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Recently our local children’s hospital, the IWK, contacted me with an unusual request. The Family Newborn Unit was asking for a knitted breast to help demonstrate breastfeeding techniques to new moms. (Here is a printer-friendly Marianne Brophy’s Knitted Breast pattern.)

As a mother of two and a breastfeeding advocate, I loved this brilliant idea and was thrilled to get involved. Working on this project brought back the memories of challenges that I faced as a mother of a newborn.

Often breastfeeding comes naturally to a nursing couple, but not always. Sometimes new mothers need help. Because the stakes were high for me, I didn’t mind to learn the techniques using my own body that was looked at and touched by strangers of both genders. I  vividly remember the moment when I decided that I simply couldn’t be distracted by the uncomfortable feelings. My child’s needs came before my comfort. Also, I simply didn’t have a choice.

That’s why I want the families and the breastfeeding professionals to have a choice. They can use a realistic, pliable model to talk about the women’s anatomy and the breastfeeding process.  Both mothers and health professionals can feel and manipulate this knitted breast to make their learning experience most useful and comfortable.

knitted-breast

I have made a number of samples and brought them back to the hospital to test  (they passed). Please let me share some of the insights I gained while experimenting. First of all, you don’t have to use only pink yarn but skin tones are preferable. I made two different kinds to reflect differences in skin colours.

knitted-breast-1

The darker yarn was a bit thicker so I had to modify the pattern slightly. I cast on 60 instead of 66 stitches, and had 10 instead of 11 stitches in each decrease section.

knitted-breast-2

They turned out the same size but even if they were slightly bigger or smaller, it wouldn’t matter. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. After stuffing the breasts with the filling material, I traced a yogurt lid to make a few cardboard circles for the flat bottom.

knitted-breast-bottom

If you follow the pattern exactly, you will notice that the top (the nipple part) is shaped like a hat. It provides a lot of flexibility. With the top pushed in, it can represent an inverted nipple that sometimes makes it more challenging for a baby to latch on. It can be used for demonstrating techniques of teasing the nipple out.

knitted-breast-inverted-nipple

If you knit more than one model, you could make a variety of shapes. Draw the yarn through stitches below the last ones (about three rounds down) to create a firm nipple or skip a few last stitches to create a flat nipple, like this one. You can also experiment with the different size areola by joining a contrast yarn sooner or later in the pattern.

knitted-breast-flat-nipple

Dear knitters, let’s knit some breasts for the new mothers and their babies to help make their breastfeeding journey as smooth as possible.

knitted-breast-3

You can drop off your knitted breast models at:

IWK Volunteer Resources
5850/5980 University Avenue
Halifax, NS  B3K 6R8

or mail them to:

Volunteer Resources
IWK Health Centre
PO BOX 9700
Halifax, NS B3K 6R8

Thank you and happy knitting!

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Do you bike or know somebody who does? With the chart below you can knit a little cozy bracelet that says “I Bike”. That’s how this idea started last summer. One knitter suggested that it can make a coffee cozy, too.

I bike bracelet chart
All you need to know is the desirable circumference and the gauge for your chosen yarn and needles.  I used sock yarn and 2 mm double-pointed needles, for example. For the white bracelet I eliminated the “bike tracks” and used two repeats, for the total of 54 stitches. The bracelet/cozy is knit in a round, the colourwork technique is Fair Isle, the yarn is carried over on the inside.

I bike knitted bracelet
The grey bracelet has two repeats and the bike tracks between them.

I Bike Whristband_002
Here is the chart based on 60 stitches and 42 rounds.

I Bike kniting chart
And if you wish to modify the chart, here is an Excel file that will allow you to do so.

Happy summer knitting!

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Although personally I support a long-standing tradition of non-swatching, in this particular case I would say — swatch. Dartmouth Yarns has its Grand Opening in a few days (schedule here) and there is a contest for a stitch pattern (you can see the rules and samples here). I didn’t plan to invent a new stitch but the idea was still brewing in my head.

Somewhere in her post, Kate, the store owner, mentioned that the stitch should reflect knitters creativity. There are many beautiful and sophisticated stitch patterns out there but I am mostly interested in using a combination of simple stitches to create meaningful and useful shapes. Also I wanted to connect the idea of knitters creativity with the diversity of projects they undertake. So, disregarding all rules of the contest (a new stitch, 6 x 6 inches swatch with the border, written pattern), I came up with my own swatch suggestions.

Exhibit A — sock yarn swatch. It’s just what you think, a tube of 60 sts on 2.25 mm needles on my ankle that shows how the yarn will behave in a sock. Maybe more experienced knitters are able to say right away if the variegated yarn will produce stripes or chunks and how the colour is changing but when I see a multicoloured skein, it’s always a guess for me.

Plus, it can be used as a tomato cozy. (Well, not really, I just couldn’t think of another way to tell you that our little garden patch produces delicious tomatoes).

Exhibit B — mini-shawl for fingering weight yarns. It seems to me that warm, simple, and yet sophisticated shawls are quite popular now, most likely due to attention from famous knitting personalities. Think Wingspan, or Colour Affection, or locally designed Bermuda.

Well, my ‘shawl’  is just an idea of a swatch (50 sts on 4 mm needles). It can be either based on a pattern or be made with a simple stitch combination that shows texture well. I wish my camera didn’t go nuts and completely distort red colours and you could see that I didn’t mean to reproduce a matador’s red cape but show the rich golden hue in this yarn.

It is a painfully simple ‘design’ because it’s my first attempt to knit a ‘shawl’. But I was happy that I got the shape from the first try so the rest of it happened sort of by itself. Somehow I think it would be cute to see little swatches like that in the store. (Don’t judge me, I have two little kids and live in the world of ‘cute’).

Exhibit C — wristband or bracelet. I am still on the topic and charted the whole alphabet, and it’s halfway knitted in black and white. For the occasion, I wanted to demonstrate how it could be used for anything from promoting a local yarn store to promoting a healthy life style. My original chart was based on a smaller gauge and included the word ‘Dartmouth’ on top. Well, I didn’t have the right yarns/needles to make it happen today, so instead I am a proud owner of yet another bracelet that has a very fine message indeed — love yarns.

The back has two hearts because the second word ‘yarns’ in between them would make this bracelet into a nice garter, and if used as a display, it would slightly decrease the number of people with whom I could share my views.

I bet you, if it was done in fingering weight yarn, nobody would have to run around me to see what it says. I might try again later.

There are two days left before you can submit your swatches for the contest should the inspiration strike. So swatch away, knitters, swatch away.

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