DIY mini stuffed owls made from upcycled t shirts, felt and buttons.
Meet Pigwidgeon's pals. We have here a Parliament of Owls. Parliament is the group word for owls, not flock. Hm. And this is 20 owls, therefore, a parliament. They might be considered owlets. I guess it's all in your perspective. For G's last birthday party (outer space theme) I made felt alien beanbags as favors. So when we decided on a Harry Potter theme for this year, I thought little owls would be a good favor. I was inspired by the stuffed animal pillows I made for my kids this past Christmas. The owlets are a variation on the larger owls.
I enjoy upcycling and recycling, so I went into it planning to use old t-shirts for the body of the owlets. Also, from experience, I've learned that I like felt for the applique, since you don't need to hem it. I use a nice, thick wool blend felt for these, rather than the polyester kind of craft felt you can find in craft stores. The cheaper felt pills very easily, but the more expensive felt can stand some wear and washing. I got mine here.
These aren't a complicated project, just time consuming when you're gathering a whole parliament.
The first step, after collecting your t-shirts, is to cut out the shapes. I wanted my owlets to be vaguely owl colored, so I picked neutral colors, grays, tans and white, for the snowy owls, of course. My daughter is crazy for pink, so I added in a gray and pink heart pattern for her. A whole bunch of different patterned owlets might be great, and I was tossing around the idea of mixing patterns... but with so many owlets on my plate, I decided to go simple.
I cut out different sized and proportioned ovals. I went into it with the intention of making each one different, so I wasn't looking for a pattern to make uniform owlets. If I wanted to, I would have drawn my first owl pattern on a piece of brown paper (remembering to leave an inch or so for sewing) and then just used the pattern as I was cutting out all of the owls. For some of my owls, I wanted ears, so I added a scoop to the fabric at the top.
Make sure when you are cutting out your owl body shapes, you take TWO pieces of t-shirt and place them insides together, cut out your body from both shapes at once. That will mean that your irregular shaped pieces will make one irregular shaped owl, rather than having to match odd pieces into one owl. Keep your owl body back and front together to simplify things later. Pin them if you are afraid the pieces will get lost.
Here are some of the cut outs. They each have a back and front together. You can see the different oval/owl shapes here. Some are smaller, some wider, some taller, some larger. This is part of how we give them personality.
The next step is to cut out the felt faces. The faces are the rest of the personality. I toyed with making separate eye balls, but in the interest of simplicity, I made these kind of number eight shapes, of the two eyeballs connected together.
To make sure the eyeball shapes worked on the owlet bodies, I kept trying them against the cut outs. That's how I chose the figure eight shapes vs two separate eye balls... they actually looked cuter.
I cut out little triangle shapes out of a contrasting color felt for the beaks.
As I began cutting out the felt faces, I began to experiment with the size and shape. I found my figure eights got larger as I went on, and I threw in some puffy heart shapes. Owls are not all the same and different breeds have different faces, so I liked the heart shapes to add some variation.
This is my little kit of owl supplies. You can see the pile of owl bodies in different colors and shapes. This pile is on top of the felt squares in colors I thought would work for my owls... mostly in whites, tans, and beigy yellow... although there is one bright yellow eyed guy. Not sure why I didn't make more in that color. He's cute.
Also in my project kit is a collection of needles, pins and various owlish colored threads and a bunch of buttons (inside the altoids tin). The buttons were used as eyes. Most of them are shades of black, tan or brown, with a little bit of pink thrown in for the girly girls.
Cute factor is important here. I actually tried on variations of all the faces on my owl bodies before I started sewing. I would test out the eyeballs on the tshirt, pick out the perfect buttons. Stand back a little, move the button in or out, the face up or down, squint at the soon to be owl face, and then, when I felt the, "awwwwww" reaction, I said, "yes, that's the one."
The first thing I would do, once I'd found the perfect face combination, in the perfect placement, was to stitch the buttons down, since that would keep most of the pieces in place enough for me to sew the whole thing.
As I went on I found that a little bit of fabric glue also made it more secure and sped up my parliament assembly line process of creating them and avoided the need for pins, but I'd still have to sew those buttons on.
You have to stitch the faces on before sewing the two sides of the bodies together or you make everything more difficult. In my case, sometimes I wanted the thread to show, so I picked contrasting thread for when I stitched the faces on. Some I wanted the stitching to be less obvious, so I chose the same tone of thread. I did not really try to hide the stitches. I like the hand made look, so I let it show, and I wasn't worried about the hand stitching being perfect. Again, that's part of the personality.
At this point, when the face was stitched on securely, I took both pieces of matching owl bodies and turned them inside out, outside faces touching and pinned them together, so that I could sew them.
I sewed them together on my sewing machine, leaving a seam allowance of about an inch (it was not important if it was perfect, because I was going for wonky and personality filled) more or less and sewed all around, leaving the bottom two or three inches open.
When the owlets were finished being sewn together, I turned them inside out, making sure that the ones with ear points were fully pointy (you can use a paintbrush or pencil to gently poke them out from the inside) and I stuffed them with poly fill. Fill them as full as you want.
Then, pin the opening with the seam allowance folded inside the bird. I used a hidden ladder stitch for this for the first time and was really pleased with how it turned out.
Oh. One more thing. When I was done, I found that some of the oval owls didn't quite look owlish enough. They looked kind of blobby. So I pinched ears into their heads and then simply stitched them with a couple of stitches. That's one of the fun things about making stuffed animals. You can actually sculpt them with a few stitches here and there.
Tan owlets. Notice here that even the ovals are different shapes. Some pear shaped, some squarish, some are oriented upwards and some sideways. And the eyes, faces and beaks all make for different guys. Two of these (left) were patterned with ears, and two of them (right) had ears pinched in. One of them looks like a potato.
I hope when the kids pick out their owlet buddies, they leave me some of my favorites.
The craft cupboard itself is a thrifted camp kitchen. There's even a little drawer in it for pencils (utensils, whatever) and the front opens up to make a work station. Perfect on top of a dresser for me.
I will show you a neater picture of it some day when I am not busy making a Harry Potter party.
Anyway, I must go. Happy crafting.