Meet Debsy - The Rag Bag Owl
Sometimes, I get a custom order that I just can’t wait to sew out. Debs, who volunteers in my local St. Mary’s Hospice charity shop, just loves owls.
Last week, she asked me to make an owl especially for her, using materials salvaged from the rag bag that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
The brief was to create a black and white owl standing about as high as Debs’s Coke bottle.
This week, you can watch Debsy the Rag Bowl Owl take flight from the rag bag into Debs’s waiting arms. Heart UpCycling!
If you enjoy machine appliqué – or would like to give it a try – this post contains some tips and tricks to help ensure a successful project.
What You Will Need
Firstly – unless you are very creatively minded indeed – you will need a pattern. I had a Simplicity pattern (No. 1342) in my library which fitted the brief very well. The pattern also contains a rather nice rag doll which I will also aim to make at some point.
You will also need:
- Approximately half a metre of scrap fabric for the owl’s body. Mine was left over from a skirt sewing project I made several years ago.
- 7″ square remnant for the wings.
- 3″ x 6″ remnant for the eyes.
- 2″ x 3″ remnant for the beak – I used some scrap felt.
- Paper backed fusible web.
- 3 short lengths of trim for the owl’s tummy. I used some oddments of white ric rac I had in my trim stash.
- 6 strand embroidery thread for the eyes.
- Co-ordinating embroidery thread for the appliqué.
- Fabric remnants/ beads/sequins/ribbons to make the flowers.
- A small quantity of polyester stuffing. Mine was recycled.
- Two wooden hearts approx. 4cm diameter. These are optional – they weren’t included in the Simplicity pattern – but I found them good for making Debsy owl sit up nice and straight. You will also need some acrylic paint (unless you choose to leave them plain) and some glue to attach them. I used Hi-Tack craft glue.
Step by Step Instructions
- Cut out all your pattern pieces and iron them flat.
- Pin the pattern to your chosen fabric remnants according to the pattern instructions and cut them out using sharp scissors.
- Apply the paper backed fusible web to the eyes, wings and beak with a hot iron.
- Cut out your appliqué shapes and peel off the paper from the back.
- Iron them onto the right side of the fabric for the front of your owl.
- I also applied a piece of iron on fusible interfacing stabiliser to the back of the owl’s front to stop the fabric puckering when I did the appliqué on the machine.
- Stitch all around your appliquéd shapes to hold them neatly in place. I used a zig zag stitch width of 5 and a stitch length of .15 for the wings and eyes. For the beak, I reduced the zig zag to 3.4 wide and 0.1 long.
- Match wrong sides together and machine all the way around the edge with a 1/4 ” seam, leaving a gap at the bottom for turning.
- Stuff your finished ow to your desired level of fatness. I made Debsy owl comfortably portly.
- Hand close the opening using ladder stitch.
- Make the flowers for the trim. The pattern has flower shapes you can cut from felt, but I chose to make Yo Yo flowers from the fabric remnants in my stash. This gave me an opportunity to use some sequins and beads I had collected and gave Debsy owl a rather superior look I think?! Read more on how to make the yo yo flowers below.
How to Make Yo-Yo Flowers
Making the yo yo flowers really couldn’t be simpler. You just place your square of fabric into the template, trim the seam, sew all the way around the outside, following the guideline holes.
Then sew all around the inner circle, following the guidelines holes. Pull up your threads and knot securely before spreading out your lovely flower petals. This is a really nice way to use up small remnants of pretty fabric.
You will need:
- A Clover Small Flower Yo-Yo maker. I used number 8706.
- Scraps of fabric – you need about 5 inches square for each flower. Fine silk fabrics and cottons work best.
- Matching thread.
- Beads/sequins/buttons for the flower centres.
Tips and Tricks
I don’t know about you, but I always think that shop bought patterns make every project look just so easy. It’s what they DON’T tell you in the pattern instructions that you really wish you knew before you started. As with most things I make for the first time, I usually make one that I am not very pleased with and then a second – or third where I learn from my mistakes. Here, I can share with you the learning from my first attempt at Debsy Owl, which I discarded.
- Use stabiliser on the back of the owl front before you start to machine appliqué.
- I found it much easier to stitch the zig zag in the right place using a see through plastic foot designed for appliqué – but also useful for many other sewing projects. A really good investment.
- Think about adding a pocket to the back of your owl before you sew front and back together. This makes him much more useful – he can hold cards, notes, pens and pencils etc. You will need a double length of fabric folded in half and placed with the fold in the middle of your owl sandwiched between front and back before you sew the owl together through all your fabric pieces.
- If you want your owl to sit up straight, you will need to add something for him to stand on. Otherwise, he is going to be nothing more than a cushion really. I used 2 4cm diameter wooden hearts, painted with black acrylic paint.
The only thing that wasn’t up-cycled in this project was the embroidery thread!
Debsy owl was made using:
- Fabric remnants left over from a previous sewing project
- An old skirt I used to wear to work.
- A pretty textured fabric remnant from my friend & neighbour – Thanks Marion!
- Silver fabric I found in the rag bag at my local St. Mary’s Hospice shop that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
- Sequins from a much loved pair of old flip flops.
Debsy Owl Takes Flight from the Rag Bag into Debs’s Arms
I grew quite fond of Debsy owl during the creation process, but it was time to deliver her to her proud new owner today.
Debs volunteers at the St. Mary’s Hospice Shop and does a grand job there. Without willing volunteers like her, the Hospice shops just could not run.
It was a real pleasure to create this custom ordered especially for you Debs – thanks for all your hard work and take good care of Debsy owl!