Saturday, 30 June 2012

Fabric Hoopoe - build-as-you go fabric and wire bird

When I was a child I lived in Southern India, in a town called Ootacamund.  It was seven thousand feet above sea level, so we didn't get the vivid tropical birds you might think of when you hear the word India.  My favourite bird was the Hoopoe, which, along with the glow worms, iridescent green beetles and marble poochies, I still miss.

All this fun making birds just based on the fabric to hand took a new direction when I finally got around to shortening the sleeves of a jacket I bought ages ago.  It was of a very complex construction, with multiple seams around the elbows as well as a long snapped placket, so simply shortening at the cuff wouldn't really work.  I had taken off the sleeve at the elbow meaning to shorten the piece above...and got stuck, leaving the job for months.  Finally decided to just make a short sleeved jacket, and finished the hems, ironed the jacket, and hung it in the wardrobe.  I was left with two half sleeves of a lovely fabric, dark chocolate on one side and a tawny amber on the other.  Just the right colours for a hoopoe.   The last bird I made was a little one from the fabric they make tennis balls from - Wimblebird, very apt given that Wimbledon is on.  Time for something a bit more complex.
A bit of old cloth from a sail made the third colour.  I started with wiring the crest, as this is the most distinctive part of the bird.  Perhaps it would have been easier if I had built the body of the bird first, but I managed to work with this spiky bit getting in the way all the time.  It suits my thought processes to go with the most interesting / distinctive thing first and then add in all the rest.

crest - used seam turning to give change of colour at tip of feather

body - note spiky beak is part of continuous body wire

crest attached to body

stitch stuffing to wire

sail underbelly

wings and head - on piece of fabric making use of placket

I used the snapped cuff as the wings, so this bird can separate its wings...but not fly.  I found a wonderful photograph of a hoopoe in full flight with wings curling flamboyantly around the body, crest fully erect, but decided that would be too complex for me to manage.

sail cloth for white wing stripes

front of body and towards tail


added the eyes as the last action

don't know why these look different colours! 

This bird has a lot of attitude, so I don't mind the baggy undercarriage (I might tighten that up later) or the comment from a friend that the crest looked like it was made from an old gardening glove (but with too many fingers).  It has joined the rest of my strange menagerie on the windowsill.


  1. Watch out for twitchers with binocs trained on your window cill! Very clever stuff...especially the wire beginning.

    1. people stare up at the windows all the time anyways as they walk along the river, so yes, might get a different sort of watcher!

  2. I love seeing these take shape!

  3. Fabulous Lois and lovely to see the process.