Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Robbie the Red Robot
Thank you so much for the quilt love and also to all those who have bought the Tabitha Bag patterns now that the selling rights have been changed. It is making me feel hugely happy to think of them occasionally popping up on Etsy and elsewhere. So many lovelies have sent me pictures of bags that they've already made over the last 8 months and I'd love to be able to share some of them on my blog, but it always feels like an imposition to ask directly - if you're happy for me to do this then please do drop me a note or let me know if and when you send me a picture.
Anyway, I want to introduce you to Robbie the Red Robot who will hopefully materialise in book form at some point later this year. A month ago I received an email asking me if I'd be interested in making a 3D prototype of Robbie from the illustration provided on his website here. People always surprise me with the things that they ask me to make, but this was a different idea altogether again, as I've never made anything to mirror someone else's design. Happily, it's a fantastic design and so it felt like a complete privilege to attempt to copy it in fabric form.
My initial excitement had its own crash-landing when I started to think about the logistics of putting Robbie together. Long time readers may remember the hedgehog debacle and the way in which my brain is not naturally wired to think in 3D when it comes to stuffed toys. The problems were many-fold (two-fold not quite covering them). The only successful soft creatures that I'd made in the past had arms and legs attached with buttons, which worked in the context of bears and elephants, but would have felt unsuitable for a robot and thus an admission of my own incompetence not to attempt an alternative. A robot by its very nature is broken down into angular, compartmentalised body sections and my mind began tying itself up in knots regarding what order the body parts should be made in and how to attach them to one another and how and at what point to turn him right side out for stuffing.
The felts, ordered from wonderfully helpful Laura at Lupin took a few days to arrive, which gave me plenty of thinking time and room to wake in the night with ideas as to how the problems with 3D Robbie could be overcome. I sometimes ponder how wonderfully well I'd sleep if I didn't sew - every single garment of clothing I've ever made means that I sleep for several hours less every night until it's finished as I become obsessed with thinking through the construction and the night before last I woke up at 4am with a eureka moment over how to join the piping neatly on a bag that I've been working on: be still, frantic mind!
Anyway, once I had my paws upon the felt and started assembling body parts it all gradually became clearer...so just in case you are thinking of entering into some robot construction yourself, here are the things that worked for me (and you might want to, for I was absolutely amazed by the Little Teacakes' reaction to him - they completely fell in love with him and it made me realise that I had previously failed to appreciate how very loveable a robot can be).
One of the problems with the creatures that I've made in the past was that you could see the little stitches where their heads were attached to their bodies and I found this most upsetting. I wanted Robbie's head to feel more stable and rooted than a simple neck perimeter of whip-stitching would allow. My way around this was to machine-stitch strips of velcro onto the centre of the space where the neck and head were to join - this keeps the two pieces more firmly anchored together and allowed me to do really tiny stitches to join the two (the photo above shows the finished neck join...this was the bit that I found most pleasing!).
The legs were created using two narrow, densely wadded tubes of black felt, followed by sliding felt discs onto them to cover any joins where stitching might show.
The arms, legs and ears were all attached by cutting a hole in the felt, sliding the felt tube into place and then top-sewing around the hole. This worked really well for the legs and ears (do robots have ears? I'm not sure what the little yellow bits should be called), but was less successful for the arms. I couldn't find a way to angle them so that they did anything other than sticking out at right angles. This was slightly overcome by under-stuffing the tops of the arms but they remained the part or the robot that troubled me and made me feel there was room for improvement by someone more skilled in the soft-toy making department than me.
The felt, which was beautiful to sew with and feels lovely, did become slightly fuzzy where it was over-worked during construction. I'm guessing this may be because of the wool content, but the fuzziness feels like a worthwhile compromise when the alternative is a less tactile acrylic felt.
Dinosaur-boy has already put in a request for me to make another robot for his birthday...this may or may not happen for, selfishly, I'm back to thinking about clothes. You may remember that I mentioned that I have finally found a mannequin that mirrors my bizarre measurements and I am so desperate to get a chance to make something from it, and yet Made by Florence work has kept piling up and the time never seems to come (photos of the mannequin are coming, Pipany...but it's not pretty, just practical!).
Last week Mr Teacakes jokingly told me that I am entitled to 25 days holiday (I realised that I think of the Teacakes' school holidays as being my holiday...but actually I work every evening when they're off) anyway, my mind ran away with this idea as I'd never thought of it quite like that and after finishing off a few bits and pieces for custom orders I am now taking a week off (although I will most likely still be blogging as I'll hopefully work on making some more clothes for myself and will be keen to report back). My holiday officially started today and I spent the day doing all those lovely things that I don't normally get around to doing, like sanding back and oiling the wooden work tops and planning bread to make from this lovely book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Daythat I kept seeing recommended all over the place (I think Mary-Beth is a big fan...and I aspire to do as much baking as she does). The book has thick creamy pages and clear instructions...but those US references to cups and quarts are foxing me, so I'm off to find an online measurement converter.
P.S. The 4am eureka moment idea for the piping actually worked...which would have meant that yesterday was lovely had I not taken to habitually ironing fusible interfacing onto the iron instead of the fabric...over and over. How can one make the same mistake so many times...perhaps because I love the smell of this iron-cleaner so much?
P.P.S. Lisa's book is now on Amazon...I've already put it on my wishlist despite a lack of cover to tempt me...even that blank 'awaiting image' square is sizzling hot...I can't wait! Yipppeee!