BALTIMORE — Melissa Salzman loves to knit and crochet.
She loves it so much, she has her own yarn and supply store, Lovelyarns, in Hampden.
"When the world feels so crazy outside your door, it’s nice to be able to have some control in your hands so that you can do some good," she said.
Salzman loves to use her passion for good, like making handmade breast prostheses called Knitted Knockers.
"I think it’s just a wonderful way to make someone feel whole again, boost your self esteem and make you feel that after you’ve had something as traumatizing as cancer," she said.
A Knitted Knocker is a knitted or crocheted breast prosthetic for women who have undergone a mastectomy. Salzman collects them year-round to donate, and for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, she is doing a Knitted Knocker-a-thon. She is offering a discount to customers on yarn and supplies to make them and also has free patterns available.
"Making Knockers is another way to do good and put something positive out there," she said.
The "Knockers" are collected and distributed for free by the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation, which was started by Barbara Demorest after she had a mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis.
Her doctor suggested instead of a traditional prosthetic, she try a knitted one. She asked her friend Phyllis to make her one.
"It just changed everything for me. It was soft, it was light, it was beautiful. It was made by somebody who cared," Demorest said.
"At that moment, I re-engaged with life. I realized that we need to provide these to the doctors offices so that other women don’t have to go out and find out how to make their own or have a Phyllis in their life. They may not have a Phyllis in their life," she said.
Knitted Knockers has a network of hospitals and doctor's offices around the country and world that they send Knockers to, free of charge, to female breast cancer patients. They recently shipped their 200,000th Knitted Knocker.
Demorest said she would never consider selling this product.
"The Knitted Knockers have the added benefit of not only being a wonderful product but they’re made by people who care," she said. "So the recipients feel that love and caring, knowing that that person made this for them with no personal benefit or no personal gain other than because they care."
And it's lots of love and lots of care that Salzman puts into every stitch of the Knitted Knockers she makes, and she hopes her customers will be encouraged to do the same.
"It’s just nice to be able to give back to a community that supports us and continues to support us," Salzman said.
To purchase supplies and Knitted Knocker-approved yarn from Lovelyarns, click here. You can drop off your finish product at the store, located at 3610 Falls Road, and Salzman will get it to the foundation.
For more information about the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation, click here.