Experienced sewers helping wildlife

January 23, 2020 BY

Live from Dereel: Michelle de Groot narrowcasts on Facebook as she leads people across the world in creating bat wraps. Photos: ALISTAIR FINLAY

AS the nation continues to be affected by bushfires that have scorched the country this summer, there was a small but meaningful effort to help taking place in the Shire.

Last Saturday, on a farm east of Dereel, members of the local community came together to sew bat wraps, pouches for koalas, wallabies and kangaroos as well as pieces for a special quilt that will become a fundraising item.

“I can’t give financially, I just don’t have it and a lot of the girls are the same. But we have a craft, so we can sew, we can make things, we can help out in other ways,” said organiser, Michelle de Groot.

“Some of us have given small amounts for donation but you want to put your hand forward to do more. If I lived over there, I would be in there helping.”

The desire to make a difference wasn’t just drawn from watching the results of the fires on TV and reading about them in the news.

Ms de Groot knows firsthand what it’s like to have fire bearing down on her life and livelihood, and to live with the aftermath.

Seven years ago a bushfire swept across her farm. The trees on her property still bear the black, ashen scars of that experience.

“After those fires for quite some time we had injured wildlife slowly coming out of the bush,” Ms de Groot said. “That was without us going into the bush, so I’d hate to imagine what’s happening in the affected areas.

“I know what it’s like after experiencing it myself. It’s not a nice thing and it’s heartbreaking. If just this small amount of assistance can take the pressure off and allow the people on the frontline to concentrate on something else, I can tick that off the bucket-list.”

From her small, cottage studio on her family farm, Ms de Groot runs Michelle’s Patchwork. From there she takes her quilting skills to the word both online and in person, so she’s perfectly positioned to contribute to the cause in this way.

Using her connections in the industry, companies like Victorian Textiles and Birch Creative have donated the right kind of material for the wraps and pouches. She’s brought the equipment and the skills and ability to guide others.

Janeen Loudon sews soft flannel fabric that will become a warm and safe space for wildlife injured in bushfires across the country.

Janeen Loudon was one of the people who came out to take part in the sit and sew day.

“Never in my life did I think I’d be making bat wraps,” she said. “We do a lot of patchwork, but once you know how to use a sewing machine it’s all transferable. “It’s great to help out the community and the poor little animals.”

When an online community called Rescue Craft Co put out the call for wraps, pouches and other items that can help injured wildlife, Ms de Groot was perfectly positioned to respond.

But is it wasn’t just the ten or so people who came to Ms de Groot’s small quilting studio who got to making the much-needed items, more joined in online as she led a how-to session live on Facebook.

“I do a lot of live feeds and one night I said to the girls ‘what do you think of this?’ and then it snowballed,” she said. “Some of the girls are doing it with us in their homes as we do it. During the live feed we’ll be talking back and forward and be able to see what we’re doing.

“There’ll be people in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland who’ll be getting little groups together.”

As quilting is Ms de Groot’s bread and butter, she was able to put that directly to the cause as well.

Special quilt patches featuring cute koalas have been designed and copyrighted, with proceeds from their sale and use going to raise funds for wildlife affected by the fires.

There was also work towards creating a special quilt for raffle undertaken on the day.

At the end of the huge effort, the team working from Michelle’s Patchwork had created 20 bat wraps, seven small pouches, 10 large pouches and completed three blocks for the charity quilt. In addition, material had been cut and prepared for a further 53 pouches and 15 bat wraps that will be sewn together in the coming days.

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