Bunny blankets made with love by local sewing club

It’s likely no surprise how much tidying up is necessary each day to keep 80 bunnies healthy and happy at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s Bunny House. Keeping each bunny’s area clean and comfortable is a big job, and for a long time that job included washing giant piles of laundry every single day. But thanks to some creative thinking and skilled volunteers from a local sewing club — the Kanab Senior Sew & Sews — the Bunny House is conserving resources while keeping the rabbits even more comfortable and cozy.

Six local ladies with big hearts, skilled hands and sewing machines in Kanab, Utah, have turned into volunteer tailors to transform the ground the rabbits walk on (and the way cleaning is done) at the Bunny House. And they’re doing it by making an incredibly useful product they simply call “bunny blankets.”

Three women standing and one woman sitting and holding a white rabbit

Blankets for bunnies

In each of the bunny rooms at Best Friends, the floors in both the indoor and outdoor areas have always been covered in layers of large fleece blankets. They provided the bunnies with a cushion between their feet and the floor, and they could be washed as often as necessary.

While the setup worked well enough for years, the bunnies were constantly pulling and bunching up the blankets. They also got dirty quickly, which meant piles of laundry. The Bunny House staff worried about the amount of water being used in their laundry room and wondered if there might be a way that the Bunny House could be greener, while keeping the rabbits’ living quarters pristine.

The answer was yes. All it took was a few good ideas, a little online research, some trial and error, and six generous ladies who really know how to sew.

Woman volunteer holding a white rabbit

Recruiting volunteer seamstresses

The project began with a conversation between Darrin Pelphrey, a Bunny House caregiver, and a volunteer who mentioned a special type of guinea pig cage liner she’d seen — fleece blankets over waterproof inserts that could be flipped for a quick cleanup or removed for laundering.

That chat set the wheels in motion. Darrin and Bunny House team lead Chris Ratches brainstormed and searched the internet to find a company that made and sold the liners. But the small family-owned business didn’t have the bandwidth to produce enough of them to cover all the enclosures at the Bunny House.

What if the Bunny House staff could design and make the special blankets themselves, with the help of — say — a local sewing club? There happened to be one just a few miles away at the Kanab Senior Center— the Kanab Senior Sew & Sews.

Darrin contacted the club, and it wasn’t long before six talented volunteer seamstresses were ready to make some magic for the rabbits. Signing up to help were Mary Ann Swapp, Bonnie Howard, Mary Smith, Katie Wolf and Terry Plew. And Rose Resh (who had moved to Kanab two years ago to volunteer with rabbits and other animals at the Sanctuary) was immediately on board when the opportunity came up to work with her friends in the club.

Volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Bunny blankets — a volunteer sewing project

Though the sewing club only meets once a week, some of the women have their own machines at home and work on their own time. In less than a year, these six hardworking and softhearted ladies made more than 300 bunny blankets.

It takes Mary Ann, a talented quiltmaker, about half an hour to make a blanket. “But I love to do it,” she says. Rose agrees, saying, “I like to be useful.”

Here’s how the useful bunny blankets work: The ladies sew them into a pouch with a flap that closes so that caregivers can insert a corrugated plastic board and a thick cloth lining. When the whole thing is put together and closed, the bunny blankets make effective floor liners that can be flipped for use on either side.

Bunny House caregivers line the floor of the bunny rooms with four bunny blankets (carefully measured and crafted to fit side by side in the rooms). They take the place of the layers of loose fleece blankets used previously. The blankets can be easily swept off and turned over to give the bunnies a clean space. When the second side gets dirty, the plastic and lining are removed from the pouch and washed (along with the liner if necessary). This method saves on laundry, because all four bunny blankets may not need to be flipped or washed at the same time.

Two women and a man looking at a rabbit blanket

Bunny volunteers see their work pay off

Since Rose volunteers at the Bunny House twice a week, she gets to see the rabbits using the bunny blankets all the time. Recently, three other club members visited the Bunny House to see how their handiwork helps keep the bunnies’ rooms fresh and clean.

As Mary Ann, Bonnie and Mary Smith toured the buildings, Darrin and Rose pointed out all the rooms with happy bunnies hopping around on the blankets they’d made. Awed by the bunnies, the women later had a chance to spend some time cuddling with Popeye, an adoptable Bunny House resident.

“The sewing club is fun, and this is a such a unique opportunity to help the animals and caregivers here at the Sanctuary,” says Mary Smith, now retired after working 16 years at Best Friends.

“We’re really excited about this project,” Darrin says, “and, best of all, the ladies are having a ball with it.”

How you can support the animals at Best Friends

Group of four volunteers holding the blankets they'd sewed for Bunny House

Photos by Kurt Budde