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Members of the Krafty Belles arts and crafts club at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock made poster boards to educate the school and community about breast cancer and Knitted Knockers breast prostheses. Courtesy Tara Gilmore

High school girls crochet breast prostheses for CARTI

Mount St. Mary's ‘Knitted Knockers’ project helps breast cancer survivors and CARTI

Published: February 16, 2024      
Courtesy Tara Gilmore
Krafty Belles club members who crocheted breast prostheses called Knitted Knockers deliver more than 20 sets to a nurse at CARTI in Little Rock Dec. 8. Anyone who has had a mastectomy or lumpectomy can request a set of Knitted Knockers for free.

When Krafty Belles club coordinator Tara Gilmore entered the classroom and told her students about a project to make “knitted knockers,” there were several furrowed brows. 

“I was kind of confused. I was like, ‘Hmm, I wonder what these are,’” said Kylie Bui, a junior at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock and an active member of the new Krafty Belles arts and crafts club. 

But confusion soon turned to excitement when students recognized the potential to give back to their community and have fun doing it. 

“I looked it up and … I thought it was very cool and inspiring because sometimes with certain medical items, they’re harder to obtain and they’re not the most comfortable,” Bui said. 

Knitted knockers are crocheted breast prostheses that come in multiple sizes and colors for women who have had mastectomies and lumpectomies as a result of breast cancer. While traditional breast prosthetics are often uncomfortable and expensive, Knitted Knockers are soft, comfortable and can be worn with any clothing. The Knitted Knockers created by volunteers are donated to the Knitted Knockers nonprofit and their partners, who provide them for free to anyone who requests a set. 

As of December 2023, the Knitted Knockers nonprofit has provided an estimated 784,729 sets to women. 

Working with the non-profit for supplies and guidelines was one of the first major projects of MSM’s new arts and crafts club, which began at the start of the fall semester.    

“It seems this past year that crocheting has become trendy,” said Gilmore, who is the school’s head volleyball coach. “There’s a style of crochet called amigurumi that has become trendy. It’s little animals and they’re really cute, and it’s become popular with younger ages. So we’ve noticed a few students crocheting, and I like crocheting.”

Last school year, a substitute teacher at MSM would carry around her crochet projects with her, working on them in her free time. It sparked conversations about the popularity of crocheting, and Gilmore realized the high school could use a club, not just for crocheting, but for crafts of all kinds. 

“I began to (research) … to figure out, what are some community service-type charity activities we might be able to use some crocheting or crafting to support, because all of our clubs here are very service-based or they have some kind of service component.”

When Gilmore stumbled across the Knitted Knockers nonprofit, it seemed like a perfect match, especially with other breast cancer awareness events the all-girls school hosted. 

When Gilmore told her class, she said, “They all looked at me funny.”

But as the club members did more research and heard from one of their coaches about how this nonprofit had personally impacted their lives, the girls were eager to start making a difference in their own community. They made educational posters and pamphlets for different community and sporting events to inform the community about Knitted Knockers and breast cancer.

Senior Aubree McCullough, a student leader in the Krafty Belles club, has been crocheting for over two years. She eagerly helped other students learn to crochet so they could help with the Knitted Knockers project. 

“This was perfect for Mount, with all of the service projects,” McCullough said. “I thought it was really cool because I’ve only ever done crocheting for other people … I like giving (crocheted projects) to people, so this was the perfect way for me to be able to crochet something simple enough in class and then be able to give it to someone else.”

The club decided to make several sets of Knitted Knockers to donate to CARTI

Knitted Knockers requires crocheters to use specific materials, from a certain grade of yarn to a particular cotton stuffing, as well as a specific crochet pattern. Students organized bake sales to earn money for the materials needed. CARTI donated materials to the club as well.

Krafty Belles started making Knitted Knockers in October 2023. During the first week of December, the club brought 20 pairs of Knitted Knockers to CARTI before making another trip in January.

The doctors were so impressed that they asked the Krafty Belles to come back and collaborate with them on several TikToks to raise awareness about Knitted Knockers and breast cancer. 

Dr. Stacy Smith-Foley, a native Arkansan who has been at CARTI for five years, is the founding physician of the breast center at CARTI. She said the work done by Krafty Belles sets a great example for others. 

“Having a mastectomy is life-altering,” Smith-Foley said. “It is especially jarring to wake up from surgery and be flat. These soft prostheses allow patients to go home with their clothes fitting more naturally. I think it is fabulous that these young women are volunteering their time to help others. I was delighted that they chose to donate the fruits of their labor to our center.”

Thanks to Krafty Belles, CARTI has a stocked supply of Knitted Knockers to give to patients, but the students are eagerly standing by with crochet hooks at the ready if CARTI calls with a request for more prostheses. 

One of the club’s next planned projects is to crochet Santa hats for premature babies and placemats for patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  

Bui said the arts and crafts club is just one more example of the public service spirit of MSM girls. 

“Mount gives you plenty of opportunities to help out with different organizations and things going around the school,” she said. “I love how it's very service-based because it gives you the opportunity to branch out — you can discover something new. I think it shows how girls are willing to, in their free time, help the community and put the effort in.”


CORRECTION: The original version of this article referred to CARTI as the Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute. This reference was removed to more accurately reflect the organization following rebranding in 2011.

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