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How to start making puppets?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by charlynoa, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. john mark blair

    john mark blair New Member

    the funny thing is, i perused every puppet thing i could find on the internet. puppet tutorials, pictures, looked at galleries and saw books for sale and patterns too. There were alot of good ideas out there and there were neat things like moving eyes and eyelids. the bottom line here in my opinion and i have only made five puppets worth seein in my life so far, is you will learn more by doing. yeah i said by doing. i would say look at the puppet building stuff on you tube, and if you wish get a pattern from a book or a website, but all in all get some felt and make one. even if its just from a sock. but i made my first puppet recently from my own drawn pattern. you will need to draw the fingers extra fat and the shoulder part? yikes a night mare for me. so i leanred to do the body like a sock puppet and attatch the arms later.
    you will learn so very much from making the first one. i made two so called sock puppets from a felt pattern i drew and cut out and stuffed. then i made a foam head for my third, and the fourth? blinking eyelids. just make one and have fun even if its not so great. best way is too learn.
  2. Voiceroy

    Voiceroy Member

    If this has been posted already, my apologies, but I don't have time to review 14 pages of discussion at the moment.

    For anyone wanting to make simple, functional puppets on-the-cheap, I suggest checking thrift stores, yard/garage sales, and flea markets for plush characters that already have an open, working mouth that would fit your hand.

    You can sometimes find interesting-looking character plush toys at these locations for well under $10. I have 5 puppets I currently use in my kids show and stand-up act which cost me less than $3 each because I found them at Goodwill or a yard sale. I bought two more last weekend at a garage sale for .50 each which I'll be modifying shortly.

    Construction is very simple and easy, but first you have to decide on the location of the opening for your hand: the back or the bottom.

    If you'll be using a stage curtain for performance, you might want to cut into the lower back or the bottom of the puppet so you have less arm showing and the puppet has a better aesthetic position from the viewer side. But if you'll be visible and using the puppet like a ventriloquist dummy (which is how I use most of my puppets), you'll want to cut into the plush starting just below the head where the neck begins.

    Once you've made that decision, you're ready to begin.

    1) Using an Exacto knife or box-cutting razor blade, make an incision (on the back or bottom of the puppet) that you feel is long enough to fit your hand inside up past the wrist. For most average-size hands, it should be about 4-6 inches from top to bottom.

    You can also use scissors for better accuracy--helps in cutting a straighter, cleaner line.

    2) Remove enough of the inside plush polyfil material that you can get your hand inside all the way past the wrist and get your fingers up into the mouth.

    Before going any further, take some time here and go through some motions with the puppet to make sure it's comfortable on your hand/arm and that it's a good fit. You might need to make further adjustments, like increasing the size of the incision or removing a little more polyfil.

    3) Take any tube sock, slide your hand/arm into it, and then insert it into the hole you made. Move it around and work the end of the sock so your fingers have a good grip on the inside of the mouth. Note the remaining length of the calf-end of the sock now sticking out of the back of the plush, mark it, and trim off the excess.

    4) Sew the opening of the calf-end of the sock into the opening you cut into the back of the plush body.

    And you're done!

    For even simpler construction, you can go without the tube sock, but just bear in mind that you'll need to reinforce the opening with something (fabric sewn around the opening or even duck tape on the inside works well) or the opening will rip/tear open wider the more you use it.

    And for a little fancier construction, find a tube sock color that's a close match for the puppet body color, or use a black tube sock to match the background curtain of a puppet stage and then you don't have to cut off the excess. And if you have more advanced sewing skills, cut a hole in the toe-end of the sock and attach the sock opening around the mouth as well so you can get a better grip on the puppet mouth and have more freedom to manipulate expression, without the mess and problem of the polyfil falling out every time you withdraw your hand.

    And for a better grip on the mouth--especially if the mouth itself is a hard plastic or cardboard on the inside--I actually recommend taking a leather glove (right or left-handed, depending on your preference) and use an adhesive (like fabric glue, hot glue, or even caulk works pretty well) to secure the glove to the mouth (four fingers on the top, and the thumb on the bottom).

    Only issues with gluing a glove inside is that it a) limits you to either a left or right-handed puppet, depending on which glove you chose, and b) limits your ability to manipulate the puppet's expression freely, but I have Kermit and Elmo puppets that I use with kids occasionally that the plush toy had such a heavy, solid plastic mouth that I could hardly manipulate the mouth at all if I hadn't glued a glove in.

    At any rate, hope this offers some help for those on a limited budget. It's also good practice working your way up to crafting more complex puppets. I have a giant plush lobster that I already modified with a manipulative mouth and full arm for performance, but I'm giving him more character by adding working eyes and antennae.
  3. graphicpirate

    graphicpirate New Member

    I have almost everything under control up to the skin, nose, ears, eyes placement, need some help with order and placement.

    I have been doing a ton of research on making Muppet style puppets but I am a bit poor and cannot afford any books on the subject at this time. I was wondering what is the best adhesive to adhere "felt" or "fur" or other material to the foam as the skin? Also is there a specific kind of felt to use or better yet not use?
    And my last question is how do you avoid wrinkles around areas like the nose mouth and ears?
    I have almost everything under control up to the skin, nose, ears, eyes placement, need some help with order and placement.

    Thanks for reading!
    ): D>
    :coy:
  4. Kuriboh Man

    Kuriboh Man Active Member

    Speaking of which how would you attach the eyes, nose and ears to the puppet?
  5. Kuriboh Man

    Kuriboh Man Active Member

  6. Siege

    Siege New Member

    I just purchased The Foam Book, Puppet Mania! and Puppet Planet from Amazon. I will probably also get one of the patterns from ProjectPuppet after I read the books. Still new to this. I hope that my first isn't my last.
  7. AEaston

    AEaston New Member

    Please, don't let your first be your last. My first one looks like poop. But I remember (9 years ago?) making my first and just being so excited about bringing a bunch of random, shapeless materials into something that had life and almost peed. So I kept trying, and now, I must say my puppets look fiiiiiine.

    So just do it, and keep doing it. I've been building for almost a decade and I don't think there is a person on this forum who isn't still learning...that's what makes this a fun field; there is always something new to try.

    Shine Bright!
    Adam Thomas
  8. DumbAscii

    DumbAscii New Member

    The Order of Things

    Hey all! I've just begun to get serious about making my own puppets (pics and stuff coming soon!) and I was just wondering what order you prefer do things in...

    I mean like making the mouth first, how you attach everything etc. The great thing about all this is there's no one right way to do it!
  9. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I think it's really smart to build the puppet around its mouthplate.
  10. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    Building Puppets?

    Hey all,

    I was curious to know if when you're building puppets, you make patterns as you go. Initially I'd sort of hack it together (when I wasn't using an existing pattern), but lately I've found myself making structured patterns for the puppet, sometimes intentionally to make it easier to do a second time, but I've also (in the case of Mojo and the Raccoon puppet) run through prototypes of the head, and making a pattern is helping me refine the design.

    This does have the handy side-benefit of making it easier for me to redo the puppet later on (if I need to, as I likely will in the case of the raccoon -- I'll probably build a bunch of them for crowd scenes).

    Do you pattern it up?
  11. Blink

    Blink Member

    Yep. It is good practice. Also, if you ever need somone else to build from your patterns you may want to make notes on the patterns themselves to help . It can also help when you have a customer coming to you years later to rebuild a puppet.
  12. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    That's a very good point, I hadn't thought of that.
  13. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Everybody has their own way of working, but for me patterns are essential.
  14. Kuriboh Man

    Kuriboh Man Active Member

    I just got the foam book and I tell you, it's very useful! :) :super:
  15. jacobmaraia

    jacobmaraia New Member

    I bought the Roly pattern from projectpuppet and I think that it was a great starting point. The finished puppet was too small for my hand, unfortunately -- my wife took it over and made a fun little bunny puppet -- so the other two I've built I've just taken the basic shapes and expanded it by about a half-inch all around. I'm now branching out, working with wedges, playing with new shapes. I think that by building new puppets my learning curve is growing pretty rapidly.

    All I need is time, right? I'm hoping within the next few weeks of putting up pics of some of my stuff.
  16. drmolarmagic

    drmolarmagic New Member

    help with making the mouth move

    Hi everyone....I need help with something. We (my son and I) built a Beaker puppet. Only problem we are having is with the mouth movemets. We started with a mailing tube and cut out the mouth, but we are stuck in how to move the mouth. We've tried through the inside of the tube but the angles are tough....any help from the community on ideas to get the mouth to move....Thanks!
    :eek:
  17. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Member

    You could have some elastic hold his mouth closed & then tie a string to the inside of the mouth at the top that goes down, essentially a rod (or it can just hang?) & then pull the string (with a ring on the end) to open his mouth & when you let go the elastic will pull the mouth shut again.
  18. drmolarmagic

    drmolarmagic New Member

    good idea

    Great, I'll try that...the problem I have is with the angle. the mouth is flat closed to the tube at rest and that's a pretty steep anlge to pull against to get it open, but we'll see. I also searched the forum for ideas and found some real "mechanisms". They may be too advanced to build but I'll try the elastic to start and go from there.
    Thanks!:eek:
  19. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Member

    Try putting an eye-hook at the back of the head to thread it through to make it pull backwards before it pulls down maybe? (if I understand the problem correctly...
  20. CrazyHarryFan

    CrazyHarryFan New Member

    I've spent several hours the last couple of days reading and reading and have one question.

    Is there a place on the forum where it has the breakdown of how a puppet is actually made?

    Because there are a lot of links to purchase the parts, but I still don't know how Muppets are made!

    Is there a good link with the breakdown of all that? Because I would love to have a better understanding of how Puppets are actually created! It may be here on the forum, but I haven't really found it yet!


    Thanks!


    ---- Chuck


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