a brief history of owls

Owls and I go way back and they have always been mythic and magical creatures to me. One of the great legends of my childhood was my mother’s encounter with a great gray owl. If you had known my mother none of the things I make would surprise you at all. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely involved, as though they have been simmering in me all along and just waiting for their opportunity to appear. I think everybody has things like that in them.  And the very first film I saw when I was 5 or so was The Royal Ballet’s Tales of Beatrix Potter.  I think Potter’s Old Mr. Brown character figures heavily in the owls that have turned up in my stitching.

owl made from earth colored wool scraps with button eyes

The first owl to appear was Ian (named for Ian McShane whom I love). He is made from scraps and has flinty metal button eyes.

owl stitched from antique wool

Owls continued on in the Mr. Brown vein with earthy tones and scrappy textures for some time until someone much darker appeared all of a sudden.

owl made from black antique garments

Chillingworth was made from a single garment, a victorian bodice, one of the first really old garments I acquired. It had all sorts of textures and interesting stitching and mends, most of them found their way into Chillingworth. I love how absolutely dastardly he is, glowering at you with his perfectly mismatched eyes. I’m not sure I have ever achieved that level of malevolence since. But there have been a lot of seriously bad tempered and surly candidates.

stitched owl in progress

Hundreds of owls and 10 or so years later I’m preparing to share the pattern. I’m working on it as we speak. The pattern templates are finished and tested. In fact I’m teaching an owl workshop in Los Angeles right now. Most of the photography is done so it is just a matter of formatting and editing now. I’m hoping to have it complete by mid November.

37 Comments

  1. Diane D Peachey

    Oh my goodness! How delightful! We once raised an owlet who we, of course, called “Hooty”. He was a barn owl so slightly different but I’ve always adored owls!

  2. Johanna Mills

    I am so happy to hear you are going to make an owl pattern. I have tried to figure out how to do them for a long time and my attempts have been grim, and not in a good way.

  3. Anne Kasten

    oh but this is wonderful news!

    the owls who live around my house have been particularly talkative lately.
    I wonder if they already knew!?!!!

  4. Chris Bleechmore

    Your owls are the best…can’t wait for the pattern…owls are my muse to..

  5. They have always held a fascination for me too. As a child in the uk we had a tv series called the owl service. I’d read the book at school and loved the series. Very Edith blyton about children finding an old dinner service in an attic with a weird owl design on it. Then strange things started hapening

    • Sonia: that could have been The Owl Service by Alan Garner, based on an old Welsh Legend? CHILLINGWORTH!!! I remember the very first time I saw him, love at first sight – was so upset to find your shop and he was already sold…. Just cannot wait for you to finish the Pattern and then I can make an amateurish non-Victorian fabirc Chillingworth all of my own :o) I love all your Owls :o)

  6. Louise Biedrzycki

    I am sure your owl pattern is going to be the winning lottery ticket for you! We are all excited to get the pattern. How very kind of you to share your genius talents now when the slower winter days are ahead. Thank you

  7. Carolyn J Harness

    Well, I just might have to get this pattern! It might be fun to have a few owls around the apartment!

  8. Add me to the owl addicts group! Since discovering your site, the most-anticipated designs of yours have been the songbirds and owls–and now I’ll have both! And I know the best place to source old Victorian clothing in Woodstock, Vermont. I’m a happy woman!

  9. I look forward to the pattern too! And thank you for the link to Molly Meng and Robert Mahar, gosh I connect with her style so similarly and their collections came right out of my basement!

  10. Lauri R Hyde

    I was so intrigued by your story about your Mom’s encounter with that barn owl and then you didn’t say what that was? I’d love to hear about that!

  11. Catherine Wood Flavin

    Yes, the great gray owl. I still remember that! Maybe the ships were inspired by the Sinbad The Sailor movies!

  12. At last! How I have wished, hoped and dreamed that one day you would ‘release’ your owls 🙂 I will be joining the line to pick this up when it’s available. November is going to be a Hoot!

  13. Indigobird

    Oh, I can’t wait! I would also love to take one of your workshops if I could!!!

  14. Sooo glad that the owl pattern will be available soon. Several years ago I made the owl from “The Artful Bird” and it remains displayed prominantly in my home. He needs a dastardly friend.

  15. ”Sometimes I feel like I’m barely involved, as though they have been simmering in me all along and just waiting for their opportunity to appear.” -exactly as i feel also when i work on a new creature and the facial expression is always mystery, as if i don’t have avy control over it. love your owls and everything you do. thank you for letting us to have a peek into your world!

  16. Henriët Ferguson

    The old pictures of Dastardly owl in the making make me think of elephants. Do they figure in your make-world at all?

  17. I think I like the brown ones better, although I’m impressed by the dark and malevolent ones! LOVE the eyes on the second brown one pictured! Those shaggy eyebrows…!

  18. Your precious owls have such personality with expressive faces. They are a delightful Hoooot to how wonderful owls are—

  19. How wonderful! I would love to try my hand at an owl! Yours are absolutely enchanting and magical! Thank you for sharing these beauties!
    Jackie

  20. we HEAR owls (mostly Barred Owls) almost nightly year-round, and sometimes we even see them. all of that would happen if you lived around here, just sayin’…

  21. Kathy Prickett

    I can’t wait! I bought your bird pattern and have 2 in the making. One is only lacking the legs and feet. The other one I am having a problem with color (which wasn’t a problem with the first one).

  22. Debra Grove

    Love all your work! Can’t wait for this pattern! Your emails and creations always bring a very bright spot to my day! Thank you for sharing your adventures!!!

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