With less than four months until winter, Sue Bardsley and Tonee Holley Knowles know that now is the time to get sewing.
As founders of the not-for-profit charity ‘Warm Blankets for Everyone’, the pair is stitching fabric to fleece in a bid to protect the community’s most vulnerable from the upcoming cold.
Started in May 2020, the “loving little project” as they refer to themselves, is the product of a global pandemic.
“It was born out of COVID,” Sue said. “Local quilting groups were crying out for more fabrics to keep up with demand from refuges.
“I was working at Eastlakes U3A teaching sewing, so I put out an S.O.S.
“It was an avalanche. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. We received twenty bags straight away.
“It was almost overwhelming.”
The pair now supply upcycled blankets to more than 30 charities in the Lake Macquarie area.
“Women’s refuges, crisis centres, people coming out of prison, people sleeping on the streets, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres, and people living in their cars,” Tonee said.
“Wherever there is a need for warm blankets.
“Everything we do is done with respect for those we are giving to.
“It’s never far from our minds that these people are doing it tough and this is a way we can help out.”
By transforming donated fabric, fleece, blankets and linens, Sue and Tonee, together with their 30 volunteers, sort, sew and store upcycled bedding.
“We use pillowcases, sheets, blankets that may have had a fault that we can repair, and we are given excess school uniforms from a supplier,” Sue said.
“After we remove the badges these are very useful because they’re very strong fabrics.”
Tonee said it was also important that their team felt valued during the process.
“We make sure our volunteers enjoy what they’re doing,” she said.
“There’s a range of jobs to get done so if you’re someone who’s hands don’t work well you can sort fabric out for us. We can always find things for you to do.”
Warm Blankets for Everyone is a registered charity working with other NSW groups to help reduce the amount of fabric in landfill.
“It’s another element – we find a use for everything,” Tonee said.
“We’re collaborating with other organisations now.
“We have a charity on the Central Coast that takes some of the fabrics they find difficult to work with, and we trade with them our blankets, sheets and towels, to help charities in their area.
“What began with just Sue and I doing the pick-up, the sorting, the storing and the deliveries is now such a positive thing.”
Moving forward the pair say they now need more helpers.
“We need volunteers to sew, knit, crochet, cut-out patterns, and prepare fabrics,” Sue said.
“We’ve got a tsunami of fabrics and we need to get ready for winter.”