Pretty Knitty Titties

A cancer survivor’s crafty approach to prosthetic breasts

Knitty Titties

image by I One Media

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Six months after losing one of her breasts to cancer, Beryl Tsang faced a daunting but common challenge: an invitation to a party at a trendy Toronto lounge. She wanted to wear a dress but didn’t want go out “unbalanced,” which meant finding the right breast prosthesis.

“I went to every mastectomy boutique and medical supply store in the city,” Tsang writes on Knitty.com. “There were titties of every shape, size, and color (from beige to dark brown), but none were what I wanted—perky, cute, and comfortable. They were too heavy, squishy, or ugly.”

The best commercial option Tsang found, a light silicone prosthesis paired with an official mastectomy bra, still brought her to tears on the big night. “The titty reminded me of raw liver, while the bra resembled the suspension system of my 1995 Volvo,” she writes.

Inspiration struck the crafty Canadian, who grabbed a pair of knitting needles and proceeded to whip out a comfy, cute knitted breast. The Tit-Bit was born.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one woman in eight will have breast cancer in her lifetime, and every year thousands of women undergo mastectomies. Tsang’s knitted breasts, comfortable, knitted alternatives to commercial prosthetics, are a homespun victory for all survivors. The pattern is available on Knitty.com, but Tsang also sells a variety of spunky models on TitBits.ca. Prices range from $65 to $95 Canadian, and she offers three types: everyday (simple cotton designs in colors like milk chocolate and buff); fancy (made with luxury yarns such as cashmere or with creative touches like confetti trim); and floosie (racy models, such as the Marabou Red, a scarlet cotton beauty with a faux fur trim).

Tsang’s enterprise isn’t just a “boob factory,” she told Bust (Dec. 2007–Jan. 2008). She sees TitBits.ca as a social enterprise, and she hopes that “the homemade prostheses will help women ‘take back the tit’ from cancer and a male-run health care system.” Her goal is political education, and her website is a forum where women with breast cancer can exchange wisdom, wit, and inspiration. It contains answers from various women to questions such as: I’ve just been diagnosed and I have to make decisions about my treatment quickly but I’m so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start, help! and Who do I tell about my breast cancer and what do I say?

Tsang lovingly makes each Tit-Bit by hand, so it takes her five to seven weeks to fill online orders. As for whether or not the knitted breasts pass for the real thing (or even compare to a high-tech prosthetic, for that matter): On that fateful first night out, a friend told Tsang that her left breast appeared quite realistic, nearly as good-looking as her right. A curious compliment, since it was Tsang’s right breast that had been removed.