Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fly away, bird-induced headache! My 'Spool' Bird Mobile is complete.

A few months ago, I fell in love with this. It was the perfect project - I would improve my hand-sewing, and have an adorable birthday gift for my two year old sister-in-law. The sewing went pretty well - so well, I had plans to make another in all white for Christmas, and another for you, and while I was at it, one for every pregnant person I know (which is a lot; it's an occupational hazard). But that all changed when I got to assembling the blasted thing, and turned into this.

Hopefully you'll find the hand sewing therapeutic like I did, because by the time you get to the end, you'll be needing some therapy. Here are the other things you need to make your very own birdmobile:
  1. the bird pattern, which is a FREE pdf, right here
  2. scraps of fabric in coordinating prints. I chose pinks and greens, since those are the colors in AK's room.Tip: I harvested cloth from little girl's outfits from the thrift store. This is clever because they have all the right colors and you won't end up with tons left over.
  3. needle and thread
  4. cotton - to stuff the birds (I bought a terrible throw pillow from Goodwill and gutted it.)
  5. sticks
  6. topstitching or upholstery thread - that's to hang the branches from each other
  7. a dremel tool
  8. fish hooks, straightened
  9. hot glue/crazy glue
  10. the patience of a saint - or my father, since he is the only person I know who can get through (more than) five hours of balancing a bird mobile and still have his sanity
Once you've sewn and stuffed all your birds (I used 11), set aside a long afternoon to assemble your mobile. Since I found that tips about assembly were seriously lacking, here are some of the things that we learned:
  1. Map out which branches to put where, and start at the bottom.
  2. Don't be silly. Sewing the birds to the branches and tying the branches to each other would be simple enough, but because of the weight of the birds on the top of the branches, you end up with a batmobile. This is where the dremel and fish hooks come in.
  3. Use the dremel to drill a tiny hole in your branch(es). You'll insert the straightened fish hook into that hole, and thread your upholstery thread through the top of the fish hook. The fish hook is going to provide leverage, or something else that comes from physics, that will keep your branches from flipping over with the weight of the birds. See?
  4. Use the crazy glue to reinforce all your knots, because trust me - you're not going to want to do this twice.
  5. Hot glue is more effective than sewing in terms of keeping the birds upright on the branches; using both glue and thread will make it all more sturdy.
  6. For our easiest branch, we ran the middle bird straight through so that the topstitching thread runs through him, tying to the branch beneath him and the branch above him. This is an easy way to get your birds and branches balanced, so try to plan so that most of your branches can hang this way.
In the end, it's not perfect, but it's sure cute enough. I take comfort from Odgen Nash: "But a bird in the open never looks like its picture in the birdie books." Producing 11 identical hand-sewn sparrows escaped me, but I like to think that the movement and the sticks ("real sticks!" That's what the five year old at the birthday party liked) distract the eye from noticing my mistakes.


  1. Wow, this is really impressive. And real sticks, even!

  2. AK loooooves her mobile! Tonight she looked up and said, "Birds! Anna's birds!" as I got her into her pajamas! I asked her who made the birds for her and she smiled and said, "Ka-en!" It is so beautiful. What a treasure! Thanks for spending a million hours on such a beautiful keepsake!
    P.S.-- I thought the real sticks were cool, too! :-)

  3. i tried to make this exact mobile once! although i got through sewing one bird and tired of the whole thing. but then, i didnt have a cute little girl to give it to. thats much better motivation!

    yours looks beautiful!

  4. Kimberly - that adorable story made it all worthwhile. And Millie, sewing one bird is perfect, because they'd make such cute holiday ornaments (and it would save you all the trouble with the sticks)!