Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tutorial: How to Make a Felt Owl

Hand crafted owls are all the rage. With a little prep work on your part, this project can be simple enough for the youngest sewer. 

The amount of project preparation you do depends on the age and sewing abilities of your child.  I am going to write this tutorial as if you are working with a very young beginner with you doing all the project prep. 

If your youngster is already sewing, hooray for her!  You can make the necessary adjustments to my tutorial and let her do some, or all, of the prep work.


What you need:

Owl template from this link
Straight pins
All purpose scissors
Scissors for cutting felt
2 pieces of felt for body
2” square of felt for beak
Felt scrap for “eye feathers”
2 buttons for eyes
Stuffing, your choice of type
Something to trace a 1½” circle, I used the top from a baby bottle

Adult Prep Work:

1. Print the owl template from the link provided.
2. Cut printed paper template using all purpose scissors.
3. Layer 2 pieces of body felt.
4. Pin paper template to the 2 layers of felt.

5. Cut around template using fabric scissors. There are now two identical body pieces.  (Mine are white.)

6. Trace around something round to make two approximately 1½” circles from a felt scrap for "eye feathers".  Cut.  (Mine are orange.)

7. Cut a 2” square in half, corner to corner (Diagon Ally - a little Harry Potter humour :)  This is the beak. (Mine is brown.) 

There are now 5 felt parts - 2 bodies (front and back), 2 circles ("eye feathers") and 1 triangular beak. 

Find 2 big buttons for eyes.

Do the following to only one of the body pieces as this will be the owl’s front.

8. Using a running stitch, baste beak to one body piece referring to the template for placement.  Ignore other markings on template.

basted beak

9. Place eye feathers on body piece, covering up the basting stitches made to hold the beak in place.

10. Place buttons on top of eye feathers. 

Changing the button position changes the owl’s expression. Let your little sewist choose the expression!


shifty eyed

crazy eyes

owl eyes
11. Once happy with eye placement, sew one button in place through both the eye feathers and the body piece.  (Note: you may also be sewing through the beak depending on how everything is placed.)

up though one hole

down through the other

now do the other

the face is done
12. Mark dots every ¼” (or less) around perimeter of owl leaving a two inch gap on the bottom edge.  Use a fine tipped Sharpie marker for a beginner sewist or an air soluble one for someone more advanced.

dots mark where stitches go

13. Line up the 2 pieces of the body and pin them together with straight pins.  Three pins should be enough. 

The owl is now ready to give to your little one to sew with a whip stitch and then stuff!

Skills your child needs to make this project: (click on each skill) 

I. Baste the beak with little stitches near the corners of the top edge, leaving the rest of the beak free to flop.

II. Sewing the buttons – I didn’t tie a knot in my thread.  Instead I left a length of thread and went up through one hole and down through the other a few times to make it secure.  Then I tied an overhand knot on the back; like tying shoelaces.

III. Sewing the tips of ears – I sewed on either side of the ear close to the point, but leaving the point itself without a stitch.  This leaves the ears looking nice and pointy instead of trying to make a whip stitch right on the point. Doing that (trying to stitch on the point) will make it fold weirdly into a less defined point.  

IV. Stuff the ears first.  They are really tiny so use tiny amounts of stuffing poked in place with an unsharpened pencil to get into the tips.

Happy Stitching!


  1. Sue, I love this tutorial - and you've got such a great blog with good ideas for teaching small children! My 3-year old granddaughter will be excited to see some of these ideas put into use!!

  2. Welcome, Sarah! Thank you for your compliment. I hope you and your granddaughter have lots of fun trying out the ideas :-)

  3. I used your tutorial and other tips on your website to teach a group of Girl Scouts how to sew last night. They loved the owls and all were able to finish them. I only had a group of 6 girls (from 2nd-4th grade) and I was hopping from one to the next when they had problems and then they were at all different stages, so I was showing one how to end a line of stitching while another I was showing how to tie a knot! Do you have any suggestions for working with groups like this so they are not all over the map? Should I have taught the basic stitches first before setting them to work on their owls? Thank you so much for this website, it is thoughtfully crafted and much appreciated!

    1. First of all I must congratulate you on being able to get everyone from start to finish with their owls (including the eyes!) in one Girl Scout meeting! That is no small feat. As you now know everyone has different abilities and learns at her own rate, but you were able to successfully direct the group even though, as you say, you were jumping from girl to girl as they worked. Well done!

      Yes, you are right. Teaching the sewing basics to everyone together as a group at the beginning is a very good way to start. It’s what I did when I had sewing students. Use a very easy, small project that everyone can finish relatively quickly. In my classes, everyone learned basics on the silhouette of simple, small bird. With a good understanding of sewing, they then moved on to bigger projects.

      I don't know if you did this, but another tip is to take the time in the beginning to teach the children to reason for themselves. That way they won't always have to come to you for every little thing. They will be independent trouble-shooters.

      So, instead of doing for them, talk them through the steps together and let them do the movements while you talk about/describe them. It may seem faster and easier for you to do something for the girls, like tying the knot (and of course it is), but spending that extra time teaching independence from the beginning means that you will spend less of your time putting out fires later.

      Another tip is to teach a catchy verse for each skill to help the child remember the steps even when you aren't there to help.

      Good luck with the Girl Scouts, JP, and thank you so much for sharing your success story today!


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