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Bosom Buddies fashion breast prosthesesPublished October 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Sharon Loyd sometimes knits prosthetic breasts in the studio at her home in Dardanelle. She and a group of other knitters call themselves Bosom Buddies and create the prostheses, which are free for women who had have breast cancer. Others in the group include Danielle Housenick, Lynn McEntire, Corlene Hogg, Cecelia Jaffe and Caroline Hargus.
RUSSELLVILLE Sharon Loyd of Dardanelle has lost count of how many breasts she’s knitted.
“I tried to keep count of it for a while, but we got too busy,” she said.
Loyd is one of six women who meet at a Russellville yarn shop each week to knit the unique prostheses.
“We’ve made 200, at least,” she said.
Loyd got the idea from a friend in Northwest Arkansas who had a lumpectomy and discovered the knitted prostheses on the Internet.
The problem was, they were made by a woman in Canada, were expensive and were going to take weeks to get.
Loyd searched online and found women in Missouri who were knitting breast prostheses to send with missionaries to Mexico.
“There are a lot of people around here who could use them, just as well as in Mexico or Canada,” Loyd said.
Loyd, who is normally a weaver, said she got a pattern and started knitting.
“It isn’t difficult. It’s all knit and purl and increase and decrease, and if you can do that, you can knit a boob,” she said, laughing.
The Pope and Johnson County women call themselves Bosom Buddies, and they meet Tuesday nights at Knit 2 Together in Russellville.
“None of the six have had cancer, not that I’m aware of,” Loyd said. “We’ve all had friends who have, though. Everybody’s touched by it.”
The project started two years ago in January, with members paying for their own yarn and shipping, she said.
Sometimes they get donations now.
“We found a yarn we liked, a cotton-and-acrylic combination. It’s very soft, it’s very nice on your hands to work with,” she said.
After forming the breast, it is stuffed with polyester fiberfill.
“We’re particular about the stuffing; it has to be a resilient stuffing,” she said.
“We leave the back open; it opens with a draw string. Nobody’s a perfect C,” she said. “You can customize it to make it fit better.”
That’s part of the beauty of the breasts, she said. They are also comfortable and washable, she said.
The women can create them with a nipple or leave them smooth.
“We aim to please,” she said.
“At first, we were making them in wild colors because we thought people need something to make them happy,” Loyd said.
A male doctor suggested that patients would like more “sedate” colors.
“We use skin tones — pinks and peaches — then we have a heather brown and a really dark, dark brown, and white, and all different shades in between,” Loyd said.
Still, they take requests.
“Hey, I’m waiting till I get to make one in Razorback red — I can’t wait,” she said.
Loyd said she can knit a breast prosthesis in a day, depending on the size.
They knit sizes AA to G cups.
“An A can easily be done in half a day, if you don’t get distracted by doing something else, like cooking, or eating, or cleaning,” she said, laughing.
“I did a G in one day, but I didn’t do much of anything else.”
The women give the prostheses to hospitals, surgeons’ offices and health units, which provide them free to women.
“They’ve gone all over the United States. We had one sent to Malaysia, the East Coast, West Coast. The pattern has traveled around, too,” Loyd said.”We try to keep a map and start putting a little heart wherever we send them.
“At first, we were scrambling to keep up.”
The demand comes and goes, Loyd said.
“A lot of the women were having reconstructive surgeries, but things are changing, and I’m not sure how much reconstruction costs are going to be covered by insurance,” Loyd said.
Judith Moon, 63, of London hadn’t heard of the prostheses until a few weeks ago.
She had a mastectomy three years ago, soon after being diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram.
“I decided to have the breast removed; that way it took 95 percent of the chance of that cancer coming back,” she said. “At the time, I was 60; I was fine with it.”
Moon considered reconstructive surgery, but the stretching that has to be done first “sounded painful,” she said.
She said she grieved, got a prosthesis and moved on.
Her husband, Dennis, who is now deceased, thought they should name the prosthesis.
Moon is a fan of Betty Boop, so her husband named the prosthesis Betty Boob.
A few weeks ago, a co-worker of Moon’s at Liberty Bank in Russellville approached her.
“She said, ‘I have a really, really personal question to ask — did you have a breast removed?”
Moon told the woman yes, and the woman told her about Bosom Buddies and knitted prostheses. Moon said she is friends with one member of the group, Corlene Hogg.
Someone brought a sample of one in a bag to the bank.
“It was so cute,” Moon said. “We all stood around dying laughing, looking at this boob in a bag.”
Loyd said the women prefer to knit the prostheses.
“We had some that were crocheted, but they’re not as flexible,” she said.
Moon said she was impressed that the prosthesis came with washing instructions, extra fiberfill and even fabric beads to weigh it down, if needed.
“It’s really lightweight,” she said.
Moon said she is so thrilled (dare we say over the moon?) about her prosthesis that she is going to help the group make them. She will have to learn to knit, she said.
“I’m excited. That way I can crochet one for someone else, and they can get as much enjoyment from one as I do,” she said.
“It makes you feel good that someone cares enough that they take their time and money and take their knowledge to [make] something I didn’t even know until three weeks ago was out there,” Moon said.
Loyd said donations to help buy supplies for Bosom Buddies can be sent to Knit 2 Together, 2300 W. Main St., Russellville, AR 72801.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.