Softies


A few weeks ago I was out celebrating my birthday with friends from work. Amusingly there are three of us with the same birthday (and until last year we all worked in the same lab). This works well for me because I don’t really like having birthdays (other peoples’ are great, mine not so much) and so they organise it and I go along for the fun.

Anyway, at about 1.30 am I was almost home when I realised that I’d left my keys on the living room coffee table. Oh, and R was away doing his TA thing. Luckily it had been my friend A who had been keeping me out so I was able to call her and crash on her sofa-bed. (Although when I arrived at her place she suggested we open some whisky. I suggested water).

To say thank you I wanted to make A a doorstop. Her room had been very hot and she’d propped the door open with some clothing, I think. I got the pattern from Softies by Therese Laskey.

Unfortunately the doorstop is not fit for purpose because it is too light to hold open the heavy firedoors we have. The heaviest thing I’d been able to find to fill it had been rice but it just wasn’t heavy enough. Ah well, I still think is looks cute, it was fun to make and I’m happy with how it turned out, especially the bird. I think I’ll try to get hold of some sand and try that as the filler.

Every Christmas at work we have a Secret Santa and every year I decide to make mine (and almost always leave it to the last minute). This last year I pulled a fellow crafter’s name out of the hat and so made a cupcake pincushion, from Softies by Therese Laskey. It was fun and easy to make, yay.

Last summer I was sent to work in a lab in North Carolina for four weeks. Whilst I learnt ooodles, I was not the happiest bunny whilst I was there. It was during the Tour de France, which was starting in London and I’d been eagerly awaiting it for months, so I was rather homesick. In between watching the Tour footage and messaging friends and family, I made plans for sewing projects, bought books and hunted out fabric.

I made my first ebay fabric mistake. The fidelity of the colours in the photograph on the website was not great. I liked the fabric because it reminded me of lipid bilayers that make up cell membranes, and cell membranes are very close to my heart. Too geeky? I still like the fabric and I think it works in small quantities but it is more yellow than I thought and didn’t work for the intended project. I used part of it, teamed with some purple cord to make a shopping bag for a friend’s birthday.

I think the fabric I used to line the bag is probably too orange, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

In the first year of my PhD I was teamed up with a postdoc, who was there for me for day to day guidance and to whose apron strings I clung to. When he left the lab I wanted to do something special to say thank you. I decided to make him a softie in the shape of the virus we were working on. The thing is that poxviruses have multiple stages in their formation or morphogenesis cycle. I decided to make a softie to represent each stage and I made it so that they could be fitted inside each other, like a poxvirus Russian doll.

Just in case anyone cares it goes, from top to bottom: core, intracellular mature virus, intracellular enveloped virus and finally extracellular enveloped virus. I even made an actin tail out of red wool.

I don’t really remember why I decided to use felt and fabric.  I do remember that I nearly broke the sewing machine Katie and I had bought together and so I did all the sewing by hand.  I finished it at the very last minute, perched on the end of a picnic table outside the pub where the leaving party was being held.