Wednesday, 28 August 2013
Knitting and Nesting Instincts
I'm not as a rule a proponent of knitting for pets, largely because a lot of knitwear for pets is horrific, and it doesn't seem to me to be a very good use of resources to make something that's not only completely useless but that'll make you look like a crazy person. Very often your pet will loathe being outfitted in knitting anyway — a lot of domesticated animals know very well when they're an object of ridicule, and they don't like it. But as with every rule, there are exceptions, the most notable "knitting for animals" exception being that a lot of animal shelters and rescue operations have a real need for knitted and crochet items for the animals they are trying to save. If you're an animal lover who wants to knit things for charity, you might consider knitting various things for your local animal shelter instead of for your pet.
One item that animal shelters and wild animal rescue organizations often need are nests for baby animals. They need a lot of them because the nests need to be changed frequently for hygienic purposes. (Fortunately the knitted or crocheted nests can be washed, and lining the nest's bottom with a paper towel helps keep the nest cleaner.) Shelters need nests in different sizes to accommodate different species (from the size of a half-soda can, up to a size of a preemie hat), and because baby animals need a snug nest to keep them from flailing about too much before their limbs are strong enough, which can cause them to develop crooked limbs.
Some other specifications for baby nests:
- the nest must hold a bowl shape on its own (an actual preemie hat won't work);
- yarn should not be too fuzzy as the babies can get their tiny feet or claws stuck in the fuzz;
- bowls should be knitted double- or triple-stranded;
- stitches should be very tight and dense so that little legs don't slip through them and get stuck, which can cause injuries.
Nests make good projects for beginning or not particularly skilled knitters as it doesn't matter if they are crooked or have mistakes in them. They're small and quick to knit. They're also a good stash busting project, as colour doesn't matter, and tough, washable acrylic yarns are perfect for these projects. You can find crochet and knitting nest patterns on the Virginia Beach SPCA website, and the knitting pattern has its own Ravelry page.
If you'd like other options for animal rescue knitting, All Natural Pet Care has a lengthy list of ideas and accompanying links to free patterns for other items to make for shelter animals, such as blankets, beds, and toys that can accompany the animal into its eventual adoptive home, making the transition easier, or things like sweaters that can be used to keep a partly bald animal warm (dogs and cats are often shaved because of fur matting or medical procedures, and birds sometimes lose their feathers from illness or stress), or booties to protect injured paws.
Because my readers are international, rather than search out a number of pet shelters and outline their needs, I am recommending that if you are interested in knitting for rescue animals that you contact your local shelter or animal rescue organization and ask them what their needs and specifications are. They'll be glad of your efforts, the animals in crisis that receive your work will be a little more comfortable because of you, and your own pet will be all the happier for not having to wear, say, a little knitted blond Marilyn Monroe wig and white halter dress.