My journey to finding support: FLAT & Fabulous!

BreastPocketPattern

When you go through a major life event, like breast cancer, you know how important support is. Breast cancer is a body altering disease. You might choose reconstruction or not, but the truth of the matter is, it is beneficial to hear the words of other women who have gone though similar experiences. It is helpful to see images of women who have made similar choices. It helps to connect with others and to know you are not alone. What follows is a telling of my journey in finding support.

Early in my ‘flat journey’ I started to wonder, if the percentages I was reading were correct in stating 40-60% of women forego reconstructing their bodies. If this percentage was correct, why had I never knowingly met a flat or half flat woman? Is the fact that I have never knowingly met a half/flattie telling me something? Am I strange for wanting to simply embrace my flat new form without embracing the use of breast forms? If breast cancer survivors are so celebrated, why haven’t I seen any sexy, inciting or strong images of breastless women in the media?

Am I being told to cover up and fit in?

Do I care to?


I began scouring the web for my breastless sisters in scars. At first, there were hardly any or they were hard to track down (there are many more now and over the course of the month, I will highlight some of them). I continually visited Sentenced2Live‘s Flickr stream. I found Deborah Lattimore. Then Jennifer’s blog, No F***ing Pink Ribbons and I waited with baited breath for each post (she no longer posts). My main form of support at that time was a major online breast cancer forum. I would visit the ‘Living without Reconstruction’ forum.

That name always made me feel like I ought to be sad and pining for the’ better life’ with reconstruction. Focused, as it is, on the act of reconstruction or living without it, as the case may be.

I started a thread within that forum along the lines of: ‘I look for other flat chested women, a rant!’ 

In that thread, I said: 

I know many of you wear prosthesis, so I probably wouldn’t be able to see or ‘know’, but. I look for you. I want to see you. I want to form a union, lol. I wish it were even more accepted, acceptable to be flat. To not wear prosthesis, not feel the need to, to opt out of reconstruction-if that is your choice. I do hope that women who see me, flat as can be, see there are options, that reconstruction isn’t par for the course. I want to make flat beautiful, sexy, stylish. Normal. And it is normal for me, is becoming normal, but I am talking about society, norms and expectations. Breast cancer is not about ‘boob jobs’. Yes, many of us opt for them, want and need them. But it is also about choosing to be flat.  

That thread is now 118 pages long. We are gathering! Support is important.

About a year later, just when I really needed to put cancer into a smaller box, I was asked to join FLAT & Fabulous (Phew! Just in time), which was just a private Facebook page at the time. Finding this group helped me to back away from the major breast cancer support site and it introduced me to women like myself who were beginning to live life without breasts. We share photos, we talk treatment options, we do fashion hauls, some women talk about breast forms and pretty bras. You know, daily talk of whatever needs talking about.

FLAT & Fabulous covers a lot of bodily territories. Many of the members of this group wear breast forms, prosthesis, knitted knockers, some change out the size daily, by whim and outfit. Some had failed reconstruction, some deconstructed. Many, have a single breast. Many have bilaterally flat chests. Many do not wear breast shapes at all. That includes Me!! 🙂 Some had mastectomy as a result of gene testing.

All are considered flat.

It felt, and feels, so good to have this group as support. I am indebted to Sara and Barbie. The group came to me just in time! I am now surrounded by many, brave, courageous and beautiful women, who for whatever reason, find themselves, “Living without Reconstruction”.

And now, FLAT & Fabulous has a web presence! The founders, Sara and Barbie believe, no woman should proceed on this journey alone. Amen sisters! Thank goodness.


If you follow me on Facebook, you may know that breast cancer took Barbie from us last Friday, September 26. I am really sorry to introduce Barbie to you posthumously. Barbie is/was amazing, she set a beautiful example, she lived fully, her beautiful life force shown forth in every photo I have seen. I was never able to meet Barbie in person, but she has effected me so deeply, that I am forever changed. Barbie is/was an inspirational force to be reckoned with. We will all miss her dearly and stand in awe of her work and life.

Check out this post about her Scar Project photo.

Barbie was a Marine, a sister, a daughter and a hero. My hero. 

Thank you, Barbie. And thank you, Sara. I am sorry for the loss of your best friend. My sympathy goes out to the Ritzco family, I can only imagine their loss.

Barbie loved running marathons. Her online moniker was ‘Marathon Barbie’. The first year on the FLAT & Fabulous support board, Barbie and Sara both, encouraged us to do a 5K.

I have never been a runner, I wasn’t interested.

This year, FLAT & Fabulous is sponsoring a 5K in Barbie’s honor and I am doing it, better yet, WE are doing it (my Man and I) this coming November 7. Maybe you will too! It is virtual. You can do it anywhere. You can walk it or run it, wheel it or peg leg it.  David and I will be walking it. You might consider donating to FLAT & Fabulous in Barbie’s name.  Or sign up to do it yourself!

Please, at the very least, consider donating to the group. There are great things planned for the site and every last penny is appreciated. I also think it is the first group of it’s kind.


Phew, wow! Glad you are still here. I know this is a long post, they won’t all be like this. It’s just, I had to talk about Barbie, FLAT & Fabulous, and the 5K all at once. I will come around to talking about Breast Pockets soon. 

 

Breast Cancer Awareness?

Today begins Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

This is a small work, I am stitching on currently. I am learning needle turn. I am not very good yet, but I bit off a large portion and am getting better at it, as a result. I am moving into our tiny apartment, looking for space solutions that fit our favorite activities and furniture. Now it has come down to specifics. I love space organization, so you might hear the glee in my voice as I type these words.

Anyway. Breast cancer awareness.

You may know that there is a challenge out there, in the ethers…

A Quilting Arts Readers Challenge, to be exact.  

I am going to begin a discussion on Going Flat. Much of my discussion will revolve around creating breast pockets and embroidering these small feminine works, as you see above. I hope you will join me, in discussion within the comments section of each post (check back, OK?)

OR join me in a Gather your Sew-plies, Sew a-Long!

Or both.

Please help me get back in the swing of blogging and investing in my virtual community, you! 

Mish Mash.

I bought an album by Sophie Hunger. She is worth a listen. Check her out.


 

I really like Kellie Davis of Mother Fitness Revolution. I was introduced to her web site by Bret Contreras site (who calls himself The Glute Guy-which I think quite charming, albeit goofy) 😉 The two coauthored the upcoming book, Strong Curves, which I preordered, I never pre-order! I am quite excited about this book. Marianne has worked with Bret. In the fitness world it seems that people mentor and teach one another, it is quite an interesting place.


 

I own one piece of jewelry from these folk. I check them out now and again. Lil’ shopping. Then I head over here. I own a pair of boots from CYDWOQ. She says shyly. Riches! Honest to goodness riches. Those boots were comfortable from day one. Amazing. And they will last for quite a long time. These boots can be resoled, and there is a great cobbler in the neighborhood. My Man bought me a shirt sold at J Crew, made of Liberty of London cloth yesterday (I wish you could actually see the print). There will be many a fun day in that shirt! 


 

The Graffiti Breast Pockets are coming along. They need a super shift, a change, an intensity of color, additional motif, something. I have begun to push them in a new direction.

In Episode 6 of the last Mad Men season (4?), Peggy has this print by David Weidman hanging in her office, which I love. I am embroidering my version of these daisies onto the pocket at upper right.

Today I have a doctor appointment in the morning, then I plan to take my sewing supplies to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to stitch/draw. Excitement.

Hand stitch

Stitch, hand stitching is such a quiet endeavor. I love it for that reason. I love keeping the apartment so quiet that you can hear the needle break through the cloth. Over and over again. I also love the way stitch changes the nature of the cloth you work. 

This is a set of breast pockets that I am making in my own name. This will be a dense mix of thread and imagery, hand stitched ‘paint’ (no paint will be used, just hand dyed thread).

I am extending the deadline for the Breast Pocket Project, right now I need about 800 pockets to meet my goal. 200 pockets are a great accomplishment, and I did ask that you send the pockets during the week of the 22nd, which is today or now. I know many more pockets are on their way to my neck of the woods as I type, but if you have it in you to make more pockets, please do.

A podcast, breast pockets, todays ramble.

This week Ricë and I recorded a podcast on ” Going Flat and the Breast Pocket Project” and if you have an hour, please listen to it.

 


Studio Melly is up and running, hand dyeing embroidery floss. I ran out of cards to wrap thread on, and so, began making my own. I am crazy. It takes as long to make your own floss cards than it does to dye the thread (not really). And I do love seeing all the colors lined up in their boxes. I lament they are plastic, but can’t live without the orderliness. So I am ordering these.

I can tell you, I am learning a thing or two, dyeing all this thread. It is an interesting process. 

I have been gifted with an entire set of Havel Scissors. I like them a lot. They are a nice compliment to my sewing shears, but don’t replace them. The blades have a serrated teeth that has the effect of being grippy. I like these scissors for their accessibility, they are in high use right now.  Because I have an array to choose from, each having  specific use, I can confirm, I like the embroidery scissor, it is a bit too big for my Sew-plies purses, but it is lightweight and has a nice grip.

I don’t have an affiliation with Havel scissors, I am just giving my own opinion.

This is a set of pockets that I started working on last night. They will have graffiti stitching. 

We walked into Dumbo, taking photos and talking. The morning was magical and we began our walk just before the hustle and bustle of ‘family wake up time’. We had our cappuccino, we walked, paused, took pictures, it was great.

 I don’t know what this building is called. I will find out.

Bethany

Last week I put a post up on Facebook, asking if anyone knew of a uniboober or flattie in need to a pocket. Jennifer West responded, asking for a single pocket to be made for her cousin Bethany.  Here is what Jennifer said about Bethany:

My dear cousin Bethany died of breast cancer on Sept. 15 of this year. She was a brilliant soul: sweet, spunky and fearless. She had one breast removed and was in remission when the cancer returned with a vengeance and spread to her brain. The world will miss her.

It is so very sad to hear that another woman has died from this crazy disease. Rest peacefully Bethany, we will not forget and we miss you.


In the first few weeks after being diagnosed, I wondered, Geez, I am vegetarian, I am a healthy weight, what more can I do, should I do, to be even healthier? I looked at my breast surgeon and said, “I guess I need to start exercising”. She laughed at me and said something to the effect of, being diagnosed with breast cancer makes you want to exercise? And, well, yeah. I already eat healthy, I walk a lot, and as far as a life threatening disease goes, the one thing I can control is what I do with my body and how I eat. So exercise has been a major focus for me since I was diagnosed.

Months ago, I asked on a breast cancer board, what sort of exercise the other women were doing. One woman pointed out a website that, at first, was a boon, but then turned out to be a bane. The great part about finding that site was that it taught me that in terms of exercise, you are the person you need to compete with. You exercise because it makes you feel good and over time, you will also look better.

I fell in love with the host, I loved her gangly body and sheer excitement in cheering us on and encouraging us, but then…she got a boob job. And a lip job. And hair extensions. And a nose job. And now she still cheers folks on with excitement but I can’t see her anymore.  I watched with fascination as she made these changes to her already fantastic physique. Was she making these changes to get more followers? Did she have to get such big ones? I couldn’t get past the idea that she did it in response to the patriarchal demands that our society places on us as women, especially if we don’t know how to parse and separate ourselves from our culture. So I moved on. (No links to that site, she doesn’t deserve your attention.)

So, I started to get serious and began researching exercise after breast cancer, and you might think that with all this ‘awareness’ going on that someone would have an exercise program suited to the 12% of U.S. women who will be diagnosed in their lifetime. I found a research paper on weightlifting for women at risk of lymphedema after breast cancer treatment on the Journal of the American Medical Association. Then I found Marianne at MyOhMyTv. I watched her videos, read her posts and decided she was on my team, she is a feminist, who is smart and savvy, knows how to introspect about her own fitness goals and she is a founding member of Girls Gone Strong (here is the Girls Gone Strong Facebook page), all of the members of this group are on my fitness blogroll! I contacted Marianne, telling her of my needs as a survivor, and asking if she would be willing to work with me as an online client. I emailed the study results to her, she read them over and agreed.

I haven’t been working with her for long, but I am being consistent and I am seeing some initial results. Just this morning, as we were snuggling and waking up, David said, you are feeling tighter! And I have to say, I also feel more balanced, centered in my body, my endurance has improved, and yes, I am tightening up all over the place. It feels good.

I will be talking more about body image, society and the female form in the next few posts, and I do hope you are interested.

Jingle McEver

 

Last week I was contacted by Morna McEver Golletz through Facebook. She asked for me to put a name to a pocket. And when Morna told me her mother was named Jingle McEver, I knew I needed to put more than a name to this pocket, I had to honor Jingle’s memory with a full blown and beautiful pocket. Jingle was mother, a teacher, a watercolorist and an inspiration. Later in life, Jingle became a Uniboober.

Morna said these things about her mother: 

“Her name is Jingle McEver. She’d be so happy to be doing this.”

and

“…she’d love that you’re from Brooklyn. Her favorite grandmother (and great grandmother and family) settled in Brooklyn after coming to America from Germany.”

“…my mom was an artist from early in her childhood. She taught art and painted, largely watercolors, until she could no longer. She was also a grand encourager of creativity and art in her five daughters.”

I feel honored to make a pocket for a woman who is so highly esteemed. I feel honored to make a pocket for a woman named Jingle. Thank you Morna.


 

As I get used to being a flat chested woman, I seek imagery of other like minded women. Jodi Jaecks made international news for fighting to be allowed to swim in her local pool without a top. Margaret W. Smith had a preemptive bilateral mastectomy because she tested positive for the BRCA2 mutated gene and members of her family had been treated for breast cancer as well. There is also the Scar Project which shows some mastectomies as well as some reconstructed images of women. And then there is the photographer Carly Ries who is working on a series of photographs of women who have gone through treatment for breast cancer. 

I am glad that women can have their bodies reconstructed after breast cancer treatment, many women need and want these options. But for those of us who do not, I am happy that we have some trailblazers who are putting images of their bodies out into the public realm. Seeing images of women who choose not to reconstruct their body is important, beautiful, simple, empowering. 

We, as women, are bombarded with images of how we should look, products we should use, exercise programs to loose weight, fashions that will only look good on size 0 models (0?? What. Who wears size 0? Should we dissolve into the ether next, become totally invisable?)  We see these images and headlines so often, we can forget that they are telling us to be something other than what we are. I have yet to see an ad by the ‘pink ribbon people’ that uses imagery of a single breasted or flat woman. This needs to stop.

It makes me happy that women are bucking the norm and going flat. Putting their images out into the public eye. Normalizing the choice that many women are forced to make in a lifetime, without pandering to the need to fit in and have an acceptable body image. It is about time. 

 

 

 

Her name here:

 

I fell in love and I wasn’t even thinking about it. That is the way with love, don’t you think? It’s a backdoor experience.

I really must thank Libby for sending me all of those pockets. I love the small pre-constructed squares. Libby has some master rippers over there. These pockets have snips of thread left in the needle holes. Pockets as canvas. For painting, stenciling, stamping, embroidering? I am on a creative tangent and I am using pockets to explore artistic themes. Pockets are a quick and dirty size.

Quick and Dirty Breast Pockets <———————Um? I like those 5 words together.

The above pocket was stenciled and embroidered. This pocket needs a name, anyone know a uniboober who needs representation? Leave a comment, first names only, all names considered! I will be making pockets for the foreseeable future.

Round Up!

I participate in a pool program, offered by my hospital to help survivors recover. I love this program, I go once a week, I connect with other survivors in a predominantly physical but also, at times, emotional level (which works best for me, I can’t go deeply into the emotional side or breast cancer or its treatment, I would rather enter into a more physical connection with other survivors) and we stretch, play and laugh together. Teri, our instructor is well versed in Range of Motion issues and the exercises that will help with them.

I made sure to ‘represent’ for us Flatties, and I squealed when they mentioned me specifically. 

I would never have thought that an aspect of the cancer experience would madke me feel so passionate. I firmly believe the ability to ‘Go Flat’ is an issue of women’s rights. This is an issue of body autonomy, women must have complete control over the only thing we can control, our bodies. As a result, Going Flat must become normalized. Women who forgo reconstruction should not wear breast forms for any other reason than having a preference to do so.

When the beautiful, deminuitive 75 year old fella pool program attendee, looked at me and pinched her ‘bubby’, which is what she calls her breast form, telling me she hated wearing it for the last — years (more than 2 decades). I fell in love with her, and fell in love with being a feminist, again. Her daughter keeps telling her to put the breast form away. But she does not feel able to leave the breast form behind! 

She called me brave. A teacher. She looked at me in awe.

And I am brave, many women cannot imagine leaving home without their breast forms. Others very much want to leave them behind, but feel pressure to wear them for their jobs, and for the people in their lives who expect them to look a certain way. As more women like meMargaret  W. Smith and Jodi Jaecks put their bodies and their choices out there, normalization of this bodily form, this aspect of women’s lives, will occur. Society will  re-member the full array of shapes that an individual woman’s body can take in a lifetime. But no woman should feel compelled to wear forms because our society is misogynist and ignorant and has set up an expectation of what the female form should look like. Especially in light of breast cancer.

Breast Pockets are being made around the world!! I have put out a challenge for folks to make 1000 breast pockets to raise awareness for the women who choose not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer and to pave awareness for those who would like to put their forms aside entirely. October 22 is the deadline, you can make pockets in whatever way you choose, paper, cloth, mixed media. You can use this pattern, if you feel the need. If I have not answered your email (they are piling up) on where to send them, please be a greasy wheel!  😎

The above pocket was made by my good friend Elliot (who will be turning 9 on October 31) and can be seen here with her sister Alex, snuffling

Alex (who is 5 years old) and Cricket (we will leave her age up for debate!) also made some pockets. I have heard from folks as far ranging as Hong Kong, Australia, Finland, Canada and here in the U.S.  I really hope to get 1000 pockets made in a very short period of time. Will you please help?

To update you on my knitting world, my Boardwalk is coming along just fine! I need to knit about 5″ of stockinette stitch before the neck detail will start. I love the Malabrigo yarn I am using. The color stacks up beautifully. I am hoping this pattern will become a favorite, one that I can knit again and again.

And one last thing.

My mother has begun a new venture, a store featuring ‘Coastal Inspired Items for You and Your Home’ (I love this summation) called The Captain’s Chest. I am so very proud of her for doing this and would love for you to click over and see what she has in stock, perhaps you’ll see something you cannot live without! My mother is passionate about coastal living, entertaining, food and family and she does a beautiful job combining all of these into this new endeavor. Please check it out.

Steeped in Breast Pockets

As you know, I am asking for help to make 1000 breast  pockets in memory of or to honor your friends and loved ones who have decided against reconstructing their bodies after breast cancer. I posted this ‘Call For’ on Facebook, because it seems we all hang out there! Libby, from Mija Fiber Art quickly emailed me saying she had been saving breast pockets, taken from the clothing she uses to make her art for the last 10 years, she went on to offer me two boxes of breast pockets.

I could not refuse. 

The two boxes are so jam packed, the pockets ‘stick’ together. They are also somewhat loosely arranged by color!  I have not counted them. I love them though. I love that cloth has memory. The seam allowances remain turned back, there are snippets of thread left where the pockets were ripped from their original home. They become ‘documents’ (information or evidence that serves as an official record). And they each have personality, funky, wild, subdued, loud, quiet prints. 

My goodness. Largess comes in interesting, fun and exciting ways.

This is a pocket taken from Mija’s Largess. I am using hand dyed pearl cotton to highlight the printed leaves. This pocket is not yet complete, but it is calling my name as I type. 

If you are making pockets, please post them to facebook, or your blog, and let me know! I am keeping a pinterest board with all the pockets that we make and post about. Thank you for helping me get the word out.

Now I am off to go make some tea!

Saturday, oh saturday.

I bought this: Six Strand Embroidery Cotton, 500gm, White and I have no regret. I am falling in love with embroidery, and I mean head over heels in love.  And Procion MX dye has some part in the picture. 

I have been having a post cancer dialog with myself as to whether I would continue to use Procion MX dye.

Pros and cons:

It is a synthetic chemical.

It isn’t conducive to apartment living/studio space. 

I still drum up projects using Procion MX dye  for at least a portion of the project. 

I own a full set of colors and all of the equipment to go with it.

So what I have decided is, I am going to use the dyes I own and I am going to use it sporadically, as I see fit.  Embroidery is my current obsession and I want a full array of color gradations in every color of thread, so I prepare to dye them. I am on a mission to use the cloth I have been making for the last 10 years. Some dye use here and there, if tidy, succinct, and abbreviated is OK.

Discussion closed. 

 David and I walked through Red Hook this morning. There was a tag sale. I bought this set of stamps for 5$, no wait, 15$, oh, I mean 10$. It was a confusing negotiation. The cigar box had a 5$ sticker on it. I told the guy I wanted it, he said, “15$, please. You get the idea. We settled on 10$. I wanted the set. It also has a full set of numbers. The box they are nestled in, not the cigar box is the original.

Great find.

We also found a brand new wash board. I have been wanting one, we hand wash a lot here at Casa Testa. This washing board is metal, has two textures, one flat, one grated. It really is Dubl Handi.

Breast Pocket production is in ull swing around the world. I have spoken to folks in Hong Kong, Australia, Finland and all over the U.S. Someone read about the project over at Craft Gossip, which I have never heard of but I like very much. Great name, too.

Here you see the western pocket. I will Kantha Stitch this piece, dense straight rows in the negative space around the ribbon. Can you see it in this picture? For no particular reason, I am stitching this pocket for my paternal Grandmother. Maybe it is because she used to enjoy watching Westerns on Sunday afternoon television.

I love the Kantha Cloth that uses stitch along with pictorial story telling. I will be researching more about Kantha.

Sewing, Stitching, Embroidery.

The Little King has been doing quite well. He loves Chicknbits. Arrow can no longer hear well, his sight isn’t 100%, but he knows Chicknbits. He will lead me to the cabinet when he thinks of them. He has been a snuggle bunny, lap focused. He is warm. He smiles a lot. We put an old bed pillow on the floor, under my sewing tables and he loves it. You should see his happy baby, buddha smile. I treasure each moment with this little cat.

Speaking of Arrow, look who made it onto a Sew-plies Purse? Do you remember this stencil?

The owl, vaguely seen at upper right was copied from a bottle of Haden Fig wine. That was a good bottle of wine! We drank it over dinner one night in Seattle. It was a bit too much to drink and we enjoyed walking for a few hours afterward, it is fun to get too tipsy now and again. It is especially fun to get tipsy with David when we have the time to really enjoy one another’s company.

This Sew-plies purse will be a memory catcher, or a stitched journal, of sorts. Because if the nature of hand sewing (it takes a little longer), I have a bag of receipts and a pile of papers and cards that have logos, times, dates and ideas for further exploration here. I would love for this bag to be dense with stitch and the story of our trip to Seattle.

In the lower left you see a metal box. I am quite an obsessive compulsive person when I cotton on to an idea. The Sew-plies purses are really opening the way for me to sew wherever I go. But sometimes I just don’t want to be strapped into one. So I introduce, tiny sewing kits. The idea is that you can throw them into your purse and never be without something to do!

I am buying candy tins left and right, the smaller the better. I throw the candy out, rinse the box and gather a few choice items and ideas. This box has everything needed to create tags or labels. The white paper tag you see up there came from the scissor sharpener, when I brought my scissors for sharpening and I would like to use the written words from that tag to create some cloth labels. This box has cloth, a needle, pins, embroidery thread and a few scraps of cloth, for ‘just in case’.

And, of course, breast pocket production is in full swing. Kathy York has been making some. Will you? I need 1000.

Breast Pockets: A morph

Many people have contacted me and are making pockets to raise awareness for the breast cancer survivors who have decided against reconstructing our bodies! This is fantastic. I would love it if you too, might make a pocket! If I can get 1000 pockets, I will call the reporter I met on Monday and ask her if she will do a story! Please talk about this project on your blog, Facebook, by tweet, on Pinterest, wherever you think you might spread the word.

Just a few words on how I began doing this. I have been working with stitch and embroidery for a few months. At the same time, I am deconstructing and reconstructing the clothing that I own so that I can continue to wear them. Lots of women’s clothing is fitted , darts are used to accommodate the shape of the bust, my wardrobe has a fair amount of fitted garments that no longer hang properly on my frame, so I am taking them apart, removing the darts and putting them back together. When the darts are taken out, the breast pockets need to be temporarily removed and reattached after the dart is removed. I often have at least one set of breast pockets on my work table as a result.

That got me thinking about breast pockets, breast forms, prothesis, bra pockets and (of course) how I could make this into an artistic statement.  

The pockets we will make for the 1000 pocket project are not meant to be useful, they are an artistic statement, a showing of numbers and a way to create awareness that relates to real women and their choices related to the disease. The pockets should be ‘pocket shaped‘, or, as a pockets appear on the blouses in your closet. These pockets can have raw edges, you can fold the seams under as you would if you were going to sew it on a blouse, you can make a “pillow case” style pocket and hide all the raw edges, you can make it out of paper, you can knit pockets, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it. And please do it in memory or support of someone you know who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and decided against reconstructing their body, it does not matter if she wore breast forms. 

I would like to take the reporter I spoke with on Monday up on her offer to do a story about non-reconstructed breast cancer survivors, can you help a girl out? So far, about 40-50 people have ‘signed on’. Which means we need another 850 people! Let’s make a huge pile of pockets and help the women who decided against reconstruction know, they have your support. 

Breast Pockets-with deadline! 1000 pockets in 3 weeks?

I feel passionate about being a ‘flattie’, a woman who chose not to reconstruct after breast cancer treatments and doesn’t want to wear breast forms either. I am getting used to being flat and am experiencing the stares of curiosity that is a normal part of our humanity but also a showing of how few women chose to ‘go flat’ after breast cancer treatment. You may have read a recent article I wrote for Role/Reboot, an online magazine questioning gender in society. Here is the link:
 
 
The article pretty much sums up why I think women are hesitant to put their breast forms aside. I am active in an online forum for breast cancer survivors and the women on this board really would like ‘Flat Awareness’ to occur. We cringe at the thought of Plastic Surgery Reconstruction Day (October 17, search google-!) We don’t want foreign objects in our bodies. We don’t want to wear forms to maintain a ‘socially acceptable body image’.  We want to be accepted as women who have decided against reconstruction and we want to push this image into being widely accepted in the societal visual lexicon of what a female body can look like over the course of a lifetime. This isn’t just a choice for women who are ‘of an age’ (i.e. having no stake in the game, and believe me, this is often the response I hear when I say that I decided against reconstruction, it goes like this, ‘Oh! My mother (aunt, grandmother) decided against reconstruction but she was _ _ years old.’). We want to turn the repressive body image pressures off and create a new sexy, strong and beautiful but we are flat or half flat!
 
Today, I participated in a taped segment about my hospital’s Breast Cancer Survivors Pool Program. This is a local ABC News at 5 program. And believe me, I made sure I would be taped with no towel covering up my beautiful flat chested body. I went to represent me and my fella flat chested survivors. Hopefully, my interview will make the 90 second segment! At the same time I spoke with the reporter about the Breast Pocket project to raise awareness for those of us who decide against reconstructing our bodies. The reporter said, “If you can get 1000 pockets, contact me, we will try to do a story.”
 
 
I seek a physical representation of the women that you know, who made the decision not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer by way of making breast pockets (explained below).
 
Women who decide against reconstructing their bodies often wear prothesis or breast forms, as they are also called. These breast forms need pockets sewn into bras, camisoles and swim suits in order to hold the form in place. These forms can be quite heavy, uncomfortable, they shift, rub against our scars, often contribute to the dreaded, under-studied and life long struggle with lymphedema. Many of the women on the cancer boards I frequent do not want to wear forms, these women often feel compelled to keep up a ‘good image’ in their workplace and on the streets of their hometowns. We want to see acceptance of our choice and to let other women who have to make this decision to know that it ain’t all bad! So, won’t you please make a breast pocket in the name of your friend, mother, aunt, sister? Lets break the walls down, stop being quiet and making nice, lets build a world where it is acceptable to go flat after breast cancer treatment. With this call for breast pockets, I am using the idea of the shirt pocket, also called breast pockets to make an artistic statement about breast cancer and deciding to forego reconstruction.
 
Please, help me to take this reporter up on her offer to build awareness for us ‘flatties’. 


 
Call For Art: Breast Pockets (pockets as you would find on your favorite button up, pocketed blouse). There are many shapes of pockets, the western, patch, button down flap, choose a style! 
 
 
If your aunt had a unilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, make just one pocket and/or flap. If I am the only ‘flattie’ you know? Oh, well, you will need to make a pair!  The point is, I would like a physical representation of how many women forego reconstruction. I am lifting the curtain and peeking in. How many women do you know? Make pockets for each one, unilateral or bilateral. Each pocket should have a name attached to it, first names only. Please use the pattern on my site (see link below), or make your own pattern, because breasts come in all sizes and shapes, make them with your tools and media, don’t think twice about it. These pockets can be cloth or paper or. 
 
And please, invite your friends, in fact, forward the link to this post freely, please speak up, talk about it on your blogs. 
Email me when you have your  pockets completed and I will tell you where to send them. 
 
Deadline: Please send the pockets to me during the week of October 22. Comment on this post and I will put your name in an already growing list of participants. I will let you know where to ship your pockets in a private email.

Thread Dyeing and other Fun. Also a Call For:

Yesterday, I was making coffee and who ran past the window? A black Squirrel. I immediately grabbed some granola and put it on the sill. Grey Squirrel quickly ran over and started eating.

It is funny! At our subway stop there is a transgender person and a shoe shine man who both ‘beg’ change, the shoe shine man is new to the stop, he has priced his shine at 1$ hoping his customers will give more. I gave some change to the transgendered woman and she asked me to give the shoulder to the shoe shine man as I walked by!

Grey Squirrel didn’t ask, he just shouldered right in!

I am dyeing a color wheel gradation of embroidery thread in four steps for each color of the color wheel, 48 hanks of thread in total. I am doing this in preparation for the upcoming Boro Bag/Hip Bag class at The Clever Guild.

And Look! what just fell into my cart over at Amazon. I have been doing lots of embroidery over here and I find that I like 6 strand floss the best! I love the look of a single strand of floss, I like the ability to use all 6 strands, three strands, two, I am forming preferences related to embroidery threads.

These ‘100 calorie’ zip tight bags, all in a row, happy sigh. I am so glad you can’t eat the content of these bags! That would be a lot of calories.

I don’t think I got the recipe for the gradation down pat. I will be washing these samples today or tomorrow and I will need to tweek it a bit.

The 4 red thread samples you see here, told me the middle two gradations were ‘too close’. But they are so pretty all the same.

Who doesn’t like a gathering of good stuff to get the juices flowing.


 

I now have a fascination with breast pockets. I have been making breast pockets, not the blouses to go with them, just the pockets. I am changing my wardrobe to printed, button down blouses and pockets are key! Really, I like the name breast pocket, I no longer have breasts, but I can wear breast pockets!

When breast cancer survivors wear breast forms or prothesis, they need pockets sewn into their bras, camisoles and bathing suits to hold the forms in place. And flaps? Some reconstruction techniques use the word flap in the description of the procedure. I am not interested in any of that, but I like thinking about parallel ideas. In talking about clothing, when breast pockets have buttons, I think of them as nipples. When they have snaps, those too are nipples, with the added benefit of the actual shape (the male portion of the snap is nipple shaped). And with breast pockets on shirts, you can be prepared to stuff them full and change out the size of your ‘breasts’ in minutes flat (pun intended)! It is always good to have some useful pockets! In fact, I was putting embroidery floss in my breast pockets while laughing my head off in this in this post.

Do you know anyone who has had a mastectomy without reconstruction, unilateral or bilateral? Say you or aunt (mother, sister, friend, wife, coworker) was diagnosed with breast cancer and didn’t have reconstruction? In her name or memory, make either a single or a set of pockets and flaps appropriate to her choice, unilateral breast pocket or bilateral pockets and send them to me. I would like a huge pile of of pockets, in effect creating actual ‘awareness’, with a physical object that represents a real person.

And in preparation of the ‘pink month’, I figured I would ask for some help in creating awareness that does not exploit, or misrepresent me as a survivor and to go further, to shed light on us half/flatties! Some of the half flatties call themselves uniboobers! Funny, right? So, I invite you to make pockets and help raise awareness and pride in a choice I hope none of you ever face.

You can make them out of cloth, paper, I don’t care how or what you make them with, just make them. If you are interested in helping me out, please comment on this post. I will let you know where to send your pockets.

Here is a pattern for  a BreastPocket, if you feel you need one.

Edited to add:

Here are a few examples of the pockets I have been making, showing some pockets with flaps and just flaps: