Thursday, October 21, 2021


Okay, you know the Other Secret Sister Animal I was telling you about in the last post - the one which didn't fit the stereotypical chunky Menagerie shape? This isn't it. I've changed my mind - we'll get to meet that elusive critter in the next post. In today's, however, you get to see what I call a Last-Minute Menagerie Animal instead, which is what happens when I have a creature in my head that I can't shake off even after trying for weeks and eventually give in but I have only a couple of hours to design and sew it and common sense should tell me to let it go already but it doesn't and I can't and, well.

Embarrassing, yes, this lack of self-control. But as long as we're being transparent, let's just hear the whole sordid tale, shall we? 

Remember the quokka? In her Secret Sister Get To Know Me form, Jenna's friend actually named two favorite animals: the quokka and the dolphin. When I first saw her response in the form, I wanted to make the dolphin. Two reasons: one, the dolphin was shark-esque and I'd made a shark before. A dolphin felt like a simple tweak on that design. And two, what in tarnation even was a quokka?

But since this was not my gift, I let Jenna weigh in. She picked quokka (of course she would - the thing is cuter than a zillion baby kittens, even I could admit that).

So quokka it was. And I sewed it. End of story.

Except I still wanted to make the dolphin.

"It's not about you, O foolish woman with hopeless tunnel vision," I said. "Let it go."
And it worked for a while, this brilliant self-counsel.

Until it didn't, because the more I tried to convince myself that the world didn't need a Menagerie dolphin, the more I became obsessed with making one. 

Finally, on the day the girls were supposed to present their gifts to their Secret Sisters, I caved. It'd been a long fight and I knew from past experience with obsessions (cardboard, nutella, ikat, round things, etc.) that I was going to lose anyway. Still, I had just about two hours to do it - surely that was deterrent enough? Might my common sense put up one last defence and somehow emerge victorious? 

Apparently not. 

Because - I'm somewhat ashamed to say - I made the dolphin.

Let it be said here that this is not how I typically make a Menagerie animal. On the occasions when I'm not mentally unsound, I take my time to visualize the various appendages and carefully measure and consider proportions and ratios and do muslins and all those other delayed-gratification things that responsible Soft Toy Makers include in their Formal Design Process. So that by the time a Menagerie animal is photographed for the blog, it's usually gone through a couple of iterations at least, to iron out any weird bulgy or otherwise comically misshapen bits. 

This one I made by the seat of my pants, as it were. Literally eyeballed lengths and widths - the fluke, the dorsal fin, the pectoral fins, 

even the snout. Which really should have been skinnier, but whatever.

I did, however, slow down long enough to think about that smile. Because, if you remember, I failed spectacularly with the quokka's. And while I might be able to get away with an unsmiling marsupial that's relatively unheard of in this part of the world, everyone knows what a dolphin is, and everyone who's ever seen a dolphin will tell you that there is no such thing as a grim-looking one.

So, this mouth seam - it's wavy. It curves one way in one section and the other way in the next, and the curve in the grey piece of fabric is matched to the opposite-direction curve in the corresponding location in the white. It isn't hard to sew, but one has to be intentional about those curves, clipping seam allowances and easing them together so they line up without stretching themselves straight and taut. That smile is the one thing about this dolphin that made me feel like I was being purposeful in a process that seemed to otherwise border on cavalier. 

If this were a normal design experience, this dolphin would be a prototype and I'd look at it and make notes on what I'd do differently in Version 2.0. Like taper the back end much more toward the tail/fluke so it isn't nearly as chunky as the head. And streamline the snout, as mentioned. Plus maybe experiment a little with the arch of the belly. But because my dolphin-making obsession has abruptly and miraculously evaporated, this is likely also my final version. It's funny how obsessions are that way.

And yes, Jenna did give this to her friend along with the quokka! 


  1. Cute! I wish I were that fast at sewing!

  2. those are my favorite projects! I get them in my head and can't stop until it's done.


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