Wednesday, May 12, 2021


Bird #3 is the Northern Cardinal.

More specifically, the adult male Northern Cardinal. As I worked through this bird series, I began to feel increasingly guilty that I seemed to making only the males of each species. Obviously it was a choice influenced by design need: the males typically have more distinguishing coloring than the females, which tend to be either brownish or else look a little washed-out. Still, I couldn't help thinking that I was being sexist - and color-ist on top of it. Someday, to redeem myself, I should make the female counterparts, too, even if they might all be in danger of looking identical. Not sure which is worse: a brown Menagerie bird is a brown Menagerie bird, after all. 

I love spotting cardinals in our trees. They're so distinctly crimson, and so large, that it's hard to miss them, even in a full tree in the summer. 

But in the winter, especially, they're a very welcome splash of color against the dull browns and grays of bare trunks and branches. And when the snow comes, that red against the white is truly gorgeous.

Before I sat down to draft the pattern pieces, I'd only ever had the vague impression that cardinals were simply big red birds, with some black somewhere - the beak, maybe? Cardinals obviously aren't native to the tropics where I grew up so I'd never seen one in person until I moved to the US and owned an actual yard (and bird feeder). And even then, it was only after googling images of cardinals photographed from every conceivable angle that I became aware of how many shades of red and brown (there's a lot more brown than I'd originally thought!) are on them. 

I also ascertained that their beaks, as all any Northern Hemisphere preschooler could've told me, are bright red - it's their faces and throats which are black.

It's funny how we sometimes don't really pay attention to the details until we have to replicate them, isn't it? My cardinal was made in red, rust and brown, and that black face, of course. 

One of the more interesting aspects of designing animals with the Menagerie templates is translating those colors to the template pieces and deciding where the boundaries of those colors go. Sometimes, like with this cardinal's throat, the color patches fit exactly within the natural sides of a template; other times, I have to tweak the templates to accommodate more realistic color distributions. 

Without any feather markings to embroider on, the wings were quite a bit more straightforward than the Goldfinch's, so an overall very fast sew. Here's another variation: cardinals have short, stout beaks, so I used a different beak design on this bird than the Robins and Goldfinch. 

This is also the first bird that has a crest, which was easier to add than it looks. 

I love how that tiny detail changes the design in such a big way, opening up  possibilities for endless other crested birds. 

Anyone want to guess what the fourth - and last - bird is?


  1. Blue Jay! Goldfinch? Yellow Tanager? Baltimore Oriole?

  2. Red-throated hummingbird.

    I think female cardinals are beautiful..that bright orange bill.

  3. Meant to say ruby-throated hummingbird!

  4. One of my favorites, and another I loved watching in MA that we don't see here in CA. I'm guessing the fourth is a bluebird.

  5. I'd love to see a cockatoo or a rainbow lorikeet


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