A group of B.C. knitters and crocheters has recently switched gears from making scarves and baby blankets to making things like marsupial pouches and bird’s nests instead.
It’s all part of a global effort to help Australia as massive wildfires continue to ravage the country.
Animal rescue organizations there have been dealing with orphaned and burned animals, and here in Chilliwack, that’s where the efforts of Julie Connelly and Mariel Van Leeuwen come in.
“I felt so bad for what was happening in Australia. I can knit and I can sew, so that was one of the ways I felt I could help,” Van Leeuwen said. “I’d never sewn or knitted anything for an animal before. This is the first time.”
Connelly has volunteered with animal rescues in the Fraser Valley and has been to a kangaroo farm in Kelowna.
“I’ve seen their little pouches and I thought ‘I can do that,’” said Connelly, who crochets and knits.
Connelly has knitted sweaters for her chickens and her duck, but this was something completely different.
The two women have made a number of bird’s nests and joey pouches and they are asking fellow knitters, sewers and crocheters to join them.
They have organized a craft circle for Sunday, Jan. 19 at Old Yale Brewing in Chilliwack. From noon to 6 p.m. people can drop in to join the crafting movement. Van Leeuwen and Connelly will even teach people how to knit and crochet.
Marsupial pouches are at the top of the list of items needed, according to Australia’s Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild, a group that works directly with animal rescue organizations in Australia to determine the most needed items for the animals. The guild put the global call out for handmade animal beds, bat wraps and more and has provided the public with patterns for the items on its Facebook page.
Things like joey pouches are needed to help orphaned baby marsupials (kangaroos, wombats, etc.) feel safe and secure, much like their mother’s pouches did. Koala mittens help protect the burnt paws so that they can heal, and bat wraps are used to house the bats who no longer have trees from where to hang.
Each item is specific to the various animals’ needs – the details are coming from the Australians on the ground who know firsthand what those needs are.
The patterns specify what type of yarn or fabric to use. For example, the inner layer of the marsupial pouches must be made with natural fibres – if acrylic is used, it can stick to the animals’ wounds.
All items must be washed in water and vinegar (do not use detergent) prior to donating. Items are to be tied up with pieces of yarn or fabric or packaged in pillow cases (no plastic bags).
There’s also a need for donated supplies such as yarn, fabric, knitting needles and crochet hooks. Locally, all of these items, including finished projects and cash donations can be dropped off by Tuesday, Jan. 21 at Old Yale Brewing (addressed to Zach Van Leeuwen) at 404-44550 South Sumas Rd. in Chilliwack.
Mariel Van Leeuwen is organizing the drop-off location in Chilliwack. She will be collecting items, packaging them up and bringing them to a provincial hub where they will be taken to Vancouver International Airport. From YVR, Air Canada will ship them to Australia at no charge.
On Jan. 19, the brewery is also donating $1 for every pint sold that day (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to the Australian Red Cross.
“Any chance we get to give back to our community we take it… and when we heard about this we felt the same way. Even though it’s not our community, it’s a community and we want to do our best to support it,” said Zach Van Leeuwen, managing partner of Old Yale Brewing and wife of Mariel.
For more info, contact Mariel Van Leeuwen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Facebook Messenger.
People can also find more info and the patterns on the following Facebook pages: Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Group and Fraser Valley Craft Guild.