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Bird Mobile

Helma Groot paints, stuffs and sews a whimsical bird mobile.

Helma Groot made her first mobile in 1992 at the request of a friend who had a space for one in their house. Since then, she has made many more, including a very large mobile featuring boats, fish and birds for a public space in her native Netherlands.

Materials and Tools:

cotton cloth, such as old sheets
heavy gauze for the wings
armature wire
light-gauge wire
polyester fiberfill
sewing needles
acrylic medium
green, blue, white, yellow and light blue acrylic paints
paint palette
plastic-covered wire and pliers
1/4 inch dowel rod
fishing line (25 lbs.)
large sewing needle
washable marker
wire cutters
spokeshave tool
power drill


1. Make a sketch of the mobile.

2. Draw a pattern for the birds and wings on regular weight paper.

3. Cut out two bird patterns and place them on a double thickness of fabric. Trace around the patterns with a washable marker or pencil. Remove the paper patterns and pin the fabric together to stabilize it during machine stitching.

4. Roughly cut the fabric around the traced patterns leaving about an inch around the pattern.

5. Machine-stitch directly on the outline of the birds leaving an opening at the top of the backs for stuffing.

6. Clip the excess fabric close to the stitching line. Wherever there is a sharp bend in the cloth, make a relief-cut as close to the sewing line as possible, without cutting the thread. This will keep the shape from puckering once it is right side out.

7. Turn the birds right side out.

8. Stuff the birds with polyester filling and use a chopstick to stuff the beak. Hand-sew the opening shut.

9. Prime the birds with clear acrylic medium. Let dry.

10. Paint the birds with a base coat of acrylic paint. Let dry. Blend blue and green colors on the body.

11. Paint facial details such as the beak and eyes with acrylic paints. Let dry.

12. Cut two pieces of wire for the frames of the wings. Place the wire directly on the paper wing pattern and bend it to the shape of the pattern.

13. Wrap the ends of the wire with thinner gauge steel wire to secure the wings together.

14. Cut gauze fabric about 1-inch larger all the way around each wire frame.

15. Hand-sew the gauze to the wire frame by pulling the edges over the wire and hand sew close to the edge. Pin the gauze in place while sewing.

16. Clip the edges to make a clean line.

17. Paint the gauze wings with light blue acrylic paint. Let dry.

18. Attach the wings to the back of the birds by poking holes with a large needle in the bird, poking fishing line through the holes and making a sturdy knot once the line is through the wings.

19. Poke a hole in the top of the head of each bird for hanging on the mobile. Attach a 4-foot piece of fishing line.

20. Place a dowel rod in a vise and shape it with a spokeshave, planer or heavy sandpaper.

21. Finish-sand the dowel rod with 100-grit sandpaper.

22. Position the birds and dowel rod. Drill two holes in the dowel rod for the birds.

23. Attach the birds to the dowel rod with fishing line.

24. To hang the bird mobile, find the balance by slipping a piece of thread around the dowel rod, when it balances, mark the spot with a pencil and drill a hole.

25. Attach a piece of fishing line to the balance point and hang.

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