Introduction: Jazzy Peacock Assembly

About: I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. I re*use often. And sometimes I staple drape.

Hey! This is the last tutorial on the Jazzy Peacock Scooter- maybe. Check out Opulent Mobility to see what he looked like in his "native element". The exhibit web site is in the planning stages. I'll share a link once it's up and ready to rumble.

To follow the project from start to finish, take a look at my first 16 instructables (from April- October 2015). There's some good information in there, and you don't have to use it to make a Jazzy Peacock! The applique technique I used to make the peacock feathers would make a beautiful skirt, dress or parasol cover. Any of the quilting methods are great options for textile art and costume pieces that need texture, and the gathered "rosebuds" on the peacock head are a classic old world touch. The bias draped, pleated silk velvet would be lovely on jacket lapels or a high collar. If you try out the techniques, please share your project! I'd love to see what you come up with.

Here's the tools I used to assemble the Jazzy Peacock Scooter:

Scissors: sharp fabric and embroidery shears

Donated drapes (about 3 yards total)

Donated golden trim and navy blue cording

A walker seat and handle cover from another mobility art project (The Khepri)

Sewing machine and size 14 universal machine needles

Pale green and black polyester thread

Millinery and curved upholstery hand needles

Navy and grey pre-cut waxed thread (also called polymide thread)

Black heavy duty thread

Quilting and safety pins

Steam iron

The peacock fan and decorative seating from steps 1-13

The slipcovered scooter seat from part 13

The peacock head and neck from steps 14-15

The scales and skirt from step 16

Acrylic gloss medium, metallic pigment powder and a paintbrush.

Step 1: Seat and Arm Covers

When I put the Peacock Scooter together, I got rushed and didn't take pictures of every step. The steps I missed were pretty simple, though. It was all about pinning, gathering and pleating.

I kept the scooter seat separate from the scooter wheels and mechanics while I assembled the decorative bits, and then rigged the seat to the base just in time for the photo shoot.

The blue fleece slipcover I made for the seat was functional, but not so pretty. It didn't stand up to the great texture on the rest of the peacock pieces. I wanted something that would help tie in all the separate parts and have a rich, lustrous feel of its own. Thankfully I had a lot of donated fabrics to work with and artwork to cannibalize.

I used a big gold drapery panel (4' x 7') to cover the scooter. First I spread it over the scooter seat, setting the bottom hemmed edge about 2" below the seat cushion. I safety pinned in pleats over the seating area and tucked up the sides. I pulled the top hem of the drape over the back of the scooter. It covered the head rest and extended about midway down the back of the seat. I centered the drape over the headrest, overlapped the hemmed edge and pinned it together. I pinned pleats on the sides of the headrest to make the drape fit more smoothly. Then I went back to the front of the scooter seat and pinned gathers just above the arm rests. When that was done, I took the drape off the seat and went to the sewing machine. Using a straight stitch and pale green thread, I sewed down the pleats, the gathers, the tucks and the overlaps, taking the safety pins out as I went.

When everything was sewn and the threads were snipped, I put the drape back over the scooter seat. The head rest was a little sloppy looking, so I tied gold trim around its base twice and knotted the ends together to keep the fabric in place. Then I tucked the extra loose bits of drapery into the space between the seat bottom and the base of the seat back. I planned to sew that that piece later on. In the meantime, the arm rests were looking pretty bare.

In January I fancied up a walker for an exhibit with a tapestry seat cover and a decorative front panel. I didn't plan on showing it again and the fabric was perfect for the peacock. So I cut the tapestry seat cover in half, hemmed the cut edges, added some ties (navy blue cording) to the underside and tied them over the arm rests. The seat cover was pleated already and had golden fringe on one edge. Using a milliner's needle and grey silamide thread, I tacked the fringed edges so they flared out around the ends of the arm rests. Fancy!

I pulled out the lumbar support cushion and put it on top of the draped seat. I folded back the top edge and pinned about 48" of navy cording to the "hinge" area where the lumbar and seat cushions came together. I whip stitched the tie to the edge with navy silamide thread. The tie wouldn't show, but it would keep my cushions from sliding off the seat.

Step 2: Back Scales and Rigging

Now it was time to get the chair back ready! I took that extra bit of seat drapery fabric that I shoved into the gap between the seat back and seat bottom in the last step and pinned it to the chair back. Then I whipstitched the drapery in place using grey silamide and a curved upholstery needle. There are no photos of drapery sewing, but the stitched edge is clear in pictures 1, 2 and 5.

I took out the quilted scales, centered the hole just above the chair's back support rail and pinned it down smoothly. Then I moved up to the head rest, centered the decorative feather on top and pinned it down. The scales were longer than the back of the chair, so I pleated them at the base of the head rest and pinned them in place. This gave the scales a nice rounded, sculptural shape. I took the edges of the scales and wrapped them around to the front of the seat. I pinned them to the drapery so the scales didn't form fit to the chair back, but kept that rounded curve.

Once the scales were pinned down, I used a curved upholstery needle to whipstitch the hole edges down. These stitches would get hidden by the peacock's body, so it didn't matter if they were pretty. I find curved needles a little tricky to work with, since I don't use them very often, but they're so much better at sewing upholstery than straight needles. They're great on awkward corners and for sewing flat surfaces to flat. Apparently, they're the ideal needle shapes for sewing up after surgery- check out the suture needle picture!

After sewing the hole, I pulled out the tie ends on the peacock seat cushion and tied them around the back of the scooter. I tied it in a bow, since I figured I might have to tighten it up later on. I lifted up the bottom edge of the scales and tucked the bow underneath.

Step 3: Fan Rigging

I wanted to attach the feather fan to the back of the headrest so it would sprout out of the quilted scales. It seemed like a good idea to make the fan removable. Tying it to the base of the head rest would work, but it needed a really secure tie. The feather fan was heavy and the headrest wasn't big enough to provide much support.

I pinned a piece of navy cording (about 24" long) to the back of the fan, right on top of the padded base. I made sure to pin the cording to all of the fan's support struts. Then I took a measurement from the base of the headrest to its top. I marked that distance with a safety pin on the fan's center strut. I whipstitched the edges of the navy blue cording down securely to the back of the fan and the fan's padded base, using heavy duty thread. This part wouldn't be visible and it was more important to make the stitching durable. At the top safety pin, I shoved a second piece of navy blue cording (about 14" long) in between the fan's back and the center strut and knotted it securely. Then I sewed the knot down on either side of the strut and removed all my safety pins.

I pulled back the top portion of the quilted scales to get to the back of the headrest. Then I shoved the bottom point of the fan into the gap so the tie area lined up with the headrest's base. I tied the lower tie around the base, then tied the top tie to a loop at the top of the headrest.

Sorry I forgot to mention this before! When I sewed the back seam together on the scooter seat drapery, the extra fabric came to a point. I pulled it up tightly to the top of the headrest and sewed the tip of the point instead of sewing all the edges down. This left me a loop that made a great attachment point for the fan. Now the fan was secure.

Step 4: Fan Finals and Scale Sewing

The back of the scooter was looking great! It was almost time to sew down the sides of the quilted scales. First, though, I needed to check my pinning.

Attaching the fan added a little bulk in back, so I adjusted the pinned pleats at the base of the headrest. That gave the fan some more room. When one pin moves, it usually means moving the rest of them too. I adjusted my pinning on the sides of the scales, checked how it looked in front and then threaded up a milliner's needle with 2 strands of grey silamide. The scales were lightweight and I wasn't pulling the fabric tightly, so I didn't need heavy duty stitches. Besides, these seams might actually be seen! I slipstitched the scale edges down as neatly as possible to the drapery, taking out the pins as I went. After sewing down the sides, I sewed the edges of the scales to hold in the pleats on top.

At a couple of points, I took out my iron and steamed the scale edges down.

You can use a home iron as a steamer if it's on a high steam setting. Hold it a couple of inches away from the fabrics and press the steam button. It doesn't work for very long (irons are designed to work when the ironing plate is held down, not up) but it will do the trick for a quick job.

I pulled the bottom edge of the scales down, did a final steam and got out the beaded skirt and peacock body.

Step 5: Skirt and Peacock Pinning

All right! Now the scooter was really coming together.

I pinned the beaded skirt right underneath the bottom edge of the scales. The skirt was really heavy, so I shoved part of the top edge into the space between the seat back and the seat bottom. I figured I could sew it to the bottom of the seat later on, which would help support all that weight.

When the skirt looked pretty good, I pinned the peacock body over the hole. This took some serious pinning, The peacock wasn't super heavy, but it was really awkward. The body kept shifting from side to side and the weight of the head kept pulling the peacock forward. So I pinned the bottom of the body first while propping the bird up with my knees. Then I pinned the upper portion of the base. Finally, I put two big safety pins together and pinned one side to the top of the pleat in the scales and the other to the back of the peacock's head. That kept the scooter from tipping over on top of me.

Pro tip: attaching heavy or awkward pieces to sculptures, clothing, architecture, etc. takes more than one attachment point. To keep the piece in place you need one large area that's really secure and at least one stabilization point. On the peacock head and body, the base was the strongest attachment point. The pins holding the head to the scales stabilized the peacock and kept it from tipping, but still allowed the peacock's head to bob and move around a little. On the feather fan, the base was really secure and the top tie held it in position, so it was both secure and flexible. The feather tips could move and ripple without any danger of the fan falling off.

Step 6: Peacock Attachment

I took out the heavy duty thread and curved upholstery needle and sewed the peacock all the way around the base twice. First I used bigger stitches that went all the way through the scales and slipcover to grab the vinyl covering on the seat. This kept the body securely in place. Then I sewed the entire base a second time, using smaller and prettier stitches. I took out the pins as I sewed.

Once the bird base was ready, I got to work on the skirt. I carefully turned the scooter seat upside down so I could reach the bottom. The top part of the skirt was shoved between the seat back and seat bottom in the last step. I pinned the skirt top to the bottom edge of the seat and whip stitched it down with heavy duty thread. This made sure the skirt was secure. Then I turned the scooter seat back over and fluffed the skirt out. I used a double layer of grey silamide thread to slipstitch the bottom edge of the scales to the skirt. Stitching everything twice was slow, but it made my attachments both strong and pretty.

Who doesn't want that?

Finally, I made a 5" swing tack out of heavy duty thread and used it to rig the back of the peacock's head to the pleat in the scales.

A swing tack is made up of a series of slip knots, just like a line of crochet stitching. Swing tacks are great for holding pieces in place that need some flexibility. It's hard to take pictures while making a swing tack, so I didn't.

Luckily there's a great drawing of one on the IATSE Local 470 Union Stagehands web site. Check it out! The swing tack is the 9th one down. If any of my hand sewing descriptions were confusing, these diagrams will help. They cover basting (#2), whipstitching (#4), slipstitching (#8), swing tacks and lots of other really useful stitches.

Step 7: Getting It Together

The Jazzy Peacock was almost ready to rumble, but there were still some bare spots. This is where the old art work came in handy!

The first 2 pictures show the Khepri, a decorative walker I made for an exhibit. The piece was okay, but it wasn't nearly as strong as some of my other mobility artworks. And the front piece was just the ticket for covering the front of the scooter seat. I already used the tapestry seat cover to cover the arm rests.

I didn't take pictures when I made the Khepri, but the ones I have show the fabrics and textures pretty clearly. I used some of the same fabrics to make parts of the peacock, so it matched! There's cording, heavy duty yarn and pieces of old foam rod sewn into the fabrics to to give them texture and dimension. I pieced the fabrics together, added velour ties, a padded antenna, gold fringe and bead "eyes" and tied them around the walker's front.

Adding the Khepri front to the Peacock was as simple as centering the top tie over the top of the headrest and safety pinning it down. I planned on using snaps to attach it, but there wasn't enough time before the photo shoot. It's okay. The safety pins were well-hidden and in no danger of poking anyone. I wasn't sure about the combination at first, but the textures and colors worked together. It helped give the chair the feel of an Art Nouveau peacock.

So you have a reference: the peacock and lady picture above is probably the work of Alphonse Mucha, an Art Nouveau artist who's a favorite of mine. The second picture is definitely Mucha's. I wanted my peacock to have the flowing line quality I see in his work. It's there, but it's been pointed out that the peacock is also definitely influenced by Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimpt.

Hey. Klimpt and Beardsley are also favorites, and they worked in the same time period as Mucha. If you're unconsciously stealing design ideas, steal from the best.

Step 8: Is It Done Yet? Well...

Here's the glamour pictures of the Jazzy Peacock: first the great composite that Heidi Marie Photography put together, then Jennifer Maldonado's picture of the Peacock on site at Opulent Mobility. Thanks to Heidi and Jennifer!

There's a couple of small touches I didn't catch in my process photos, but you can see them clearly in the finished pictures. The skirt on the Peacock dragged and caught on the back wheels, so I gathered up the center with safety pins. That happened right before the photo shoot we did at my house, and the pin stayed in place for the exhibit. I forgot to sew it!

Then I looked at the wheels and the hand control unit. They were not jazzy. Of course, I realized this after the photo shoot. First I painted the spokes of the front wheels with cobalt blue nail polish. Then I painted the sides of the tires and the control unit with a mixture of acrylic gloss medium and a combination of gold and interference gold metallic pigment. It looks good, although I wouldn't recommend it for tire tread. Paint isn't durable enough to stand up to road wear. I'll need to do something else later, like replace the tires and make covers.

I'm very fond of the Jazzy Peacock, but it's not finished yet. I'm trained in theater and prefer interactive work. Pieces aren't complete to me if they aren't in motion, in use or at least lit up. I'm thinking of installing a massage chair insert under the decorative seating, so the drapery has a rolling motion. I found a shiatsu seat cover that can link up to an I-pod or shuffle. Excellent. The Peacock could make music!

And now I've reached the end of my technical know how. Can you help?

Do any of you fine Instructable folk know how to rig the batteries of an electric mobility scooter so they can also charge a shiatsu massage chair seat? Do you know how to rig speakers to hide in the fabric folds without sparking and causing a fire? Can those speakers also be rigged to the batteries, so I only need one charger?

Most of my mobility artworks could use some technical help. I'd like to rig a player piano reel to Driven's wheels, maybe add a speaker and a Blue Tooth to Le Flaneur and light up the Nebula's sail. Sure, I can figure some of that out myself. But it's so much more rewarding when I work with others. That way we're all learning something.

I look forward to your suggestions, your know-how and your expert advice.

You all rock. Thank you!