Winter in New York City can be hard to love with its frozen sidewalks, dirty snowbanks, and bare trees. But this winter I'm counting on my new cold weather friend, the Purl Bee Penguin, to help me through! Its happy ovoid shape and graphic palette are sure to remind me that joy really does exist in January. Just ask an Emperor Penguin!
I used our new Penguin Fat Quarter Bundle, a lively mix of black and white dots, stripes, and prints, to sew up this quirky little trio of penguins. I loved seeing how each one developed its own personality as I sewed, becoming more and more alive with each stitch! They are also real crowd pleasers. Even my non-sewing thirty-something friends all oohed and aahed when they saw my penguins lined up on my ironing board.
The Purl Bee Penguins are pretty addictive to make, and I don’t think that I’ll be able to stop with just these three. Check back in a few weeks; I may have amassed a penguin colony!
To make three 9-inch tall stuffed penguins:
- A Penguin Fat Quarter Bundle or 1/4 yard each of seven dots, stripes, and chicken wire in black and white.
- A piece of bright yellow felt. I used Sunshine (01) but Sun (03) and yellow (02) would look great too.
- 100% cotton sewing thread in color 1040 (ecru) and color 1001 (black)
- DMC embroidery floss in color 310 (black)
- Six small white buttons in white
- A Purl Bee Penguin Pattern Template, available for free download here, printed and cut out.
It will also be helpful to have a size 3- 7 straight knitting needle or a similar pointy object for stuffing.
Cut out the fabric according to the directions on the template. You can mix and match the patterns however you like. When cutting the side body and wing pieces make sure that you are cutting two opposite facing pieces. Do this by cutting one piece with the right side of fabric facing and the next one with the wrong side of the fabric facing. Make all of the marks with an erasable marker or a pencil on the wrong side of the fabric.
You will have:
- 2 side body pieces
- 1 front body piece
- 2 light colored wing pieces
- 2 dark colored wing pieces
- 4 felt feet piece
- 2 felt beak pieces
With the right sides of both the body pieces facing up pin the beak pieces to the flat area directly above mark A so that the point of the beak is facing inward as shown above.
Note: For all of the sewing in this section you will be using the ecru colored thread and your machine.
Sew the beak along the pinned area with an 1/8-inch seam allowance. Press it flat with the seam allowance facing towards the side body piece and the point of the beak facing out as shown above.
Pin the two side body pieces right sides together just from mark A to mark B. Sew them together with a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance. Start at mark A an sew up along the outside of the beak to its point, then down the opposite side of the beak and along the top of the head to mark B. Back stitch at the beginning and end of the seam. Trim the seam allowance around the beak so that it's very close to the seam.
Turn the sewn portion right sides out and push the beak out. This is the most tricky part of the whole sewing process. The beak is very thin so it takes a bit of patience to get it totally tured right sides out. Use a knitting needle and or tweezers to help with this step.
Turn both pieces so that their wrongs sides are facing out but keep the beak portion inside with its right sides out. The beak will not be visible as in the picture above.
Pin the two pieces together from mark C to mark D. Sew along this edge with a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance and backstitching at each end. This sewn side is the back of the penguin. There should be an unsewn gap between mark B and mark C.
Open the front, unsewn side of the penguin side pieces as shown above. You will be pinning the front body piece (which is shaped like a surfboard) along both sides of this opening right sides together.
Pin either side of the front body piece to either side of the side body pieces right sides together as shown above. Start pinning at mark A and pin all the way down the curve of each side until you reach mark D. If the front body shape is a bit longer than the sides you can trim it once it's been pinned onto both sides. Since you're pinning along a curve it's a good idea to use a lot of pins and go carefully and slowly.
Sew both pinned sides with a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam. Pay special attention to not sew into the opposite side where the two seams will meet at mark A.
Turn the body right side out through the gap between mark B and C. It's beginning to look like a penguin!
Pay special attention to the area under the chin where the front body piece starts. It should look like a neat upside-down "V" shape. If you accidentally sewed over into the opposite side on this section do not despair. You can just rip out the offending section of the seam and re-sew that section making sure to back stitch at both ends of the new seam.
Sew each dark wing piece to a light wing piece right sides together with a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance leaving an unsewn gap in-between the two marks. Turn the wings right sides out through the gap.
Sew two of the foot pieces together with an 1/8-inch seam allowance just along the webbed foot shape, leaving the top curve, in-between the two marks, unsewn. Turn the foot right sides out through the unsewn section. Press the points of the foot out with your knitting needle. Repeat this for the second foot.
Stuff the feet tightly so they are puffy. Push all of the stuffing towards the sewn part of the foot and away from the open curved area.
To close the feet sew a line across the bottom of the open curved section from one mark to the opposite one, backstitching at each end and thus encasing the stuffing. Use your sewing machine and the ecru thread for this seam.
Stuff the body of the penguin tightly. Use your knitting needle to get the stuffing into the smaller areas like the beak and the point of the tail. One of the tricks to making a nice stuffed animal is to stuff it really tightly, just keep on adding stuffing until you can't anymore.
Pin the back gap closed with the raw seams tucked to the inside. Using the black sewing thread stitch up the gap using a slip stitch. Tie a small knot at the end of the seam.
Then pass your needle through a section of the stuffed body and pull it out. Cut the thread just at the exit point thus hiding it.
Stuff the wings tightly and hand sew the gaps shut with the black sewing thread using a slip stitch in the same manner as you did for the body.
You will now have the following pieces:
- 2 opposite facing wings. The penguin's right wing is pictured on the top and the left wing is pictured at the bottom.
- 2 feet
- 1 body
Pin the left and right wings to the opposite sides of the body about 2 1/2-inches below the top of the front body panel just behind where the front panel and the side panels meet. They should be parallel to one another and be curving towards the back of the bird.
Using a length of the black embroidery thread sew them on at the same time by passing the needle through the middle of the body to the opposite wing. Use a long needle and squish the penguin as much as you have to to get the needle to come through to the opposite side. You can always re-fluff the body later, stuffing is pretty forgiving. Keep going back and forth through the body like this and attach the wings with a doubled cross stitch. Tie a knot on the inside of one of the wing joints and hide the thread end by passing it through the stuffing as illustrated in the stuffing section.
Pin the feet onto the flat section of the bottom of the body so they are a bit splayed.
Stand the penguin up. If it doesn't stay standing on its own re-pin the feet in different positions until it does.
Using the black embroidery thread whip stitch the curves of the feet onto the bottom on the body.
Arrange two of the buttons on the opposite sides of the penguin's head. Using the black embroidery thread stitch them on at the same time passing through the center of the head with your needle.
Your first penguin is all done... repeat all these steps to make him some friends!