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.
Making for cancer patients
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 some comfort, but remembering the practicalities is important.
Blankets & afghans
Blankets and afghans are wonderful gifts, but they’re big projects so if you're going to make one, don't forget to 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
- Color - choose a color scheme that your recipient will love, a favourite color 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 color/embellishments. If the recipient of your hat loves making a statement then by all means make a hat in bright colors, 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 & pillows
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, home decor or perhaps their passion. Whether it’s a coastal cushion, a heart patterned cushion, or an owl cushion, there really is something for everyone.
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, stripey and bright. Unsure about knitting socks? Read our guide to knitting socks to get you started.
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 Knittedknockers.org 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
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 color.
Making for cancer charities
Cancer charities often welcome hand knitting but the best way to find out is to get in touch and find out what is needed. Find out more in our guide for knitting for charity.