People often dismiss crafters as crazy cat ladies or spinsters with nothing better to do with all their free time, but they could not be more wrong. Crafting is a serious business that can also be a major help to the animals. Those clicking knitting needles or whirring sewing machines can be major agents of change, or at least improvement, for animals in need around the world.

There are opportunities for crafters of every age, ability, and interest to lend their knitting needles as long as they want to help animals. Projects can include making blankets, toys, heating pads, and more to comfort animals and make them feel more at home during difficult times such as in shelters or during rehabilitation. These crafts and projects are more than just ways to pass the time and create cute items for animals—though a kitten wrapped in a colorful blanket certainly doesn’t hurt the cause— they are a way to take direct action to help animals in need.


Below are some examples of great people and projects that you can participate into craft for the animals!

1. Sweaters for Penguins

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Australia’s oldest man, aged 109, Alfred “Alfie” Date, knows how to keep himself busy and productive. He spends much of his time knitting sweaters for injured penguins. These sweaters are used for the victims of oil spills. When these spills occur, the grease mats the outer feathers of the penguins, allowing water to get into their fine layer of down. This distresses the penguins, and they become cold and unable to hunt. In addition, they can swallow waste as they try to clean off their matted feathers. The sweaters that Alfie is turning out combat all these problems in one adorable package.

Alfie knits sweaters for the Phillip Island Penguin Foundation. While they only need sweaters when they have to care for penguins after an oil spill or other natural disaster, you can contact your local marine life rehabilitation center (to find some near you, click here) to see if they are in need of any knitting services.


2. The Snuggles Project Project


The Snuggles Project recruits crafters to crochet, knit or sew a snuggle blanket for homeless animals in shelters. This campaign, which is part of Hugs for Homeless Animals, was started in 1996 by Rae French. Since it began the project has given away more than a million snuggles. These blanket-like objects calm animals and make their stays in the shelters more comfortable. They are also designed to make visitors to shelters more comfortable for these animals who are likely overstressed and scared, hopefully giving them a better chance at finding a forever home. People everywhere can make a snuggle from the online patterns and donate them to a local animal shelter or rescue. The website has a list of registered shelters you can donate your completed project to.

3. Knit Bird Nests

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WildCare Wildlife Hospital is responsible for raising 800 orphaned birds a year, so they are in need of as much help as possible. One way you can lend a helping hand (or wing, as the case may be) is to knit nests to house rescued baby birds with the free pattern found on their website. These knitted nests (try saying that ten times fast) provide the baby birds with a place to live that is soft, washable and as close to a wild bird’s nest as they can realistically get. There are options to knit or crochet a nest, so a variety of skills can be utilized. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators can also register with the organization to get knitted nests for their own rescue work.

4. Koala Mittens

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Koalas are often at risk of injury during the South Australian and Victorian bushfire seasons. They move relatively slowly and often get severe burns as a result of contact with burning trees or walking over ground that is on fire.

It can take up to a year for the koala’s paws to heal fully, so during that time they need special cotton mittens to help keep burn cream on their injuries. Rehabilitation facilities can go through hundreds of mittens a day during bushfire season as they need to be frequently changed and washed. Organizations such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) encourage the public to donate homemade mittens. A pattern can be found on the IFAW website, as well as information about where to send the mittens. The main requirement is that the fabric be 100 percent cotton, but the mittens can easily be made by the novice crafter from clean sheets or towels of the appropriate material. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a koala in mittens? For those in Australia, there is also a call for pouches to help out possums, kangaroos, wallabies and more.


5. General Crafting for Animal Shelters


While there are many specific projects to which you can donate your crafting skills and time—even when there is no specific cause—animal shelters can always use your talents. In addition to donations of food and toys, shelters are always looking for ways that they can make animals in their care more comfortable. Remember, a crowded shelter can be a scary place for a small animal, any bit of comfort can help!

Items needed include blankets, cat and dog toys, pet beds, and more. Free patterns and ideas can be found with a simple Google or Pinterest search. Get out there and put those craft skills to good use helping the animals!

Lead image Source: mbtrama/Flickr