This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.
When tasked with something new, like making a Galapagos Tortoise out of inner tubes, I like to think around the task. Try to see what other people have done. Come up with a Plan A, Plan B, and maybe Plan C of what approaches I can take.
Deciding how to tackle it partially comes with experience. I’ve made lots of different types of things, but I think anyone can have a go.
Create a pinterest board, like I’ve done. Base it on the one you like best, or mix a few approaches.
My board is a combination of pictures of Tortoises themselves, some pre-made tortoises or turtle craft items, and even a few patterns I could use in a pinch.
I’m really keen to not follow a pattern if possible because I get extra points in the judging. But there’s no shame in using one, a lot of people do, and it’s good to know I could adapt an existing fabric pattern if I needed. To be honest, I don’t think they’re going to be sticklers if it’s it’s not a 100% accurate tortoise.
The tricky bit is going to be the shell, which is a somewhat complicated shapes made from hexagons and pentagons and potentially some other -gons. The internet tells me they’re called scutes that are made of keratin. They get bigger as the tortoise gets older creating ‘growth rings’ – one of the details I really liked from that tortoise sculpture I found recently, and something I’d like to try to show off.
From looking at the ideas I’ve collected on my Pinterest board, there are several ways I think I can approach this make.
If you look at Zeno here, the various shapes that make up the dome of his shell have been pieced together from individual pieces of fabric, like the patchwork on a quilt. I’m inclined to avoid this method as it would be a LOT of seams to stitch, including corners.
Now quilt patchwork is mostly made with cotton fabric, which is thin and can create a sharp fold like paper. Think of origami. Inner tube doesn’t do that.
Inner tube has a lot of inherent body and structure that doesn’t pleat or fold sharply without additional stitching. That can be brilliant for a lot of things, but would mean the corners wouldn’t want sit together nicely and there could be gaps.
In a pinch I could try it, because at least my stitching wouldn’t need to be on show.
I am so in awe of this amazing turtle shell backpack. It looks brilliant! If you check out the listing itself, the seller has some images on the INSIDE of the bag, which will make this method a lot clearer if you don’t understand my written description below.
Basically instead of the green pieces being attached to one another, they’re attached to black strips that make the framework for the structure. Think of them like…the lead on a stained glass window? Because leather doesn’t fray, the green pieces are layered flat on top of the black, so there aren’t any folds to worry about and everything sits more cleanly.
Again, there’d be a lot of stitching, and this time on show. AND I still don’t have a sewing machine, just one of these Speedy Stitchers I haven’t quite gotten around to testing. Still it’s doable, but I’d probably need one of those stitch punches.
The two products above have differing themes on the same idea: create the shell, and then put the various scutes on with either stitching or designs on the fabric itself.
Inner tube is famously black, but I could get some ink like I use for my logos to create the design?
Ignore the Scutes
This handbag from WELCOMECOMPANIONS is brilliant in another way: creating the essence of the animal’s shape without having to worry about fiddly details.
It’s very tempting to go down this route, but I’m really in love with those growth rings.
Plan A, B, C….etc
Ok, so what am I thinking?
Of the ideas above, the ones I love the most are the two bags. While a flat pieced style design would be amazing, I’m worried that my stitching might not be so neat. Another detail I’ve neglected to share is that my tortoise needs to be about the side of a side plate – you’d think that would be easier but it’s often harder: pieces are fiddly and you’re working in small spaces.
Plan A is attempting something like the WELCOMECOMPANIONS bag or the patterned shell method, but add physical layers of scutes to give it that growth ring detail I love so much. I could try stitching them on, or potentially even riveting…though that adds its own set of potential problems.
I might try a standing pose with a longer neck and legs to make it less turtle-y, though that would require some kind of internal structure/skeleton and probably another pinterest board!
If it looks terrible I could go more in the style of the flat pieced bag, possibly even purchasing that pattern and scaling it to the size I need. (Would scaling work, or will that muck up proportions? I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it)
As I’m trying not to use a pattern, my first task is to create a tortoise shell form: something solid I can work off of to get my scute shapes in order. I’ve even pinned a diagram that shows a shell from a few angles to help me get my head around it.
Wish me luck, I most definitely will need it!