little blanket. Since each square is knit separately, it makes for a great “inbetweener” project, and it is perfectly small and transportable for on-the-go knitting!
How do you transition into the Fall and Winter months? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Finally, here’s some inspiring knitting to get you in the mood for the Fall.
Happy Autumn!
Fall Knitting Red Gloves

photo credit: cashmere dreams via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Red Beanie

photo credit: Sarah Cady via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Burnt Orange

photo credit: looseends via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Red Beanie Leaf

photo credit: *meaghan* via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Pumpkin Hat

photo credit: debcll via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Yellow

photo credit: splityarn via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Yellow Detail

photo credit: meg’s my name via photopin cc

Fall Knitting Beanie

photo credit: caruba via photopin cc

The Secret to Speed in Fair Isle Knitting

Fair Isle Mitts

photo credit: amonja via photopin cc

I love knitting color work. It is fun and interesting, and looks beautiful and intricate. But I also like to do things quickly. Now, you might think that knitting beautiful color work and knitting with speed and effiency are separate and incongruent concepts.

Au contraire, my friends. Au contraire.

You may be surprised to learn that traditional Fair Isle knitting designs were developed for speed. For traditional Shetland knitters, the more sweaters a woman could knit in a week, the more money she had to put food on the table. So you see, speed was imperative!

Here are some of the key requisites for speed and efficiency in Fair Isle knitting:

  1. Maximum of 2 colors per row 
  2. Small intervals between color changes 
  3. Simple shapes and repeats 
  4. Small movements of fingers and hands

Let’s look at each in turn:

1) Maximum of 2 colors per row

Despite the fact that some Fair Isle designs use up to twelve different colors (though often no more than six or eight), the general rule is to use no more that two colors on a single row. This makes it possible to hold both strands of yarn at the same time, and eliminates any stopping and starting  involved with dropping and picking up new colors.

2) Small intervals between color changes

By keeping the interval between color changes short (no more than 4 or 5 stitches), there is no need to pause and twist the strands to ‘carry’ the unused color. Also, it prevents creating long strands, which are susceptible to snagging and allows for more even work (i.e. less puckering).

Fair Isle Chart

Example of Fair Isle pattern chart, using 6 colors

fair isle chart, single row

Single row of chart showing no more than 2 colors and small intervals between color changes

3) Simple shapes and repeats

Stopping to look at a chart takes up time.  The simple shapes characteristic of Fair Isle knitting makes the pattern easy to remember without referring to a chart.

4) Small movements of fingers and hands

Traditional Shetland knitters work with a knitting belt, and three long, heavy double-pointed needles. The knitting belt is absolutely essential for speed and frees the knitter from supporting the right needle. The right hand hovers above the knitting, and the fingers flick the yarn over the needle, while traveling minimal distances – a bit like touch typing. (For more information, see The Art of Fair Isle Knittingby Ann Feitelson)

Though most of us will not be using a knitting belt, we can speed up our knitting by minimizing the movements that our fingers and hands make as we pass the yarn over the needles.

Fair Isle Knitting

A stunning example of Fair Isle knitting
photo credit: knittinganney via photopin cc

Some of you may feel intimidated by the apparent complexity of Fair Isle knitting, but honestly, it really is not that difficult! When taken one row at a time, you will find yourself falling into a simple rhythm of pattern and background stitches.

I find it helpful to have a sort of counting mantra that allows me to remember the pattern repeats across the row. I chant away to myself, singing “two, one, one, one; three, one, one, one; two, one, one, one; three, one one one”, and so on. Before I know it, I have reached the end of the row, and then a new mantra begins: “two, two, two, one/two, two, two, one….”

These tricks help to promote faster knitting. You’ll think less and move more automatically and rhythmically. This rhythm not only makes the work seem effortless and enjoyable, but it is also essential for speed!

Fair Isle Knitting

photo credit: qusic via photopin cc

Fair Isle Knit Beanie

photo credit: sand_and_sky via photopin cc

I hope this post offers you some reassurance that Fair Isle knitting is not as difficult as it appears, and maybe even convince you to give it a try if you haven’t already?

Good luck, and happy knitting!

The Devil Finds Work for Idle Hands

hand knit cotton dish cloths

My last big project was the Sanctuary Beanie, and whenever I had a spare moment to knit, I was working on it. I knit so much in a matter of days that I think I got a little bit addicted to the feeling of having a project in my hands and being productive in those moments of the day when I would otherwise feel helplessly unproductive (like when I’m waiting at a bus stop or watching my kids play at the park).

See, this is why I love to knit. I like to be doing things, being creative and productive. Knitting allows me to do this wherever I am, and when I have a few (rare) moments to myself. People often say to me “Oh I couldn’t knit, I’m not a patient person”. This makes me laugh, because it is exactly because I am not a patient person, that knitting is a good for me. It keeps me occupied when I would otherwise feel restless and impatient. It helps me feel like I am doing something useful with my time.

So, when I finished the Sanctuary Beanies, I found myself empty handed all of a sudden, and didn’t have anything else to work on! I felt incredibly antsy. I needed to knit something! But as you may know, starting a new project can take time, because you need to choose a pattern/design a pattern, buy the right yarn, knit a swatch to ensure you have the correct gauge (a step that I’m sure nobody in their right might would knowingly skip), and if all is good, you can cast on.

So, from that day forward, I vowed that I would always have something to work on in between the bigger projects. These “in-between-er” projects need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Small – good for taking wherever I go.
  2. Easy – the kind of knitting that I can do while at the bus stop, at the park with the kids, or chatting with friends.
  3. Stash busting – something that allows me to use up left over yarn, or just use whatever I have available NOW!.
  4. Practical/Useful – It has to be something I actually want or would use. 
  5. Quick to cast-on and get started – for those times when I need to knit NOW!

Recently, I have been knitting cotton dish cloths and it is the perfect in-between-er project. I started with this one: Double Bump Dish Cloth. Then, I began to experiment with other stitch patterns, developing my own dishcloth pattern along the way.

Hand knit cotton dish cloths

hand knit cotton dish cloths

For months, we’ve been using old, ripped pajamas (cut into squares), as dishcloths, so I am actually pretty excited to start using these beautiful, and vibrant hand knit ones instead.

I picked up several balls of Bernat Handicrafter Cotton while shopping at Michaels, so I will continue to experiment with other stitch patterns and whip up a few more handy-dandy dishcloths, while also keeping the devil away from my idle hands.

hand knit cotton dish cloths

The Sanctuary Beanie

Sanctuary Beanies

The Sanctuary Beanie

Over the last couple of weeks I have been busy designing and knitting a fair isle hat for Jan’s upcoming birthday.

Unfortunately, the first version was a poor fit, so I had to go back to the drawing board to tweak the pattern, alter the chart, and then knit a second version. I’ve been waiting to finish knitting the second beanie before sharing it with you here.

I’m happy to report that the Sanctuary Beanie was gratefully received by Jan and fits perfectly!!

So, without further ado, here it is…

Sanctuary Beanie

Sanctuary Beanie (version 2)

THE MATERIALS:

Grignasco Knits Yarn

Grignasco Loden

Yarn:

Grignasco Knits Loden (1.76 oz/50g, 120 yd/110 m, 50% Virgin Wool/25% Alpaca/ 25% Rayon)

5 partial balls worsted weight yarn:

# 734, Dark Blue (MC)

# 601, Light Blue (A)

# 585, Cream (B)

# 818, Green (C)

# 590, Light Grey (Used as MC in version 1)

Needles:

US size 4 [3.5 mm], 16” circular needle

US size 7 [4.5 mm] 16″ circular needle

US size 7 [4.5 mm] double-pointed needles

Tools:

Stitch markers

Tapestry needle

THE PATTERN

Size:

To fit average adult

Finished Measurements: 

16” circumference; 8” (height from CO edge)

Gauge:

18.5 sts and 24 rows = 4″ instockinette stitch with 4.5 mm needles.

Begin:

Using smaller needles (3.5mm), cast on 88 st, place marker and join for knitting in the round.

*K2, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Continue in 2×2 rib for 1.25 inches.

*Knit 22st, M1, repeat from * 2 more times, knit 22, M1 (4 st increased, 92 st total).

Switch to larger needles (4.5mm) and knit in stockinette stitch for 0.5 inches.

Fair Isle Section:

For the next 23 rounds, follow chart below:

Sanctuary Beanie Chart

Sanctuary Beanie Chart

In MC, knit 3 more rounds, or until piece measures 6 inches from CO edge.

Shaping:

Knit 23 st, place marker, repeat 2 more times, knit 23 st (Note: It helps to have the marker at the start of the round in a contrasting color).

You should have divided the round equally into 4 sections, with 23 stitches between each marker.

Decrease Round:

Round 1: Knit2tog, knit to 2 stitches before marker, ssk, slip marker, k2tog. Repeat around until 2 stitches remain on round, ssk (8 st decreased).

Round 2: Knit all stitches.

Repeat these last 2 rounds until 8 st remain between markers, switching to double pointed needles when necessary.

From now on, decrease on every round until 2 st remain between markers,

Finish:

Break yarn, leaving 6 in tail. Thread tail through remaining stitches on needle and pull to close the hole. Weave in loose ends.

Sanctuary Beanie

Sanctuary Beanie (Version 1)

Sanctuary Beanie

Sanctuary Beanie (Version 2)