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Owl Mini Quilt


So remember that owl with the teeny tiny paper piecing?

Owl mini
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while might recall that I adore my daughters’ preschool. It’s a nature-focused preschool in a nature center on the shores of Lake Michigan, staffed by wonderful teachers who willingly take entire groups of 3- and 4-year-olds for hikes in the woods every day, rain, snow, or shine. They encourage the kids to stomp in mud puddles, climb on tree trunks and rocks, look for bugs and worms and other creatures, and explore the world around them. Every day for the past two weeks, my 3-year-old has come home coated in mud, but she sure does love that place! And I’m constantly amazed at the curiosity and motivation to learn that they inspire in these kids.

This year, sadly, the nature center is dealing with the devastation of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive  insect species from Asia that is steadily killing off ash trees all over the midwest and northeast U.S. Trees can be given a preventative treatment (we’re treating three trees in my own backyard), but it’s expensive and must be given yearly, so that’s obviously not a possibility in a nature center with hundreds—maybe thousands—of ash trees. So the ashes are now being cut down all over the property and are being replaced with other tree varieties.

But in the meantime, one of the preschool teachers had a clever idea for a fundraiser called “Ash to Art.” Preschool families and local artists were invited to create art using ash tree “cookies” from the felled trees. The art will be auctioned off—what a great way to recycle, raise money for the preschool, and raise awareness of Emerald Ash Borer all at the same time.

I was invited to contribute as one of the “fine artists” whose work would be auctioned off at the event. Umm, I can’t tell you how nervous I am about this! I consider myself more of a designer than an artist. And there’s the small problem of me somehow incorporating a tree cookie into my … quilting?

Owl mini
At any rate, this little owl is my contribution to the fundraiser. I think he turned out quite nicely. : )

Tiny paper piecing!
I wanted to make an owl because that’s part of the nature center’s logo, and—well, it’s an owl. Who doesn’t love an owl? But the tree cookie itself was only about 6″ wide, so I knew that owl was going to have to be small. I looked at a lot of owl paper-piecing patterns online—I didn’t want anything too cartoonish or babyish or cutesy. Eventually I settled on this pattern of Hedwig from a Harry Potter quilt and shrunk it down about 60%.

Owl mini
I was as surprised as anybody that this paper-piecing actually turned out okay! I guess that’s the beauty of paper-piecing—you can do things this tiny and it’s really not that different from normal paper-piecing. As long as your eyesight is decent. : )

Owl mini - the back
The hardest part of it for me was dealing with all the seam allowances on the back, which in most cases were larger than the piece itself. It was so difficult to figure out where I could trim excess fabric and where I couldn’t!

Once I was done with the owl, I added a wonky star, and my teeny little block (around 5.5″ square) was done. But then I had to decide what to do with this little block and how to attach it to the tree cookie. I eventually decided to do a full-fledged teensy mini-quilt—quilted and bound and everything—and I attached it to the tree cookie with a simple band and some velcro. My quilting was my attempt at Angela Walters’ wood-grain quilting design (of course!).

But I’m still nervous about this, mainly because I just don’t know how somebody is supposed to actually use this thing. It’s way outside of my comfort zone as far as the finished product—I never even really got on board with the mug rug craze a while back, and I’m certainly no art quilter! But I figure someone can hang it up on the wall just as it is, as a rustic piece of art, or they could always take it off the tree cookie and hang it that way, or even use it as a mug rug or a coaster. It goes up for auction tonight, so I’ll put in a decent opening bid on it and if somebody else bids it up, great. Otherwise I get to bring this little owl back home with me. Nothing wrong with that. : )

But if you’re in the Milwaukee area and want to come bid on this little guy (or any of the other amazing artwork that will be there), the Ash to Art event is open to the public. It takes place tonight (Friday) from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. To check out some of the other amazing art pieces that will be available, check out the Ash to Art photostream on Flickr.


36 replies
  1. Anita
    Anita says:

    Very nice! My little 4-year-old daughter saw this up on the screen and said "Awww. Cute! An owl. I like owls." I like the woodgrain quilting too.

  2. Siobhán
    Siobhán says:

    That is so neat!! What a wonderful way to 'remember' the trees that had to be cut down and to raise money for the nature center, too. Your daughters' preschool sounds amazing! I hope the auction went well.

  3. Sophie Belle Designs
    Sophie Belle Designs says:

    What's wonderful about this project apart from the obvious end product, is the way you thought out every step keeping in mind the end purpose: keeping the owl real looking; wood grain quilting; attaching it to the cookie; your nature influenced colour pallet. I'm very impressed, the projects that challenge us are the ones that push our creative ability.

  4. Lee Heinrich
    Lee Heinrich says:

    When I see those teensy-tiny pieces, I'm completely impressed with your capacity to persevere. The owl is beautiful, and I'm sure it will really benefit your daughter's preschool.

    I'm sure whoever bids on, and wins, your lovely mini-quilt will figure out how to use both the quilt and the "cookie." That's their job, right?

    Elizabeth E.

  5. nerospost
    nerospost says:

    Hi Lee! This is just amazing and adorable owl! And I thought that I made tiny pieces with Forest QAL blocks! This owl would be beautiful on my quilt with woodpecker, fox, deer and who knows what else there will be. I hope the auction went well! x Teje


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