The Little Felt Turtle / Tortoise

The Little Felt Turtle / Tortoise is a sewing pattern & instructions for a cute felt reptile with a big round shell on its back. The finished animal measures approximately 12 cm (4 3/4″) long and 7 cm (2 3/4″) high. Believe it or not, this little felt creature is actually 4 cm (1 1/2″) longer than the smallest real turtle, the speckled padloper tortoise!

As you can see from the images on this page, the Little Felt Turtle / Tortoise pattern includes one basic design. The difference between the two versions is the presence or the lack of scutes. Real scutes are layers of hard scales on top of the shell. In the case of the Little Felt Turtle / Tortoise, they are felt pieces attached to the panels of the shell, like the ones on the shell of the brown tortoise in the images.

Adding scutes to the shell is optional and it does mean some extra work, but they allow you to add another color to the shell of the finished creature! The scutes also make the shell look bumpier and thicker, which I think creates a more tortoise-like look.

At this point, you may be wondering what is the difference between a turtle and a tortoise. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “all tortoises are in fact turtles, … but not all turtles are tortoises.” In short, they are all turtles. It is just that some land-dwelling turtles have a more specific name for themselves, i.e. tortoise!

The turtle’s hard shell is certainly the most iconic and peculiar aspect of this ancient reptile. But have you ever wondered why the turtle carries around such a cumbersome shell? Even though it is widely assumed that the shell evolved for protection (and it has come to serve that purpose), that may not have been the original reason. Rather, it may be that the turtle’s body started to transform for an entirely different purpose – digging burrows! (For those of you interested in this topic, here is a very interesting article on the “how” and “why” of the turtle’s shell.)

Another iconic characteristic of a turtle is its slowness. The giant tortoise, for instance, moves at an impressively sluggish pace of 0.3 km (360 yards or 0.2 miles) per hour! (FYI, the average walking speed of a human is around 4.8 km (3 miles) per hour.) It is not only their walking that is slow, but their every move seems incredibly unhurried. So I wanted to express that sedated vibe by making the Little Felt Turtle / Tortoise‘s eyes droopy! Of course, if you would rather make your turtle or tortoise look more awake, you can always omit the eyelids.

As pictured above, you can combine the Little Felt Turtle / Tortoise pattern with the Little Felt Rabbit to complete the Aesop’s Fables pair.

I also have patterns and instructions for a finger puppet version of the hare-tortoise pair, as shown on the left. These finger puppets are easier patterns that require simpler sewing techniques than the Little Felt Animals.

All of the above-mentioned sewing patterns are available from my online shop,  You can also click on any photo above to go to the item page and download the instructions instantly upon purchase.