When one of Lisa Humphrey's best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, Humphrey promised to shower her friend in support, love and knitted warmth.
She put her knitting needles to task in support of her friend by knitting for Knitted Knockers, a charity that provides hand-stitched bra inserts for breast cancer patients and survivors who undergo mastectomies.
"Knitted Knockers is near-and-dear to my heart," said Humphrey, owner of the Itty Bitty Knitty Shop on Kentucky Avenue in Paducah. "My grandmother had breast cancer. My great-aunt, her sister, died of breast cancer. One of my best friends has breast cancer and is preparing for a double mastectomy in December, so it's important to me. It's very impactful in people's lives, everyone knows of somebody who has been affected by breast cancer."
The knockers are a knitted or crocheted alternative to silicone breast prostheses and can be used by women who are undergoing reconstruction or who have opted out of reconstruction and are looking for a softer, more comfortable alternative.
The knockers are made with soft, non-wool, washable yarn and filled with PolyFiberFil and come in a variety of sizes and colors. There's even an acrylic-based yarn that makes the prosthesis suitable to wear under swimsuits.
"With reconstruction it's a gradual process, so with the knitted knockers you can remove the polyfill and adjust the size of the prosthesis so the women can still wear their own bras, feel feminine, feel comfortable," Humphrey said. "Plus, they're so soft, and I think they're pretty."
Through her shop, Humphrey has become a registered provider through the Knitted Knockers organization, "so whatever we make stays in this area."
Her hope is to team up with Purchase Area hospitals to get the knitted and crocheted prostheses to local cancer patients and survivors.
"As women, our breasts are a part of our femininity," Humphrey said. "Our hair, our breasts, and it's not the end of the world to lose them but it's still nice to have something so you can still feel like yourself. It's not the same, certainly, but it helps. Many women like having a figure and this is one way for them to keep that and maintain self-confidence."
So far, about a dozen knitted knockers are in the production process, but Humphrey hopes to enlist more knitters and crocheters in the effort. Her goal is to be able to supply knitted knockers quickly to any area woman who puts in a request.
"I want to get more people not only making them, but aware that we have them here," she said. "If we can all do a little something to help, that's wonderful. I'm hoping this project grows to be very active, that we're able to serve as many women as possible, and that I have just as many women pitching in to make them."
Local knitters or crocheters who wish to join Humphrey in knitting knockers can swing by her shop anytime to pick up the appropriate yarns and patterns.
Humphrey said locals don't have to be crafty to help out, as she accepts cash donations to benefit the Knitted Knockers organization.
"It's all part of giving back," she said. "That's what knitting is all about. You knit gifts for babies, sweaters for your grandkids. So, for a little bit of time and a little bit of money, you can make a difference in someone's life."
Women interested in receiving one or two knitted knockers can contact Humphrey through email at Lisa@ibkshop.biz, by calling the store at 270-709-3270 or by going online to www.ibkshop.biz.