Making for baby · Sewing · Soft toys

Seagull bird mobile for baby

The flock of felt seagulls I created have taken flight! I made them into a bird mobile for baby Amy. She studies them when she’s on her changing table, watching them drift and spin in slow circles above her.

They are suspended from the inner ring of an embroidery hoop. The ring helped me to spread the birds evenly for balance and it goes nicely with the wooden elements in our decor. I also discovered the secret to securing the strings on the mobile tidily and getting it to hang straight … more on that below.

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I already had the birds made and mobile planned when I bought this fabulous flapping tui for Amy. Tui are one of my favourite native New Zealand birds, coming in a close second only to kea.
Kea* are big beautiful mountain parrots, who get up to very clever, often naughty and sometimes hilarious antics (I prefer to ignore the lamb-killing rumours, so let’s not go there).  I love this story about a sneaky kea caught moving road cones and messing with traffic directions.  I’ve had my own run-in with these clowns… when I was at university I went on a tour of South Island ski fields with the Snowboard Club. We were in our camper vans in an alpine car park when we heard a god-awful scraping on the van roof and peals of raucous laughter. The kea were taking turns to dive-bomb the van and slide along the roof on their claws, cackling as they flew off. Little sods … but how could we not laugh?! Must have been huge fun for them.
Tui** are much more elegant birds, dare I say a little bit classy, with their sleek wings and fancy neck cravat. Their song isn’t always quite so pretty but I’ll forgive them that. I love that we can see and hear them around our gardens and bush. My parents have a nectar feeder in their garden and a horde of regular avian visitors, including tui.
I found this tui at the last Auckland Fair craft/design market – last as in ‘most recent’, and also last as in ‘final’. Jessica Whiting founded and has been running the market since 2010, but has wound it up to spend more time with family and her own creative business. I’m hoping that someone else will pick up the reins, because its a great market to visit and I’m sure it does well for the exhibitors.
Our tui is a kinetic mobile, meaning that it depends on moving parts for effect – its wings flap gently up and down when you pull a cord hung from its belly.  Kind of like this. Except much cooler.  I can’t find the tui maker on the Auckland Fair page, but if I do I’ll link it here.
It was the flapping tui that let me in on the secret to securing and balancing the seagull mobile. The first version I strung up was a real bother and quite frankly kinda ugly.  To get the mobile to hang nicely, you have to ensure that the hanging parts are suspended evenly on the spacer (in this case, the embroidery hoop) and that each side balances in terms of weight. I also needed to make sure that the seagulls didn’t tip forwards or back. Each bird has its own centre of balance; string it too far forward or back, and I would end up with a seagull dive-bombing its buddies.  So it was hard to get everything weighted evenly as well as tie off the nylon, because nylon knots are not nice knots (say that 5 times quickly, I dare you).
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The magic device to making the mobile balance and look sweet was on the wings of the tui – jewellery crimps!  These unassuming wee tubes are actually blimmin’ useful. They allow you to thread through one or more strands of nylon, and adjust the threads with some control. When everything’s looking good, you squeeze the crimp closed tight with a pair of jewellery pliers, which holds everything secure. No more nasty nylon knots.
I’m sure these handy gizmos can be employed in a zillion other crafty ways, and I’m already brewing some ideas for using them… surprised? Nah, I didn’t think you would be 🙂
Thanks for reading! Catch you later,
Caroline
 THINGS I LEARNED IN WRITING THIS POST:
* Tui and kea are the plural form as well as the singular, which I had suspected but not confirmed until now. I couldn’t get WordPress to use macrons, but tui should have one over both the u and i, making the word sound like “too-ee”.
** Tui can mimic speech, just as they mimic bird song. Maori sometimes trained tui to talk. The first New Zealand women who served overseas in WW2 were called the Tuis. Check out Te Ara, the encycolpaedia of New Zealand. It’s ace.

 

Felt bird mobile for baby

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