Spread your artistic wings with a heartfelt hoot.
Ami Maes, Handmakery
Wintertime brings whimsy and wonder. It creates coziness and craftiness in our children and in ourselves. Nights are long but ideas and imagination are spacious with splendor and spark. Snowflakes add sparkle as they soar and softly surround. It’s the perfect time of year to venture on a feathery flight stitching a simple, soft stuffie. Here is a sewing project you can do for a child or with a child, with no need of a sewing machine, without worrying about perfection. In fact, imperfection only makes this creature more darling.
- Photos or drawings of owls
- Download a printable pattern at Mountain-Parent.com
- Paper + pencil + eraser + tape + scissors
- Wool sweaters (multiple colors and patterns work best)
- Embroidery floss (all of your favorite colors)
- Needles (large darning needles have big eyes and are easy for little hands)
- Straight pins
FABRIC AND COLOR SELECTION:
Sift through local thrift shops or your home, to find sweaters made with 100% animal fibers. Avoid any percentage of cotton, acrylic or nylon in the fabric. For the softest fabric, look for lambswool, merino, cashmere, mohair, angora or alpaca. Mix & match colors, textures, and patterns to create unique combinations for your owl’s wings, chest feathers and face. You can go with natural tones for a serious bird or whimsical colors for an other-worldly creation. What is your creature calling to become?
Machine-wash wool sweaters on hot, and then dry on high heat. This sets, shrinks, and felts the fibers. Felting wool makes the fabric thicker and provides a finished edge when cutting that won’t fringe or fray.
DESIGN YOUR OWL
Download a pattern at Mountain-Parent.com. Use this as a base, and make alterations to suit your vision. Snuggle up and look at a wide array of owls in books, magazines, photos or online. Talk about your child’s favorite owl features… maybe the flair of the feathers, the exquisiteness of the eyes, the magic of the mask, or the symmetry of the simple shapes? Chat and collaborate, sketch and decide how your owl will express its personality.
Cut out your pattern pieces and choose which sweater colors, prints, and textures you like best for each body part. Limit the overall finished size to 8-9 inches, so your owl’s body pattern pieces will fit the dimensions of a felted sweater. You can multi-layer eyes using various colored wools or buttons. Choose separate wool pieces for an angular beak, wings, and your owl’s belly, which can be feathery, layered, ruffled, or simple. It’s ideal if pieces are no smaller than 1” or they can become too challenging to stitch.
Pin the individual paper pattern pieces on top of the wool fabric pieces using straight pins. Cut out fabric shapes. Assemble all individual wool pieces onto the owl’s body and pin into place, so you can see how your creation will appear.
Visible stitches add character. Embroidery floss is thicker than traditional thread and easier for small hands to use. Select floss colors that compliment or accent your wools. Darning needles are dull (though sharp enough for easily working with thick wool felt). They have a much larger eye, making threading the needle easier. A simple whip stitch works wonders because felted wool doesn’t need to be turned under, as it naturally has a finished edge. To make a whip stitch, you’re basically circling around or looping the edge as you stitch two pieces of felted wool together.
• Tie a knot to the needle and at the end of the floss to keep the needle connected and to prevent the thread from pulling through.
• Before you begin sewing pieces together, use two scrap pieces of felted wool to practice making whip stitches.
• Pre-plan which parts of your owl’s body will be stitched first. It works best to move from front to back. For example, stitch button eyes to mask, and beak to mask, before stitching mask to body. Add embellishments, such as ruffles or a pocket to the owl’s tummy before assembling the body.
• When enclosing the owl’s body, leave a 1-2 inch opening on the bottom of the body for adding stuffing. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to push stuffing into the body of the owl. Once your creature is full and fluffy, stitch the small opening closed.
MEET THE AUTHOR: Ami Maes, Handmakery
Ami is the owner, creative director, and lead educator at HANDMAKERY on Main Street in Carbondale. Ami’s love of art began as a little girl. She grew up sewing and crafting handmade goods with her mother and sisters, and when she had the opportunity to work with young children in a studio experience in high school, she knew she’d found her passion. The upcycled stuffie she created for our DIY column grew out of her love of owls and her wish to find purposeful uses for beautiful discarded woolens.