Dinner: A Love Story

June 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Dinner A Love StoryI think some people are born magicians

Hatching artful diversions

While we watch dazed

The bullet catch

The cabinet escape

The elastic lady

Seamless 5-ball cascade juggling

We stare mouths open

Amazed.

Oooo!

 

My firecracker friend Jenny is magical like this.

And now for the next trick!

Pretzel chicken

Fava bean crostini

Lemony-potato smash

I am so blown away.

She has written it all down.

Voila!  It’s HERE!

 

 

 

The Seed Bomb

May 31st, 2012 § 15 comments § permalink

Seed bombs are magical little nuggets of clay, compost and native seeds used to surreptitiously improve areas you’re unable to reach.

To determine native species in your area, ask a smart friend, or visit the Native Plant Database.  My family and I live in the Northeastern U.S., and our seed bombs include (among other seeds) eastern red columbine, red milkweed, butterfly weed, New England aster, joe pye weed, lanceleaf coreopsis, blazing star, wild bergamot, sweet coneflower and rigid goldenrod.  Select low-maintenance drought-tolerant native species that can thrive with intermittent care.  As mentioned previously, choose seeds wisely.  You certainly do not want to select invasive species that will threaten biodiversity.  Consider species that create habitats for other native critters like butterflies and birds.

To determine your soil type, do the squeeze test:  take a handful of moist (but not wet) soil and give it a firm squeeze.  Most likely, one of three things will happen:

 

 

  1. The soil falls apart as soon as you open your hand.  This means you have sandy soil.
  2. The soil holds it’s shape, and when you give it a little poke, it crumbles.  This means you have loam.  Perfect for a garden—it retains moisture and nutrients, but doesn’t stay soggy.
  3. It holds it shape, and when you give it a little poke, it sits stubbornly in your hand.  This means you have nutrient-rich clay soil.  Perfect for this project.

If you have dreams of a yard-ful of annuals, perennials and veggies, yet have the horrible misfortune of heavy clay soil (I can relate), today you are in luck.  There is little need for clay amendment in your seed bomb recipe.  Just head to your backyard and collect some clay soil.  If your soil is sandy or loamy, however, you must add natural clay (often found in natural stream banks), terracotta clay powder or air-dry clay (found in art supply or health food stores).

Like making a mudpie, making a seed bomb is not an exact science.  Use the below recipe as a guide, but your measurements needn’t be exact.

Seed Bomb Recipe:

3 parts clay (see note above)

3 parts dry organic compost or worm castings

1 part small native perennial seed

1 to 2 parts water (added by the Tbs)

The mixture should be moist, but not wet. Knead it with your hands, being sure to incorporate all seeds.  Roll it into 1 to 2 inch balls.  Set them on newspaper to dry for 2 days before using, or store on a sunny windowsill before throwing over a fence.  Your seed bombs are ready to wreak havoc on green wastelands.  Just throw and they will grow.  Rich in nutrients, the clay and compost aid in germination and help strengthen plant root systems.

Nicely packaged in a handmade bag, seed bombs make fantastic handmade gifts for friends, family and teachers.  Include a nice note or quote like one of these:

  • Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.  –Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.  –A.A. Milne
  • Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.  –Shel Silverstein
  • The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  –Roald Dahl
  • Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart. –A.A. Milne
  • Small as a peanut, big as a giant, we’re all the same size when we turn off the light. –Shel Silverstein

Once you have perfected the seed bomb, you may get the urge to branch out and attempt other small-scale unlawful acts. Do not mention my name during your interrogation!

Now, Joanie or Johnny Appleseed, plant something already!

 

 

 

Candied Citrus Peel

April 22nd, 2012 § 5 comments § permalink

This recipe is super easy.  The peels taste just like sweet lemon drops. You’ll be certain to have your kitchen stocked with a jar or two of these from now on—ready to grab for that upcoming day hike or camping trip.  You may love them plain, with only a dusting of sugar, but in the end you may opt to dip your peels in chocolate for extra yumminess.  Look out!  These peels disappear fast!

 

You will need:

5 organic, un-waxed thick-skinned lemons (or 5 limes, 2 oranges, or 1 large grapefruit)

2 cups sugar

¾ tsp cream of tartar

Semisweet chocolate (optional)

 

What to do:

  1. Wash the lemons and slice off both ends with a knife.
  2. Make 4 equally spaced lengthwise slices just through the peel of each lemon.
  3. With your fingers, pry each section of peel off each lemon, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a simmer.
  5. Add the peels to the simmering water.  Simmer for 2 minutes and strain with a colander.
  6. Rinse the peels with fresh water and wash out the pan with soap and water.
  7. Repeat 2 more times, each time using fresh water to rinse peels and saucepan, and fresh cold water to refill saucepan.
  8. The pith of the fruit has a bitter taste.  If the peels are very thick, use a spoon or butter knife to scrape off most of the pith from the peel. This should rid the peels of bitterness.  But don’t remove all the pith from the peels—it will provide some structure and tastiness.
  9. Combine 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and ¾ tsp cream of tartar.  Slowly bring to a simmer, whisking often.  The sugar syrup should be clear before it reaches a simmer.  Be careful—this liquid is hot!
  10. Add the peels to the sugar syrup (add enough water to completely cover the peels) and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the mixture forms a thick syrup and the peels are translucent and tender.  The temperature should be about 230 degrees.
  11. To test for doneness, lift a peel slice from the syrup with a slotted spoon, let it cool slightly and then sample.  If you can easily bite through the peel, it’s done.  If not, continue simmering peels until tender.  If the syrup becomes too thick, add additional water.
  12. Turn off heat, gently remove peels from the sugar syrup with slotted spoon and lay separately on a wire rack set on an edged baking sheet.  Watch out!  The peels will be very hot.
  13. Once cooled, cut each peel into thin strips (no wider than ¼ inch).  These can be great knife practice for smallish hands, but be sure to work carefully.  Set peels separately on a clean wire rack to dry overnight.
  14. A few pieces at a time, toss each peel in a sugar-filled bowl to coat.
  15. Store in an airtight container.

Candied peels are best used at least two days after you’ve made them—they won’t have dried sufficiently if used right away.  After no longer gooey to the touch, they should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container.  They will last several weeks (assuming they are not gobbled up before then by unicorns).

 

And try this:

  • Dip peel ends in thinned royal icing or tempered chocolate and place on parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
  • For orange peels, try adding ground ginger or nutmeg to the sugar.
  • Chopped, the candied peels may be used as a topping to pudding, custard, ice cream, pie, fresh granola or cookies.
  • Remaining citrus and cooled liquid and may be used as simple syrup to make amazing homemade lemonade Just add juice of 5 lemons (leftover from the above recipe) and water to taste and refrigerate.
  • Or, on the eve an especially long day, concoct a comforting cocktail.  Cool the remaining citrus and liquid, and serve with your spirit of choice.

Note: I originally published a version of this (sans above cocktail tip, of course) in Whip Up’s Action Pack Magazine for kids (Issue 6).   Chock full of quality projects for creative curious kids who love to do stuff, Action Pack is a downloadable high-quality ad-free e-magazine by Kathreen Ricketson.  Diagrams and photos illustrate each boredom-busting step-by-step kid-friendly project—make a lemon battery, a citric acid fizz popper, cinnamon sticks wooden jewelry and handmade chalk.  For more hands-on projects like this one, click HERE.

 

 

Love Letters

February 14th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

Forget the fancy flowers.  We are the dreamers of dreams.  Give me a thought.

We made a valentine banner.  Constructed out of felted wool sweater and cotton fabric scraps and remnant bias tape, it’s printed with thoughtful notes to each other.  Simple to make.

Printing on fabric requires an ink jet printer, thin cotton fabric (I just use remnant drapery liner) and freezer paper.

Here are the steps:

  • Trim the fabric slightly larger than 8 ½  x 11 inches.
  • Place the fabric onto an ironing board (or thick towel).
  • Place the shiny side of the freezer paper onto the fabric.
  • Iron.  Two will become one.
  • Trim the fabricky paper to 8 ½ x 11.
  • Treat it like a normal piece of paper and place it into your printer with the proper sides up and down.  Print your image.

To make a banner like ours, cut the printed material into the desired shape, peel off the freezer paper and sew to a sturdy material (like wool or felt).  Cut two small openings in the back of the material and carefully slip bias tape through using a safety pin as a guide.

 

A simple haiku can get you through the winter and then some.

 

 

Topping it Off: Eco-Friendly Gift-Wrapping

December 15th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

It’s become clear that sometime during the next few weeks or so, you may have something to give me.   Quite possibly it will be something that doesn’t cost much.  Maybe it will be free—a shoulder massage, a ukulele tutorial, a list of trustworthy sitters, your timeshare in Antrim, Ireland—in any case, since you know I am a surprise-junkie, it will likely require some sort of superawesome wrapping to ambush and wow me.

This will be easily done, I think, since it is still fall here and I’ve recently discovered some mind-blowing tutorials HERE and HERE on transforming fall leaves into crafty decorative flowers—perfect for topping off your thoughtful gift.  I understand you may be concerned that fall is coming to a close, and leaves are becoming scarce and crinkly and delicate, and it might just take longer than expected for you to figure out just how to get those leaves folded.  Just.  Perfectly.  I am here to prepare you for alternatives.

This project requires a Felted Wool Ball, needle and thread, remnant wool felt, and a small collection of felted sweaters.  First, prepare the “petals” for the project.  With sharp sewing scissors, cut the felted sweaters into long zigzaggy strips, leaving a connection on the bottom edge—pointy or rounded tops.  Cut thin sweaters into narrow strips (for inner petals) and thick sweaters into wider strips (for outer petals).

I keep a stash of these strips handy for noteworthy projects like button bracelets and collars for small lively monster friends.

Next (and this is optional) use a felting needle, felting pad and skinny wool roving to embellish the wool ball, adding spirals or dots or anything else superfancy (see Dry Felting).

With needle and thread in hand, stitch the bottom edge of one narrow zigzaggy strip around the sides of the felted ball until you meet up with the starting point.  Cut off the extra end of the strip.  Stitch a wider zigzaggy strip around the sides of the ball, matching bottom edges and overlapping the first strip until you meet up with the starting point.  Cut off the end.  Stitch a third (the widest) zigzaggy strip over the first two.  Cut off the end.

Next, cut a large leaf-shaped piece of wool felt.  Place this piece on the bottom of your flower and sew around the edges, attaching it to your flower top and covering the rough zigzaggy strip edges.  Good job.

Gift ribbons can be easily made with light cotton fabric scrap.  Cut in about an inch from the edge.  Grab fabric edges and pull away, leaving raw-edged ribbon.

Wrap your gift with a larger fabric scrap, tying with raw-edged ribbon.

With needle and thread, secure flower onto ribbon.  Ta da!

 

Note: don’t attempt perfection with these felted flowers.  As with other projects, quirky outcomes are preferred over conventional.  That said, remind yourself that, in nature, some flowers are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, and some even lose petals.

Celebrate the uniqueness.

 

A Quiet Place: DIY A-Frame Tent

November 12th, 2011 § 16 comments § permalink

DIT A-frame tentAt risk of exposing my vulnerability, I’d like to say I miss hanging out with you more.  The fact is that these days I’ve been enveloped by a certain writing assignment I’m supposed to be wrapping up.  Such a shame, since this is my favorite place besides HERE where I am treated queen-like and am provided the most delectable salami Swiss apple butter sandwiches on toasted rye and HERE where I actually haven’t been yet, but dream dream dream about.

Someday.

But today I am home with a small sniffly girl, and tomorrow I suspect I will be home with her too.  And her sister.  And then, the next day most likely the sniffler will be me.  Sniffly times require small quiet fluffy places where books and ice pops are consumed and slurped, and sneezes are snuzzed.  Snuggly places where I tell them sweetly that someday in the oh-so-near future there will be just a teeny tiny memory of right now.

Today we made a quiet place.

Simple instructions for cute wood-framed pup tents requiring just a cordless drill, some wood and a sheet can be found here, here and here.  Irked by tragic malfunctions with these designs (not due to any design flaw, but more likely due to the destructive nature of my spirited superheroines) we opted for a slightly more rugged frame.

Inspired by research on building mini hoophouses for our school garden, we opted to use PVC pipe for the ridge pole and legs, and a repurposed king-sized duvet for the cover—costing a mere $14.26 to build.

Bent on bonus features, my cantankerous and cranky team tacked on some time to the project.  Well worth it.  The winning hideaway can be easily popped up and down by them and tucked away.  It is our new bestest best friend.

Someday I will post a detailed PDF of the materials and sewing pattern.

Until then, gather up the following:

  • An old king- or queen-sized duvet cover with contrasting colors
  • Contrasting cotton fabric scraps (1 yard)
  • ¼ in elastic (1/2 yard)
  • Clear vinyl fabric scrap

And prepare for fun times ahead.  They are coming, you know.

 

There is No “I” in Pie

October 26th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

As mentioned here and here, I don’t like to cook.  Or even to bake, really.  For me every meal is a trial.

There have been a few times when I actually have enjoyed my time in the kitchen.  Almost all have involved a glass or two of wine.

And, so when my smallest person returned from school the other day determined to enter a homemade apple pie in the farmers market pie contest, I immediately broke out in a cold sweat.

I have never baked a pie.

My pie-o-phobia is mostly due to years of extensive advice provided by well-intentioned gastronomes—freeze the flour, mix with a light hand, roll from the center, pre-cook the apples, heap them up high, wet the top crust—to me, this is dizzying.  But how do you dismiss a small pie-obsessed enterprising firebrand who makes a completely convincing case—Mom, we could do it together, she says.

In the end, I have learned that if you can make a purple Play-Doh pie (and my daughter is a self-proclaimed master), you can make an apple pie.

Oatmeal, hazelnuts, boiled cider, sour cream, ground cloves, lemon zest, pepper, melted apple jelly, vodka—all can do wonders for an apple pie, I’ve heard.  We stuck with a few simple ingredients we had on hand—fresh fruit, flour, butter, eggs, sugar.  Homemade pie can only be as yummy as the produce put into it.  We put in a mixture of local Honeycrisps, Macouns, Jonathans and Crispins.  Other late-fall blends could include Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rome, Cortland, Braeburn, Rome, Idared, and Black Twig.

 

The Recipe

This recipe is perfect for making one double-crust apple pie.

Flaky Butter Crust:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, chilled and diced
  • ½ cup ice water

In large, refrigerated bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter only until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in water, a Tbs at a time, until mixture forms a ball.  Don’t overwork the dough.  Shape dough into two flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.  Unwrap one dough disk and roll out on wax paper.  Invert over 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.  Ease dough into pan bottom and corners.  Refrigerate.

The Rest:

  • 6 cups apples, quartered, cored, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbs lemon
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 eggwhite
  • 1tbs milk
  • 1 Tbs butter, frozen

Set pizza stone or cookie sheet on center rack of oven.  Preheat oven to 475.  Brush bottom piecrust lightly with egg white.  Bake for 5 minutes.  In large bowl, mix apples with lemon.  In separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add apples and mix.  Add salt and mix.  Arrange apples in layers on dough-lined pie plate.  Heap them up high, since they will cook down a bit.  Cover filling with diced butter.

Roll out second dough disk.  For a lattice-top crust, cut ¾ inch strips and carefully weave onto filling.  For a solid crust, center dough onto filling and cut steam vents near crust edge with paring knife.  Trim and tuck edges.  Place pie in freezer for 10 minutes.  Brush top with a light layer of milk and sugar.  Reduce oven temperature to 400.  Bake on preheated pizza stone until top crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Fasten foil rim around crust edge.  Continue baking until juices bubble thickly at pan edges and big slow bubbles rise up through the vents, about 35 more minutes.

Transfer pie to wire rack and (the ultimate challenge) commit to an hour-long mouthwatering wait.  At least.

 

The Story’s End

At this point, you are most likely at the edge of your seat wondering about our pie contest outcome.  To our complete surprise, the pie was a prize-winning one.  Yay!  And so, later that week at a friend’s house, composed and confident, in an attempt to replicate success, I made the same exact world-class pie and popped it into the oven.  And broiled it.  A total flop.  I will spare you the gory details.  And yet, I remain fully committed to trying this recipe out with fresh local Anjou pears next week, er tomorrow.

Now, go forth and bake ye some pie!  And at Thanksgiving dinner (It’s coming, you know!) when folks ask your kids, What have you been up to lately?  He or she may reply, Oh, nothing much.  Just hanging out. 

And making the best pie ever.

 

 

The Makings of a Superhero: The Superhero Costume

August 10th, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Superhero GirlA superhero is not simply someone who stumbles upon a crime or injustice and makes a spontaneous decision to intervene.  A true superhero has a strong moral code and has vowed to actively battle, risking his or her own safety, for the betterment of humankind.

Superhero status should not be reserved for the mega rich, super-fit extra-terrestrial brilliant scientist type.  Sometimes merely being at the right place at the right time may be all that is needed—due to some freak laboratory accident, the clumsy lab tech comes into contact with a secret fizzley purple formula within a flask; the mousy orphan unearths a pebble or a magical wizard who bestows upon her the godlike powers of Captain America or Supergirl, transforming her into a massive powerhouse with enhanced metabolic powers.

Masked SuperheroAnd, sometimes a superhero needs to look like a superhero.  For, nothing motivates a pending protagonist more than a good outfit.  A good outfit not only provides protection and technological advantages, it conceals the supersecret identity of the real-life superhero from revenge-seeking criminals.  As well, a superhero’s secret identity protects friends and family from becoming targets of his or her archenemies.

Running SuperheroRecommended Components:

A real-life superhero outfit must be of sufficient quality to show that some care went into its creation.  Cape, mask, magical utility belt and speedy sneakers—all should incorporate the crusader’s well-considered name and theme.

Materials:

This project requires the following scrap materials: 1 yard fabric (preferably two different patterns, ½ yard each) for cape; decorative fabric fringe for cape bottom (beaded or tasseled cotton, lace, tassel, cording—anything is fine as long as there is a “lip” to sew onto); Velcro bits for cape closure; small fabric scraps (we used felted wool sweaters and soft remnant velveteen) for mask and magical belt; elastic for back of mask; and ribbon or remnant seam binding ribbon for magical belt tying mechanism.

Note: for sweater felting tips, see previous Mossy tutorials on wool sweater felting (Swittens, Tiny Birdhouse or Sweater Mice).

Instructions:

Choose a great name.  If you and your team are completely stuck, the Superhero Name Generator may be utilized to provide some direction.  Use the patterns below as a guide to cut large pieces for the cape (with both fabric types).  Cape pattern is similar to an enlarged baby bib pattern with offset neck closure—just worn backwards.  Cape length (A) should measure from superhero shoulder to lower thigh.  Use pattern as guide to cut smaller pieces for belt and mask.  Belt is long (approximately 16”) and rectangular, made out of two contrasting fabrics (we used felted wool sweater as the backing, and a smaller rectangular piece of patterned cotton).  We used felted wool sweaters for the outside of the mask and soft, velvety remnant velveteen for the inside of the mask. If desired, cut out fabric letters or symbols to add to cape and belt.

Superhero Costume Pattern

Cape LetterFor cape, pin and stitch fabric letter/symbol to back center of cape.  For this, a regular machine lockstitch set in 1/16 inch from the letter’s edge is perfect.  The letter’s edge may then be frayed by hand, if desired.  With right sides together, pin and sew cape fabrics together using ½” seam allowance, leaving an 8 “ opening on the bottom edge for turning right-side-out.  Trim seam allowances and clip curves (clip valleys, notch mountains).  Turn the cape right-side-out and press.  Add fringe at cape bottom.  Edgestitch around the entire cape.  Have the potential superhero try the cape on to determine neckline Velcro placement.

Superhero BeltFor belt, pin two rectangular belt fabrics together—one slightly smaller than the other.

Sew around edge, inserting long thin ribbon at sides (remnant seam binding ribbon is ideal for this) to tie around crime fighter waist.  Pin and stitch fabric letter/symbol to front center of belt.

Superhero Mask DetailsFor mask, pin right sides together and, using embroidery thread, blanket stitch all edges together (Futuregirl has a great tutorial for this).  Add elastic band and, if desired, add decorative remnant fabric flowers (to cover messy elastic band stitching).

Superhero Mask FlowersNote:  Along with a good outfit, a dedicated superhero may require a cast of recurring characters (which most likely will include you), a headquarters or base of operations (usually kept hidden from the general public), and a background that explains the circumstances by which the character acquired his or her abilities.

Dueling SuperheroesWith great power comes great responsibility!

The Smopsicle

July 25th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

If, in fact, you did come over sometime soon (and our fingers are crossed), my little team and I would whip you up a batch of our favorite simple, all-natural organic summer smopsicles—quick and easy smoothie pops that run salty preservative-y saturated fat-ty high fructose corn syrup-y snacks clear out of town.

Most ingredients can be found at a farmer’s market like ours.  But we’ve been known to make these pops in the thick of winter.  As luck would have it, we’ve found that frozen fruit works best, so these days we squirrel away peak-season favorites in our freezer.  Thankfully, though, we’re not picky.  We’ll freeze and eat just about anything smoopsicle-worthy.

Here are some of our superfabuloso recipes.  Most are not ours, really.  We’ve stolen bits and pieces from aunts, close friends, neighbors and complete strangers.

 

Basic Smopsicle Ingredients:

1 cup plain or vanilla organic yogurt (Greek live and active bacterial culture is best)

3 to 4 Tbs concentrated fruit juice (orange, pomegranate, cranberry, any favorites will do)

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit (plus extras for testing)  (strawberries, raspberries, sliced peaches, mmmmm)

Blend all ingredients, saving 2 or 3 Tbs fruit, until smooth.  Pour a few Tbs of blended ingredients into pop molds.  Add fresh, whole fruit layer.  Add another blended layer, and fruit layer. Finish with a blended layer.  Pop in pop sticks.  Pop in the freezer.  Wait…..

 

Waterminty Pops:

2 cups seedless watermelon chunks

3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt

¼ cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

3 to 4 fresh mint leaves

Cinnamon

1 Tbs honey, stevia, agave, maple or your favorite natural sweetener, to taste

Puree watermelon, honey and mint in blender.  Pulse in yogurt and cinnamon just until smooth.  Pour into pop molds and freeze.  Note: we’ve been known to pop chocolate chips into this recipe post-blending for “watermelon seeds.”  Mmmmm.

 

Mangopsicles: (inspired by Moosewood)

1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks

2 ripe bananas

3 to 4 Tbs orange juice concentrate

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

Puree all ingredients in blender.  Pour into pop molds and freeze.

 

Note: as a quick alternative to any recipe above, add ½ cup crushed ice and blend with ingredients to make smoothies.  Drink immediately.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to wait.

How to Make A Good Listener

April 14th, 2011 § 11 comments § permalink

Felted sweater owl closeupToday you will learn how to make a good listener.

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.

Owl PatternFinal 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.

Felted Sweater OwlMany 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.

Owl PairTo 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.

 

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