The Game of the Name
TUX is a pattern for constructing plush penguin toys. It is available from http://www.free-penguin.org. Its name is distinguishable by capitalization and typography from that of the Linux penguin mascot, Tux. The ‘X’ of TUX is a Greek chi, not an X. As Donald E. Knuth noted in a suspiciously similar context (page 1 of The TEXbook, Addison Wesley, 1984), “It’s the ‘ch’ sound in Scottish words like loch or German words like ach; it’s a Spanish ‘j’ and a Russian ‘kh’. When you say it correctly to your computer, the terminal may become slightly moist.” In other words, TUX would be pronounced as Tuch, which is (conveniently) a German word meaning cloth or fabric.
The displaced ‘U’ further helps to distinguish ‘TUX’ from ‘Tux’. To borrow again from Knuth, if you needed to write ‘TUX’ in some medium which doesn’t allow messing around with font positions, you could write it as ‘TuX’.
Someone who’s keen on making plush toys from this pattern might be described as a TUXer. Someone who gets too hung up over details of capitalization and typography, in this case, could be described as a TUXus.
Here is how I construct the ‘TUX’ penguin pattern. These instructions try to minimize the hand-stitching required to finish the project, in the expectation that most people will be sewing with a machine.
Please note that I have been sewing, as an occasional hobby, for many years, and that I am using a relatively simple sewing machine. This means that (1) there are probably a bunch of ‘tricks’ that I don’t know about, or simply can’t do with my machine, which would make the construction faster and/or easier; and (2) there are probably some details that I have not thought to write down here because I do them without thinking.
This may be a bit difficult to follow, since you can’t see me waving my hands. I’ll try to make it clear with diagrams, in some cases shaded to indicate ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ fabric surfaces. In all cases here, ‘inside’ is used to refer to the side of the fabric that ends up hidden inside the penguin, and ‘outside’ to refer to the side that’s showing. If the fabric has a nap or other texture on only one side, you probably want that to be on the outside of the penguin.
In the diagrams, this shading will indicate the ‘outside’ of the fabric used for the penguin body. This shading with stripes will indicate the ‘inside’ of the penguin body fabric. This shading will indicate the ‘outside’ of the fabric used for the penguin feet (and other light-coloured parts). And this shading with stripes will indicate the ‘inside’ of the feet fabric.
Cutting the Fabric
The pattern, as given, has the edges of the pieces matching up — in other words, the seams should go along those edges, and there is no allowance provided for fabric on the other side of that seam, the so-called ‘seam allowance’. You need to cut the fabric pieces slightly larger than the pattern shows, so that you can then stitch inside that border. The width of that extra amount depends on your sewing skills and on how you are planning to do the sewing, and to some extent on the fabric.. For machine stitching, a seam allowance of 3/8” or 1 cm is usual; this gives the machine enough to grip on either side of the seam line. If you are planning to sew by hand, and the fabric doesn’t fray easily, you might manage with as little as 1/8” or about 3 mm.
You need either two tummy pieces, mirror images of each other and with the seam allowance along the straight line so they can be sewn together... or make two pattern pieces and attach them together so that you can cut a single symmetrical tummy piece out of a larger piece of fabric.
If the fabric has a nap or in some other way has an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, be careful to cut the non-symmetrical fabric pieces in mirror pairs as needed. You need a mirror pair of body pieces, and two mirror pairs of arm pieces. Also, if the fabric has an orientation — for example, if the nap has a direction, or there’s a directional pattern in the fabric — you must make sure that all of the pieces you cut have the pattern running in the proper direction. Mirror-symmetrical parts should correspond, at least, and you may wish to consider how the pattern will come out in the finished bird. For example, in real animals and birds, the ‘grain’ of the fur/hair/feathers usually is directed along the length of the body from mouth to tail, and away from the body along the arms/legs/wings.
Don’t cut the slits in the body pieces for the arms until later. They need to be matched fairly closely to the arms after you’ve done some work on the arms.
General Sewing Principles
In general, seams should be sewn from the centre of a symmetrical piece towards the outside, and from the top of the toy towards the bottom and from the front towards the back. The first helps to keep the piece symmetrical. Both make it easier to hide any small mismatches or asymmetries at the back/bottom of the toy, where they are less visible, or within a seam between two fabric pieces.
When you join fabric pieces together, you will always be sewing them with their outside sides together. This means that stitching will only be ‘showing’ on the inside, and when the toy is turned inside-out, the stitching and seam allowance will be hidden.
It is often a good idea to pin pieces of fabric together along the line that will be stitched. This helps to keep things aligned, if the fabric is stretchy or if the pieces tend to slip against each other.
In general, after you have finished sewing a seam, if your seam allowance is more than about 1/8” or 3 mm, you may wish to trim that border back if the fabric is not especially liable to fray. At the very least, you will need to cut small wedges in that border almost to the seam line anywhere that the seam makes a tight curve, so that when the toy is turned outside-out and the seam is inverted, the fabric will not bunch up along that curve.
Sewing the Arms
Place a pair of arm pieces together, outside-to-outside. Sew along the outside edge, but not along the short flat edge where the arm will join the body. Then invert the arm so that it is outside-out. Repeat this for the second arm.
Cut the slit in a body piece for the arm, but make the initial cut a bit shorter than it needs to be. Stick the open end of the arm through the hole from the outside side (so the outside surface of the arm will be next to the outside side of the body piece), with the arm curved towards the ‘front’ side of the body piece. Since the slit is too small, the arm fabric will be slightly crumpled inside it. Then carefully cut the slit a bit bigger, a bit at a time, gently stretching the arm fabric against the enclosing hole, until the hole is just large enough to match the arm. Pin the edges of the fabric together, arm fabric to body fabric, outside-to-outside.
If you intend to stuff the arms, you probably want to stitch around the oval formed by the intersection of the arm with the body. That will leave the arm open and connected to the body, and you can stuff them at the same time, near the end of the project. Another advantage of sewing this seam as an oval is that it doesn’t stretch the body fabric very much. You should start and end this seam under the arm, in Tux’s ‘armpit’; that way, any minor glitches due to slight misalignments will be less visible. (For consideration: if you will be using the oval seam, cut an oval hole in the body piece instead of the straight slit. The circumference of the oval hole would need to be the same as that of the arm opening.)
The alternative is to fold the body piece along the slit, with the inside of the body piece showing and the arm sandwiched between the two halves of the outside side, and just sew a seam through all four pieces of fabric at once (after putting a bit of stuffing down at the end of the arm, if you wish). This seems to work best if you start sewing at the edge of the fabric where it’s folded, slightly outside of the slit, angled in towards the arm, then a straight seam across the arm, then back out to the edge of the fabric. This straight seam tends to leave a bit of a pucker/crease in the body fabric, because the seam takes up a bit of the body fabric.
Repeat for the second arm and the other body piece.
Frankly, I’m not sure what the best idea is here. For most of my ‘Tux’ projects, I have been using plastic eyes, which I add just before the stuffing. If you will be using fabric eyes and want to sew them on instead of gluing them, or otherwise adding them at the end, you probably want to sew them to the body pieces at this point. They should be positioned just above the edge where the beak will be connected. (Reason for order of operations: eyes will be added while the body fabric is still fairly flat, but after the slightly-tricky addition of the arms. You could also add the eyes after doing the feet — see below. You might as well leave the simple stuff until the harder parts have been completed successfully, to avoid wasting time in the event of a serious problem...)
To make fabric eyes, you need two small circles of dark fabric for the pupils/irises, and two larger ovals of light fabric for the light parts of the eyes. If you will be putting them together by sewing, you are probably best off by stitching the dark circle onto the light oval — perhaps with a very dense stitch? — and then attaching the oval to the body piece. Or it might be better to sew the light oval to the body first, and the dark oval to both. If the fabric is even a little bit stretchy and you will be using a dense stitching, you will probably need to put a piece of slightly-stiff non-stretchy fabric at the bottom of the stack inside the body, to prevent the stitching from bunching up the fabric. The details depend on your fabric and your process, and you may wish to experiment with fabric scraps to find out what works well before you try it out on your penguin.
Sewing the Feet
Each foot is made from two pieces of fabric of the same size and shape, attached to the body. If you look at how the pieces will end up, you will have the outside of the body facing the outside of one foot piece, and the inside of that foot piece facing the inside of the other foot piece.
Start with the body piece and the foot piece that will be attached to it. Pin them together as they should end up, with their ‘outsides’ together; the body ‘outside’ and foot ‘inside’ will be facing you. Using chalk or some other soft marking tool, mark a circle on the fabric roughly 3 cm or 11/4” in diameter, centred in the rounded part of the foot piece. Stitch along that circle, then cut a hole through the two fabric layers inside the circle leaving only a narrow margin (perhaps 4 mm or 3/16”, or even a bit less if you can do it without cutting the stitched circle and if the fabric doesn’t tend to unravel easily). Remove the pins. Depending on your fabric, you may also want to do something to finish the cut edge of the fabric to prevent it from unravelling. The result should be like this:
Invert the foot through the hole, and smooth out the fabric as well as you can. It will probably be a bit crumpled and bunched together at the hole, since the cut edge of the fabric around the hole is smaller than the stitched circle. You should have the ‘insides’ of the two pieces together, with the cut edge of the hole between them; the body ‘inside’ and the foot ‘outside’ will be facing you:
Put the second foot piece on top of the first foot piece, ‘outside’ to ‘outside’, the second piece’s ‘inside’ will be facing you. You may wish to pin them together. Stitch the foot pieces together around the outside edges — just the foot pieces, not the body fabric! Again, you may wish to finish the cut edges of the fabric; remove the pins if you used them. This should be the result:
Finally, invert the foot back through the hole. Result: all the outsides are outside, all the insides are inside, all the fabric edges are likewise inside. When you stuff the body of the penguin, you can also stuff the feet through the holes.
Each body piece has a big wedge-shaped gap, or ‘dart’, at the top of the head and a smaller dart at the bottom, to give reasonably smooth curves in the final shape. For each dart, fold the fabric together, outside-to-outside, with the two sides of the dart together, and sew the dart edges together, starting at the tip of the dart.
Now you can join the two body halves together, outside-to-outside. What you need is a long seam, running from the middle of the beak to the top of the head and then down the back. Ideally, everything will match up: the two short seams at the top of the head from the wedges, and the lengths of fabric in both directions from there. It is probably best to sew the seam in two parts, from the top of the head to the beak and then from the top of the head down the back; that way, if there have been any slight misalignments, you can just trim a bit of fabric from the beak end and/or from the tail end before adding the beak and tail. But you should try aligning the two body halves, and see how best to match up the two sides. You may find that your ‘Tux’ looks better with the two dart seams at the top not quite lined up if that makes other features match up better. It’s a bit tricky trying to get everything to come out right at the same time.
Turn the body section so that it is inside-out, with the feet and arms on the inside.
Put the two beak pieces together, outside-to-outside. Sew along the curved outside edge, but not along the flat edge where the beak will join the body. Then invert the beak so that it is outside-out.
Place the beak piece in position against the body piece, with the beak sticking into the body and the beak’s open side outwards. This should have the beak’s outside surface next to the body’s outside surface and the fabric edges of the two pieces together as they need to be sewn... with the complication that the beak edge is straight and the body edge is curved. Pin the pieces together at the centre of the beak’s open edge, and sew from the centre outwards in one direction, then the other. You will need to keep adjusting the fabric to line up the bits that you are currently sewing, as the curvature changes; this will distort the fabric as you go. Since the length of the beak’s flat edge is the same as the body piece’s curved edge, it should work out. Remember that you only need to sew the top half of the beak to the body edge; these new seams only need to go as far around the beak piece as the seam that joins the two beak pieces together.
If you cut out the tummy fabric in two pieces, sew them together (outside to outside) along the line that connects them.
Pin the centre of the top edge of the tummy to the centre of the remaining (bottom) edge of the beak, again outside-to-outside, edges lined up as well as you can considering that you are again dealing with a straight edge on the beak and a curved edge on the tummy piece. The outside of the tummy piece should be facing the inside of the body. Sew along the beak-tummy edges as you did with the beak-body edges, again from the centre outwards in one direction and then the other, adjusting the fabric as you go to align the bits of the edges that you are working on.
This should leave you with the fabric edges for the tummy piece and the two sides of the body part nicely aligned. Pin the fabric together along these lines down to the narrow bottom ends of the sides of the body part — outside-to-outside, as always. If everything matches, go ahead and stitch the seams; otherwise, see below for possible adjustments.
If everything has worked out just right, you will have the tummy nicely joined to both sides of the body part, and the narrow bits at the bottom of the sides of the body will be exactly lined up with just enough slack that you can stitch them together, outside-to-outside. It is also possible that there will be too much at the bottom of the body parts — in other words, that the length of the fabric edge for the body part will be greater than the length of the edge of the tummy. This is easy to deal with: sew downwards from where the bottoms of the sides of the body part just touch, and trim off the extra fabric. The more difficult problem is if the sides of the body have come out too short to match the tummy. If you see this coming up as you are sewing along the seams, one way of solving the problem is to stop sewing and shorten the tummy piece a little bit before you get to the bottom.
If you sew all the way and end up with a gap between the ends of the body piece, you may need to cut a small patch of body fabric and sew it in to fill the gap, joined to the tummy piece and to the ends of the body piece. A better solution may be to give the penguin a ‘tummy-tuck’ — that is, make a dart at the bottom of the tummy. Fold the tummy in half along its centre line, outside-to-outside, and sew the ends of the body part to each other starting at the bottom edge. Then continue the seam up into the tummy piece, curving towards the fold in the fabric to make a dart.
If you make any of these adjustments, you may need to make a change in the bottom piece to make it match: trim it slightly smaller, for example.
If you turn your Tux outside-out at this point, he should be looking pretty much as he ought to, except for an approximately-triangular hole at the bottom which will match the ‘derrière’ piece.
More on Eyes
If you will be using eyes that go through the fabric, now is the time to add them. Put your hand through the hole at the bottom of Tux as though he were a hand puppet, and mark the locations for your eyes by sticking a couple of sewing pins in above the beak. When you have the pins positioned correctly, you can use small sharp scissors to cut small holes in the fabric at the proper locations. Depending on the fabric and on how the eyes fasten, you may wish to treat the cut fabric edges here to prevent fraying. Then attach the eyes.
Turn Tux inside-out. Pin the centre of the front edge of the bottom piece to the centre of the front bottom edge of the body section (which should be at the seam between the narrow bits of the body sides)... outside-to-outside. Sew the front edge, centre to outside in both directions, until you reach the triangular corner of the bottom piece in each direction.
From here, you have two relatively straight seams to sew, along the two edges of that triangle, to the tip of the tail. Compare the lengths of the fabric edges. If everything has worked out, the lengths will be the same, and you can proceed with the sewing.
You may also find that the body edges are a bit too long. If the discrepancy is small, don’t worry about it; it just means that your Tux will have a bit of an extra-long tail; at the tip of the tail, you will be sewing the last bits of the body piece to each other instead of sewing them to the bottom piece. If the discrepency is larger, you can fix it by sewing slightly larger wedges along the bottom edges of the body piece than you did before; this will gather together the fabric along those edges, reducing the length of the edges.
If the edges of the bottom piece have come out a bit longer than the edges of the body’s sides, you can trim a bit from the edges of the bottom, especially at the tail end — make the angle at the tail end of the bottom piece less acute. This reduces the length of the edge of the bottom piece.
Sew one of the seams, front to tail, and perhaps a bit of the other. Make sure you are left with an unfinished seam that you can use to turn Tux outside-out, and to stuff him through. The gap should be big enough to get your hand through.
Get Tux outside-out. Through the hole in the bottom, insert stuffing, starting with the awkward parts: the feet, and the arms if you want to stuff them and have left them with openings. These work best if you use many small bits of stuffing, carefully packed into the spaces in the feet and arms. Then put stuffing into the top of the head, then the beak, then the rest of the head, then the body.
When the body is perhaps half full of loose stuffing, if you are sewing with a machine, you may want to try to stitch part of that last seam by pulling the fabric edges, inside-out, through the gap. The difficulty involved in getting this to work neatly is enough that it may not be worth the minor saving in time and effort which results from having a shorter final seam to stitch by hand.
Continue adding stuffing until the body is as well-packed as you like.
This has to be done by hand (or at least I don’t know any better way). The goal is to sew this final seam so that when you’re done, as little as possible of the stitching can be seen. You do this by pulling the unconnected edges through the remaining gap, moving along the seam and reducing the gap as you go.
Start by pulling the forward edges of the body and bottom pieces through the gap, and start your hand-stitched seam at the end of the previous seam which joined the fronts of the body and bottom pieces. Work your way along, pulling the bit that you are currently stitching out through the narrowing gap. You must take care to keep your stitches even, when the fabric edges will probably be trying to pull back inside the body.
When the gap becomes too narrow to work through, the last part will have to be done from the outside. Make sure that the remaining fabric edges are nicely tucked in and straight, then sew the last part of the seam. If you keep your stitches as small as you can, the seam should not be too obvious.
Still More on Eyes
If your eyes are to be simply glued on, or otherwise attached to the body after the sewing is done, this is (obviously) the time to do it.
You should now have a completed Tux!