We’ve got a bit of thing about owls in this house, so when my younger daughter put T’wit T’woo by Maddy McClellan in my lap at the library I was more than happy to read it to the girls.
Like many baby board books the text is brief – just ten lines of rhyme, but what this book is really about is the playful, colourful owls, whimsically drawn getting up to minor mischief. J seems to really appreciate the owls’ antics, often mirroring her own favourite activities – playing with shoes, painting pictures and reading books, and the rhythm of the text makes it fun to read too.
Maddy McClellan’s owls reminded me of a piece of fabric (Alexander Henry’s Spotted Owl) in my stash that I’ve been waiting to turn into something for J so I looked it out and decided to make her a dress using Rae’s Spring Ruffle Top pattern, available at the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog, as a starting point.
As Rae’s pattern is for grown-ups I adjusted it a little to suit my nearly 1-and-a-half-year-old; chest and straps were 3″ rather than 5″ wide, ruffles were 2″ x 11″ instead of 3″ x 22″. Instead of pleating the top I gathered it (just like for the ruffles) enough to fit the chest band, and then I added a ruffle at the bottom (2″ x width of my fabric ie 45″ give or take). I forgot to measure the pockets but they were about 3″ square.
This isn’t a complicated pattern, but it is the most complicated thing I’ve made for either of my girls, and a proper seamstress would certainly suck her teeth at some of the mistakes I made along the way, but I’m really pleased with the way the dress has turned out!
M wanted to do some sewing too and so she made some little owls to go in the pockets of J’s new dress. First we taped three squares of white cotton to some stiff cardboard and then M draw owls on the fabric using Berol fabric crayons. By taping the material down we’ve found it is much easier to draw on (it stays put whilst drawing), and the thick tape makes sure that the final image is in the centre of the fabric, leaving enough of a margin all the way around for seams later on.
To fix the colour from the crayons the fabric was ironed between two pieces of spare fabric at a low (synthetic) setting. M then chose some colourful fabric for the backs of each owl and together we sewed the two pieces of fabric for each owl together (right sides together), leaving a gap about 3 cm on one side.
Having tied off the threads I turned each owl the right side out, and then M proceeded to stuff each with polyester fibre (I would have preferred to use rice as a natural filling, but I was worried the owls would be too heavy to sit nicely in the pockets of the dress), until they were full. I then topstitched the holes shut.
Sewing projects in this house always take several days, and before we had finished the dress and pocket owls, I got an email letting me know that Wow! said the Owl by Tim Hopgood was waiting for us to collect from the library. Having enjoyed other books by this author so much we were eager to see what his most recent book was like.
Wow! said the Owl is a short and sweet story about a inquisitive owl. Instead of sleeping during the day, she stays awake because she is so delighted by and interested in what she sees – beautiful colours all around her, from the warm pink sunrise, to the white fluffy clouds in the bright blue sky and more. It begins to rain, but as the sun is still shining the owl is rewarded for her curiosity with a spectacular rainbow arching over her head. As day turns to night, the owl is amazed by how beautiful the daytime has been, but when the bright stars come out, Owl realises how much she loves them and decides that staying awake at night has its own rewards.
Colour is clearly a theme Tim Hopgood loves to explore; whilst Here comes Frankie is a great book for M to explore colour, Wow! said the Owl is perfect for a younger audience, including J. Each double spread, more or less, is dedicated to one of the colours which the owl finds so delightful, with an illustrative style not unlike that of Lois Ehlert’s in Planting a Rainbow. Given that I think this book would suit the youngest readers, I hope that it will be published as a smaller board book, the format of which would suit this lovely story well.
Another owl book warranted another owl activity and so we decided to make our own parliament of owls out of pinecones. This was a quick, after supper activity using what we had to hand – small lengths of pipecleaner as ears, jammed in between a couple of cone scales, googly eyes (the bigger the better) and noses and wings cut out of construction paper glued on with regular PVA (lots of it because the surfaces were not smooth). Once dry we found an old branch (fortunately our driveway is littered with sticks, branches and even a couple of logs lugged back from various park walks) to turn into their roost.
We’ve been listening to If you ever see an Owl by the Terrible Twos and How an Owl says Howdidoo by Walkin’ Jim Stoltz. Next we’re off to colour an owl to submit to the International Festival of Owls. If we lived nearer we might well be tempted to enter the kids’ hooting contest too!
These owl-related activities have also joined our (well, ok, my) to-do wish-list:
(Both found via Whipup.)
For more crafty Owl goodness check out The Crafty Crow – type owl into the search box there and then take your pick! And do let us know your favourite owl books please