Tropical Snow in Cairns - a Penguin suit tutorial

Finally snow day has almost arrived!  Tomorrow (Tuesday) my daughter's school, up here in tropical far north Queensland, Australia,  will be snow blasted with real, cold, white snow!  (the result of a competition win earlier this year)
Everyone is very excited - me included! I mean how often will we ever get snow in Cairns???
It's an early start to the day - up at 5am, and out with our warm clothes, hats, gloves etc - in 30C heat!!  And of course my camera!

As part of this special snow day, which will be televised here in Australia on the Today breakfast show on Channel Nine this morning;  all of the prep students (4 and 5 year olds) are dressing as penguins  and will have a penguin breakfast in the snow.
I was asked to make 36 penguin suits and I'm so looking forward to seeing all those little penguins waddling about in the snow!
Here's what one looks like (in school uniform!)

The penguins today will be wearing black sleeved tops and tropical shorts underneath - so the overall effect should be better.  And the actual orange beaks are brighter than this one:
Here's the pile of suits - ready to be worn!

For now - here's a tutorial on how to make a penguin suit like this.  When I get home later - I will post photos of the actual penguins having fun in the snow!!

I wanted the suits to be easy for the kids to take on and off and able to be worn over their clothes.  So I decided to make a simple sandwich-board type suit:

First of all, the materials:
Black for the main body and hood:
Main body: 2 pieces - 50cm x 36cm
Hood:  2 pieces - 20cm x 30cm
Wings: 2 pieces - 30cm x 12cm
White for tummy and underwings:
Tummy - 36cm x 28cm
Underwings: 2 pieces - 30cm x 12cm
Orange and stiffening for beak
2 triangles - 24cm base, 14cm high
1 triangle of stiffening, same size

First cut your white tummy piece into an oval as large as possible - I folded the fabric in half so that it was even on both sides.  Then place the white oval on one of the black main body pieces and pin then stitch in place using a zig zag stitch:

Then place the 2 black main body pieces right sides together and join just 3cm across each top corner (the shoulder pieces) Leaving the top open most of the way across for the neck hole.

Then open the 2 pieces out into one large rectangle and neaten all 4 edges with either an overlocker (serger) or for a nicer finish - double turn and stitch.

Next the wings:
Place the black and white parts of the wings on top of one another like this:

Then fold each double layer in half lengthways, and cut in a curve to form the wingtips:

Open out and pin the white and black pieces together:

Then stitch around the edges, leaving a small opening at the top flat end to turn them out:

When you have stitched both wings, turn them right sides out and pin then stitch to the shoulders of the main body:

Now to the hood:
First the beak. 
Layer the 3 triangles with the stiffening on the bottom and 2 orange pieces on top (right sides together).  Pin and stitch along the two shorter edges of the triangle:

Turn right sounds out and press flat.

Now the hood - I forgot to take a picture of the pieces, but you need to cut the 2 rectangles you have into a hood shape, with the short edge on the bottom, then stitch together:
Here's a drawing :
I joined them using my overlocker - so this finished the edge of nicely too.  If you don't have an overlocker you could do a french seam, or put a row of zig zag stitching close to the seam and trim.

Then you need to pin then stitch the beak to the open hood centrally - right sides together:

Then finish the edges of the hood on either side of the beak by double turning under and stitching.

Next you need to put a row of large stitching across the bottom of the hood itself and pull one end of the stitching to gather the fabric so that it's the same length as the back of the neck hole you've left in the main penguin body.
Then pin it on - right sides together and stitch into place.

You then need to double turn and stitch the front of the neck hole just to neaten the edge.

This fits all the 4/5 year olds at my daughter's school (there are many shapes and sizes of child!)

For the downloadable PDF version of this tutorial, click here.

I didn't take as many detailed photos as I usually do for my tutorials, but hopefully there's enough info here for anyone who wants to try making their own penguin suits!

And for over 100 more free sewing tutorials for making all kinds of things and all levels of sewing ability, take a look at 


  1. Your penguin costume is adorable! Enjoy the snow!

  2. Snow in Cairns?! How fun. Hope you had a great time :-) Love the costume too. Very cute.

  3. Super cute costume idea! Following you (-:

  4. This is so cute. I am having a Halloween costume linky party on my blog on Fri, Sat, and Sun. I would love it if you would post this great tutorial.

  5. This is wonderful! I hope you'll stop by and link up to my Halloween Costume Tutorial link up this week at The Train To Crazy!

  6. That's a great tutorial Jill. You've done a great job making all of these costumes. :)


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