Introduction: Tux the Linux Penguin Costume

This instructable will show you how to make a Tux costume. For those who don’t know, Tux is the mascot of the Linux operating system. I wanted to make a Tux costume for one of my school spirit days, but hours of searching for instructions proved fruitless, so I decided to make one myself. Essentially, this was created by blowing up the plans for a stuffed animal, with a few modifications, so it can be further modified for a wide variety of other things.

Note that this project will require a significant time investment, 20-30 hours or so, and costs >$60 depending on where you get your fabric, so make sure you have the time and money to devote to this before starting.  This project is best for someone who has some sewing experience, though it does not require anything fancy.

Step 1: Plans

The first step is to find (or make) plans for the stuffed animal version of your costume. The Tux plans I found and used were from, specifically this pdf . Print two copies of the plans out, and cut out each piece from one copy. The other copy is so that you can scale the pieces properly later.

Step 2: Scaling

Once you have your pieces cut out, it is time to scale them to your height. I am approximately 5’ 10”, and the plans showed the stuffed animal to be about 30 cm in height. I scaled my pieces by 6, which ended up being a tad short, perhaps due to errors from my scaling method. For scaling, I taped together sheets of newspaper, projected the pieces onto it, and traced the shadow generated. To get the right dimensions, look at the scale given on the plans, and multiply that by 6 to get the correct size for a costume. Then project each piece on the wall, and adjust the projecting equipment until the shadow measures what it is calculated to be. After tracing each shadow, cut them out of the newspaper and set them aside.

Step 3: Jury-rigged Scaling Method

Not having a projector of any sort, I was forced to fudge it. To follow my method, you will require some way of holding the patterns stationary, elevating materials, and a directed light source, the brighter the better. I used a long thick wire held in place with a C-clamp to hold the patterns stationary, and offset them from the wire with tape. Basically, keep the pattern stationary at a height close to that of the light source, and move the pattern and light source closer together to increase the size of the shadow, and further apart to decrease the size. Adjust the two until the shadow is the size you calculated, and then trace around it on the newspaper with a pencil, and then go over that with a marker once you are sure that is the final size you want. The brighter the light is, the more distinct the shadow will be, and the easier the tracing will be.

Step 4: Better Scaling Method

Scaling could be done much better if an overhead projector or regular projector can be obtained. With a regular projector, you can just project the plans and zoom in until the projected pieces are of the proper size. With an overhead projector, you can place the cut out pieces on the projector, and move the projector around until the shadow is of the proper dimensions, then trace and cut out as detailed previously.

Step 5: Buying Fabric

Now that you know how large you want your costume to be, its time to buy the fabric. For Tux, I used a rather furry black for the main body, a similarly furry white for the belly, and a short haired yellow for the nose and feet. BUY MORE FABRIC THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED!! I went back to the store four times because I messed up or underestimated how much I needed. More is better, and it saves you an extra trip or two. 

Step 6: Tracing Out the Patterns

Fabric and patterns in hand, it’s time to start tracing them out on the fabric. Take each pattern, place it on the side of the fabric that will be INSIDE the costume, and trace it out with a marker, crayon, or chalk. Make sure that the pattern does not shift while you are tracing it, either by pinning it down or placing weights on it of some sort. I found that for black fabric, as I had no white chalk, it made more sense to pin the pattern to the fabric and just cut it out with the pattern still on.  For the belly, make sure that you cut out one side, then flip the pattern over to cut the other side, not just rotate it.  I messed up on this, and had to go buy more fabric to fix it.

Step 7: Commencing Assembly

Once all the patterns are cut out, it is time to being assembling them together. I found it useful to assemble parts separately, then join them to the main piece when possible, though of course it can be done in any order. First, assemble the arms, this is rather easy. Simply pin them together, with the furry sides together, and sew along the border, leaving an inch at either end to connect them to the body. Next, join the two halves of the belly together, pining the two long sides together, furry sides inside, and sew all the way along that edge. Note: do not sew the feet together yet, they must be connected differently.

Step 8: Assembly Continued

Assemble the main body of the costume. For Tux, this consists of a couple steps. First, sew the two halves of the body together (furry sides inside) along the back seam (I cut my two halves out of a folded piece of fabric, already joined along that seam, so this was not needed). This next step can be rather tricky; the head needs to be sewn into one piece. Set the furry sides together again, and pin one seam of tux’s head (see picture). Sew along this seam, and stop. Repeat on the side opposite, and then do the same thing to the two remaining seams. (See picture for result) Sew the two seams at the bottom, where there is a slight removal of material together, and finish with sewing the end of the penguin together.

Step 9: More Assembly

It’s time to put the derriere on Tux. This is going to be a very very annoying task, as it just doesn’t seem to fit. The answer to this is that it doesn’t, just pin it up and sew over the extra fabric. Fit the derriere piece of cloth in the general location it should go, and pin at the front, back, and each side of the derriere (see picture). Place more pins along the seam, until the cloth is as evenly divided as possible.

Step 10: Almost There

Time to attach the feet to Tux. Flip the body right side out, so the fur is on the outside. On the pattern, it shows that Tux’s feet should be attached on the main body, not the derriere, but for the sake of being able to walk semi-normally, place the feet on the derriere instead, but still near the front. Stand inside the costume, and decide where you want the feet to go. When you know where you want them, mark those points clearly on the body, and mark the middle of two feet pieces. On the OUTSIDE of the costume (furry sides together again), pin the feet in place, facing forwards. 4 pins should be sufficient; you are only sewing a small square to the body, large enough for your foot to go through. My pins were about two inches away from the middle point, but make sure the square marked out is more than large enough for your foot and ankle. Go ahead and sew this square, and then cut a hole inside the square. I just cut from the center along the diagonals until I reached the square, but any method of removing the material will do. To finish the feet, flip them through the hole, and sew the other half of the foot on (furry sides together), then flip it back through the hole. Just a couple more steps to go!

Step 11: Belly

Time to attach the belly, one of the most annoying parts. Similar to the derriere, it is not going to be the right fit, you just have to force it. Flip the costume inside out, and sew the furry sides together.  Use 5 pins similarly to the derriere, one in the bottom middle, one at the far side of each lower curvy section, and one at the far sides of each smaller curvy section. Use a lot of pins to make the fabric as even as possible, and sew over the excess fabric while trying to keep it neat. Follow the plans for how to attach it, but make sure only to sew one side of the belly on. The other side is going to be the access point for getting in and out.  Do not sew the top of the belly to the main body, as attaching the nose will be very difficult if you do so.

Step 12: Getting in and Out

Depending on your size, you may require a larger or smaller access point. Make sure you can get in and out before you put the Velcro on. I sewed the bottom half of the lower curvy part of the belly onto the main body of the costume, and the curvy part at the top, also sewing a couple inches down from the top curvy part. The rest of the area I used as my access point. Ideally I would have used a zipper for this, but I had no idea how to attach a zipper so I used Velcro instead. CAUTION, do not try to sew Velcro with a sticky side. It will gum up your needle and not sew at all. Either use the Velcro without a sticky substance on the other side, or use hot glue to hold the Velcro to the fabric.

Step 13: Nose

Look at the plan to see where to attach the nose sections. Sew each section on separately, one half the nose on the belly and one half on the main body, both at the line where it says “beak”. This is pretty simple, just pin and sew it. When both halves have been attached, flip both halves through and sew them together along the curve, using many pins to keep them together. Flip it back through and you have a sightless wingless penguin, but fear not! Both shall soon be remedied.

Step 14: Nose Addendum

The nose won’t look very good at first, as it is too large (at least for me) on the body. So, I sewed the free material of the belly to the free material of the body. By free material, I mean the part of the cloth that is enclosed by the nose seams. Experiment to find out where you should sew them together, the more material taken up, the smaller the body side of the nose will be. Make sure not to fully seal this, as you need to stuff the nose later, so leave enough room on a side to fit your arm through.

Step 15: Arms

The arms are quite simple to attach. Get inside the costume, and mark where your shoulders are when you stand at the height you want to walk at. Cut a line here, as shown on the plans. Pin the inch wide flaps you have at the end of your arms (furry side outside) to the fabric above and below the slit (furry sides together), one flap above and one below. Sew these two seams for each arm, and you now have a blind penguin! If your seams were to near to the end of your arm flaps, you will have gaps at each end. You can either re-sew it all, or just put some hot glue in that area, and push the gap closed while the hot glue is still hot.

Step 16: Eyes

Last step of construction! I used a silky white fabric for the eyes, though anything white will do.  Use a black mesh for the pupil, the darker it is the lower your visibility will be. Cut out two ovular or arched areas above the nose, symmetrical if at all possible. Cut out whatever shape you want the pupil to be in the white fabric you use for your eyes, and glue or sew your pupil material on the side of that hole that will be inside the costume. Finish by gluing your eye/pupil assembly to the inside of the holes on the outside of the costume.

Step 17: Stuffing

Start shoveling stuffing into your penguin like there’s no tomorrow. I used over 5 lbs of stuffing in mine, and a good section of another 5 lb box. Start by filling the feet to your satisfaction, then start filling up the main body. Make sure you pull the stuffing apart a bit before you put it in, so that it takes up more room. Stuff the main body about a third of the way to the top, then stuff the nose to your satisfaction. The eyes on my penguin were a bit low, and the head was quite high, and I wanted to be able to see. I filled a grocery bag with stuffing, tied it off, and put that in the head of the costume, which kept the top of the head nice and round, while keeping my eyes at the level of the penguin’s eyes. You should be able to get into the penguin now, and walk around some. Keep adding stuffing until you are happy with the result, but make sure you can still get in and out without stuffing falling everywhere. You are now the proud owner of a Tux costume! Now go terrorize those Mac and PC owners.

Step 18: Finishing Touches

I stuck a smile on the middle seam on the nose, and that seemed to have worked rather well (its in the last couple pictures). I just used a strip of black tape I had, but a dark marker some other method should work just as well.  This can get very very hot, so some kind of ventilation would be nice, but if not at least wear light clothing. If you have any suggestions or requests for clarification, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comments. And now, to close with a quote from Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux: “Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen a angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.”

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