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Mouth problems

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by biblebetty, Apr 7, 2004.

  1. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member

    Hi everybody,
    boy do I have a problem! I don't make people puppets I make object puppets. For instance in October I made a large Whale for Jonah and the whale script. He is 5ft long by 3ft. Also in December I made three talking christmas gifts for the play "The Greatest Gift, now for Easter I'm creating a cactus & two trees. Now for the problem? when I make the mouth I have to create my own mouth to fit the puppet, but when I make the pattern for the material to fit over the puppet, the mouth is never the right size, the big problem is that when you move the mouth the corners of the material come off of the corners of the foam, it is like I did not cut the mouth large enough. can anyone tell me how to measure the mouth properly so the material will fit the foam mouth right. I love making these weird and drifferent puppets and the kids love the ones that are really drifferent but what stops me is the mouth because I'm afraid it won't hold up to the performances.

  2. Puppetplanet

    Puppetplanet Member

    Im wondering..... does the fabric have a stretch? It should, and if it has a stretch in one direction more than the other, then I would suggest putting the stretch in the best position to help with your problem.

    Also, what are you using to attach the fabric to the mouth? Hot glue is okay, but if you know you've got problems or that this puppet is gonna go thru a lot, I would carefully use contact cement. I use the gel type of contact cement and apply it with an old spatula looking butter knife from a utensil set. (easier cleaning). Do this outside for the best ventilation to protect you from the fumes.... and it will dry faster.

    If you don't feel comfortable using the contact cement.... make sure your hot glue is high temperature type so that it permeates the fabric a little better and creates a better bond.

    Hope this helps,
  3. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member


    that is a great idea I may have had the material in the wrong stretch. but should i not measure the mouth? how would I do that. In other patterns the mouth is already in the head of the fabric pattern I have to make my own. So how do they measure to get the mouth to match the foam?

  4. Puppetplanet

    Puppetplanet Member

    Well, since no one else here is responding, I will try to explain my very crude method to making a fabric pattern to cover a foam character I've created.

    Before I do that, I would like to make a suggestion...... just a suggestion..... I have heard of many highly respected builders mention that they don't make or save patterns from most (many?) characters that they create. I ALWAYS do because, lets say I sell a poodle character that I or a client designed as a mascot for her pet store. She uses this poodle puppet to promote spaying and neutering pets :concern: or to adopt from shelters and this character becomes well known and loved by the community and puppeteer. Then one night the owner forgets little Fe Fe the poodle puppet on a counter in a rush to get out the door and a dog in a nearby cage is just within reach of poor Fe Fe.... and well, you can guess the rest. How do I create the exact same size, shape, and features of little Fe Fe if I didn't make a pattern and file it away?

    Not to mention, the more patterns you have in your possesion, the easier it would be to pick one up and alter it a little for a similar character..... saves a lotta time. ;)

    ANYWAY..... my method. I make my foam heads/shapes in a way that no matter how many pieces I use, I always have a right half and a left half at some point.... both are usually mirror images of eachother. I take one of those halves and trace it on a roll of that brown paper bag looking stuff (packaging material) and then use that to trace and cut the fabric. Be sure to pay attention to the direction of the stretch before you trace so that you are using the stretch to your advantage when it comes time for that mouth! :p

    Hope my two cents helps! Maybe Buck, Dpuppets, toastcrumbs or one of the other talented builders will submit a hint or two.

  5. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    You know what people who ask this question need? They need a good sewing tutorial on...is this called draping? Whatever it's called, it's more of general sewing/patterning technique than a specific puppet building one.

    I've writtena tutorial on this BTW, my site should be back up with it by the end of the weekend.
  6. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I'm can't quite grasp the *exact* problem. Do you have pics? Can you take some?

    Something that I know helps is to build the puppet so it's mouth is naturally open, rather than closed. Not sure if you have done that or not.
  7. Puppetplanet

    Puppetplanet Member

    I believe what she's talking about is the fabric in the corner of the mouth is lifting off of the mouth board...... actually, she said FOAM..... hey are you attaching the material to foam or the mouth board?

    Anyway, I had this happen to me once when I cut the pattern without paying attention to the direction of the stretch and the fabric didn't have enough stretch to stay glued to the mouth board.

    She's having a hard time with that problem on all of her puppets because she doesn't use a pattern and isn't sure how to cut the fabric so that it covers the foam and leaves enough material for the mouth.
  8. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member

    that is the exact problem, but I did what the first person suggested and it worked perfect. I have pictures of all my puppet friends but I don't know how to post them on the web site for you to see, I'm asking my daughter's best friend if he knows how to do this so give me a little time and maybe I can show you Ernesto the Cactus
  9. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I'm still confused. :(
  10. Oh my gosh! :eek:

    We've actually stumped Buck! Mark the calendar!!
  11. Puppetplanet

    Puppetplanet Member

    FUNNY! .... But also not good because if he understood he might be able to contribute something better to solve the problem.

    Hang on Buck, I'm going to take a photo of the area she is having problems with and post it later this afternoon.

    Even if Biblbetty might have figured out a solution it's still beneficial to get other oppinions and an answer from Buck is always from a good point of view.

  12. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    The simplest way (conceptually) that I deal with this unknown factor is that I first build and cover the mouthplate. The fabric wraps around all edges and glues to the "backside", which is of course never seen. Then I build and cover the head, and I do the same thing. Allow plenty of fabric to wrap the edge of the foam so that it is glued on the inside. Then I glue the mouthplate into the mouth, setting it slightly inside the edge of the head piece so that it does not show when the mouth is closed.
  13. Phantom

    Phantom New Member

    I understand what you are saying. In the very back corners of the mouth you get a "webbing" effect in that when the mouth opens it pulls the fabric outside the mouth. I, too have experienced that and, in my opinion, if you are using good fabric (especiallly Antron) it adds a cool little...I don't know...smile, smirk thingy. Character or something. I always though it was charming.

    I use either hot glue or contact cement to get the fold over onto the mouth plate attached as far back as possible and let the 1/8th of an inch or so I couldn't get to exists as it is...like real skin... Anyway, if you do as Puppetplanet suggests and pay attention to "stretch", you can get it glued down all the way.
  14. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Hey, hey, hey - you haven't "stumped me"!

    You're just obviously doing a terrible job of explaining the problem. ;) :zany:

    Jinx is right though - it's helpful to make the mouthplate first, and then build the puppet's head up around around that. That's my approach anyway. Some people seem to make heads and then try to figure out how to slap a mouth in to them. That doesn't work very well.
  15. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I start with the mouth first, too. Sort of. I carve Muley's muzzle first (top is 2" foam, bottom is 1" foam), apply the mouth plates, red mouth interior, then cover the muzzle with fur which is then sewn to the proper placement on the head.
  16. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member

    I Want to thank you all for helping me when i got into trouble with my puppet friends, you guys & gals were alway there when i had questions or just needed a laugh. you guys have all be great. well here goes. Big Mike just showed me how to show pictures. I have never done this be for and i hope I remember everything. start praying

    Whale - October - Alternative night - Jonah & the Whale
    Gifts boxes - December - Christmas program - The Greatest Gift
    Cactus & Singers - April - Easter Program - Ministries Concert

    thank-you and I hope this works

  17. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member


    I would like to thank everyone for all the help you have given me in the past months. When I got into trouble with my puppet friends you were all there to lend a hand (err computer) to help me with my problems. and now for the pictures

    Whale - October - Alternative night - Jonah & the Whale
    Gifts boxes - December - Christmas program - The Greatest Gift
    Cactus & Singers - April - Easter Program - Ministry Concert

    if you reconize the singers patterns they are from a class I took from David panabecker. Well worth the price.

    thank-you allhttp://www.wlbconline.com/Alice/

    sorry for the dup, the first time I did this the reply did not show quick, in fact it took five minutes. so I thought I made a mistake and did it again.

  18. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    These puppets look wonderful! So, where's the mouth problem?
  19. biblebetty

    biblebetty New Member

    thank-you I was worried. look at the Gifts Large, Med, Jr., now Look at large very close. on the corner of the mouth you will see the material is lifted off the corner of the mouth from the palate. One of the puppeteers opened the mouth to wide and the corners material popped out.
  20. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    so, just glue it back in place! ;) Won't that work?

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