Feb 11, 2013

Day 36: Majaaaw Mitchell!

Aaaaaw! Look at this Major Mitchell cockatoo!! I'm still amazed.
The final product, with the prettiest band-aid eva.
I found a good webpage of Major Mitchell cockatoos and decided to do a standing bird minus the legs.  I started out making a flat version of a cockatoo that would be standing on the ground.  Then I decided I would try giving it some depth and nutted out a few gussets, with no idea how well it would actually work. But you know caution, wind, etc.

My rather boat-like Major Mitchell Cockatoo pattern.
The crest was a complete ad lib. I had every colour but yellow, so it's not quite as accurate as it could be, but I was fairly happy with the arrangement of the final product, given my resources.

The head part was a bit disappointing. It took me a while to wrap my brain around the process of sewing it all together and having it enclosed while going around that corner.  Really, I was nuts to attempt it.  I would probably make the entire crest out of ribbon next time, sewing it into a seem from front to back.

Pinning the head parts around the crest.  I was crazy!
I was disappointed in the shape of the crest front.  You might be able to see its lovely curve in the pattern piece above.  I haven't worked with this kind of fleece before and didn't realise how much it would move or what it would be like to work with its thickness.

The shape in general - that classic cockatoo curve - wasn't lost but it wasn't sharp enough for my liking.  So I added a white ribbon when I made up the face.  I imagined I could fashion some grey fabric around the nose area for the beak, but in reality the eyes are poorly placed:  They should be further back and higher compared to the last curve to make room for the red nose band.  I was kidding myself about the beak!

Making up the crest as I go along.

I hadn't made a body like this before either.  So the sequence for sewing all the parts together was fairly blind, though I did work backwards a little.  In hindsight, I wish I'd sewn the sides together completely - forehead, cheek and side - then joined them and inserted the gussets separately.  I attached the gussets and treated them like an extension of a side, which is quick but runs the risk of a lopsided gusset. Inserting the gussets, although tricky, would ensure centering.

Pinning the wing and attaching the lower gusset.

I also learned how stretchy the fleece is with the wings.  I was surprised to find them curled and buckled.  I would work more carefully in the future, or even use a cotton or muslin as batting to maintain form.

When it came to stuffing, I found that I couldn't use the padding to recreate the shape of the forehead and beak like I'd hoped.  The shape of the profile had been lost in the sewing of unruly, under-pinned curves. Maybe it would've prevailed with a different fabric, but I'm not yet good enough to properly control stretch fleece.

Empty, stuffed and the beginnings of the beak.
Around the spot for the eye, I made a little square three stitches big, just to give the safety eye something extra to hold onto.  I hadn't really planned on using a safety eye, as I find they look a bit startled, but they suit the style of a real cockatoo eye so well I couldn't go with my sketch!

I'm quite pleased with my idea of quilting to suggest the look of feathers.  I did it on the tail and wings and I think it works well when I imagine the lovely soft feathers of a cockatoo.  I wish I'd worked more carefully on the tail quilting so that I could've stretched the tail even.  I would also make the tail a fair bit longer as it's too short for any kind of cocky as it is.

The bottom and top of the tail, hand-stitched and quilted to suggest feathers.  I'm pretending the crookedness is quaint.
I improvised the nose band and it feels pretty wrong. There were two problems.  Firstly, I'd added the white ribbon for the front crest feather and wasn't sure where to finish it.  This meant that its end was in no man's land, waiting to be covered with the nose band or beak, but with no planning it was almost doomed to be messy.

Secondly, I didn't have what I wanted for the nose band, which would be  something altogether fluffier and fuzzier than anything I've got.  I haven't even fluffy red/orange yarn that would work.  Although it doesn't suck per se, it's not what I'd prefer.  

The last pics show how I went off script and just did 'something pretty' with that section which, in the end, was a classic snowball fail#. But I think that may be because I'd like it to be accurate and I suspect a lot of people would settle with not ugly.

Critic review.  Five screeches.

I'm very pleased with the shape of the whole bird and practically giddy about the gussets creating such an ideal shape.
However, I'm frustrated that the beak, brow and crest didn't work out that well.  The nose is way too pigeonish for my liking - not at all parroty enough - so that's something to work on for the future.  Then again, I didn't have a very clear idea of how I'd achieve those things, so I can hardly expect 10/10 success.

Nevertheless, it definitely says Major Mitchell cockatoo* to me, which is all I could ask for.

#A 'snowball fail' is where you've made a mistake and you think doing more will somehow solve the problem, whereas undoing and planning properly is the real solution.  In this case it was "That's an alright length.  I'll just tack it there and hide the end with the nose band later" and "I'll just pinch the sides and that will make the beak shape appear again".  Basically, it's any thought that begins with "I'll just..."

*And not a flaming galah!

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