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.
Florence x

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!

14 comments:

  1. What a lovely little robot! (I'm sure we'll be interested in the book too) I can well imagine your sleepless nights perfecting the construction - sometimes the biggest joys of sewing come from challenging yourself to make something entirely new, picking up some nifty new skills on the way.

    Enjoy your week off! Can't wait to see what sartorial delights await at the end of the week x

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  2. Great job!
    He's really cool!

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  3. Robbie is adorable Florence - you have made a brilliant job of him. You deserve your week off. Enjoy!

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  4. Robbie is an adorable little robot, congrats! I wouldn't have thought of using felt but it looks great!

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  5. Robbie looks perfect (I'm trying to hide the monitor screen from my kids in case they get a glimpse and get the daft idea that their mum might be able to produce something as fantastic as that).

    As for me, I'm just glad to know that I'm not the only one lying in bed at night trying to work out construction techniques. It gets very worrying when I start having dreams along those lines, too...

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  6. I've made one of your other bags - a wristlet I based off your zippered pouch tutorial. Love your detailed instructions and Robbie looks great.

    http://maricucu.blogspot.com/2010/03/first-of-many-wristlets.html

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  7. How lovely to have a holiday! I hope you enjoy yourself (it sounds like you are already).

    Well done for mastering the robot - he looks great. Thank you for giving us lots of details about him.

    Do you think you will work with felt again?

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  8. This is why I love your blog Florence. You are never afraid to take on a challenge and despite one or two trials along the way, the results are inevitably fabulous. You don't seem to have the scaredy cat gene, which says "oh no, I can't possibly do that" (I definitely have it). It honestly is really inspiring! I love your gangly geeky robot - the original designer must be thrilled with what you have done. He looks just like the picture but with bags of character - I'm not surprised the children love him as you have given him lots of charm. Working out the order of things and how you can turn things in the right way can truly drive you mad! An idea for the arms - if you still want them to be more floppy, could be to attach both arms securely to a piece of tape or cord (mitten style) draw through the robot body and secure in the seams (the shoulder ends could be gathered into the cord so there is less bulk at the join), hopefully the arms would sit close to the body as they would lie right next to the body but not sewn in (the cord would be firmly stitched securing them in place). If this was too floppy you could attach a small portion of the arm itself in the seam but because it would be gathered in to the cord (or tapered in shape if that was too messy looking)it would have less bulk and you could determine how rigid you want them to be. I've just been reminded of some rag doll arms and they tend to be folded inwards at the top end with no stuffing, which means they are very flat when sewn in to the seam. As I haven't got a clue what I am talking about as I last made a toy eons ago I may be talking twaddle. So feel free to totally ignore! Hope you really enjoy your time off.
    Siobhan

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  9. Isn't he great! I love working with felt, it's so satisfying not to have to worry about fraying and hemming. I've used the cord method for attaching arms, as Siobhan metions, for teddys and it works well - you can use it to attach heads as well by anchoring it underneath though that's easier to disguise on something furry.
    Quite right of you to take a holiday, enjoy it.
    p.s. I'm hopeless with anything iron-on too - I must try that iron cleaner!

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  10. Can't spell today either, I meant teddies.
    Jx

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  11. I'm glad I checked in to your blog. On the Tabitha pattern, I'm happy you changed your policies re: rights. You may print my pictures of my Tabithas if you wish. Thank you! I will always give you credit.

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  12. Thank you so much for all your lovely comments and the robot love!

    Marielle, your wristlet is beautiful! It made me smile so much - I loved the changes you'd made to the pattern - perfect!

    Siobhan - that's such a good idea - thank you. I'll try that if I ever revisit soft-toy construction (which could be some time, but it's nice to know that there are options).

    Julie - thank you so much for your permission - and if you're selling them then I hope that they get snaffled up quickly.

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  13. Oh he's so sweet! I can totally see why dinosaur-boy is smitten. Did you enjoy working with the felt? I love Laura's felts, they're so soft.

    Love the white quilt too - looks beautiful. You've been so busy, you must be in need of that week off - enjoy! x

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  14. Oh Robbie is a darling. I can see he's going to get a lot of love from Dinosaur boy. I have to agree with Anonymous - you are great for throwing your hat at trying something new. Team that with your flair and perfectionist steak and it's no wonder the end results look the business. Quite jealous really :)

    X

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x