Monday, June 22, 2009

As Promised...(and a Tutorial!)

Introducing Wo-Bot. I'm tryng really hard to keep my promises these days; my poor family has had to put up with more than their share of "I'll get to that..."'s this past few weeks, and they have been so good about it. So rather than be all dasterdly and break my promise to Grady that he would get that robot he wanted, I decided to put some other work aside and get busy on this fellow.
I had high hopes of making a really pretty little tutorial for you so you could easily make one of these guys, too. Grady went to his first day of camp at the Montessori that will hopefully be our school home for many years to come. John Harper, the camera and I readied ourselves in the living room. Things started off well. But apparently Mr. Smiley wasn't so keen on making a surprise for his brother, and it quickly deteiorated into this. So the pictures I planned-- well, let's just say you'll need to put on your Imagination Cap before you begin:)

Upcycled Wool Robot with a Heart Tutorial
You will need:
1 machine felted wool sweater, plus scraps of fabric for the face (I used wool scraps for this. If you want to, you could needle felt a face on, as well.) To machine felt (really this is called fulling) you just wash your 100% wool sweater in the washer with hot water and a wee (wee!) bit of dishwashing liquid (such as Dawn.) I like to throw it in with jeans to kind of nubbly it up, but the hot water and soap is the important step. I then throw mine in the dryer. Basically, you're just shrinking it :)
Heavy-Duty Interfacing-- because I am a bad crafter and throw away those little plastic sheets that come with the interfacing, I don't know what number to tell you to buy. But mine is the stiffness of cardboard. It does not need to be iron-in.
Yarn, and a needle with a large enough eye to thread the yarn through.
Something to stuff with. I used Polyfill.
Cutting out your Robot
1. Cut one sleeve off of the sweater. Keeping the sleeve folded, cut the sleeve from cuff to shoulder into two long strips. You will need to cut some of the excess off of one side of sleeve to keep the strips the same width. Cut each long strip into two pieces, making four strips. Two of these will be one piece of wool, and two will be two pieces of wool.
2. Cutting through both layers of sweater, cut out a rectangle from one side of the sweater. Mine measured 12x10. Cut another rectangle from the other half. Mine measured 8X 6.
3. Carefully cut a small opening in the front of ONE SIDE of your larger rectangle. Cut on three sides only, leaving it attached on the far left side to create a flap. My opening measured 2x2x2.
4. Cut out 5 squares of felt that are 3x3. Then cut 5 squares of interfacing that are very slightly smaller than that. If you want to be precise, say 2 3/4 inches x2 3/4 inches. I was not all precise this time, and things turned out just fine.

You should now have this:
To make this extra fun, we are now going to embrace imperfection and just accept that this is going to be a free-form and organic construction process. No stressing about things being all neat and tidy, because I promise, your kid won't be checking to see how straight your seams are and if you made a perfectly square opening and stuff.
Sewing your Robot
I find sewing felted wool incredibly satisfying. It just zips through the machine. I use a single straight stitch and turn the speed up to high since it just seems to feed better that way. I have a Universal 16 needle on the machine right now and it worked quite well.
Sewing the compartment for your Robot's Heart
1.) I just laid a piece of interfacing on the back of each small wool square. First sew two squares together-- they will open up to make a right angle with a piece of interfacing on each piece (your seams hold the interfacing down, so no need to iron on or pre-stitch.) Then sew another piece of wool/interfacing to the other side, making a U shape. The next pieces are a little trickier, but remember, we are not going to be perfectionists here. Sew one square to the side of one of the sides of your "U", then sort of pinch it down and sew it to the bottom part of the "U", then pinch again and sew it to the other side of the "U." You will have a three-sided box with a top and no bottom. Repeat this last process with the remaining piece of felt, and you'll have a box with all it's sides except one.
NOTE: Now, if you are a smart little cookie and really want this to be precise and beautiful, you could look here or here to find out how these ladies put together baby blocks. This is really just the same process, only smaller.
Attaching the box to the body
1.) Place the box under the opening on the larger rectangle. The flap should be open on the top. Using your yarn, whipstitch around the edges of the body/box. Your seams will be exposed on the outside of the robot. It's OK, this add character. When you reach the side where the flap is, sew a close running stitch (a straight line, to join the box to the flap side. It's going to look like this when you are finished.
Making the Face
1.) Cut out two ovals for the eyes. Cut two small rectangles that will fit in the middle of the ovals for pupils. Cut two strips, 3" x 1/2", and angle each end. Cut a rectangle for the mouth.
2.) Place the ovals on the front side of the smaller rectangle, pinning into place if you wish. Sew around the perimeter of each oval. Lay the small rectangle over the oval, and stitch around the sides. Lay each strip (the eyebrows) above the eyes. Point them down to make a "mean" robot and up to make a "sweet" robot. (I made a sweet robot.) Stitch around the strips. Lay the mouth rectangle below the eyes, stitch around the edges.
Attaching the Head

1.) Open up the smaller rectangle so that you have one long piece of felt. Sew one of the narrower edges to the front of the body of the robot (where your box is located.) Fold the head piece over and sew the other narrow edge to the back side of your body. Now start at the left edge of the body (the shoulder) and sew up to where the head meets the body. Continue sewing, turning corners as necessary, until you have sewed up one side of the head, across the top, down the other side of the head, and out to edge of the other shoulder.
NOTE: I wasn't as smart when I did this, and I sewed the head on last. Not what you want to do, but the pictures will not be the same as what I'm telling you to do.
Making the Limbs
1.)With the fabric either stacked (for the 2 piece strips) or folded (for the one piece strips) sew down the long side of one of your narrow strips, across the end, and up the other side. I then sewed a line about 2 inches up from the closed bottom of the strip to indicate a hand. Trim the seams closely all the way around. Repeat for all three strips.
2.) If you have a body like I did, there will be a side-seam from the original sweater joining one side. about 3 inches from the top corner, cut a small slit, the same width as the narrow side of your strip, and slip one of the strips into it. Sew over the top of this to enclose the strip in the seam. On the other, open side of the rectangle , place another strip between the layers the same distance from the top as you did on the other side. Sew down the entire seam from top to bottom, enclosing the strip in the seam. Trim this seam closely.3.) Place one strip at the outside edge of the bottom of the body, Sew over the strip, stopping just past the edge of the strip. Repeat on the other side. You will now stuff your robot through the opening you left between the strips. Stuff, being careful to put the polyfill around the box, above it, but not behind it, so as not to push it out or distort the shape of the box. Sew over the bottom seam to close the body up.

I gave the Robot to Grady right after his nap. He immediately opened the compartment, said "For the Bluebird, to shelter him from the cold!", declared the robot his "best bud" and promptly sat down to nurse him. I'd say it was a success!

I'm going to felt him a little bluebird to go in the compartment tomorrow. Maybe my friend Joy, who's a whiz with the felting needles, will help me (wink, wink, nudge, nudge!)


naqahdahnellie said...

That's so cute! You're going to have to teach me about "felting". Looks like a really cool robot, and I'm glad Grady is enjoying it!

Joy said...

Awww...he sat down to nurse him. That totally warms my heart. That robot is SO adorable. I'm sure Grady was just thrilled. Making their favorite books come alive is vital to a long-term love of literature, I think anyway. That's just fantastic, Melissa. Maybe we could work on the bluebird Saturday?

brown robin said...

I second the "nursing" part. How sweet is that? Thanks for the tutorial... I bet that was no small feat!

Turtles To Start said...

soooo cute. What a great gift this would be!