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A Parliament of Owls 2014

Just some of the many owls Katherine James has made to support the Guild

A Parliament of Owls

The plump little owl sat in the window of an upmarket art shop in Cambridge: 5 inches tall, and going for a silly price. Humph, I thought, I could make that for next to nothing (perhaps it was).

Recycling’s important to me, and friends know I’m happy to relieve them of unwanted wool blankets and tweed scraps. I’d recently made a tweed door-hanging for a friend’s new home in highland Scotland, so had some beautiful scraps of Harris tweed to hand: what better to make than a plaid owl?

Now, a year or so later, there are usually one or two of these creatures lurking somewhere around the house, finished or in bits. Friends have given me more scraps, and even the weights (washers or 2p coins) that are placed in the bottom to hold Albert, Mabel and Angus upright (each owl has its own, individual name). The hand-stitched felt faces can be taken anywhere, to be stitched in spare moments, odd places. (The felt is from a stash given to me by a friend when she closed her patchwork shop – it was her entire stock.) Each owl is different – fat, thin, tall, short – because the ‘pattern’ is adjusted to fit the scraps available.

I’ve no idea, now, how many I’ve made, but I know some have flown far – certainly to Canada, the USA and Australia. A few have been given to friends and family, but most are sold (£3.50 apiece). Proceeds from their sale go to charity, mostly to Guild funds (I request that the money is directed to the Young Quilters, to promote p&q among young people). To date these little creatures have raised well over £100 – and I hope there’ll be plenty more to come!

I’m so grateful to all those friends who’ve supplied me with the wherewithal to make these ‘fund-raisers’ from, literally, ‘next to nothing’ – other than the little time spent in pleasurable activity. And to those who’ve been kind enough to buy them. Thank you.

PS There’s no ‘copyright’ on these owls: if the mind takes you, please do feel free to make your own. The face is simply a heart with two circles stitched in place for eyes, with a little simple embroidery for the beak. The body shape is self-explanatory … and the base is a felt-covered circle, with a couple of 2p coins or washers inserted before stitching onto the owl body. Everything is stitched by hand except for the body pieces – no glue is used!

PPS If you want to see how recycling has been made, quite beautifully, into a very successful business in a remote part of the UK, take a look at: www.burrabears.co.uk. I bought one of these beautiful bears – his name is Gilbert o’ Camb, so he was clearly destined to travel this way – when I visited the Shetlands (and Gilbert is certainly the inspiration for the naming of my owls).

Katherine James