Project 8: Gulf Coast Oil Spill

I have sat transfixed to my computer. Clicking image upon image of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I have watched a video of Jacques Cousteau’s grandson diving in the toxic mess to show us what it’s really like underwater. Being a scuba diver and lover of the ocean I am sick to my stomach with the images. The Louisiana marsh lands are being destroyed. The fragile ecosystem is losing it’s fight. The fishermen and communities who worked so hard to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina have once again been dealt another blow. The beautiful white sand beaches in the Florida panhandle will soon be covered with oil. It’s devastating.

It’s so easy to feel helpless. The ‘what can I do’ enters your mind. I’ve sat for the past few days feeling that way. Thinking about the Craft Hope community and what we can do. Talking to the Craft Hope community on Facebook. Throwing the idea out there and watching the ideas come in. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this community is amazing. I have witnessed lives changed on both ends of the spectrum through Craft Hope. People stepping up to help lead a project. People giving handmade goods to strangers. People whose lives have been touched through the kindness of strangers. Two worlds coming together and the result is simply beautiful.


For Project 8 we will be partnering with The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the Audubon Nature Institute, and the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge to assist them in their efforts in caring for and cleaning oiled marine mammals, mostly dolphins, other marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles. Dolphins are naturally curious and have been swimming toward the oil plumes to investigate… and that curiosity gets them in a lot of trouble against the oil slick.

So here is what we are going to do… They need hand towels and wash rags to clean all of the nooks and crannies of the dolphins and sea turtles. They only need small hand towels and wash rags, no large towels please.

If you can sew, knit, or crochet this project is for you. We are asking that you create sets of hand towels and/or wash rags to send. Preferably in sets of 10 or 20. These do need to be handmade since we are ‘Craft Hope.’ If you are crocheting or knitting, please send whatever you can. You don’t have to send a set unless it is something you are up for.

Please be aware that these donations do not have to be anything fancy. If anything, the towels and rags will be used two to three times and will have to be disposed of because they will be ruined by the toxic oil residue.

Also, if you are sending more than 10 towels please count them and put a total someplace in the box. That would help us out so much!!

This is also a great opportunity to get kids involved. It’s a wonderful way to teach them about our beaches and the fragile marine life.

If you would like to add something else to your donation, please include a bottle of Dawn dish washing liquid.

A HUGE thank you to Kimberly who is an incredibly talented artist living in the Pensacola area who felt led to step up and help with this project. She helped to coordinate this project and will be collecting the items and hand delivering them for us.  She’ll also be helping me answer questions here and on our Facebook page.

The deadline for Project 8 is the end of August!

As of this time (7/20/2010) we have suspended donations due to meeting the needs of the gulf coast rescue organizations! Please email jade at if you have questions. Thanks so much!

Please leave a comment on this post if you would like to participate. Thanks for all you do, you make the world a better place!


(Updated 6/4/2010)

Everyone at IMMS is beyond excited over the amazing response from Craft Hope. If the donation level is so great that it exceeds what they can hold in stock at their facilities, that they will be sharing the donations with the Coastal Wildlife Refuges and other Coastal Wildlife Non-Profit Groups.  So these donations not only will be impacting one organization such as IMMS but will be impacting so many others along the Gulf Coast!!!!

I’d also like to say that, if anyone lives near the Pensacola / Panhandle area, and you would like to personally drop off your donations to Kimberly,  please feel free to send her an email at: midnightdesignstudio[at]gmail[
dot]com and she’ll be happy to coordinate her schedule with you for donation drop-off times.

Frequently Asked Questions:

I’d love to help! For knitting and crocheting, would cotton or acrylic yarn be better?
K – For knit/crochet – Cotton fibers would be best. I was not sure if such was available. But Cotton is most natural and the folks at IMMS said that would be the best choice and most absorbent… They weren’t sure if acrylic yarn would be as absorbant since its never been used before in oil clean-up… however, they said they will happily accept either and put it to the test!  But cotton fibers are recommended..

Can they be as simple as flannel or terry cloth with serged edges?

Yes! Absolutely. Just as long as the rags are in the specified sizes, and are soft enough for your own skin, or I’d like to say, if you feel safe washing a baby with it, then yes simple as flannel and terry cloth would be fine!

What about hand mits made out of terry cloth? They might be easier to scrub with?

The researchers and staff wear medical gloves when cleaning so that the toxic oil residue will not leech into their skin, making them sick. They thought the hand mitts were a great idea, and could be slipped over the medical gloves during washing. So they would happily accept donations for those as well if anyone felt up to the challenge of making those.

Quick question… if I get towels already made should I wash them before sending them?

K – You can if you would like, but it is not necessary. Those towels are about to get beyond dirtier than you ever imagined. So if you want to save on the water and detergent, you can. But if you just want to throw them in the wash, you can. It’s what ever you want to do!

We use repurposed cotton knit for face wipes in our house – not even sewn, just cut up. they don’t fray after washing (and these would be thrown out anyway, right?). Would that work? What dimensions would be best? I have a whole bunch that are ‘hand-sized’ i’d love to send. And it’s super easy to buy 100% cotton knit sheets from the goodwill and cut them into pieces. What do you think?

Yes! Those would work. And the Cotton Goodwill sheets cut down would work. Cotton is the top #1 choice of all fiber for this project since it is the most absorbent. #1.5 – Terry Cloth… However they will gladly accept all kinds of fibers and put it to the test! The dimensions are – Hand Towel Size and Wash Rag size.

I was thinking about using some t-shirts the kids have grown out of. The backs are plain with no writing/pictures. Do you think that would be good?

Yes! I would think that the plain back size would work best since, the sides with the pictures on them, may not be as absorbent as the plainer counterpart. And I also think that is a clever way to re purpose old cotton clothing!!

Quick question. My mother would love to help out, but she can’t sew, crochet, knit, etc. Could she make wash rags with the edges that you tie together?

Yes! That would be fine! And I would gladly accept any towel/rag donation that she feels the need to send. While yes, it is Craft Hope and its about being handmade, I don’t have the heart to turn away other donations as well, so send it! They need it! And I’ll bring it!!!

I know it was mentioned that these need to be small, but that is kind of a relative term. Do you have dimensions that we could go by for the washrags and handtowels? Are we talking baby sized washcloths or just your average sized ones for adults? And towels – kitchen handtowel sized?

Washrags are approximately 10×10 square. Hand towels are approximately 14×27.

With the change in the oil spill information and the possibility of it spreading, will items be needed after the July deadline?

Even though the deadline is July 3rd, Kimberly will gladly continue to accept any donations after that date! Clearly this is going to be a long term event. And she will continue to accept donations as long as anyone is willing to continue to donate.

Are there recommended materials for sewing towels from? I’m trying to think about what would be most absorbent…
Cotton!!!. IMMS said that Cotton is their #1 choice of fiber when it comes to cleaning. It is most natural, beyond absorbent and is really durable!
Terry Cloth is an equal in that category as well… It also cleans well, absorbent and durable!
However, They also  will gladly accept other fibers as well.

I hope this answers a lot of the questions. Keep them coming! I am so proud of everyone!
It moves my heart and brings tears to my eyes! You all are so amazing!!!


Updated 7/26/2010 – This project has ended! Please visit the website for our current project. Thanks to everyone who participated. We collected over 70,000 towels!!!


Updated 8/2/2010 – If you have made towels, please send them to us at: Craft Hope, P.O. Box 

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