How the Owlets Came to Oscillate

Back in early September when I was designing the Oscillating Owlets, I decided to take some photos throughout the design process. It turned out that the Owlets changed quite a bit from my original design, so I thought it would be fun to show some of my photos here so that you can see how the Owlets came to Oscillate.

Like with all of my designs, I started with a sketch—or more like 20 small sketches. I often draw something over and over again while I’m turning the idea over in my head, until I feel ready to start making it.


I am not much of an illustrator! But I don’t let that stop me from visualizing an idea in two dimensions before I tackle it in 3-D.

As you can maybe see, I started out thinking that the owls would be stackable, just like the Stackable Cats and Pile-able Pups. The more I thought about it, though, stacking owls, while cute, didn’t seem to me different enough from the Stackable Cats to be very interesting. So then I thought the owls could be vertically aligned in a tree: a Tower of Owls!

I designed some little round owls, then I got right to work on a tree with holes for three of them to fit in…


When I had finished two holes, I popped two owls in to see how they would fit.


Pretty cute! I liked the owls I made, and they remained unchanged for the final design.

But the tree wasn’t really working for me. It would either have to be completely hollow and flimsy, with the owls sitting right on top of each other, or it would have to have separate pieces for the inside of the holes, which would hold the owlets in place and allow for the tree to be stuffed. And with two owls inside, the tree was already getting really tall—if I were to add room for another owl, the tree would be way too tall and would surely fall over.

It was time to take a break from the tree, so I decided to try my hand at a nest. I had wanted to design something involving a swing for a long time, so I added some I-cords to the sides of the nest, while wondering how I could combine a tree and a nest…


After thinking about it for a while, I finally decided to scrap the tree altogether, and I instead started working on a fat branch for the swing to hang from.


Instead of being a freestanding toy, it would now be a wall decoration. I was still thinking that the design would include three owls on three swings, but once I saw how long and fat the branch would have to be for that, I decided to go with a pair of owls and a slimmer branch.

The final touches were a twig and leaf accent for the branch, a fun twist to the (now green) I-cord swings, and new autumnal colors for the owls. John helped me come up with a name for them, and the Oscillating Owlets were born!


I hope this uncharacteristically long post was interesting to some people. If you have any questions about how I design, my process, or anything else, feel free to ask away!

23 thoughts on “How the Owlets Came to Oscillate

  1. that’s so cool to see how your design process works

    what do you do with all of the extras? like all of the other colored owls? are they in the tree? or did you scrap the tree?

    also i liked that in the pic of the branch in project you could see a shelf with a bunch of your knitted creations on it, like the tiny computer and the camp fire!!!

    thanks for sharing!!

  2. This post was GREAT!! I’m not super experienced at knitting or crocheting, I’m self taught and will tackle a difficult project by being resourceful to learn new techniques. I REALLY want to design patterns though, and I suppose I would need more knitting/crocheting experience so that I can figure out how to shape things. This was a great insite into another designers design method. Thank you!

  3. Wauw! Just read the eni=tire thing! Thanks for sharing… that is amazing! I wish my design process could be that organized! How long does the Oscilating Owl pattern turn out to be?

  4. I have never really “designed” anything before, I would like to though!

    Lately I’ve been working on my painting skills (I do watercolor portraits of children\animals) so my knitting has been pushed aside. I think it’s time to bring it back from the grave!

    How do you come up with your ideas? I know thats kind of a silly question, but all your toys have a unique twist to them! How do you do it!?

    Also, what IS illustrator?? I’ve been wondering for awhile now, but I’ve not heard about before you mentioned it on your blog.


  5. Thus is so fascinating!! Thank you very much for sharing your design process. I find it very inspirational and insightful when designers share their thought processes about how and why they went the way they did concerning their designs.

  6. Sorry for the thriple post, but I just wanted to say I think I see some mini things on the shelf behind the owls!!!!!!!!! :)

  7. I love that you posted that, ive made a few patterns and want to make some more. this will definetly be helpfull!

  8. I founf you because someone on the knitpicks web site spoke of you. What fun! Thanks for sharing. I have you bookmarked.

  9. I’m really happy to see this great response to my post! I’m going to try to remember to take more photos as I’m designing things in the future.

    Let’s see, to answer some questions…

    Elizabeth – I still have the pastel-colored Owlets, although I did frog the whole tree. But the pastel guys actually did end up making it in the pattern as an additional photo, so we don’t have to feel sorry for them.

    tropicalgirl – You’re asking how many pages the written pattern is? The PDF is five pages long, but that includes photos, of course.

    knittedteacups – My ideas come from all over the place (including suggestions from you guys), but I’ll often start with something simple, like an owl, and then try to come up with an interesting twist to the design. And I didn’t use Illustrator in this process at all, but Illustrator is software that lets you create graphics, logos, and illustrations.

    I think that’s it! This post didn’t really go into how I actually create the knitted design (stitch patterns and such), but my BOOK that is coming out in June (!!!) will include a section on how to design your own toy.

  10. ITS COMING OUT IN JUNE!?!? YAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Your book will be awesome!! (I will buy it, I PROMISE!!)

    I didn’t know it would have a designing section!!! Thank you so much for answering mt question!! This helps me out a lot!!!!

  11. Whoopsies! I forgot when you do a lot of !!!’s they take over the screen…..Sorry!!!

  12. that was very interesting! thanks for the post – it’s fun to see behind the mochimochi magic. :)

  13. Very cool. I love the idea of freeforming my own shapes, but I never seem to get off the ground. My drawing skills seem on par with yours (though I’m not sure I could draw a tree or an owl and have it recognized I am better at people). It’s a treat to see the different options you went through on your way to swinging owls.


    Thanks for answering questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Wow, I love this post! You are pretty much what I want to be when I grow up, so it’s really great to see your process. Sometimes the creative process seems fragile to me, like I have to hold my breath until I actually get the design done, but it’s so satisfying to come up with a physical copy of the design I envisioned from the start- or, as in your case here, to come up with something different and cool! Very neat. Thanks!

  16. My comments are the same as above. Where’s all the frogging and cussing and crying in the design process. You seem so zen about it all…

    And, OMG book?! Fabulous, can’t wait!!!

  17. Right…I don’t recall any actual crying, but John certainly heard a lot of “what should I do now?” “what do you think about this?” and “is that really what you think, or are you just saying that to make me stop bugging you?” as I was in the middle of working on the design.

  18. Hi Anna,

    Just wondered if a paper towel tube could be a form for the owl tree. Perhaps in the future.

Comments are closed.