Novelty Owl Backpack




Introduction: Novelty Owl Backpack

Hello Everybody,

I made this owl backpack several years ago and everyone who sees it loves it. When I saw the backpack challenge I thought it was finally time to add an Instructable of my own. I decided on the colours for my next owl and documented the steps so that everyone can have an owl of their own.

This is my first Instructable so any questions you have please ask. I will try answer and add in the extra details.

I must warn you though, if you do end up making one you will most certainly get requests for more!

Step 1: Description

The backpack is a lined drawstring bag, with a front pocket under the feathers and a small inner pouch.

The bag is made up of several component parts, followed by a quick assembly.

Component parts:

The face of the owl (bag flap) is machine appliqued and embroidered, but can be made through applique alone.

The outer pocket which is covered with individually made wings and feathers.

Inner lining with a pocket.

Outer shell onto which the flap, inner lining, front pocket, and straps are sewn into.

Step 2: Tools and Materials


  • Sewing Machine
  • Embroidery Machine (with threads)
  • Scissors/roller cutter
  • Marking pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler/straight edge
  • Pins


  • Embroidery design ( I used the face of this design - Owl Design, but you can use any owl face you find)
  • Outer fabric - 2 pieces 35 cm x 40 cm
  • Lining fabric - 2 m x 35 cm (makes the inner lining with pocket, head flap and outer pocket, wings and feathers)
  • Oddments of coloured material to make feathers (approximately 10 cm x 10 cm each) x 23 feathers, wings (2 x 20 cm x 10 cm), owl face (20 cm x 15 cm),and 2 eye sockets (I used more of the white cotton).
  • Thin batting to add stiffness to the flap 22 cm x 22 cm
  • Wings 2 x 10 cm x 15 cm
  • 1,5 m Webbing for straps
  • 1 m Cord
  • 1 Drawstring
  • 1 Large press stud

I used one long 35 cm wide strip of white Egyptian cotton sheeting to make everything, cutting off lengths as I required them. In addition there was the outer fabric and the coloured material scraps.

Step 3: Planning

Planning the colour scheme is the fun part.

Matching the head, feathers, wings and body. Take into account who it's for and what type of owl it is. You can get a normal brown owl (using earthy colours), pink owl for a little girl, or even a mottled snowy white owl (like Hedwig from Harry Potter).

Lay down your outer fabric, place a piece of white fabric for the head at the top, then scatter fabric scraps over it until you find just the right colour combination. I have a range of material sample pieces which give me a wide range of feather options.

Step 4: Embroidered Owl Head Flap

The steps for the top flap are as follows:

  1. Cut 2 x 25 cm pieces of fabric off the white cotton lining strip.
  2. Place one piece onto the batting, insert into machine embroidery frame and embroider. Follow the embroidery pattern which is supplied with the design.
  3. Cut out embroidered fabric with batting and a piece of cotton backing fabric using the supplied template.
  4. Sew the layers together along the sides and bottom edge. Leave the top edge open.
  5. Trim the seams and snip the rounded edges, taking care not to snip the seam.
  6. Turn right sides out and stitch around the edge again.

If you do not have an embroidery machine make an appliqued version. First the head, then circles of decreasing size for the white eye sockets, the coloured eyes and the black pupil (maybe with a shiny white reflection in the eye). This could be simplified by using large black buttons for the eyes and a real bow. Google ‘owl images cartoon’ for loads of ideas and use your imagination. Have fun!

Step 5: Outer Pocket - Wings and Feathers

Each wing and feather follows the same steps: make a little pouch with coloured fabric in the front and lining material for the backing. Refer to the pictures if you get stuck.

1. Make the wings:

Trace the wing template onto the backing. Using the wing material and the backing, right sides together, sew a 5 mm seam inside the traced line along the sides and bottom edges. Leave the top edge unsewn. Cut out 5 mm from the seam, snip rounded edges and invert. Repeat for the second wing but reverse the template so that a left and a right wing are made.

2. Make 23 feathers.

Trace the feather template onto the backing. Select a piece of feather fabric. Right sides together, sew a 5 mm seam inside the traced line along the sides and bottom edges. Leave the top edge unsewn. Cut out 5 mm from the seam, snip rounded edges and invert.

Repeat until you have 23 feathers.

Step 6: Outer Pock - Assembly

The steps for making the outer pocket are hard to explain so look through the pictures first and again if you get stuck.

Sew rows of feathers together:

  1. Place bottom three feathers in a row with the middle feather overlapping the other two by 2 cm each.
  2. Sew across the top along the open edge.
  3. Take the five feathers of the row second from the bottom and place them with the middle feather overlapping the two feathers on either side, and those two overlapping the feathers on the edge by about 2 cm.Total row width is 22 cm.
  4. Repeat with the next three rows of feathers.

Feathers onto pocket:

  1. Cut one 60 cm length of fabric off the white cotton lining strip.
  2. Lay down pocket material with the narrow length of the material at the bottom of the cutting board. Mark the halfway line of the material, and start from this line. (The material below the line forms the back of the pocket.)
  3. Centre the first row of feathers on the line. Fold the rest of the material above the feathers over the feathers and pin. Stitch, ensuring all feathers are sewn in.
  4. Raise the material up again to reveal the sewn down feathers and place the next line of feathers down, overlapping the first row. Fold the rest of the material over the feathers and pin. Stitch, ensuring all feathers are sewn in.
  5. Repeat another two times.
  6. Lay down the final row of feathers. Place the wings on either side, rounded sides facing inwards. Pin down each wing with a small pleat in the centre of the wing. Stitch down without folding the material over the top of the feathers.

Make the Pocket:

  1. Fold the material (right sides together) over all the feathers.
  2. Pin and sew the two layers together down the sides and along the bottom
  3. Round the bottom corners (use the feather template).
  4. Ensure that the wings and side feathers are folded away and do not get sewn into the seam.
  5. Trim the edges.
  6. Trim the top 2,5 cm above the feather line. Fold the top, raw edge over 0,5 cm and then fold again to cover the feather line. Stitch down close to the edge to form a 2 cm wide binding.
  7. Sew the side edges of the binding.

Step 7: ​Lining With Inner Pocket

I used cotton for the bag lining and made the inner pocket match. The steps are as follows:

  1. Cut a piece of lining fabric 20 cm x 15 cm to form an inner pocket.
  2. Cut another piece 80 cm long off the long lining strip (35 cm x 80 cm) to make the lining.
  3. Fold over the top of the pocket fabric (long side) twice to enclose the raw edge. Sew down.
  4. Align centre points of lining and pocket and pin 9 cm below top edge of lining, turning in the raw edges.
  5. Sew along the sides and bottom edges.
  6. Pin lining fabric, right sides (pocket side) together and sew side seams forming an inner lining approximately 40 cm deep and 33 cm wide.
  7. Lay the lining down with the seams on top of each other.
  8. Measure 7 cm from the corner point. Pin and sew a line across to give the lining depth. Repeat with the other corner.
  9. Sew a 1 cm buttonhole on the side opposite the pocket. Position the buttonhole in the centre, 4 cm down from the top.

Step 8: Assembly

Once all the individual components are made the backpack can be assembled. There are two pieces of outer material; on the first piece you attach the front pocket, while the second piece has the straps attached. Follow these steps to assemble your finished bag:

  1. Attach the feathered pocket to the outer fabric by placing the pocket 12 cm down from the top edge, centered from the sides. Sew on sides and bottom of the pocket, close to the edge, taking care not to catch the wings or feathers.
  2. Attach straps to back. Fold strap in half with a loop and sew securely 5 cm down from the top edge. Sew the straps at the bottom of the backpack about 5 cm in from the side edges and 10 cm in from the side edges. Angle the straps so they face out sideways, ensuring a comfortable fit.
  3. Sew side seams and bottom seam so the outer is the same width as the lining.
  4. Sew corners as was done for the lining.
  5. Insert the lining into the outer, wrong sides together. Pin the lining top edge 2,5 cm above the outer, matching side seams.
  6. Pin the owl head flap to the back of the backpack, right sides together and raw edges aligned.
  7. Fold the lining to the outside of the pack, first with a 0,5 cm fold and then a further 2 cm fold. Pin and stitch close to the fold. Stitch a second seam at the top of the backpack to form a casing.
  8. Inset a cord into the button hole and around the casing. Attach a drawstring clip onto the cord and tie a knot at the end of the cord.
  9. Sew a large press stud onto the top edge of the feathered pocket and the point of the flap to close the flap.

Your bag is complete! Well done!

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    6 Discussions

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    2 years ago

    So cute! I didn't know you could incorporate fabrics when you use an embroidery machine; that's pretty fancy :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Embroidery machine applique can give your work some very interesting effects. It's worth learning how to do it (and it's not hard!).


    2 years ago

    Very nice! If me and my sewing machine could get along I'd give it a try... Maybe I could try something similar in the future with wet felting and a bit of handsewing, we'll see.
    Thanks for posting this project :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    My next owl backpack will have an appliqued face so the whole thing can be made on a sewing machine. I would love to try your idea of wet felting.


    2 years ago

    Really cute! I love the different colour feathers, how long did it take you to complete the project?


    Reply 2 years ago

    It was fun choosing the feather colours. I did this project in sections so can't say exactly how long it took. Probably an hour to embroider and make the head flap, an hour making the feathers and three hours finishing the rest.