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Bat Mobile: Happy Halloween

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We were inspired to bring back this classic Halloween project not just because it's a fast and fun decorating idea for the upcoming spooky season, but also because we had a recent bat encounter. A pair of Little Brown Bats (that is actually what they're called - cute, but also scientific, I guess) flew in through an open balcony door, invading the bedroom of one of our S4H staffers! Read on to find out how to make our adorable bat mobile, as well as for a few helpful hints on how to get bats out of your house. No need for any "bats in your belfry" jokes!

Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight rather than simply gliding. And they are very, very important to our ecosystems, controlling insect populations in a big way. One study we found estimated the value of bats to the U.S. agriculture industry at upwards of $53 billion per year!

But, as cool and helpful as they are, you don't want them orbiting your ceiling, which is exactly what they were doing in our personal scenario. Here's what we found out about getting them out. The best information came from the Michigan State University extension website.

  1. Remember, the bat(s) want to get out as much as you want them to... probably more. 
  2. If it's not there already, you need to get the bat into a room with a large door to the outside or a window without a screen. 
  3. Remove any pets and close off all other exits.
  4. Stay calm. Being chased by shrieking giants with brooms and tennis rackets is only going to freak out the bat even more and prolong the situation. Stay as quiet as possible throughout your removal mission. 
  5. Open the door or window in the chosen room and turn off the lights except for something very dim. 
  6. Turn off any outside lights that are near the open door or window. If an air conditioning unit is running near the door or window, turn that off, too. Bats use echolocation ("radar") and not sight to navigate so it's best if things are quiet.
  7. Find a friend and open up a large sheet between you, holding it up at arm's length. Even though the sheet is flimsy to you, to the bat it seems solid. 
  8. Keep narrowing the bat's flight area with the open sheet until the bat has nowhere left to fly except through the open door or window. 
  9. Small bats are easily stunned and can fall to the ground if accidently hit too hard with the sheet. They will likely regain their bat faculties in just a few minutes and fly away, but if it is necessary to pick up the bat, be extremely careful. Always use heavy leather gloves.

As long as they're outside where they belong, I like how bats swoop in nearly silent loops through the night skies above our hay field. Anything gobbling up spiders and bugs is okay in my book. 

Our very cute Halloween Mobile boasts five friendly bats with felt fangs and button eyes. Stuffed with polyester fiber fill, they are soft and chubby and ready to fly above your door to welcome trick-or-treaters. No need to come after them with a sheet!

We used black Layer Cake squares from a Halloween pre-cut pack, but you could use any approximate 10" x 10" squares of black fabric that seem appropriately batty to you. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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Our mobile contains FIVE bats, so the supplies below will create FIVE.

  • FIVE Black Layer Cake squares; if you are not using pre-cut Layer Cake squares, you will need five pieces of fabric 10" x 10"
  • Small scrap of white felt for fangs
  • Small bag of polyester fiber fill
  • TWENTY ½" four-hole buttons for the eyes (five bats - two eyes on each side): we used a pinkish red
  • All purpose thread to match your fabric
  • Two spooky tree branches, each approximately 22" long
  • Fabric glue
  • Fishing line
  • Florist's wire
  • Blunt pliers to twist wire
  • Seam gauge
  • Fabric pen, pencil or chalk
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • 1 skein of black embroidery floss
  • Large-eye hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. Download and print the Bat Mobile Pattern. We printed two copies so we could place and fussy cut both sides of each bat individually.
    IMPORTANT: This pattern is one 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print this PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guideline on the page to confirm your printout is to scale. 
  2. Cut out the bat(s) along the solid line.
  3. Place, pin, and cut out two bats from each Layer Cake (or 10" x 10" fabric square). You should end up with 10 bats.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Cut out the fangs from the bat pattern to create a 'fang template.' Don't throw away those little triangles you cut out.
  5. Place the template over each bat, aligning the edges, and use a fabric pen, pencil or chalk to draw the fang position on all ten bats.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Remember how you didn't throw away those little triangles you cut from the bat pattern? Find them now and use one to trace 20 fangs onto your white felt scrap. Use a air-soluble fabric pen if possible. If don't have one, draw a light line so you are not left with any residual ink along the edge of the fangs.
  7. Cut out the 20 fangs along your drawn lines.
  8. Cover the fang triangles you drew on each bat with a light coating of fabric glue.
  9. Place two fangs on each bat. If you can see your drawn lines, turn the fang over and have the unmarked side facing up. Press each fang in place to adhere, then set aside for about 15 minutes to dry.
    Click to Enlarge

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. When fully dry, pair up the bats, placing each pair WRONG sides together.
  2. Carefully align all the raw edges and pin in place.
  3. Edgestitch all around each bat, leaving an approximate 1½" opening at the top of this head... between the two ears.
    NOTE: Shorten your stitch length. This makes maneuvering the curves of the bat shape easier. We used our Janome transparent Satin Stitch foot, which has an easy red guide arrow to follow. As you stitch, stop as often as you need to, with the needle in the down position, to adjust your fabric so you stay close to the edge.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Press each stitched bat flat when done. The edges are left raw so they can fray and tatter for an appropriately 'batty' look.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. As you did above for the fangs, cut out the eyes from your bat paper pattern piece to make an 'eye template.'
  6. Following the same steps as for the fangs, draw two eye circles on each side of each stitched-together bat.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Lightly stuff each bat with polyester fiber fill. You want the bat to be plump but soft, so don't overstuff. Use your finger, an unsharpened pencil or a chopstick to poke the fiber fill into the points of the wings. Work from the outer edges in when stuffing. 
    Click to Enlarge
  8. Stitch the top opening closed, matching the previous seam lines.
    Click to Enlarge
  9. Thread the hand sewing needle with black embroidery floss. We used all six strands, just as it comes off the skein.
  10. Using the drawn circles, sew a button to each side of the bat to create two eyes on each side. Sew on with a simple 'X.' Pull tightly so the eyes sink into the fiber fill.
    Click to Enlarge

Making the branch mobile and hanging the bats

  1. There are a few tricks to making your bat mobile hang and frighten properly.
  2. When you select the branches to use, they need to be approximately the same diameter and length, so choose and cut carefully.
  3. Begin by making a hanging loop for each branch with florist wire wrapped around a pencil or pen. Start with about a 3" tail of wire. Wrap the wire around the pen three or four times.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Slide the wire off the pen and cut it, leaving another 3" tail at the end. Give the loop a complete turn with pliers. This twists the two tails together, securing them like a twist tie on a bag of bread.
  5. Repeat to create a second hanging loop.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Now you need to find find the center point of each branch. Using those 3" tails, loosely attach each loop to the approximate center of each branch and hang up the branches. We put a spare curtain rod across the back of two kitchen chairs, then hung each branch with plain string.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Slide the loops as necessary to find the balance point of each branch. Mark the center points with a dot.
    Click to Enlarge
  8. To fasten the two branches together, unwrap one loop from its branch and discard it.
  9. Using the 3" tail left on the remaining loop, fasten the two branches together, matching up your marked center points. The branch with the loop is the top branch, the plain branch should attach in a crisscross pattern below it.
    Click to Enlarge
  10. When lashing the branches together, don't worry too much about making a stiff, non-flexible connection. It's okay to have the branches move against each other a little bit. It makes the mobile more active.
  11. Cut five pieces of fishing line at various lengths. Ours ranged from approximately 12" to 25".
  12. Thread your hand sewing needle with the fishing line and draw it through a bat at the top of his head right between his ears. Pull the line through, leaving yourself enough length to tie a tight double-overhand knot. Clip the short tail close to the knot.
  13. Make an open loop at the opposite end of the fishing line to allow you to slide each bat onto a branch.
  14. Repeat to attach a length of fishing line to each bat.
  15. Position the bats on the branches. Sliding them back and forth until the mobile hangs level.
    Click to Enlarge
  16. Replace the string in the top hanging loop with fishing line and hang up your friendly bat mobile.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas   
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Liz Johnson

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