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How to start making puppets?

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

  1. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    More Questions!

    I hope to one day give more answers than questions :) In the mean time, here is my most recent list of questions:

    1. If my puppet body with the head sitting on the body (very little built up neck) is about 19" how long should I make the arms and legs?

    I used a pair of shoes from my youngest (she's soon to be 3 years) who wears a size 3 (shoes as well as clothes). I'm happy with the feet and the hands, used her hand to make a mitt pattern for size and then used that to make a 3 finger puppet hand.

    2. The other problem (I mentioned in an earlier post) is the mouth. I made a mouth, got it 1/4 glued in before I realized it was too big. It didn't turn out so good. How do you measure to make a mouth?

  2. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    I'm a-ok on the non-freezing thing...(until we magically move me to Toronto)

    As far as measuring a mouth, it really depends on how you're constructing the head first...Best thing I do is to cut a larger piece of fabric, pin that in to see if it will work, then slice it down from there. Then cut the mouth plate (in your case, the cardboard) to fit the fabric lining of the mouth.

    IF the puppet's mouth is already sewn in, i flip it inside out & then cut out the piece that I need based on what I trace.

    man, talk about clear as mud....
  3. Patience

    Patience Active Member


    Thank you, StacyRebecca

    I used the free patterns to build heads out of paper. Doing so gave me a rough idea of how things should go together. After staring at hat patterns and my paper models for days, I free hand drew the head. It turned out pretty good until I ruined it by trying to put the mouth in.

    Tonight I tried remaking the head, shouldn't start important projects overtired. I glued the mouth shut, because I figured it would be easier to glue the chin on while the head was still flat! and forgot to leave an opening! I had to slit his mouth open again! :o Now his lips are jaggit! I'll work on fixing that at Naptime! that is if I think of a way to do so before that!:search:

    Any ideas on how long to make the arms and legs?

    Toronto isn't that cold (at least it wasn't today!). I usually wear the liner out of my jacket, but I don't stay out all that long.

    I am sure the mud will clear. I'll have to watch those YouTube videos again.

  4. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    You have to be careful with a hot wire cutter; it's melts the foam and gives off toxic fumes. Using any kind of heat on foam produces toxic results (won't necessarily kill you, but the chemicals are not good to be exposed to over a long period of time).

    For mouth size, you have to measure the total diameter of the mouth opening on the puppet pattern and make sure it's the same as the diameter of the mouth (does that make sense?).
  5. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    Mouth Pieces

    Thank you Buck-Beaver! The "Mud thickens" but I actually think I understand what you are saying. Turns out I had it right, just didn't count on turning the "gums" in on my first attempt. Didn't realize I was going to do that until I started the glueing.

    What do you use to make the "Mouth Plate", that Stacey-Rebecca referred to?

    As I've already admitted I am a Perfectionist so I like to do things right. That attitude has gotten me into lots of trouble, but it has also helped me through as well. Did I mention the French Seams I put in the "Sleeve Cavity"?

  6. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    oooo french seams! oh man i love french seams.

    Mouth Plates can be made of anything that works. Usually cardboard, pliable plastic, or gasket rubber. usually its two pieces hinged with something else that's pliable, or its one piece that is scored.
  7. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    In the last couple years I have started using very flexible vinyl because it allows the puppet's face to be extremely expressive. This only works if the mouth plate conforms roughly to the dimensions of your hand though; for larger mouths I find it's usually best to use a more rigid material (any of the ones Stacey suggested work great).
  8. Onath

    Onath Well-Known Member

    What is a french seam?
  9. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    There is a good page explaining them here.
  10. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    My next question is: to hand sew or use the machine, to sew the "skin". (I really need to catch up on the proper lingo!)

    I am ready to cover the foam of my first Puppet. I think he/she (not sure yet) is pretty much ready for this stage. I just can't decide which will be better/easier. I know better doesn't necessarily mean easier. But I'd like opinions, please!

  11. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Hand sewing tends to give you better-looking results, but takes much, much longer. When you are covering a puppet with "skin" sometimes you have no choice but to sew certain sections by hand. The only thing I always sew in by machine is the puppet's mouth.
  12. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    Hot Glue Tricks

    At some point I said I wanted to give back, here goes:

    These are tricks you may or may not already know about.

    My GrandMother was a talented lady, she could make wonders out of nothing with food or fabric. She told me, if you dip your fingers in cold water before you touch Hot Glue, you wouldn't get burnt. (well not as bad anyway). The other thing she told me was: if you want to get rid of all those "glue hairs" pass over them with a hair dryer and the magically melt away.

    Something I discovered is to use silicone when using Hot Glue. I have a silicone pot holder, which is worthless as a pot holder (because it also came from Dollarama, like the glue gun and the glue sticks!) but it is a great place to rest my hot glue gun when I'm not using it. The other day, I took out a silicone spatula and used that to spread the hot glue. It worked great and the dried glue just snaps off once set.

    Hope this is useful to someone,:D

  13. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    In Search Of Foam-Help!

    O.K I finally found a place that didn't need to call me back. They have what I want and they are willing to sell it (even small quantities!). However, I couldn't answer enough questions to actually get it! I know I need the "Open Cell Foam with a 35 ppi" The guy said "yes but what density do you want?" I didn't know! Do any of you?

    Please help, I feel so close to actually having a supplier, all I need is a little more info and I will be able to build puppets and share.

    Thanks for any/all advice/help
    I would greatly appreciate

  14. ChickyBoy37

    ChickyBoy37 Well-Known Member

    Okay I have a good one, how do I make it so the stitches on my puppet are well hidden and less revealing?
  15. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    Kuriboh Man,

    I can tell you the stitches but I will have to spend some time looking for a link to explain. Hand sewing is NOT my favorite part (when I was in Fashion, I paid to get someone else to do it for me!)

    The stitches have to be small and close together to be truely hidden. If you dyed your puppet it may be worth your while to dye the thread. Upholstery thread is the strongest!.

    That being said, use a WHIP stitch or a (sorry, I have an upset child) I can't think of the proper name, but it looks like the stitches on a football or baseball.

    Sorry I don't have time (right now) to do the investing to find a good explanation. Hope this is enough to get you started.

    Remember to take the stitches far enough in from the edge so the thread won't cut into the foam/fleece and pull out. Keep the tension fairly tight, but not so tight it rips out.

  16. ChickyBoy37

    ChickyBoy37 Well-Known Member

    I heard the Ladder Stitch helps. can you shed some light on that?
  17. Teenager's

    Teenager's Well-Known Member

    Hey Patience,

    He means like half inch or 1 inch thickness.
    Half inch is recommended.---Also does this place sell it in white?
  18. Patience

    Patience Active Member

    Foam Density?

    Thanks for the suggestion, but that would just be too easy! I told him I wanted 1/2" foam in a 35 ppi, but he still wanted a Density Number. I guess I can't really tell you what I felt like saying! Because I think his personal DENSE-ity number was as high as Jethro! (if you get my meaning) (my hubby loves the old shows!). I'm suppose to find out and get back to him. I'll have to call the Scott people in the US to find out and then go back to DENSE-ity Man. Sorry, Teenager, we didn't get to talking color yet! It's on my list of questions! just as soon as I can get him past the DENS-ity issue!

    For anyone in Canada, I spoke to the founder of the "Famous Peoples Players" today. She says they stopped using the Scott foam years ago! As a result, she couldn't tell me where to find it. She did tell me that she uses nothing but Upholstery foam (I have the name of that supplier) for all their stuff and even has some things that were made 30+ years ago!

    Gotta go, if anyone can help with the DENS-ity issue I would greatly appreciate your input!

  19. Patience

    Patience Active Member

  20. Patience

    Patience Active Member

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