I created the basic design of the sewn stuffed creatures I call tanukitsune as a variation on a traditional Japanese doll called sarubobo—a simple quadruped sewn from a square of cloth with a round head attached, that is meant to look like a baby or a little monkey. Its history is ancient, ultimately harking back to a Tang-era Chinese talismanic “creeping child” doll (hōko in Japanese) made to protect mothers and children from harm. 

   My creatures are animal rather than humanoid, sewn from rectangles, corners pinched to create ears, nose, front paws and back paws. 

   Hand-sewing is a great stress-relieving activity. I began sewing one creature a day starting March 17, 2020, when the Covid shelter-in-place began in California. Not a bad idea to invoke the powers of trickster foxes and tanukis for protection, I thought. My grandchildren enjoyed naming them and describing their personalities. The project was something we could do together virtually. But the pandemic did not let up. The creatures were multiplying like ants in the rainy season. By the time I had sewn several months’ worth, I realized I probably had enough. At this point, I grouped them into four sets and made them into a deck. Now the children make up games and stories about them, and I hope one day they will pull the stuffed tanukitsunes out of their boxes and remember these Covid days with a certain fondness.

Creative staff

Gender - boy

Age - 6

Favorite food - pancakes

Dislikes - hot weather

Character - inventive

Special skill - making catapults

Size - 4 feet


Holding a San he sewed himself


Gender - girl

Age - 4

Favorite food - cake

Dislikes - wearing pants

Character - sparkly

Special skill - fashion

Size - 48 inches

Holding Bünnybei, Flippy, and Zeeby

With her bespoke family of Sans

Gender - girl

Age - 2

Favorite food - kasha

Dislikes - wearing hats

Character - droll

Special skill - dancing

Size - 34 inches

Leila June

Holding Douce, made the day he was born


Gender - boy

Age - 4 months

Favorite food - mommy milk Dislikes - being hungry

Character - salty

Special skill - crying loudly

Size - 25 inches