This is the Hootables story. 

It was first published in The Barrie Examiner in June, 2013.

Stitches, stuffing and labels… it all points in a good direction

Funny how good things come from bad things.

I’m working with a group of clients these days we we learn how to recognize bad things and wallow in them and let them own us briefly, and then find the gift in there.

It’s a process taught to me by a good friend a few years ago and it changed my life.  It changed the reactive rant into proactive positivity.  And as I placed an item on a shelf this week, it felt like I’d come full circle.

Here’s the story…

A few years ago I was in rough shape with herniated discs in a bad back.  A lot of pain.  Trying to carry on work, I used a walker and suffered reduced activity.  Mostly, I could manage the pain if I laid on my left side.  (I didn’t do this without major pain meds)

I’m a knitter of huge projects, normally, but you can’t do that and lay on your back on your left side.  And so, I picked up four short needles and started to play around with a circular pattern, ultimately coming up with a pretty cute owl.  Standing about 12 inches high (30 cm) full of character with claws and a beak and orange and black eyes.  And then I did another.

My first husband, happy to see me happier, took hold of one, gave it a squeeze and announced “this is a girl” and we chose a name.  Petal.  And then I did another, and he again gave it a hug and announced its gender.  And Peter was born.

While I was slowly producing owls I came upon a sad story of a young women who was working diligently in high school without financial hope of ever getting to post secondary education.  This idea didn’t hit like a thunder bolt; it sort of emerged as a possibility.  If these owls found their way into a few public spaces, maybe people would buy them.  I wonder:  could I make enough of them?

And so I kept knitting.  After my back surgery put me upright again, the owl production grew and people started to buy them, at $50 an owl.  No charitable number.  No money spent by me to promote this.  I just kept knitting (and of course running my business, playing with grandchildren, walking the dog and all the other things that fill a happy life).

What has been amazing about this project is the enthusiasm of others.  People have commissioned owls to send t adult children.  Grandmas have ordered owls for upcoming babies.  A couple of clients have lined the owls up on shelves in their stores.  And owls have headed into the arms and hearts of kids and those young at heart people too.

Bev Bayley commission a Hudson Bay-like owl and that launched a series of little Hudsons.  Business owners ordered owls in their corporate colours.

My daughter offered to design canvas labels with the individual name of each owl.  Tyler Hickling produced a logo for me.  Teresa of UCA Branding produces the labels free of charge to me.  So on the derriere of each owl is a sewn label, complete with name, birthday and owl #.  People donate yarn and Elizabeth Fallone at Eliza’s receives it for me.  Hugh Stewart of Mi Guy Digital designed a website for me.

  • Hutchinson
  • Janine
  • Hugh
  • Bobby
  • Rosey
  • Ezra
  • Melanie
  • Ginger
  • Higgins
  • Ada

It goes on and on.  Owls (I call them Hootables) are now in Thailand, Sweden, Montreal, Victoria, New York, New Jersey, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Costa Rica, South America, Cayman Islands and beyond.

Last week I was able to take the proceeds and write a cheque for $4300 for one year’s tuition for that deserving young woman who’s taking Early Childhood Education at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

So, here’s the gift.  Laid up, an opportunity presented itself and a whole community has embraced with enthusiasm this effort to give. 

Isn’t it remarkable the number of gifts that nestle inside the negative stuff in our lives?

Donna Douglas is a Barrie writer.  You can check out other columns at www.donnadouglas.com or you can email Donna at donna@donnadouglas.com

The Hootables facebook page is:  www.facebook.com/hootablesowls

The Hootables website is:  www.hootables.ca

Update:  By March, 2022, our fourth student has graduated from college and Hootables have raised $55,000.  Our first student went on to university after working.  Our second student graduated as a psw, worked for a while and went on to a nursing degree.  Our third student started a graphic design business after finishing student.  Our fourth student is now employed full time as a dental assistant.  All of them graduated from college with no debt.

1095 hootables have bounced off my knitting needles, and those of volunteer knitters Kathy Currie Eyers and Joanne Wilson.  Thank you for your support.

You can buy or order a Hootable by emailing me at donna@donnadouglas.com  Every owl, completed, is introduced through the facebook page.