‘Out of the Blue’

The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) has a magical quality that has fascinated me since I first saw one as a young child, it glided silently through the air with an almost ghost like quality.


Owls have such fascinating faces, so varied in shape, colouring and expression.  There are believed to be 216 species of owls in the world.  Of these 18 belong to the Barn Owl family (Tytonidae) and 198 belong to the typical owl family(Strigidae).

Having tried a small, delicate bird last time, (a Goldfinch) I decided to try and capture some of the strength of a Bird of Prey or Raptor.

An ideal opportunity arise when the lovely Claire Passmore, who I had met through Twitter told me of a Readers Challenge in the Quilting Arts Magazine.  The challenge was called ‘Birds of a Feather’.

This was the perfect opportunity to embrace another bigger challenge and see where it took me.

So, with this challenge in mind I started selecting appropriate fabrics to build my Barn Owl.


A simple sketch started the process.  I decided that I would like to ‘frame’ my subject in a quirky, off-centre position giving the background fabric a large proportion of the finished piece.  The blue, slightly sparkly fabric seemed ideal and was an easy choice.


The fabric shown above was the perfect Barn Owl material.  I had used it once before in a modern take of an owl and  couldn’t wait for an excuse to use it again.  The whole piece, including the background used only five pieces of fabric.  Simplicity at this stage definitely made the final piece stronger.

I had learnt lessons from the earlier Goldfinch and thus avoided using small fragments of fabric.  I concentrated on larger blocks adding details with stitch instead.


Building up the blocks.


Adding details ready for stitching with heat removable pen.


Stitching circular details onto the fabric on the top of the head.


Back detail


By adding the reflections to the eyes the bird starts to come alive. I had not consciously thought of the order I was quilting this piece in but will, in future always start with the eyes – a piece can be won or lost at this stage.  If the reflections or outlines are wrong the piece is definitely lost…


A detailed close up of the face, using seven different coloured thread.


I decided that I did not want a strong quilting pattern in the background sky, so I made a small test piece to find a thread that did not show.  I tested out a few quilting patterns and selected the one below.



Following a recommendation I tried using a pair of quilting gloves.  These really helped me manoeuvre the piece in a controlled way and also eased a certain amount of aching I can experience when working solidly for a few hours on a piece.

Referring back to the Readers challenge requirements I cut the quilt to a 9″x9″ square and zig-zag stitching around the piece 2-3 times using the same thread as the background.


The final piece called ‘Out of the Blue’

A limited edition Giclee print of ‘out of the Blue’ is available from my Website shop , please click here to view.


I was not unfortunately one of the 11 selected for the Readers challenge from over 200 entries.

That said, as in previous challenges the opportunity has sent me off on a new path and with new skills.

I look forward to sharing another piece with you soon.

Thanks for reading.

0 thoughts on “‘Out of the Blue’”

  1. It is so lovely to read a blog that is so detailed and freely shares so much information. Your owl is just fabulous – you must be thrilled with the way it turned out.
    I too use the Machingers gloves and find the extra control they give brilliant. In fact I find it very odd when I don’t wear them now. THey do stop the ‘ache’ too.

    Thanks too for including me in your blog – that is lovely of you. My quilt wasn’t selected either! Never mind…. next time maybe?!

  2. That’s beautiful – love the work on the face. I’m in awe of those like yourself who do this kind of work, and really enjoyed your step-by-step record of the progress – thank you!