Every chance I get, I am in the woods, looking for real owls. I like photographing them, recording their calls, and collecting owl pellets. So, I thought it would be fun to take htmOwlet's original concept and tweak it a bit to try to mirror real owls that live where I do in North America.
Perhaps also worth noting is that, as a child, I was always drawn to teensy, tiny things—I used to collect these matchbook-size boxes of little, wooden animals, for instance. So, this project is also a nod to those. One more childhood memory that inspired me here: on weekends I would watch "Wild Kingdom" on TV. Invariably, a commercial would come on for sets of full-color animal information "Safari Cards," and I wanted them so badly. (However, at age eight, I wasn't supposed to be dialing weird 1-800 numbers off of the TV and, besides, I had neither a credit card nor any money. . .)
Ah, but I'm an adult now! And, if I want to make a set of tiny owls based on real owls and include my own full-color information cards, well, dang it, I can! So, I have—and so can you! Onward!
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
These creatures are very small, so you won't need much in the way of raw materials—unless you start making dozens and dozens of them, I suppose. Anyway, you'll want to gather these items to start:
- Felt in these colors: tan, dark brown, light brown, cream, white, and just a little bit of yellow.
- Needle and thread in assorted colors. (I used black, dark brown, and white thread mostly.)
- Glass "seed" beads in black or brown, yellow, and orange.
- Scissors—these should be very sharp and afford you a lot of control when making very fine, detailed cuts.
Some optional supplies include:
- Fabric glue (or regular school glue is probably OK)
- Paint brush
- Container for watering down the glue
And, if you plan to print out the owl information cards:
- Access to a color printer
- Heavy card stock
Step 2: Who's Who? Choose Your Owl and Download the Patterns!
Download the PDF of printable owl patterns, and choose an owl to start with. (They're all about the same difficulty level.) The PDF includes:
- Templates of all of the separate pieces you need for each kind of owl
- Photos of each of the real, corresponding owls
- Notes about felt and bead colors to use for each owl
- Close-up photos of each, finished tiny owl
- Tiny owl information cards for you to print, cut apart, and fold
Once you've cut out the felt pieces you'll need for the owl you've chosen, you can start assembling your owl. You can watch the whole process for the Eastern Screech Owl in the video posted in the next step. (I've also included step-by-step notes and screen shots of the assembly process in the coming steps, too.)
Step 3: See How to Assemble Your Owl
This video shows the whole process for assembling the Eastern Screech Owl, but the other owls are pretty much the same. (If you prefer, you can skip the video and read through step-by-step notes of the assembly process in the coming steps instead.)
Step 4: OPTIONAL: Use Glue to Make Parts of Your Owl More Durable
I used slightly diluted fabric glue to attach the owl's top body to the middle body, because, once you've cut away a circle of felt in the top body (along dotted line in pattern), it can become a bit flimsy when it is time to sew all of the owl's body sections together. Adding glue stiffens and reinforces this section a bit.
Also, because the feet and tail are so small and detailed, I coated those with glue to keep the felt intact. (If you plan to give this set of owls as a gift—or if you are making them for a child—making these delicate parts a bit stronger can mean the difference between happy, oblivious owl play and the heartache of a torn-off, owl-y toe.)
Step 5: Sew on the Eyes and Beak
Set aside the pieces you strengthened with glue, and turn your attention to the owl's face.
Sew the seed beads onto the owl's face. Use the pattern and various images in the pattern PDF to help guide you, so you'll know where to place them.
Next, carefully sew on the beak. This is one of the most time-consuming steps, because it can take a while to get it just right.
Optional: Once I have the beak sewn in where I want it, I like to follow up with a light coating of glue. As the glue dries, I use my fingers to pinch and further shape the beak, and, once it is completely dry, I may even trim parts of the beak with scissors until the shape looks like I want it to.
Step 6: Finish the Front of the Top Owl Body
Next, you'll embroider the middle owl body where it shows through (the circular-looking area of the top owl body that you cut away.) What you embroider here depends on the owl you chose. Let the pattern and pictures which accompany it guide you.
After you've finished embroidering the owl's tummy, it's time to sew on the face.
Step 7: Finish the Back Owl Body
Set aside the owl's front body. Now it's time to finish the owl's backside.
Sew the tail feathers in place on the outside of the back body.
Sew each leg to the inside of the back owl body.
Step 8: Join the Owl's Body Sections and Fill With Stuffing
Match up the front and back owl bodies.
Using a blanket stitch, close the left side, the head, and the right side, but leave the owl's bottom (leg area) open.
Use this opening to add stuffing, a little at a time. Pack the stuffing tightly first into the owl's head and then into the torso. Continue to stuff until you're happy with the size and shape of your owl. You should still be able to match up the remaining open pieces to sew them closed. (If they don't match up, you might need to pull out a little stuffing until they do match up again.)
Straight stitch across the owl's legs, but use the blanket stitch between the legs if you have room there to do so.
Optional: I like to take my sewing needle and gently scrape its point all the way around the perimeter of the owl's face to "fluff" some of the felt fibers. This softens the owl's features considerably. I also will fluff out the owl's ears in this way (for the owl patterns with ears, that is), but, if you do this, be careful not to overdo it. In the case of the ears, I tend to follow up with a little dab of fabric glue to help protect them.
Step 9: Print and Finish the Owl-y Information Cards
The owl information cards are included in the PDF of the owl patterns. You can change their size by printing them at whatever percentage you like. (I have found that they are still quite legible at 50 percent.)
Since not everyone can print double-sided, I designed them to be printed on one sheet of card stock, cut apart, and then folded. If you want them to be flat cards, you could choose to tape them shut, laminate them, or seal them with clear packing tape or clear contact paper. I left mine folded, because then they stand up nicely.
By the way, I also need to give credit where credit is due for the photos I used to make the information cards. Each comes from Wikimedia Commons.
Step 10: Package Your Parliament!
Did you know a group of owls is called a "parliament"? True! Anyway, tiny owls deserve to be cozy, comfortable, and safe, so they need a package of some sort.
To package my tiny owls, I found a strange little box at the local thrift store. It was painted hot pink and had a picture frame-like area in the top of its lid. I covered it with some panoramic forest photos and sealed with several coats of glue. Then I made a sign for the picture frame area that says, "5 Tiny Owls! Entrusted to: __________" If I give them as a gift, I will write in the recipient's name, and he or she will know that they are now the steward of some super-cute little beings.
Here are some packaging ideas for you and your owls:
- Large matchbox
- Altoid/mint tin
- Small, hand-sewn bag
- Clean, empty cosmetic jar—like what those fancy wrinkle creams come in! (But, if you are giving these owls to a child, you might look for plastic, rather than glass.)
Nice Things You Can Do for Real Owls!
If this project has you thinking more about real owls and not just the tiny kind, here are some nice things you can do for them.
- Don't use poisons to control mice, rats, etc. Owls eat small mammals like these, and, if an owl eats a mouse, rat, or other critter that has been poisoned, it, too, will be poisoned! Many owls—especially those living near residential areas—die this way. :-(
- If you have property with some old, dead trees, consider letting them stay up, rather than cutting them down. (Provided they aren't going to fall on your house or the neighbor's, of course!) Many kinds of owls rely on the cavities inside old, dead trees for cover and nesting.
- Support the Audubon Society and similar conservation groups.
- Turn off extra lights at night to cut down on light pollution and make your environment more attractive to owls. They are built for the night—not for bright lights! (Also, if you ever go walking in the woods to listen for owl calls, use an infrared light or cover your flashlight with red plastic wrap. Nocturnal animals can't see this light, so you won't be bothering them nearly as much.)
- If you have land with a few tall trees, put up some owl houses.