Mimi Kirchner’s Owl Workshop at Gather Here in Cambridge, MA

You already know how obsessed I am with my local craft store/crafty class mecca, Gather Here. I’ve taken an embroidery class, patchwork class, zippered bag sewing class, and iPad cover sewing class there so far and loved them all. The Owl Workshop I took in January was different though…

In September 2012 Gather Here expanded the shop to the third floor of their building and created The Annex. The Annex is an additional 1,100 sq. ft. of crafting space fully outfitted with artist-in-residence quarters. In addition to all of the crafting workspace, the Annex has a guest room, full bath, and kitchen so a visiting artist can stay a while, teach classes, and really immerse themselves at Gather Here. So cool! The first artist-in-res was fabric designer, Lizzy House and the second, and most recent, was Mimi Kirchner. Mimi is a renowned fiber artist, doll maker, former potter, craftswoman, and just all around inspiring, imaginative, and unique lady.

Here is a great photograph that shows the diversity of her dolls/work (photo credit: Mimi’s blog):

When I saw that Mimi was coming to Gather Here I couldn’t wait to see what classes she would offer. She was scheduled to teach workshops on foxes, swaddle babies, puppies, and owls. I picked the owl soft sculpture workshop and was super excited.

The class was 5-9PM (a long one!) but on the night of, I was totally psyched.

We started by going over all of the instructions and selecting textiles from Mimi’s personal collection of fabrics that she brought.


On to cutting the pieces of the owl! The pattern itself was very simple with just a few main components: body, wings, face, eyes, beak, and hood.


Making the body was the first step. We cut out the fabric, sewed the general shape together, left a small opening for stuffing, and then stuffed with poly stuffing.


The final step to make the body was to hand sew the stuffing opening shut. In fact, about 90% of the owl was hand sewn. Only a few things required a sewing machine and even those could be replaced with hand sewing.


The next step was to cut and piece all of the owl’s features. Once the pieces were cut we pinned them to the owl body to get a sense of placement and shape.


Fabric carnage!


With the face pieces done it was time to work on the eyes. Mimi gave great instruction on how to make the eyes as expressive as you wanted and the different techniques to play with in terms of pupil size, stitching, etc. to get just the right look. I opted for a small pupil and small eyeball with a larger eye background for emphasis. I also placed the eyes close to the center to give more of a focused look to my owl’s face.


All of the facial features were hand sewn on and took at least an hour. I really like how they came out!


The next step was to sew on the wings. Since the class was 4 hours and over dinnertime we were encouraged to bring snacks. I had some veggies and hummus before returning to the wings.


The last step was to hand sew on the hood (white head piece). I also had a couple of minutes left towards the end so I embellished my little guy with a bow tie. Here is my finished owl!


Here is a group photo of all the finished owls from the workshop:


The next day Mimi posted about the class on her blog. It really was an incredible experience. She was such a knowledgeable and thorough teacher. I plan to stay tuned to her blog, I can’t wait to see what she does next!

I took some additional glamour shots of my owl buddy when I got home.



Author: Domestocrat

I'm a lady who enjoys photography, football, cooking, long drives with the windows down, This American Life, kettlecorn, hot yoga, pop punk, my nephews, my cat Reggie, and my home: Boston.

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