Fredericton Woman knits 142 breast prosthetics for Knitted Knockers

Portrait of Debbie Doucet, Fredericton resident and knitter for 'Knitted Knockers.' (Shannon Munro/AQ)

One woman. Two knitting needles. Countless yards of yarn. And the drive to make a difference.

In September of 2023, Fredericton local Debbie Doucet decided she wanted to put her knitting skills to good use and contribute to the mission of Knitted Knockers of Canada. On March 12, her work was finally complete.

Over the course of six months, avid-knitter Doucet knitted 71 pairs, or 142 individual breast prosthetics for the non-profit Knitted Knockers of Canada, which sends free knitted prosthetics to women overcoming breast cancer.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is to make sure that every woman who has a mastectomy leaves the hospital with an option,” she said. “It’s a really good cause. I mean, women want to feel like women again.”

The 68-year-old got involved in the project after a friend of a friend told her about Knitted Knockers over the summer. She said the non-profit meant something to her because her grandmother died of breast cancer, but also because she has had significant health issues.

Doucet has had two heart attacks, one at age 49 and one just three years ago. This means there are a lot of things she is unable to do, which is why she was excited to find a way she can make a difference.

“I can’t do the walks, I can no longer do the runs. I can’t go out and sit behind the table for three hours and sell tickets. Like I just can’t do that physically. So this was perfect for me. I knit all the time,” she said.

Doucet began knitting when she was four years old after her mother started teaching her to both sew and knit. Throughout the years, she has made bridesmaid dresses, Christmas dresses for her granddaughters and numerous baby blankets for anyone that asks.

For Doucet, knitting is a fascinating process.

“The other night I’m sitting here thinking – which is not a good thing for me a lot of the time – how fascinating it is to see the ball of yarn and a needle and what I can do with it,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of knots.”

While it seems simple, these “bunch of knots” are making a huge difference for women all over Canada — and in Doucet’s experience, not many people of Fredericton even know about the service.

Doucet has spent much of her time trying to find others that know about the organization, but she has yet to encounter anyone in the area. She has also tried to garner interest in helping out, and some doctors and survivor groups have gotten on-board, but she said trying to get interest was like “beating her head against a wall.”

“So I’m going to do what I can do for myself and if somebody wants to start a chapter I’d be more than willing to join.”

Knitted Knockers of Canada started 10 years ago after founder Nancy Thomson, experienced knitter, was asked by a friend to make a pair of Knitted Knockers for her mother, who tried them on for the first time with Thomson.

Sample work done by Debbie Doucet for Knitted Knockers. (Shannon Munro/AQ)

“She came out and I could see just in the expression in her face that those Knitted Knockers changed her,” said Thomson. “It can be pretty emotional.”

This prompted Thomson to start a Canadian organization modeled after the other Knitted Knockers non-profits in the United States and United Kingdom.

“They say that everybody knows somebody that’s been affected by breast cancer, whether it’s somebody that you work with, whether it’s a family member, sister,” said Thomson. “So for a knitter to make something that makes such a difference in a woman’s life is a big deal.”

Thomson ran the organization singlehandedly — receiving requests, knitting and mailing the prosthetics herself. But now, Thomson has thousands of volunteer knitters across the country, with some even starting their own chapters of the non-profit to take care of women in their province.

But Knitted Knockers has not always been well received.

“The first hospital I went to was the hospital that I worked at and they laughed at me,” she said. “Now I have that hospital reaching out and asking for more.”

Despite the good that they do for women all across the country, Thomson’s ultimate goal is to not have to knit any more prosthetics because she hopes for a cure for breast cancer. Until that day, Thomson, Doucet, and thousands of knitters across the country will keep knitting for the cause.

Doucet already has half a box filled with new Knitted Knockers to donate.

“My purpose is not to make money or get fame or have everybody notice me. My purpose is to get them, put them in a box and get them to the people who can get them out to people who need them. Really, it’s that simple,” said Doucet.

“I just want to be able to knit until I don’t anymore,” she said. “I’m 68. I still have a lot of knitting left in me.”