Muppet-y Puppet Instruction
Why don’t you build custom puppets anymore?
Due to my heavy performance schedule and other puppet projects I no longer have the time to devote to building a puppet. I am very detail orientated therefore it takes me a minimum of 20 hours to build a custom puppet. That includes the time to go shopping for supplies, building the puppet, shopping for clothes or accessories for the puppet and standing in line to ship the puppet. I work very closely with the person who commissioned the puppet to make sure the end result is as close to what they had envisioned. I’ve discovered that I enjoy teaching more. During the puppet building, the character of the puppet becomes more developed and real to the person making the puppet.
I want to make a hand and rod puppet which is also called a half body puppet. What do you provide and what do I have to buy?
All you have to buy is the foam, fleece, felt, thread to match color of the fleece and any wigs, clothes, jewelry, special eyes, etc to accessorize your puppet. In my hourly rate I provide instruction, patterns, contact cement, poly fil, sewing machine, sewing supplies such as pins, needles, scissors, etc. and any other misc. supplies or tools necessary to build your puppet.
I want my puppet to have legs, is that possible?
Yes, we can make a full body puppet rather than a half body puppet. It all depends on how you plan to use the puppet. We can discuss which puppet would be best for your purposes.
How long will it take me to make my puppet?
It depends upon your sewing/crafting experience in addition to how complex your puppet is. If you are able to do “homework” on your puppet, the time will be shorter. A good estimate is 3-4 hours a day for three days. Depending on both of our schedules, we can do three days in a row or every other day or one day a week. I will share my puppet making secrets with you.
Day 1: We talk about how you want your finished puppet to look. Cut out the foam to make the “skull” and mouth. Glue it together. Cut out and glue foam pieces together to make a torso. Cut out the fleece and felt pieces to make the covering or “skin” of the puppet.
Day 2: Sew the fleece to cover the head and torso. Assemble the head and torso. Sew the arm/hand fleece. Sew legs/feet fleece if making a fully body puppet. Make wire skeletons for the hands. Cut out hands from foam, glue and assemble hands.
Day 3: Insert hands into arm/hand fleece, stuff poly fil into arms. Stuff legs/feet fleece with poly fil. Sew head to torso. Sew arms to torso. Sew legs to torso. Make eyes, ears and nose. Sew on wig, eyes, ears and nose. Dress puppet and ready to play!
Do I have to know how to sew?
As long as you know how to hand sew you can make a puppet. If you are unfamiliar with machine sewing, I can assist you in that area.
Why do you sew everything rather than use a hot glue gun?
There is no room for error with a hot glue gun. Once something is glued on, it is permanent. I always hand sew legs, arms, wigs, and facial features on. It takes longer than using a glue gun, but if something needs to be adjusted, then it is easy to change with a snip of scissors. For example, a fellow puppeteer grabbed his full bodied puppet (it had legs) for a gig. When he arrived, he noticed that he forgot to bring the puppet’s pants. He was able to snip the stitches that attached the legs to the torso. Viola! He now had a half body puppet ready to perform! After the gig, the legs were easy to attach again with a few hand sewn stitches. No one would ever notice if the legs had been taken off. If the legs were glued on, he would have had to cut the fleece, then try to make repairs later with a glue gun.
Do you have a video tutorial of how to build a puppet?
I do have a video series at this playlist on my Youtube channel. The videos are not detailed step by step tutorials like the tutorials for my animal puppet patterns. These videos are only an overview of how I build a puppet. But it does give a clue as to how involved the process is.
How big are your “muppet-y” style puppets?
They are pretty large. I make the puppets large enough so that they can be dressed in “off the rack” clothes. The head can wear child sized hats. The puppet’s body can wear kids’ clothing sized 18 months – 4 year old. It depends on the style and brand of the clothing. The most common size would be size 3.
Where do I buy puppet clothing or costumes?
My favorite haunts are Goodwill, any thrift store and dollar stores. Halloween is the perfect time to pick up wigs, costumes and accessories. I make my puppets large enough so that they can wear kids’ size 3. It makes it so much easier to dress them. Something to remember when dressing a puppet is how heavy that puppet will be when done. The weight quickly adds up by the time you add a wig, clothes, jewelry and hats. That’s why I like dollar stores. All of their stuff is cheap and lightweight.
Where do I buy the rod that operates the hand?
I recommend Creative Ministry Solutions at http://www.creativemin.com/product/524/accessories for the puppet rod. It attaches to the puppet’s hand with rubber bands. Many puppeteers prefer to have a permanent rod attached to the hand of the puppet. I prefer using rubber bands because then I can take the rod off to change my puppet’s clothes. The shorter arm rod (14 1/2 inches) is perfect for shorter people who have the puppet right next to them (like a ventriloquist). The standard arm rod (20 1/2 inches) size is good for folks with longer arms or performances such as video where the puppet is held over head.
Animal Puppet Instruction
I want to make an animal puppet. What do you provide and what do I have to buy?
All you have to buy is the fleece, felt, and thread to match the color of the fleece. In my hourly rate I provide instruction, the pattern, poly fil, sewing machine, sewing supplies such as pins, needles, scissors, etc. Since I live in Tucson AZ, I purchase Blizzard fleece from Jo-Ann’s.
Can I pick any animal puppet?
Yes, you can pick any animal puppet from our catalogue of patterns at https://thetucsonpuppetlady.com/puppet-patterns-2/
Do I have to buy the pattern?
No, I will provide the pattern and instruction for the construction of the puppet as we are working together. I will send you a pdf of the pattern. You can then print it out if you so desire.