Knitting for penguins caught in Rena oil spill

Off the coast of Tauranga, the oil spill from the Rena is having a disastrous effect on wildlife and the environment. A number of little blue penguins have already been caught in the oil and there are growing fears that more will be affected. Sabine of Curiouser & Curiouser and the team at Skeinz are rallying the crafty troops to help with the penguin rescue effort by knitting penguin jumpers, which help protect the birds and prevent them from preening their feathers and ingesting the toxic oil.

Penguin jumper designed to protect little blue penguins caught in oil from the Rena

Clockwise from top left: rescued penguin photographed by Grayson Ottaway (courtesy of NewstalkZB); penguin jumper knitted and photographed by Skeinz customer Charlie; oil from the Rena washes ashore on Papamoa Beach, photographed by Keith Stoneham (courtesy of NewstalkZB).

The pattern takes about an hour to make and you can send your finished jumper to the lovely ladies at Skeinz in Napier, who will make sure it reaches a little blue penguin in need.

*** UPDATE ***

Skeinz had an overwhelming response to this project and have enough jumpers on the needles to meet the initial demand. They’ve asked that if you’ve already got a jumper started, complete it and send it in but to otherwise, check the Skeinz blog for updates as they find out more.

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22 Responses to “Knitting for penguins caught in Rena oil spill”

  1. mayhla says:

    Glad to help – have my needles out and will have a knitty weekend – could you please send an address to post to as I live in Invercargill, thanks

  2. Lucy says:

    Wonderful! The address to post to is Skeinz, PO Box 3123, Onekawa, Napier.

  3. Zoe says:

    Novice question – is this using 4ply? I have some odd 8ply pure wool lying around.

  4. Lucy says:

    The pattern is for 8ply, so you’re good to go! :)

  5. Caroline says:

    Hi there, I am very keen to help but am much faster at crochet than knitting – in saying that I would need a crochet pattern to work off and I’m wondering if anyone would be clever enough to come up with one?

  6. Michelle says:

    Do you have a crochet pattern for the penguin jumper?

  7. surely it would be quicker to re-cycle the likes of old socks than to spend time knitting

  8. Lucy says:

    There’s an update to this story! Skeinz have had an overwhelming response to their call for help and currently have enough jumpers on the needles to meet the initial demand. If you’ve already got a jumper started, send it in, but otherwise they’re waiting to see how things pan out over the next week and will keep update their blog if they need more made:

  9. Lucy says:

    Hi John – quite possibly! It’s a good idea – perhaps suggest it to the Skeinz crew at I think the knitting project is still valid though as it helps raise awareness and there’s heaps of crafters out there who want to do something to help and enjoy spending their time knitting! :)

  10. Amanda Baker says:

    If you convert the pattern into crochet, I’d be happy to whip a few up!

  11. sue says:

    there is also an easier pattern that beginner knitters or people who don’t use circular needles can use
    it’s from phillip island in australia and designed for little penguins
    if the jumpers are not wanted in nz they always need more in australia

    PENGUIN JUMPER 8 ply pattern 8 ply wool or blend 1 pair of No.9 (4mm) knitting needles
    METHOD: Back (repeat exactly the same for the Front)
    Cast on 36 sts.
    K1 P1 to the end of the row. Repeat this row 7 times.
    Change to K2P2 and inc.1 st. at each end of this and the next 4 rows.
    Continue until work measures 10cm. This is a bit shorter than the original
    pattern but we have found that it works better.
    Decrease 1 st. at each end of every row until 28 stitches. {flipperhole}
    Dec. 1 st. in the middle of the next row. (27 sts.)
    K1 P1 for 16 rows. {neck}
    Cast off loosely.
    Make the 2nd side exactly the same as the first. Using a flat stitch like mattress stitch, sew the together and the leaving the open.

    to send to australia
    Mail finished Jumpers to:
    Penguin Foundation C/- P.O. Box 97 Cowes Victoria Australia 3922

  12. Zoe says:

    o.k., so I was a bit slow and now the little pengis are all dressed up but my knitting needles that I’ve dusted off have now got nowhere to go :( any other good causes I could be knitting for?

  13. Steph says:

    Zoe – If you want to donate knitting to your local maternity hospital they always need some. Tons of babies are born into families where there isn’t anyone who knits, and many families need all the help they can get :-)

  14. carol says:

    I have half a doz jumpers made up from the 2001 appeal that I did not send. I will send them now. But wondered if there is a pattern for a knitting machine, or if someone could convert the pattern for future needs.

  15. sue says:

    zoe you could knit for penguins in australia
    they have cute little blue penguins and when there are emergencies anywhere around australia or the world they try and send jerseys

  16. Zoe says:

    Thanks Steph and Sue – will do :)

  17. [...] NZ and it clearly comes second to the rugby!   I love this story, though – jackets for the Blue Penguins to keep them warm and stop them from preening their feathers and ingesting the deadly chemicals [...]

  18. Jenny Allen says:


    Was just wondering why the jumpers need to be 100% wool? Is it that they can’t deal with the synthetic materials? Over here in Oz, most of us knit with the acrylic and it is actually difficult to get 100% wool and quite expensive? Plus it doesn’t wash well and drops when wet?


    Jenny Allen
    South Australia

  19. Lucy says:

    It sounds like the demand for penguin jumpers was blown out of proportion somewhat by runaway publicity – here’s the latest on the story:

  20. Jenny Allen says:


    I left a question as to why the jumpers need to be in 100% wool? I have heaps of acrylic yarn but find 100% wool to be expensive and quite difficult to purchase.

    Is it due to the acrylic being harmful to the penguins?

    I would appreciate a reply, if at all possible.


    Jenny Allen

  21. Lucy says:

    Hi Jenny, apologies for missing your earlier post. I don’t know the answer to your question, I’m afraid, and as I posted above, it turns out that the project has been misguided anyway. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  22. Tia Lorenzen says:

    Hi Can you tell me where I can buy a toy penguin in a jumper? I am going to give it to my grandaughter for xmas thank you

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