The half-dozen women who converged on the Barberton Grange to crochet bird nests and sew joey pouches had never met.
They had networked online to find ways to help wildlife displaced by wildfires ravaging Australia. Then their enthusiasm connected them and carried over to other causes, reviving the old-fashioned sewing bee.
Vancouver resident Sydney Robinson, 19, thought it would be fun to host a bee for Vancouver crafters to work on animal rescue items together.
“I just find that it’s more fun when you’re part of a group,” she said.
Australian animal rescue organizations called for crafted items, complete with specs, and were quickly overwhelmed. Ultimately, they asked for crafters to send their last items by Jan. 31. Many who had been fashioning items for Australia have redirected their momentum to help other organizations instead.
“We want to work with local shelters,” Robinson said.”I just love helping with anything that’s a need. Kids, animals — those are the two main things I get a little more emotionally invested in.”
At noon on a recent Wednesday, the first few crafters started trickling into the building on Northeast 72nd Avenue.
“We’re serious about this,” said Heather Fisher, as she gestured to overflowing bins of yarn and fabric. The 39-year-old Vancouver resident has a business selling crocheted items, many meant to replace such disposable items as paper towels, but she also enjoys volunteering her skills for a cause.
Cristina Schnider, 62, has been sewing since she was 6 years old. The Brush Prairie resident also knits and crochets. Her husband is from Australia, so she was eager to put her skills to work for the animal rescue effort now that she’s retired from her career as an optometrist.
“I love the concept of sewing bees and knitting bees,” Schnider said.
Lori Moore, 63, traveled from Beaverton, Ore., to join the effort.
“I’ve wanted a day to sit and sew with no other responsibilities,” she said as she set up her machine.
Moore, a retired nurse, learned to sew when she was in eighth grade, and has enjoyed it ever since. She sewed her three girls’ dresses, and when they wouldn’t wear what she made any longer, she turned to quilting.
Moore served as a “sub hub,” gathering items from local crafters to deliver to an organizer in Bellevue, who in turn shipped them to Australia.
She said she doesn’t consider herself an environmentalist. (“I recycle because my 41-year-old daughter makes me,” she said.) But the plight of Australian wildlife inspired her to connect with crafting groups.
Next, she’d like to make beds and blankets for Project POOCH Inc., which pairs boys incarcerated at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Ore., with homeless shelter dogs.
Robinson said she found working with a group motivating. She has a job at a fabric store, but doesn’t hang around with crafters much except when she sells her items at bazaars.
She and the others hope to organize more gatherings.
“It builds community,” Fisher said.
Anyone interested in joining them can email email@example.com.