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Questions about Puppet Making and Training DVD's

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by newbie77, Mar 22, 2011.

  1. newbie77 New Member

    Hey Guys,

    I've been browsing through the forums for a little while and I had some questions regarding the making of puppets as well as training dvds.

    Since I am so new, I know I will be purchasing puppet patterns from the project puppet website. I want to make a puppet similar to the one that is at the top of their website page (it is the one that is a person puppet, yarn hair, rainbow colored shirt, brown pants).

    1. Besides the price, what is the difference between the simple series and the forma series?
    2. How labor intensive is it to sew without a sewing machine?
    3. Is it worth buying a sewing machine if I plan on making 2 or 3 puppets?
    4. Can I get good results using a glue gun rather than the toxic stuff that requires a breathing apparatus?

    Lastly, since I've never done puppetry before, can someone recommend either a set of DVD's or videos or website that gives tutorials on how to perform a puppet?

    Thanks.
  2. Puppetainer Member

    First off, welcome! And secondly I would like to add that I think you're headed the right direction by selecting a project puppet pattern. I and many other forum users have and continue to use them for good reason. I've only been at this for a few years now and there are many others around with WAAAAAY more experience and the resulting knowledge but I'll take a stab at your questions with what I do know.

    1. Besides the price, what is the difference between the simple series and the forma series?

    I guess if I had to give a simple answer it would be the Forma Series is well...bigger. The size of the puppet will be bigger, you get bigger training and information on some techniques commonly used in puppet building and it will take a bigger amount of time to build. And as the name implies the Simple Series are easier and faster to build.

    2. How labor intensive is it to sew without a sewing machine?

    It is obviously going to take a good deal longer sewing by hand. It is the recommended method for the majority of seams for most puppet builders (including Project Puppet) as it will generally result in seams that are easier to hide. That being said I still often use my machine to sew the arms, body and much of the fleece head covering. I'm just too impatient. Also the first time I tried hand sewing a head it didn't really turn out that great. I'm going to be trying again soon though since I've since learned and practiced quite a bit.

    3. Is it worth buying a sewing machine if I plan on making 2 or 3 puppets?

    Well, if that's all you'll be using a sewing machine for I guess it might not be worth it. The time factor is what's going to help decide it for you. If you're wanting to pinch some pennies and use a machine you could borrow one from someone or possibly pick one up cheap on craigslist or at Goodwill.

    4. Can I get good results using a glue gun rather than the toxic stuff that requires a breathing apparatus?

    You can ABSOLUTELY get good results with a glue gun! I've used contact cement, spray adhesive and hot glue building puppets but for most of my building I use my trusty hot glue gun. There are certain situations where the other types of glue just work out better, but generally I love my glue gun. I should add that I learned that if you're using a high temp glue gun (which I recommend) it is essential to wait 20-30 seconds after applying glue to something (like foam) before you apply a piece of material to it (such as fleece) to prevent the glue from "bleeding" through the fabric and effectively ruining the project.

    As to videos on how to perform I haven't really looked for those that much. Most of what I've learned I've learned from others out in the "real" world. But I wanted to direct you to this website anyway. This guy has a WEALTH of info on building puppets! I HIGHLY recommend using it. At the very least you need to see the video he has showing how to do the Henson stitch. He might have something there on performing too.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/StiqPuppets#p/u

    Best of luck and have fun!
    :D
  3. newbie77 New Member

    Hi Puppetainer,

    Thanks for your reply. It's very encouraging to hear that the patterns over at Project Puppet are used by others on this forum and that you are satisfied with the results.

    So when you say the difference between the Simple and Forma series is the size of the puppet, how much of a difference are you talking about? A 24 inch puppet versus a 36 inch puppet?

    Does the Forma series include instructions for creating bendable hands, arms and legs? I'm not sure what you call it, but it would allow you to position the puppet's hands for certain gestures. This is different from the arm rods which is an exterior rod that you can see that moves the arms around.

    Their website recommends using reticulated foam and they sell it on their website that is 16 by 36 inches in size. Is this enough to make an entire Forma series puppet (head, body, arms and legs)?

    I have looked at stiqpuppet's youtube videos. He has some great info on building puppets but not much on learning puppetry.

    Besides the materials to build the puppet, what are the tools that I would need? I am assuming the following:

    -glue gun
    -sewing scissors
    -quality needles

    Anything else?

    One of the few websites I found that has puppetry tutorials is called puppetsinc. They sell individual DVD's as well as a set. Perhaps someone on this site knows if these are worth buying or if there are other videos I should be checking out.
  4. Animal31 Active Member

    I have a multi-temp glue gun and keep it on low, should I still be waiting the 20 seconds before applying the fabric?
  5. Puppetainer Member

    Well, for me the difference is about 16 inches for the Simple Series compared to 20 inches for the Forma. But I've modified the Simple Series pattern a bit so it may be somewhat shorter going by the original pattern. No shorter than 14 inches I'm sure.

    Well they don't really address legs at all. They do include directions for bendable hands in each of the Forma Series instructions but I think the best instructions by far are in the Punto Pattern instructions. They also have instructions for bendable fingers and attaching arm rods at their website but I prefer the Punto version because they allow for removable arm rods which I prefer. As for bendable arms...they do have directions for making the arms but I don't believe they have any directions for something that would allow them to hold a pose. There are certainly any number of ways that you could accomplish that.


    You can certainly use reticulated foam but especially if you're covering the puppet with fleece I would recommend the more affordable and more readily available poly or upholstery foam. ALL of the puppets I've built so far have used upholstery foam. But 1 yard of foam should be more than enough to build a Forma Series puppet. Though I don't use poly foam for arms and legs. I use polyfill like you would use for pillow stuffing.

    Well...I have a rolling storage unit with drawers that's filled with stuff I use. The handiest stuff would be tailor's chalk and holder for tracing your pattern onto the material, and a seam ripper for those occasions when you need to fix something. I'm blanking on other tools at the moment but I'm sure others will chime in.

    To answer Animal I doubt you'd need to wait. I actually have both a hi temp and low temp gun and I don't wait with the low temp. I prefer just using the low temp for those occasions when I'm going to be gluing fleece to foam.
    :D
  6. Edradour Member

    I have 2 pair of scissors: One small, very sharp pair for precision cutting & a larger pair for cutting posterboard & the like.

    -Razor blades or an X-acto knife for cutting foam
    -markers (I have several colored Sharpies)
    -tape measure
    -pliers
    -wire cutter

    I'm a beginner too & I've started a series of videos that cover the "Glorified Sock Puppet" pattern from Project Puppet. (My slogan now is "If I can do it, anyone can!") I only have 2 videos up right now, but should have at least one new one each week until I finish:

  7. Puppetainer Member

    Hey very nice video series there! Tom over at Puppeteers Unite! also began a series showing the building of a monster using the Roly Pattern. Unfortunately that series stalled after building the mouthplate.

    Here's the link to that one. http://puppeteersunite.com/?page_id=588

    I look forward to the rest of yours Edradour!
  8. Puppetainer Member

    Hopefully that link will work better for you than it does for me. It does work but automatically loads the 8 minute tutorial on making blinking eyes. While that is an excellent tutorial the player would NOT let me pause it to watch anything else. Best of luck!
    :D
  9. Edradour Member

    Thanks for the praise Puppetainer! I'd studied Tom's videos before attempting my first puppet. His knowledge & abilities far surpass mine, so I'm also hoping he continues to make more videos. (My next build will be a Roly.)

    Tom, I know you're very busy, and I know how time consuming it is to film & edit these tutorials, but I beseech you...more please! :insatiable:
  10. Goochman Member

    I just got a bunch of Fiskar scissors at Target on Clearance, might wanna check your local store.
  11. TheCreatureWork Active Member

    Hey Guys! Thanks for the feedback! I didn't know about the blinking eye video played automatically when going onto the Tutorial section- When I go on it doesn't happen to me but I managed to go on my wife's computer and fix the problem. Sorry.

    I'm also finishing the series soon. I've had a couple of set backs due to deaths in the family.
    Sorry.
  12. Ranger2013 New Member

    Hello everyone! I've had some questions about puppet making and i was directed here by Puppetainer.

    I was wondering if anyone has experimented with any other foam other than what Project Puppet offers.For instance, a local Hobby Lobby near me has PolyFoam sheets pretty cheap. The only differences are that it's poly foam and it's 1 in. thick instead of the 1/2 in that P.P. offers. IS this difference in type going to affect the puppet? What about the thickness?

    Also, could someone explain to me the difference between polar fleece and antron fleece?

    Thank you all for your help and wisdom.
  13. Goochman Member

    I use normal polyfoam from Joann's Fabric, at least for now... but I"m still working on my mad puppet skillz!
  14. Puppetainer Member

    Well, as I mentioned earlier in this thread ALL the puppets I've built have been built using PolyFoam rather than reticulated. Reticulated foam is better if you're not going to be covering the puppet with some kind of fabric whether that be fur, fleece or whatever. If the foam is going to be the "skin" of the puppet reticulated is great because you can dye it and with sharp tools sculpt it to work the way you need.

    PolyFoam is fine when covering with fabric. Actually I've even seen some really cool puppets where PolyFoam was used as the puppet's skin. As for thickness, you CAN use 1" but I would recommend trying 1/2" if you can. Especially if you're working with a Project Puppet Simple Series pattern. The smaller pattern might be a bit more challenging with the thicker foam. The greater thickness will somewhat limit you in some shaping if you're trying to make a smaller head and/or body.

    As for the Antron vs. Polar fleece thing I'm going to refer you to another thread where I and a number of other members discussed it at some length. Hopefully it will help. If you still have more questions after reading that feel free to post them at this thread and I'm sure we can come up with some answers for you.
    http://forum.muppetcentral.com/showthread.php?t=52676&highlight=antron fleece
    :D
  15. Puppetainer Member

    Hey Ranger you can check out my gallery of images over at Puppets and Stuff. All but one (Beverly, the maroon live hand puppet that has the blinking eyes) of the puppets shown were built with something other than Antron fleece. I did use Antron fleece to make the maroon puppet. I used polar fleece on the others except for the two red monsters which I made from an old robe my daughter found at Goodwill. Also ALL of the puppets in the gallery were built with good old 1/2" PolyFoam as purchased either at Jo-Ann or Hancock fabric stores.
    http://puppetsandstuff.com/community/index.php?action=gallery&g2_itemId=16649
  16. Buck-Beaver Active Member

    It's really tough generalizing about reticulated foam and poly foam because those are catch-all terms for different types of open cell ("sponge-like") foam. There are a lot of variables, especially thickness of the foam, the chemical formula that's used to make it and the number of PPI (pores per inch).

    I really like 3/4" inch reticulated foam for most things, although 1/2" works well at a smaller scale sometimes. Years ago you could find 3/4" poly foam available commercially, but I have not seen it in that thickness for many years. The foam I have was ordered wholesale and custom cut in to 3/4" sheets by a manufacturer, which is not really a cheap way to go.

    One inch poly foam tends to a little bulkier and heavier than reticulated foam. Not terribly so, but it does make a difference. Sometimes that's a bonus if you want to make a character look especially round, or full.

    I find most 1/2" poly foam a little too flimsy, but again it has its uses.

    Most experienced puppet builders don't just work with one kind of foam, they choose a material that best suits the puppet they are building. My advice is to buy small quantities of different kinds of foam (as much as you can afford), experiment with them and see what the pros or cons of each are.
  17. Puppetainer Member

    What he said.
    :D
  18. The Shoe Fairy Active Member

    Puppetainer, I have got to say you have a good eye for glass eyes! Your puppets pull them off so well.
  19. Puppetainer Member

    Thanks! It's good to know I have an eye for eyes! I do start thinking about how I'm going to do the eyes pretty early in the design process. They're such a critical part of giving each character the right feel.
  20. Ranger2013 New Member

    Thanks Buck-Beaver! I'll get some supplies and if i have anymore questions i'll ask again!

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