How To: Felt Mobile

Anna's February Jumpstart Project 2009

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Title:Felt Mobile
Name: Anna M.
Time: 6 hours for design; 3 hours for assembly with a 2-week wait in between for parts
Cost: $30

Anna used an online laser cutting service to bring her idea to life. Click above for pics, below for the how-to and be sure to give Anna a THUMBS UP if you find this project helpful....

Tools:
Scanned images or original drawing
Computer drawing package (I used inkscape,which is open source)
Shapes cut out of 3mm thick felt (www.ponoko.com)
Waxed cotton thread in assorted colors (bead store)
Bamboo stake (garden center or hardware store)
Fine-toothed saw to cut the stake to length & sandpaper to smooth the edges (hardware store)
An illustrated guide to knot tying (your local library; I used “Knots: a complete Guide” Lindsey Philpott. New Holland Publishers, London. 2004)

Steps:
Bird silhouettes are such a classic mobile design that I was somewhat astounded that I couldn’t find one for my daughters room (but then, I do live in the sticks). Rather than do many different birds, I decided to show one bird in several different poses. The fantail is a common forest and park bird in New Zealand. As it flits about catching insects, it opens and closes its large, fan-like tail; thus creating a variety of strikingly different silhouettes.

Phase One: Design If, like me, you can’t draw, scan illustrations out of field guides and then trace the outlines in a computer drawing package. Spend a good bit of time simplifying your outlines - smooth, bold shapes with just one or two sharp details work best. Consider using both positive (bird outline) and negative (cut the bird out of a simple geometric shape) pieces. Print out your design on heavy paper and make a prototype to make sure the pieces will hang the way you expect them to.

Phase Two: Order Parts Once you’re happy with your design upload it to ponoko (or ask a friend if you can borrow their laser cutter) and order however many copies you want.

Phase Three: Assembly
1. The parts arrived with a strong odor of singed hair (go figure!) - I washed them like a wool sweater and hung them out to dry in a lingerie bag (to avoid clothespin dents in the shapes). Apparently dry cleaning works too.
2. Cut the bamboo pole into lengths. As a start, make each level 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the pole it’s tied to, then tweak so it looks right.
3. Lay out your pieces & the poles on a flat surface. Fiddle around until you have a pleasing arrangement of lengths, colors and textures.
4. Attach the pieces to the poles using whatever knots strike your fancy. I used a “knife lanyard knot” to tie the thread to the felt and a “boom hitch” to connect the felt to the poles. So far, they seem to be holding quite well.

Design Notes:
1. When I first started I thought I wanted to make it out of wood, so it would be durable. Fortunately I did a prototype in cardboard and realized that lighter is better when it comes to mobiles.
2. The $10 shipping and handling fee charged by ponoko was a big part of the cost. If I were doing it again, I’d spread my shapes over a couple of pieces of felt and use the “leftovers” as trivets, or make soft puzzles out of them or something.

Sources:
I used Ponoko [http://www.ponoko.com/] - which is basically a laser cutter for hire - to cut my design into felt. This allowed me to use much more delicate shapes than I would have if I were trying to make them myself.

Give Anna a THUMBS UP if you find this project helpful....

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Janel Laban is the Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy and has been working here, at the dreamiest of dream jobs, since March 2006.

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