Tuesday, October 27, 2020

a prehistoric gift for a new generation.

While I think my current career suits me quite nicely, I don't think anyone would have guessed that I'd grow up to be a bioethicist. What my parents did think I might grow up to be (beside superballerina-princess, which sadly doesn't really count as a realistic career) was: a paleontologist. 

It is perhaps a slightly unexpected future for a young child, but I was absolutely fascinated by fossils. And the funny thing is; I was not the only one. 
Somewhere, several kilometers away, Joost's parents must have thought exactly the same thing as mine: "That kid is probably going work with dinosaurs when he grows up." 

While I spend endless summers sifting through pebbles in French creeks, collecting prehistoric leftovers, hoping to find new and exciting fossils, Joost was dragging his mum through dinosaur-expositions, and learning the difference between Jurrasic and Cretaceous creatures. 

Our fossil-hunting/dino-spotting days are sadly over, and neither of us became paleontologist, but in essence we still are those children: a girl with an endless amount of fossils, and a boy who knows all the weird facts about dinosaurs. 

So, when Joost's sis announced that our youngest niece had been born, we decided to celebrate it in a way that suited who we are: prehistoric style! And what better way to do it than by making a dinosaur-toy?

The hardest part came first: deciding on a dinosaur. After a lengthy discussion about the most aesthetically pleasing dinosaurs, and their merits when it comes to turning them into toys, we decided on a triceratops. Because: well, it has horns -which is cool- and it's chunky, which I hoped was easy to make ( at least easier than a pterodactyl, with all those weird angles)

the making of the triceratops. 

I took some pattern paper, and simply started sketching!  The most important thing was to keep in mind that the shape had to become 3-dimensional, which meant making everything nice and chunky, as not to end up with spindly legs, and a generally underfed dino, and thinking about a shapes to fill the underside ( I didn't cut one out yet, but made one later in the process.) 

pattern is an ambitious word here, I know…  

I then gathered all my remnant fabrics from the back of my closet ( a beige piece of linnen curtain, a snippet of couch-cushion, and a snippet of green of unknown heritage)

I cut out the pieces! A head, some horns and a body! 

I decided to start with the head, so that if it turned out terrible, I had least would know it as soon as possible. I sewed two horn-pieces to the head, stitched around the edges, but left the neck open, and added two darts from the neck towards the eyes, to give it all a bit of shape. 
Weirdly enough, it looked really quite good, and dino-like!

Although Joost came in and guesses "rhinoceros" at this point, Which I can also understand. 

As a triceratops is not complete without that neck-collar-frill-thing( that's probably the scientific name, don't judge) I quickly cut out the shape out of the rough outline out of green fabric,  making sure the neck opening sort of matched the opening of the head.  I also cut out a layer of padding (a throw pillow may have been sacrificed in this process) ,

doesn't look like much now, but… 

some whirrrs later and… 

Hey! it's coming together!!

I was genuinly quite shocked how quickly it started to resemble a triceratops! I sewed the bits together with double rows of stitching, to make it child proof…  

A dinosaur is born!

Onto the body! I sewed the back and tail, which was pretty straight-forward, and attached the head. 

If I had stuck to my original plan, of making a plushy, the finishing would have been quite straightforward: adding an underbelly, and stuffing it. But my mind raced: what would be cooler than a dinosaur to cuddle with? A dinosaur to ride on, of course!! How hard could it be….?

measuring the length of my dino's back, I cut out a back from a piece of left-over 2by4. Then I added four legs (pre-drilling all the holes, and using extra long screws for sturdiness)

four legs, and a sturdy back!

After some rigorous testing, I decided it should be sturdy enough for a kid, or even a small adult.

I pushed the frame into the dino's belly...

like a reversed birth! 

And added lot's of stuffing around it, so all would be nice and soft. 

Then I cut a shape to close the underbelly and inside legs ( which isn't very visibly in the photo above but it basically looked like a big H ) and sewed everything together by hand. 

An almost finished dino, but wait, what is that pedestal?

Of course" if my niece want's to ride on it in the future, she's gotta have some wheels! So, I added a  wooden base, screwed tightly into the wooden legs of our little dino.. 

ha! recognise the dress?

 ( by now, it was around midnight, and I was using our jigsaw and screwdriver in our brand-new kitchen, sorry Joost…) 

finally, I added small cart-wheels, and gave Trixie the triceratops a wee lil' smiling face with embroidery stitches.

she's a happy little triceratops, yes she is!

A drawstring so her mum and dad can pull her along, and we're done!!

I don't want to boast, but that's a pretty nifty dino, isn't it?

I mean: I'd happily have that in our own house, even though we don't have kids ( maybe I should make another one: adult sized, and from now one take all my video-conference calls while sitting astride a giant Trixie!!)

smiling away!

While it will be a while before my youngest nice will take Trixie the triceratops on adventures, I hope her bigger sister will take good care of Trixie in the mean time. 

It was of course a bit weird, visiting the newborn without being able to hold her, but it was really nice seeing her, her mum and dad, and her big sister ( with whom I had an awesome socially distanced play-doh-session)



  1. Congratulations for your niece! I just watched "My Octopus Teacher" on Netflix. It's not related but I thought of it when I read this! Congratulations Auntie!

    1. ah thank you, I really love being an aunt, and my nieces and nephew are all absolutely adorable.
      I didn't know my octopus teacher yet, but it really does sound like something I'd like to watch, thanks!!