Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Happy October, everyone!

I was very excited to read what everyone guessed might be the identity of this creature - thank you for giving it a shot! It is indeed a quokka, a marsupial native to Australia. Although the real animal is quite a bit less hairy and very much more smiley. I can, however, absolutely see how people might have thought it was a rodent! I also had to google "nutria" when some of you suggested it, as I'd never heard of that, either, and yes, it bears an uncanny resemblance to that animal, too. I love learning about new animals!

But let me first tell you a little of the backstory to this quokka-making venture. My two older girls are in their high school's swim and dive team (one swims, the other dives) and at the start of every season, the team captains organize a Secret Sister game to facilitate team bonding, sort of like a Secret Santa thing that continues through the entire season. Each girl is assigned a benefactor and beneficiary and at each home meet, they give gifts to their beneficiary and receive small gifts from their benefactor, all without divulging anyone's identity. To help the girls buy meaningful gifts, everyone fills out Get To Know Me forms at the start of the game, providing info like favorite color, animal, candy, snack, allergies, and so on. At the last home meet of the season, the girls splurge on a larger gift and everyone reveals their identitties. Emily participated in this in her first year in the team, and I made her beneficiary a deer and fawn Menagerie pair, her then-Secret Sister's favorite animal. 

This year, we pored over the Get To Know Me forms and behold - Jenna's Secret Sister's favorite animal was a quokka. I'd never heard of it (and I certainly couldn't pronounce it). But boy, was it a cutie - when we'd googled and found photos of it, we fell in love with it immediately. And Menagerie-potential-wise, it was the perfect shape: stout, compact, smallish head, overall fattish and cuddly. 

However, there weren't many distinguishing features: a quokka is furry (but its fur s a generic brownish-grey), it has a large black nose (but so do koalas, wombats and dogs), and an-almost-furless tail (but so do a zillion other animals). How, then, might I make something identifiable which was simultaneously beaverish, teddybearish, rodentish, and with a certain capybara-ishness thrown in?

Fortunately, what did set it apart from the other animals in the above imposter list was that it was a hopping marsupial with powerful hind legs and a pouch for young. And there was the fur, of course - unlike most of the Menagerie critters I've made, this one couldn't be rendered in bald fleece; its furiness was part of the deal. So I dug into my faux fur stash, and, having never met a quokka in person myself, picked the fabric that was closest to the "greyish-brown" in the internet descriptions.

So: Quokka. Let's deconstruct.

Its design is a little different than the typical Menagerie animal in that the leg is integrated into the body piece, so there isn't a seam where the leg might normally be attached to the main chunk of the body.

The leg ends in a funny little four-toed foot. The arms, incidentally, end in little black fingers, but these are hidden deep in the fur, unfortunately.

The tail is "largely hairless", according to one internet article, which made me think of rat tails, which seemed a bit stark for an otherwise overfurry animal. So I used another faux fur fabric with very flat-lying fibers - the tail looks hairless, but actually has a pretty decent pile. And for those of you who guessed that this might have been a mole, this tail fabric is exactly what I'd use if I ever made one!

Finally, the face. Here is where I fell quite short, sadly. 

The real life quokka's face is smiley and just plain adorable. However, much of that was lost in this thick fur. No smile, for one, short of stitching one on in neon pink chunky yarn, I mean.

Also, one of its eyes was especially deep-set so I had to trim the fur around it just so it would be visible.

And in case you were wondering, I didn't make the pouch - or the joey. It was challenging enough to work with the thick fur for an animal this size - the smaller joey pieces would make me lose my mind, I think.

Otherwise, I think it turned out the way I imagined it in my head, plus so many of you guys were able to tell what it was, which was hugely encouraging. So I'm going to let go of the bits which were disappointing.

(By the way, Jenna said it looked like a teddy bear. I know what she'd meant: there was definitely something ewok-y about its face. And ewoks are cute. I'll take it.)

I only hope her Secret Sister recognizes it for what it is!

Next up is the animal I made for Emily's Secret Sister. It's hilarious, because it totally doesn't fit the Menagerie stereotype, but we somehow made it work!


  1. Fun... Can't wait to see what's next! (And no, there was not a Quokka under my bed!)

  2. I never heard of a Quokka, but now I have a nice letter Q animal in my brain besides quail!

    I wonder what would happen if you took hair clippers and trimmed the faux fur to be shorter. I don't really recommend trying because it seems the risk of disaster as a result is high, but my brain is curious...

  3. Well done! I came upon these critters in a scroll fest one day and found that although they are cute, they are known to throw their babies to a predator so they can escape. The smile is devious! 😄


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