Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating. As knitters we often ask ourselves, what can we make to help? Knitted blankets and knitted socks can provide a little piece of comfort at a time of need, but choosing the right yarn can make all the difference. For those who wish to knit for charity, but don’t know anyone personally affected, there are lots of knitting projects which can be donated to cancer patients or knitted for fundraising. However you choose to knit for cancer, we believe if we can share even the smallest amount of joy, comfort or love, at a time of need, then each stitch is worth a million.
Which cancer charities can I knit for?
Every country has a range of cancer charities to knit for, from boobs for Knitted Knockers to beanies for Knots of Love, and handmade items for Yarns of Hope. The Breast Cancer Haven charity love knitted and crocheted items and there are knit and crochet patterns for chemo hats on Crochet for Cancer. It's a great idea to get in touch with your local hospitals and their oncology departments and ask if they need chemo caps, blankets or covers for drainage bags post surgery too.
What to make for someone with cancer
Different cancers produce different symptoms, but often those undergoing treatment feel the cold more than usual, because their immune systems are under fire. Knitting something warm can provide a little piece of comfort, but remembering the practicalities is important.
Blankets are wonderful gifts, but they’re big projects so if you decide to make one, consider essential factors, such as:
- Allergies - some people are allergic to animal fibres, or have sensitive skin due to treatment, so stick to plant based yarns or acrylics if necessary.
- Temperature - if it’s the middle of summer or your intended recipient is living in a hot climate, the last thing they will want is a heavy woollen blanket weighing them down, so consider cooler throws in cotton or cotton blends.
- Itchiness - make sure the yarn you use is gentle against the skin, treatment can cause skin sensitivities.
- Colour - choose a colour scheme that the recipient will love, a favourite colour or a tonal selection to match a bedroom or a sofa.
Hats are thoughtful gifts for many reasons. People going through chemo and radiotherapy sometimes lose their hair and feel both cold and/or self conscious. A super soft, gentle hat is perfect. Be careful to:
- Choose a yarn that is very soft and non-irritating. Some charities and hospitals recommend not using wool, but you may find that a super soft merino wool is exactly what you need as long as the recipient has no sensitivities or allergies.
- Knit the right size. It is difficult to actively measure someone’s head if you’re making a gift, but make a mental note of the size you think will fit best.
- Choose the right colour/embellishments. If the recipient of your hat loves making a statement then by all means make a hat in bright colours, with embellishments and a fluffy pompom, but if they are more conservative, stick to something they would wear, perhaps a sweet, plain beanie with some gentle striping or a cable or two.
- Avoid seams - if you can, knit the hat in the round to avoid seams that rub, or if you do need to sew up, keep your seam as soft as possible.
Cushions and pillows are good ideas for anyone who is either bed bound or having to rest for long periods of time. You can make them really personal too, think about a cushion design that will match their personality, interior design or perhaps their passion.
Socks & mittens
Having cancer treatment can cause extremities to get chillier than usual, so snuggly socks and mitts to wear indoors can provide some extra warmth. Socks can be cheery, stripy and bright. Unsure about knitting socks? Our guide to knitting socks to get you started.
Knit some mittens
Boobs for breast cancer
After a mastectomy, it can be just too sore to wear a plastic prosthesis, which is where ‘knitted knockers’ can be a source of great comfort. Before you embark on a knitted knocker, read the guidelines that exist from Knitted Knockers UK, or your local hospital. Choose a breathable, super soft fabric like cotton or a blend - these are so much more comfortable to wear than heavy plastic.
Suggested yarns for boobs
Explore patterns from Breast Cancer Haven, to raise money directly for the charity and celebrate their yearly Big Tea Cosy campaign!
Remember friends and family
Often, the people who are caring for someone with cancer are forgotten in the day to day hustle and bustle of appointments, nursing, coping and caring. A gesture as simple as making someone a hot drink can be much appreciated - but if you have time, a thoughtful gift knit is a loving way to let a carer know how much you are thinking of them. Knit a scarf, a shawl, a hat, a pair of mittens, and if the weather is warm, perhaps accessories made of cotton or linen, or a pair of socks in a favourite colour.