Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

Snowie the Owl Pattern from "Gifts and Novelties by Mary Maxim" Vol. 1, c. 1960."

The Ookpik AKA Arctic or Snowy Owl is a quintessentially Canadian symbol. This fuzzy novelty was marketed by the Canadian civil service as a traditional Inuit craft at an American trade show in 1964. In fact, it was no such thing, but little Ooky proved so popular; soon Inuit artists in Canada were churning out hundreds of these handcrafted cuties for Canada’s upcoming centennial.

The CBC has a six minute vintage broadcast on the secret history of the Ookpik which is a real hoot. It starts out slow, but be sure to stick around for the emergency amputation in Philadelphia and the argument that the Ookpik is a much better symbol for Canada than the beaver (spoiler alert: do we really want the Americans to think of us as industrious?)

While most of the Ookpiks in the 1960s were made out of (adult) sealskin or rabbit fur, Snowie above is lovingly handknit out of mohair. This is an excellent alternative if you have ethical objections against fur, or if you suspect attempting a seal and/or rabbit hunt will only succeed at getting you banned from your local park.

But before you decide to whip up one of your own, just be warned that you need to keep your Ookpiks and Poo-pots apart. Otherwise. . . well, a picture is worth a thousand words.

For the complete pattern (and more snark!):



Of Mary Maxim Brushed Mohair or Multi-Tone Mohair allow 2 oz.
One set of four Mary Maxim Knitting Needles No. 4 (American No. 9).
Black felt and two small buttons.
For Canada Day, you could combine white mohair with red felt feet and button eyes. Although, your Ookpik may end up looking less like a patriot and more like a Dexter fan.
Tension: 4 stitches to one inch measured over stocking stitch on No. 4 needles, or any size needles which will give the correct stitch tension.

Abbreviations: See page 23.
Take off, hose head!
To Make:

Using double strand of wool, and set of four No. 4 needles, cast on 36 sts. Arrange on three needles and with the fourth work in st. st. – every round k., for 4 1/2 ins.

Next round: * K. 2 tog., (p.1, k.1) twice, p.2 tog., (k.1, p.1) twice; rep. from * to end of round. (30 sts.)

Next round: * K. 1, p. 1; rep. from * to end.

Change to st. st. and continue until work measures 10 ins. from the beg.

Next round: K. 2 tog. across entire round. (15 sts.) Turn to wrong side. Break wool, thread through rem. sts. Fasten securely for base.
Now, that’s what I call "easy to make"!
To Complete:

Cut a piece of cardboard exactly as the diagram for the feet.

Cut two pieces of felt one quarter inch larger than diagram, place cardboard between, and stitch close to cardboard. Attach to base. Cut two small circles of felt one inch in diameter, place on head, sew in place. Sew two small white buttons in centre. Cut felt by diagram for beak and attach securely.

Fill with foam rubber chips, or cotton filling.
Foam rubber chips not only have that lovely retro feel, they have the bonus feature of disintegrating over the decades. Which works out well, if you’d rather take your handmade ookpik to your grave, instead of leaving it to your ungrateful grandchildren.
Sew along cast-on edge. Brush with stiff brush.
Everybody sing together: Ca—na—da...

Click here for the printable pattern.

ETA: I made an Ookpik!


  1. Thanks ever so much for this post! I have been wanting an Ookpik for quite some time. Back in the sixties I had one and I loved him! I can't wait to introduce my son to Ookpiks!!

  2. That's terrific!

    My mother bought an ookpik back in the sixties, and I still have it. Future generations must embrace the ookpik!

    When you're done making your ookpik, send a picture along! I'd be happy to feature your work in a DIY post.