The recent bushfires combined with a climate emergency have left me drained to say the least. It's a constant story of doom and gloom and I couldn’t escape the feeling of being helplessly trapped inside the Sydney bubble with no way of meaningfully responding to these tragedies. Desperate for some way to release this negative energy, I picked up a needle and thread.
Knitters, crocheters and sewers have joined the bushfire recovery effort. Supporting, not only each other and victims of this disaster, but also helping in the efforts to nurse injured wildlife. Crafters have created joey pouches, birds nest blankets, bat wraps, animal jumpers and blankets and are being supported by so many incredible organisations like the Animal Rescue Craft Guild. Knitters have been busy all over the world from Iceland to America, across Europe and everywhere in between sending knitted items in a massive show of sympathy for the 1 billion animals that have died in the Australian bushfires and the animals displaced or left behind with horrifying burns.
This proves how powerful the crafting community is. To be able to mobilise a global community and receive such an overwhelming response to a charitable cause is heartwarming. For many, it is a way of contributing to a positive cause with a personal touch and channelling empathy in a dire situation. It allows people who may not be able to assist in clean ups or who can’t volunteer with the RFS to be part of the recovery. It is accessible. Everyone is able to participate at their own level and be part of a collaborative and proactive initiative. My sister was feeling disconnected from the tragedy of the bushfires and wanted to get involved so she sewed a set of joey pouches for Port Macquarie Wildlife Hospital which she delivered in person on her way to a holiday. The feeling of having contributed to a global recovery effort and using her hands to make something special and useful gave her a new sense of purpose and self-confidence. I think people like being able to use their unique skills or learn a new skill to help others and have a truly resonating impact. That ability to be a part of a charity initiative is what draws people in and fills them with purpose and gratification.
But crafting doesn’t just bring together people who want to help in the bushfire recovery, it is also a powerful tool for people who are affected by bushfires themselves. For people who have had to evacuate or are struggling to recover, crafting can become a stress-coping mechanism. It is portable and can be done on the go with simple tools and materials. Science has extensively shown the ability of knitting to reduce stress as it releases endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Similarly, when knitting, breathing slows and ultimately, levels of stress hormones lower making it an ideal activity to help people relax and recover. Many people find it a comfort factor when they are able to keep their fingers busy in stressful times and, in this way, crafting offers an escape from the anxiety of bushfire disasters.
Nature is a miracle we all depend on.
This is the sentence I chose to embroider and as I stitched away, I realised that crafting has an immense power to help us deal with tragedy as individuals and as a society. It’s a medium in which we can express emotions through words and colours that articulate intrinsic feelings, projects that connect us to a support network that transcends boundaries of experiences and backgrounds or by creating something that will help nurse a baby koala back to health. Knitting is a uniting and regenerative craft and its importance has never been more significant than now, when Australians are coming together to mourn and heal together. I like to think of the situation in Australia at the moment as deeply symbolic for the greater power of knitting to connect and heal individuals and communities leaving behind resilience, love and compassion.