Yellow-eyed Penguin Christmas Tree Decoration

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Each year, I try to make a new bird decoration for our Christmas tree. The problem is, I usually get distracted and forget about them which means you'll sometimes find the remains of long-forgotten decorations scattered throughout my office. Open a drawer — kākāpō torso! Open a cupboard — that was meant to be a kākāriki crown!

This year, the hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) has won Bird of the Year so I found the motivation to actually finish a decoration for our tree. I even took photos along the way and made up a pattern.

There's room to play with it. You could swap the Santa hat for a crown, or leave the bottom open and put it on the top of your tree (because let's be real, the hoiho is an ~angel~).

I am also working on a kids version (coming soon) that is simpler. It uses hot glue instead of a blanket stitch.

Want to help hoiho?

If you want to make hoiho especially happy this Christmas, think about making a donation to Forest & Bird. They do amazing work to help protect and advocate for yellow-eyed penguins here in New Zealand.

Supplies:

  • 1 sheet of black (or dark grey) felt
  • 1 sheet of yellow felt
  • 1 sheet of white felt
  • 1 sheet of pink, orange or light brown felt
  • 1 sheet of red felt
  • Black stranded cotton
  • White stranded cotton
  • Silver or gold stranded cotton
  • Hot glue gun (with glue)
  • Hobby fill

Optional extras:

  • Crystal or googly eyes (instead of felt)
  • Folley bell(s) for extra Christmas jingle

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: Print the Pattern and Cut Out the Pieces

Print the pattern on an A4 sheet and cut out the pieces.

This will make a decoration that is 11.5 centimetres (4.5 inches) tall.

Step 2: Cut Out the Felt Pieces

Lay the pattern pieces on your felt. Use pins to stabilize the pattern before cutting them out.

Some pieces need to be cut on a fabric fold (see photos).

If you need to cut 2 pieces, I found it was easier to fold the fabric and cut the pieces at the same time. This resulted in a more consistent cut and saved on fabric.

Step 3: Glue the Tummy Pieces to the Body Pieces

Before you glue, lay the tummy pieces on the body pieces and try putting the body pieces together to make sure everything is around the right way.

Once you're happy with it, go around the edges of the tummy pieces with your hot glue gun and stick them onto the body pieces.

I experimented with putting these on after I had sewn the body pieces together, but it resulted in the tummy pieces looking a bit crinkled.

Step 4: Sew the Middle Piece Along the Back of the Body Piece

Line the middle piece up on the inside of the body piece. It should fit the curve on the back of the penguin's head (see photos for an example).

Use a blanket stitch to join the pieces.

Step 5: Sew the Middle Piece Along the Bottom of the Body Piece

Once you get to the end of the lined up pieces, you will need to curve the middle piece so it lines up with the bottom of the body piece (see photos).

Continue with a blanket stitch to join the pieces.

Once you hit areas with the white tummy piece, try to feed the needle between the layers (see photo).

Step 6: Sew the Middle Piece Along the Front of the Body Piece

Curve the middle piece again so it lines up with the front of the body piece (see photos).

Continue with a blanket stitch to join the pieces.

Note there is one small part at the end of the middle piece that you will need to line up (see photo). This one is quite small and fiddly, so I used smaller stitches.

Tie off your thread.

Step 7: Sew the Second Body Piece to the Middle Piece

Line the second body piece up with the other side of the middle piece. You may want to use pins to hold it all in place.

Use a blanket stitch to join the pieces.

Go back to steps 4, 5 and 6 if you need a reminder on how it should be joined.

Step 8: Stuff Your Hoiho!

The top of your body pieces (where the hoiho's head will eventually be) will still be open.

Use this hole to stuff the hoiho with your hobby fill.

You can also use the inner of an old pillow or cotton wool.

It's up to you how chonky your hoiho is (though remember that hoiho beef up to more than 40% of their normal body mass before they moult. Some get to over 8.5 kg before they shed their feathers).

Step 9: Stitch the Top of the Body Pieces Closed

Using a new piece of thread, sew the top of the body pieces closed using a blanket stitch.

Step 10: Glue the Headband Piece to the Body Pieces

The headband piece goes over the back of your hoiho's head

Before you glue, lay the it on the body pieces and use a pin to keep it in place.

Once you're happy with the position, go around the edges with your hot glue gun and stick it onto the body pieces.

Step 11: Glue the Beak Pieces to the Body Pieces

First, you need to glue the beak pieces together at the tip.

Once this is done, spread the beak pieces and put on on each side of the body pieces.

Before you glue, pin them in place to see how it looks. I noticed that if I positioned the beak a certain way my hoiho looked a bit sad (which is fair, since they are one of the rarest penguins in the world).

Once you're happy with the position, go around the edges with your hot glue gun and stick it onto the body pieces.

Step 12: Add the Eyes

There are a few options for the kind of eyes you can use.

The first is to cut out a pair of eyes using felt. You will need to glue these on.

The second is to use crystal eyes. These are usually used for making teddy bears and will be available at your local craft store. To put them on, carefully pierce a hole through the headband piece and the body piece. I used the tip of some nail scissors to do this. Be careful and take your time! It's easy to make the hole too big. Once you have a big enough hole, screw the eyes in. I used a dab of hot glue to keep them in place.

You could also use googly eyes.

Step 13: Make Your Hoiho's Santa Hat

Sew the edges of your Santa hat piece together using a blanket stitch. I used a single piece of thread so it was nice and fine.

Glue the band piece around the bottom edge of the hat.

Step 14: Add a Hanger to Your Santa Hat

Now you need to use your silver or gold cotton to add a hanger to your Santa hat so the hoiho can dangle from your Christmas tree.

There may be a simpler way to do this step, but here's how I did it...

Push your needle and thread through the top of the santa hat. Don't pull it all the way through.

Push your needle and thread through your pom-pom. Don't pull it all the way through.

Push your needle and thread back through your pom-pom to create a loop. This will be your hanger.

Push your needle and thread back through the top of the santa hat. Make sure not to accidentally pull the loop back through or you will have to start again.

Take your needle off the thread.

Join the threads at the bottom and tie a knot.

Pull your loop through the top.

Step 15: Glue the Santa Hat Onto Your Hoiho!

This is where you can add optional extra Christmas jingle by putting a bell inside the hat.

Before you glue the hat on, use pins to attach it to your hoiho's head. Make sure the seam is at the back.

Once you're happy with the position, put a line of glue along the edge of each side of the Santa hat and stick it on. Remember this is what will hold your hoiho on the tree, so make sure it's on securely.

Step 16: Hello, Hoiho!

That's it, you're all done.

If you want to make hoiho especially happy this Christmas, think about making a donation to Forest & Bird. They do amazing work to help protect and advocate for yellow-eyed penguins here in New Zealand.

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    3 Discussions

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    Alex in NZ

    16 days ago

    Really nice! Thank you for sharing your idea :-)