For this project, you will need a 100% wool sweater and a small collection of wool sweater scraps and cotton fabric scraps. Solid, striped or patterned. As with the Tiny Birdhouse, Swittens, and Sweater Mouse projects, add your wool sweater (do not dismantle it yet) to the laundry batch and wash and dry on normal to felt. This project also requires a needle, thread, an embroidery hoop, embroidery thread, and some stuffing like organic cotton stuffing, hemp fibers or wool. We are known to borrow synthetic filling from retired threadbare elderly friends. I’ll admit, I’m kind of fancy and I opt to insert a small bean bag or pebble-filled bag in the base of the owl to provide ballast.
Final owl size is determined by the size of your sweater. Cut a sleeve off your sweater near the armpit, leaving the side seam alone. Lay the sleeve flat so the seam sits naturally at the side. Trim the armpit end (SLEEVE BOTTOM) in a semi-circle about 10” away from the wrist end of the sleeve, matching front and back. Cut a long symmetric lens-shaped piece (BASE) from the sweater fabric, matching the length of SLEEVE BOTTOM. Turn SLEEVE inside out. With right sides together, sew BASE to SLEEVE BOTTOM. Turn right side out. Place a pebble-filled fabric bag (this is simple to make) inside the sleeve. Insert stuffing into the owl, filling ¾ up to the sleeve.
Now, you and your starry-eyed design team must do a little research and envision your friend’s outcome. Things you should probably consider: curved beak, facial disk, wings and ear tufts.
All owls have a short, curved, downward-facing beak that is hooked at the end. It is designed for gripping and tearing prey. As well, the bill is curved downwards in order to keep the owl’s field of vision clear. To make the owl beak, cut a diamond shape out of lightweight wool sweater scrap material. Fold the diamond in half and sew at the edges. To provide some shape, insert a teensy bit of stuffing inside before putting in the final stitch. To provide a curve, use small internal stitches to “grab” the pointy tip and pull it down and back toward the base.
Many owl species have large parabolic facial disks called “ruffs” that focus sound—not unlike a parabolic microphone. Its shape ensures that all distant sound waves that strike the surface parallel to the central axis (the direction the owl’s face is pointed) will be focused exactly on the owl’s ears. To make the owl’s facial disk, place a lightweight contrasting sweater into an embroidery hoop. Sew on the beak. Add eye “patches” with frayed fabric scraps, stitching at the edges. Embroider curved sleepy eyes with a backstitch. Just in case you need it, Purl Bee has a fantastic backstitch tutorial. Embellish the owl’s face with frayed wool or cotton fabric scraps—add a “cere” or “operculum” at the top of the beak where the nostrils are set, add “brows” above the eyes—use your best judgment. Then, remove your sweater from the embroidery hoop. To make the owl’s facial disk., cut a large oval around the beak and eyes. Sew it to the front of the owl’s body.
An owl’s ear openings are often asymmetrically-set (one ear is placed slightly higher than the other) which increases sound reception. This is fantastic news for someone like me who finds symmetrical sewing to be somewhat challenging. Some owls have ear tufts—these are located on the top of the head and are often referred to as “horns” or “ears” but are really just clusters of long feathers and have nothing to do with the owl’s ability to hear. There are several interesting hypotheses about just why these exist (e.g. provide camouflage, threaten predators, provide intra-species recognition), but the mystery remains unsolved in the scientific world. Just a small something for you and your tiny team to think about.
To make ear tufts, you must first tuck in the SLEEVE TOP and stitch, leaving about 2 inches un-sewn on both sides. These unsewn sides will form the owl’s ear tufts. To fully form ear tufts, make indentations with stitching on outer sides. Embellish the ear tufts with frayed cotton remnants. Use lightweight contrasting sweater remnants for wings.
There. You are done. You have made a good listener.
And everybody likes a good listener.