Sunday, January 07, 2007

When I get into it I can't tell if you are watching me twirling the stick

Just a few days before Christmas in 2005, my sister and brother-in-law had their first baby. I had just finished making a pair of felted bowls as their Christmas present, so I quickly wrapped those up, added a cute little pair of baby socks and a letter of welcome to my first nephew, and sent it off to Perth by express post.

But. Yes, there's a 'but'. I failed to add a Christmas card or to label the Christmas present in the parcel.

When I talked to my sister on the phone after they had arrived home from hospital and opened the parcel, the conversation included odd comments like "thanks so much for the bowls, they're gorgeous. They are his first artworks".

It dawned on me that it had appeared to them that the whole parcel was a welcome-new-nephew kind of thing. Christmas was not foremost in their minds that year. I had to set the record straight, that the bowls were actually meant for the adults. My sister agreed that that made a bit more sense, but also admitted that she loved the idea that I had made such objects for the tiny baby. So I agreed to make some bowls for him sooner or later.

More than bowls, though, I wanted to make him a more kid-friendly box. A tough, bright, squishy felt box with a lid. It didn't seem right to send it empty so I found a ball that fit. I was looking for a plain ball but this is a licensed one, with Fifi and the Flowertot something-or-others on it. For all I know they could be sweeping the nation in kids TV, but I'd never heard of them. If the box survives toddler treatment - I know it might not - it could be fun to keep little treasures in when he's a bit older.

So here's the obligatory pre-felting picture (I just love these).

The initial sizing of the pieces involved guesswork intuition - I knew from experience that knitted pieces shrink a good bit more in length than width, so to end up with square sides and bottom, I had to start with rectangles. This made the sewing quite interesting. The shorter ends of two of the sides had to be eased onto the two longer sides of the base rectangle.

It was always intended to be a cube, but I had to be be a bit relaxed about the final shape. You can see it clearly in the photos from my previous post - the sides pulled in more at the bottom than the top, probably because they are held in tighter by the base. So they are more rhomboids than true squares. Felting reminds me a bit of ceramics class in high school - the glazes change colour completely with firing and you never knew exactly what colours would emerge.

Even as I was making and felting the box, I wasn't sure about the hinge. I made matching holes in the lid and one side. I thought of hinges made of felt or fabric loops but nothing seemed right - I wanted it to move freely but not flop around too much. Leather was suggested, but that didn't quite hit the spot either. The solution just came to me one day, I guess after the problem had percolated in my brain for long enough - ribbon hinges. I don't even know where I've seen this done, and though I'm sure I have seen it somewhere, I couldn't find any examples on the net. I was so excited even before I tried it, it just seemed the perfect solution. And I was REALLY happy with how they turned out. The narrow craft ribbon is simply looped from one hole to the other and back again, several times. It worked fine with stitches only to hold the ends, but I decided to hand-stitch right across to lend a bit of strength and stability. My guess is the hinge might be the weakest point of the whole thing, but it should stand up for a while.... I have no experience making toys, so will have to wait and see.

The other thing which took some deliberating was the closure. I wanted a big, round, bead-like button. I tried a large wooden bead, but I wasn't happy with the way it looked sewn on. I was also a little bit worried about it being a choking hazard. Finally I made a knot of knitted i-cord and felted it too, to make a ....lumpy toggle-thing. (Yes, that's a technical term). It seemed easier to ensure it was sewn on securely and would stay on, given that sharp or hard surfaces on a button or bead can wear away at the thread.

I embroidered the letters of his name on the sides in a wonky charming free-hand style, just using 4 strands of cotton embroidery thread. That took a lot longer than I expected. I wonder if I could have done it in tapestry wool and even lightly felted it on. Something to try next time.

Want to see the bottom? Of course you do.


Taphophile said...

It's just gorgeous. Thanks for showing us how you did it. :) The i-cord toggle-thingy is my favourite bit.

Djaughan Zelmonde said...

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times.....and will say it a billion times more. You are one talented Cat, Olma!!!! I feel so priveleged to have a veritable collection of "Olma Label" items: a scarf, bed sock, then bed socks of the famous Olma bowls. I love these pieces - not only for the thought, creativity, effort and time behind the pieces - but for the pieces themselves. They are true works of art. Thank you.

I love the fact that Nate will have a box that "Aunty Livy" made. Priceless.

Bells said...

the first thing I thought was, god I want to make one for my nephew. I can just see a box with "WILL" on it.

The second thing I thought was, my god you are creative, Olivia. That's just beautiful. So very well done!!!

Olivia said...

You're all making me blush! But, I am really proud of this box, so thanks.

Bells, I hope you do make one, would love to see your interpretation.