Knitting circles stitch ‘knitted knockers’ for breast cancer survivors

In a church hall in Wodonga, near the NSW-Victorian border, a group of women are meeting for their regular knitting circle.


There’s not a woolly hat or jumper in sight — just knitted cotton breasts.

The group’s organiser, Gwenda Howard, says the unusual subject creates plenty of giggles.

“We always get a lot of laughs out of them, of course,” she said.

It’s a funny concept for a serious purpose; the knitted breasts are actually prostheses for breast cancer survivors.

Many of the knitters feel personally connected to the cause.

“My own mother died of breast cancer many years ago, so I did feel I had a little bit of an affinity with it,” said Gwenda.

“I’ve got 55 knitters altogether. A lot of them have been touched by breast cancer. Some of them are, of course, breast cancer survivors themselves, so I think everyone can relate to it.”

Elizabeth is one of the knitters – and a breast cancer survivor.

Since wearing a soft knitted prosthetic she said she’ll never go back to the synthetic variety.

“It has made a big difference, because I did have a synthetic one, and it affected my neck, I was forever with my neck out of joint,” she said. 

“So since I’ve had this, which is about 18 months, I haven’t had anything done to my neck, which is wonderful.”

Under a bright red top, another knitter, Merle, wears two of the so-called knitted knockers.

Not that anyone can tell.

“They’re so natural feeling. Like if I bump into someone, they don’t know, it’s not the real boob,” she said.

“Before, you could always see the look in their eye, like, ‘that feels a bit strange’. But these are so natural feeling and if you bump into someone, they don’t know it’s not you.”

There are groups just like this one all over the country, knitting as part of a charity movement called Knitted Knockers. The concept originally started in the US.

Cheryl Webster, President of the Australian branch, said the 100 per cent cotton knitted prostheses are popular here with women who live in hot climates, those who are older, and those who find synthetics uncomfortable.

“This is an alternative, and we have found that women even long-term mastectomy survivors are just wearing socks – or tissues,” she said.

Because it’s a knitted product, it’s designed to be the shape of a boob, you can just pop it in an ordinary bra.”

Cheryl said she sometimes hears stories of women who have taken drastic measures to fill their bras after surgery. She remembers one request from a young girl asking for a knitted knocker to replace the one her grandmother had fashioned for herself.

“She was using a soft ball, a pet rubber ball, she said she’d got it from the pet shop, it had spikes, she’d cut the spikes off and she was using this rubber ball.”

The knitted knockers are given out free, sometimes to hospitals, for women who have just undergone a mastectomy.

Cheryl knows first-hand why something so simple can make a difference.

“It’s to do with self-esteem,” she said.

Tugging at her own blue knitted ‘knocker’, hidden under her top, she says the removal of a breast can have a deep psychological affect.

“You don’t feel a real woman.”

To find out where to get a ‘Knitted Knocker’ or learn more about knitting, visit the organisation’s website.