The quilting community in the Netherlands banded together this week after one member saw the footage from the Australian bush fires destroying property, and wildlife.
Images of koalas with burnt paws and a request from Morgan Leigh from Byron Rescue Crafters to make mittens and pouches for the burnt animals jolted quilter Jeltje van Essen from Quilt Shop 100 rozen in the city of Deventer into action.
She called upon her group of volunteers to furiously start making mittens and pouches.
“I have the time, I have the material and I have the people,” says Jeltje.
In her little shop everybody is sewing, and Jeltje is handling the contributions, the phone calls and interviews from all over the Netherlands. She has become an instant celebrity.
Jeltje explains that ordinary mittens made in factories are not suitable. The burnt feet and hands are too fragile and the mittens have to be made out of cotton, and sewed with cotton thread: the stuff quilters work with every day:
“Ordinary textiles contain plastic; our quilts are soft and will prevent infections.”
The koalas are going to look good too, as the Dutch mittens are made with the most beautiful fabric.
“I always want to have a smile on a face, and I know how hard it is to work with animals that are sick, or children that are sick," Jeltje says. "If you then have a mitten with a pattern of a koala or another beautiful pattern, it generates a smile on a face. That’s what I hope for. So we have used the best cotton you can find with lovely fabrics.”
So far more than 400 pairs of mittens have been finished and Jeltje’s niece Ingrid in Toowoomba is ready to distribute the mittens to the koala crisis centres as soon as the mittens arrive in Australia.
After a bit of lobbying the Royal Dutch Airlines KLM agreed to take a box with quilted goodies as far as Kuala Lumpur, and from there the mittens are going to be transferred onto a Qantas flight to Brisbane, where niece Ingrid will collect them.