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Metro Vancouver knitters join worldwide effort to help Aussie animals

Local knitters and sewers are joining a worldwide effort to help animals injured and displaced by the bushfires in Australia.
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Local crafters Richelle Leonard, Katy Sandler and Sarah Wellman will be putting their knitting and sewing skills to work to create comfort items like nests and pouches for animals in Australia that have been rescued from the wildfires. Photograph By MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Local knitters and sewers are joining a worldwide effort to help animals injured and displaced by the bushfires in Australia.

And they’re doing it one knit or stitch at a time.

Richelle Leonard is a volunteer for the Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Guild, an extension of a sister group in Australia that was formed last year to make knitted beds, nests, wraps and support slings for animals rescued from the fires that have charred more than 32,000 square miles, mostly along the country’s southeast coast between Canberra and Gold Coast.

While those fires have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed over two dozen people, the toll on Australian wildlife has been even more devastating. An ecologist from Sydney University estimates more than a billion animals have perished in the flames since last September.

That incomprehensible consequence was on Leonard’s mind when she recently stumbled across a plea to help while checking her social media feeds at 5 a.m. A lapsed sewer who works in the animal rescue field, she sprang into action.

“It needs to be done,” she said.

Leonard put herself forward as a local coordinator to collect the items people have made and arrange to ship them Down Under, mostly with travellers heading there. She also downloaded patterns from a link on the Australian group’s Facebook page, rustled up some soft fabric she had laying around and got busy sewing tiny wraps that will be used to protect baby bats.

“This is a good reason to get out the sewing again,” Leonard said

Port Moody’s Sarah Wellman also heeded the call.

An avid knitter who teaches her craft to others, Wellman said the knitting community often pitches in for good causes, such as creating hats and mittens for homeless people and newborn babies, because their passion for their craft outpaces the people for whom they can knit.

“It’s a way to share something we love to do,” she said.

Already, Wellman has used her needles to create soft yarn nests for little birds as well as “joey pouches” for koalas and baby kangaroos.

Katy Sandler, another knitter, said it’s an easy, tangible way to help because they usually have the supplies on hand and the items can be created while watching TV or just passing the time.

“If you send money, you don’t see where it goes,” she said.

Leonard said she has already arranged suitcase space with a couple of travellers heading to Australian over the next several weeks but she’s keen to find more capacity for donated items. She’ll also collect yarn and fabric from crafters who may not have the time to create items themselves but still want to help.

• To find out more, and to learn how to help, contact her at or connect with her on Facebook.

• To learn more about the Animal Rescue Craft Guild, and to download patterns and designs for needed items, go to