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How to make a puppet pattern

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Yahnke, Nov 23, 2003.

  1. Yahnke

    Yahnke Well-Known Member

    Perhaps you, who have have built several puppets are just very talented,can help me out. I love making puppets even more than i like performing them. however, the only pattern i have is for a human puppet. I want to make a monster puppet, like grover, elmo, etc. I am trying to come up with a pattern for a head shaped like elmo's. any advice? my problem is that i don't know where to put darts, or where to use curved lines instead of straight ones. I read someplace that you just draw the shape you want...only make it a little bit bigger than the size you want and then make another one and glue them together and that'll work..is that true? help me out please. Or if you have patterns you wouldn't mind sharing...please let me know. Thanks!
  2. DPuppets

    DPuppets Well-Known Member

    I am sure there are alot of different ways. And everyone will tell you different. The way I make a head is I take a 4" thick piece of foam. I draw the shape of the head I would like to see (Smaller than actual head would be.). I am only making side profile of the head not the whole head. Then I take sander and knifes to cut the shape I would like the head to be. Then I hollow out the head leaving the about 1/8" . You will see that you have a miniture side profile of the head. Then I cut that into patteren pieces so that it lays flat. You will cut darts and everything is cut in a curve not a straight line. I take those to the copier and blow them up to the desired size. And make my patteren out of that. I just flip the pattern of the other side and glue them all together. It takes some practice but, they come out being beautiful puppets. For the mouthplate I take the head which is full size of what I need and place a piece of poster board in the mouth and draw it out. I will work with it and fine tune it to the liken. I know it sounds little hard but...I love it.
    Also you can do the way they made Barney and make a clay scupture of what you are looking for. Wrap it with plastic wrap and cover that with masking tape, over the entire thing. Then cut the side profile out and do the same as above to make the patteren.
    HOpe that helps a little you can email me darren@dpuppets.com if you need me to explain more.
  3. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    You could probably modify a "person puppet" pattern to suit your needs. There are a variety available. Search the puppetry forum for "puppet pattern" and a few threads with more info should come up.

    I think there is also a web site that sells a Monster Puppet pattern, but I can't seem to find it. Maybe you'll have better luck searching.
  4. Whatever

    Whatever Well-Known Member

  5. Yahnke

    Yahnke Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the fast replies!!! Dpupp- i understand how you do it the way you do, and i am sure it works great, but there are two things keeping me from doing it that way- 1.) cost of foam 2.) time----but maybe i will reconsider it later if nothing else works. Thank you very much for your advice. I also make my mouth plates the same way you do! Dpupp- thanks also for explaining where to put darts.

    I have looked at that patterns on puppet-planet, but didn't see anything i thought would work for me. I wasn't aware that there was a site that sold monster puppet patterns. I'll look, but if somone knows off hand where it is, please let me know. thanks everyone...this forum rocks!!!!!!
  6. DPuppets

    DPuppets Well-Known Member

    My make my mouthplates different according to what the puppets functions will be. If it has moving eyes and eyebrows. Those things. I use two materials for mouthplate it self. Centra and Masionite board. Centra is thin pvc plastic. Sign makers use alot of this. Masionite board is just like peg board at Lowe' but without the holes in it. I use a gasket rubber to make the strap which is cover by foam and then covered with lamb skin.
  7. Yahnke

    Yahnke Well-Known Member


    is there an easier way to come up with a pattern besides trial and error? Like i said, time and money are limited?
  8. Whatever

    Whatever Well-Known Member

    Where are you from in Tennessee, Yahnke? There's a group of us from Memphis! (well, 2 of us. picky, picky!)
  9. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Well-Known Member

    For puppet patterns that are pretty simple to make and go together quickly you might want to try a fabric store. There are some books out there on making puppets for kids. You might need to enlarge the patterns a bit for an adult-sized hand but they tend to be pretty simple patterns. They also tend to include patterns for a few different puppets-- humans, animals, monsters-- and frequently use one pattern with several variations to create more puppets. If they don't have a monster you like, you might be able to figure out a good variation on one of the puppets by looking at how the book suggests varying the patterns to create different looks. I'm sorry I can't think of any titles, but I have seen some puppet books at JoAnn Fabrics recently. (The puppet patterns in the pattern books-- where the patterns are sold individually-- are really basic and just good for kids, so I'd avoid those.)
  10. Phantom

    Phantom Well-Known Member

    My first puppet was a monster puppet that was similar in shape and build with the three head approach as found in the foam book. The top half of the head is two semi-circular pieces of foam (the straight edge is the length of the perimeter of the mouth plate) and the curved part is the top. I made one dart in the center and two equal darts on either side about 1/4 way around the semi-circle. I glued the darts closed then the two halves together. I fashioned the jaw in a similar fashion (but with only one curved piece, more of a semi-ellipse than a circle). Believe me, looking back, it was pretty basic. The body was four panels, with slight curves at the top, glued together.

    It may not be sophisticated, but my first puppet attempt was successful. (I used Wally last week at church.)

    Good luck with it and have fun. Be creative. Everything I've built has come from ideas, not patterns (however, I make the pattern as I go). This is an art form, and to be truthful, I'm using crayons compared to most of the persons here. Have fun.

  11. Yahnke

    Yahnke Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all of your posts, i check this thread a few times a day just to read up on any new advice...thanks. Maybe i should clearify a few things. I said i was looking to make a monster puppet similar to elmo and grover...

    ok here is the deal... my niece loves elmo. I love making puppets...
    the next time i will see my niece will be at christmas time. I am looking to blow her socks off with a real live visit from none other than......(copy right laws prevent me from revealing all of my devious yet completely obvious plot)

    If i were just making a puppet of my own imagination, i wouldn't care about a pattern. I would make one by trial and error. But I am trying to be as exact as I can get here, i just don't want anyone to think that i plan on making a rip-off of the real thing and selling it. In fact, i am not even going to give it to me niece I am just going to perform with it and then probably change the features to my own creation.
  12. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Well, why not buy a plush Elmo or Grover and take it apart with a stitch ripper? You could probably get some ideas that way. You might even be able to find an old plush Elmo at a thrift shop cheap. There's also an awesome plush Cookie puppet out there too right now.
  13. BorkBork

    BorkBork Well-Known Member

    I started out a while ago, wanted to build my own puppets. I also enjoy making them more than performing. In fact, i suck at performing. Anyway, i started out knowing nothing, and i mean nothing about how puppets are built. I lurked around muppetcentral and other places on the net looking for info. Then i bought the foam book, finding out how to make puppets with the 3 piece method. But somehow it wasn't good enough for me. Then someone told me about putting profile head-parts together to form a 2 piece puppet head, and that was more in the line of what i was interested in. I cam across Dave Pannabeckers site www.armslength.com where you can order a puppet kit and video. So i ordered the video. I thought that i'll have a look at the video before i go and buy a kit, perhaps i could make a puppet like Daves without his kit just by watching. I never did build one like his, however i did study it closely to try and learn.

    Daves technique involves the 2 piece method, but each piece is made up by several pieces, cut out so they are curved in just the right places so that the foam "knows" where and how to bend just right. I started to use almost the same method, but instead of several pices i use indeed just 2 pices, however i put curved darts in almost the same places as daves "darts" would go. I did send someone a sketch of how it works, i believe it was Phantom. Did the technique work fine for you?

    I hope you know what i am talking about, otherwise purchase the video from Dave Pannabecker. At the moment i cannot post any pics, and my website is down, but as soon as i get the possibility i will make a new website with pictures and instructions on how to build a basic puppet the way i build them.

    It's really not that long ago since i started, it takes not long to learn. And if you have a good imagination you will be starting to make your very own designs as soon as you know how it works.
    From what i have experienced, round sphere like shapes are the hardest, but it's not really that hard after i got it explained to me from Buck. Thanks man!

    By the way, just saw Kami, the HIV positive muppet on FOX News. Bill O'reilley wasn't all that positive about kami, but when is he?

    Well, now i'm just rambling on...hehe.
  14. Phantom

    Phantom Well-Known Member

    It worked great, Anders. I built number ten (Timmy) and have been meaning to e-mail you pictures, but Timmy has been living with one of my puppeteers while preparing for a Christmas performance. I'll send you some shots soon.

    Yahnke, sorry to be of so little help. I understand about the pressure of the Yuletide approaching. I need to build three puppets before December 14. Good luck to you.
  15. Yahnke

    Yahnke Well-Known Member

    Yeah, i have been insterested in puppets for years. There was a church group that performed puppetry when i lived in WI, i took a pamplet from their group. For two years i held onto it. I never did anything with it. However, one day i decided i was going to finally make a puppet. I got a hold of the puppet director and talked to her for hours. She gave me resources galore. However, no patterns. She told me to buy one way streets people puppet pattern (say that three times fast!). Nothing against one way street, but their pattern isn't the greatest. The foam book blows their pattern away, and the foam book doesn't really have any patterns in it. I guess my main problem with OWS's pattern is that it is too complicated. It doesn't need to be as difficult as they make it. So i didn't build a puppet for another year, then finally i went to a puppetry conference in Huntsville, AL this year and i talked to a lady from IN...i think her name was cindy, anyway....she showed me how she makes her mouth plates and puppets. After seeing her puppets, i knew how to make my own...and i did. And i have been dying to make more ever since.

    To make a long story even longer....i have known about the arm's length video, but it's just do expensive...however, i imagine at some point i will break down and buy it.
    However, is Arm's lenth folding up? I read something like that recently?

    thanks for all the advice!
  16. Phantom

    Phantom Well-Known Member

    Check these out, Anders. Couldn't do it without your help.


    These were better quality before I uploaded to Yahoo. Anybody got a better solution? Fozzie Bear, what's that place you use?
  17. Ryan

    Ryan Well-Known Member

    He's adorable! I love him! Two thumbs up! :excited:
  18. BorkBork

    BorkBork Well-Known Member

    Wow, that's a great puppet! Say, is that antron fleece i spot?

    Keep up the good work. When i get my new VDSL-connection i get a new emailadress, we can correspond some more if you want :)
  19. Phantom

    Phantom Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the kind words. I'm pleased with him.

    Why, yes, that is Antron. Once you go Antron, you never go back. I do think I'm improving (hope so).

    I look forward to it, Bork Bork.
  20. Yahnke

    Yahnke Well-Known Member

    Ok, i have heard alot about ALP's creating custom puppets video. I really want to watch it. I could sing you the sad story about finances and cash flow, but you all know it too well so i'll spare everyone...the point being the price is pretty steep and i want to ask if anyone has bought the video, watched it, and now no longer uses it. If you fit that category, i would like to buy/rent and return the video from you. The reason i want to watch the video is just to learn how to make patterns. If no one wants to part with the video maybe you could lend it to me to watch it, or maybe work out some other arrangements. email me or post a reply if you can help. thanks.

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