The devastating wildfires in Australia have been making headlines all over the world since September 2019. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that as of January 6, 14.7 million acres of land have burned. The fires had a profound impact on the national wildlife. According to Professor Christopher Dickman from the University of Sydney, it is estimated that over 1 billion animals throughout Australia were impacted by the fires.
When Severna Park resident and seasoned crafter Carrie Gruver learned of the fires’ impact on the wildlife, she put her skills to good use.
“I think everyone has seen the horrible footage coming out of Australia over the past month or two with all of the bush fires they’ve been having,” said Gruver. “I was actually scrolling Facebook one day and I came across a couple of different organizations.”
That is how she discovered Rescue Craft Collective, an Australia-based community group that gives crafters an opportunity to assist wildlife centers and rescues.
Rescue Craft Collective gathers nests, joey pouches, kangaroo hammocks, bat wraps and more to be distributed to Australia. Depending on each crafter’s skill set, there are templates available for sewing, crocheting and knitting.
Gruver crocheted nests and sewed joey pouches and bat wraps for young animals that lost their mothers. She sent around two dozen crafts to Rescue Craft Collective.
“I just think it’s the coolest thing to imagine these animals that we don’t have here using these things I’ve made,” said Gruver.
All of her creations had to be made with 100% cotton fabric. Gruver was able to upcycle old T-shirts, leftover material and even a friend’s old sheet.
“There was a little bit of upcycling involved,” said Gruver. “I had a friend donate some flannel sheets, so I triple-washed them and used that for the inside of the pouches. I had a lot of cotton material left over because I quilt. I knew I was never going to use it again, so I put some of that in the pouches I made.”
There were even specific instructions on how to wash the materials prior to shipping. All of the crafts had to be washed twice in hot water without detergent. They recommended that Gruver use vinegar. The dyes and starches that exist in fabrics could potentially harm the young animals, as many marsupials are born without hair.
“They have lists of materials that are acceptable and how to wash it, because there are customs and Australia has very specific rules,” explained Gruver. “They are in an island, so if your things come in contact with your animal at home, that isn’t such a great thing.”
After the crafts were sufficiently washed and packaged, Gruver shipped them to a Rescue Craft Collective “hub” in Maine, where someone else takes care of the international shipping and sorting.
When the fires have settled in Australia and the animals have been re-homed, Gruver said she is interested in staying involved with Rescue Craft Collective.
“There is going to be a great need in Australia for a long time, but I think I’d like to see what the next focus is and what else they have to say,” said Gruver. “I feel like this is something I can do on my own and it makes a difference. A little bit can go a long way.”