Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hand and Glove puppets

I don't do too many of these because I like the rod arm style the best.  But occasionally I do want to make this style.  With any luck, I will have need of one of these in the future for an interactive, puppet booth.  So, here we go...

First, we need a pattern.  I made mine by tracing my arm as shown.  Notice, the inside part of the arm angles in quite a bit.  This allows for a more comfortable movement.

Here is the pattern itself with a 1" x 1" grid on top of it if you just want to recreate it.

Cut out 2 of these (side a), flip the pattern over and cut out two more (side b).  Put one cut-out piece of side a and side b, together with the fur covered sides together.  Sew them together without much of a seam allowance (meaning sew close to the edge).  NOTE: You can either sew all the way around, or stop where the slant of the arm meets the body.  Going all the way is easier to explain, stopping makes attaching the body easier.

Now turn each arm inside out.

And now for the body

Here is the pattern I used.  The edge on the right is a fold line.  So draw out this part and flip the pattern over the 'fold' to draw the other half.  You will need two of these.

If you sewed the arms all the way around above, simply put these two pieces, fur sides together and sew the curve of the body and the slant below the curves together.  Leave the small top open for the neck and the bottom open for your hand.   Now sew the arms onto the body.

If you did not sew the arms all the way together above, the length you do not want to sew is equal to the length on the left of this pattern where it slants back in towards the middle.  Place the fur sides of the body together and sew just the curves.  Then sew one side of the piece of the arm that you left un-sewn (with the fur sides together) to the corresponding side of this piece.

It will look like this:

NOTE: The above picture was taken before I made a slight change to the pattern to make it as shown above.  The one pictured is too wide.  The pattern above corrects that and makes the body a much better fit than what is shown here.

Attach a head and you have something like this:

Arthur Smith

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sculpted arms and hands

Now its time to upgrade the arms.  Instead of simply sewinf fleece and stuffing it, here's my first attempt at sculpted arms.

First, cut out 4 pieces, roughly the shape shown.  Spray glue the edges of each piece and assemble.  Fill with poly fill or scraps to get your desired shape.

Now, I glued the forearm to the upper arm.  Another method would be to glue a piece of rope between them.  That would make a nice, flexible joint. That would work well if you were going to cover them in fleece or if the weren't going to be seen.  However, I am going to latex these and don't want the gap.

Cut out two hands.  These must be a good deal larger than you want.  I used the same hand pattern because the extra you loose in sewing that hand, works out to about what you need for folding this hand.

Spray glue the edges and fold the fingers in.

There will be a gap between the fingers, but this can also be tucked in with the glue as you see here.

Take wire (14g-18g) and bend it to be just smaller than the hand.

Slide the frame in the foam fingers

Cut a small piece of foam to fill in the gap and put it in place

 Attach hands to the arms.  This can again be done with rope, but I chose to glue it in place for the smooth seam when using the latex.


Here's a great way for attaching the arm rods

 Get some 1/4" - 5/16" hose.  Cut  little less than 1" of it and insert it into the bottom of the hand near the wrist and glue it in place.  I usually do this after the whole arm is done.  Now a wood, plastic or metal rod can slide in and out.  It holds well, is easy to transport, they are interchangeable and don't require visible pieces to pinch the wrist into them.

Arthur Smith

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Body variations

Just a short note here.  I use the same pattern on most of the bodies I make.

I like this because it has shape and shoulders built into the pattern, which makes attaching the arms easy.  However, this pattern can be easily altered.

In this picture, I have made the cutout much smaller.  This still leaves me the shape for the shoulders.  I added a horizontal cutout (dart) below the cutout and a vertical one at the bottom.  I also added half of a vertical cutout on each edge where the two halves glue together.

When glued up, this changes the body from a slim puppet body to a full-figured puppet body.  Same basic pattern, two different bodies.

I will add some foam to this to pad it out even more, but this gives me a much better shape to start my puppet out with.


Using the altered shape, adding a little padding and you now have...

No, not Homer's head, a full figured femme's torso!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Puppets

I was asked by a wonderful book author to do a puppet for their line of Christian, "Elf-Help" books for young children.

I started by taking a pattern for a round-head puppet...

and tried to elongate it.

Honestly, the first attempt didn't look good at all.  I filled in all the gaps to make it look the way I wanted, then cut it apart to make a pattern.  The second attempt (above) was ok but not great.  So I scrapped it and started again using the "Daly Method" I described before.  From this, I got a great looking head!  However, it didn't look anything like the head I needed.

Finally, I went back to the above pattern.  I found if I turned it around, made a slight adjustment to what would now be the back, it actually looked like what I wanted.

So I have my head.  For the body, I used my standard body.  I spray glued the head and stretched the fleece fabric over it.

What was nice with this, is with one of the cut-outs, I folded it in half lengthwise and cut it down to size for the nose.  With the second, I cut it in half, shaped it for the ear and cut a divot into it for the ear canal.  Again I covered these with the fleece and Henson stitched them on.  As I also did after making the standard arms.

For the hair I wrapped yarn around my fingers 10-15 times, tied it into a bundle, and simply hot glued it in place.  The hat is simply two pieces of fabric sewn together with wire glued into it for shape.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Puppets that blow smoke

When finishing doing my latest dragon, I was asked to share how to make him breathe smoke.  Pretty simple, but here it is.

Take some tubing and a "T" connector available at Menards (I used 3/8" but 1/4" may work even better.)and connect like this.  Note: I did trim the T Connector a bit so there is less of a bend, and therefore, less of a kink.

Now you will need a pump.  I used a meat baster.  An ear pump might work better, but the store I went to didn't have one and eventually I want to do this from a costume character.  With the meat baster, you will also need some heavier density foam or something similar to reduce the size hole.

Cut off the tube of the baster about an inch past where the pump sits when inserted.

Cut a piece of foam so it fits inside snugly.  Cut a hole in the middle of that so you can insert your tubing.

Put the tubing in the hole so it sticks through the hole about 2".  Hot glue the top to seal the tubing and foam in place.

Fill the bulb with baby powder, attach it and squeeze!  Practice with different amounts of powder for best results. 

Oh, then clean up the mess before your wife gets home and freaks out from powder being everywhere!!

I was instructed how to do the above, but told to use an ear dropper (  With this, you can just stick the spout into the hose and skip a bunch of the above steps.  Not sure how to fill it, but I am told it works well.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cheek and finish

It was brought to my attention that I completely skipped how to do the cheek.  So here it is.  Bear in mind, that this is a different puppet made with a pattern, not with the method I have previously detailed.

Start with a square/rectangle-ish piece of 1/4" foam.

Spray glue 2 connecting edges

Attach the top edge to the head with the corner right at the lower edge of the nose and apply the top line where you wish the top of the cheek to be.  Then do the same for the bottom edge

Cut a semi circle out of the remaining side in the shape you wish the cheek to lay.  Remember, if you want out more pronounced, use  pie-shaped cut to make it round out more.

Spray glue the edge

add a little stuffing for shape and press the back edge down into place.  Ta-da!  A cheek!


Here is Norman finished.  On this one, I rounded off the bottom edge of the head and attached it to the neck.  He can be controlled by the normal, up-the-body manner, but I also cut a hole in the back of his neck.  This allows me to sit him on my lap and control him similar to how a ventriloquist would.

I had also posted that I was making a dragon using this method.  Here he is.

Just goes to show you can use this method for a wide variety of characters!

He also can be controlled both ways.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Arms and body

The rest is pretty easy as we will be using foam and fleece.

Finding a  pattern is the hard part.  There are several to choose from.  I have a few in the pictures section at, but the one above is my favorite as it has shoulders built-in.

You can either cut two of the above and glue them together or cut one big one with the right edge being a fold between them (this removes and seam line from the puppet's chest)

Spray glue the foam and the back of the fabric and stretch the fabric over the foam as in step 3 above.

Cut the seams as close as possible, even leaving a 1/8" gap between the pieces is fine.  Then stitch them together using a whip stitch or the "Henson stitch" shown here:


Cut a pattern the shape you want for the hand and arm.  Fold your fabric in half and cut out 2 sets (4 pieces total) and sew each set together

If you just want standard arms, stuff the fabric sleeve   When packing the sleeve  leave a little gap in the stuffing where the elbow wold be.  This makes it bend in the right spot.

If you want the fingers and arms to be pose-able, take wire (16 gauge works well) and make 'fingers' to match your hand

Stuff the fingers with Poly-fill and tape to fold in place.  Squeeze the fingers together like if you were touching all fingertips together to make it smaller.  Now push it into the fabric arm you made, pulling each finger into its corresponding spot.  Now fill in the extra space in the sleeve with more poly-fill. 

When you get to the elbow, stop.

Cut the wire about 1/2" longer than the joint and fold the extra back on itself, making a small loop.  Loop another piece of wire through these holes, bending it backwards, again another 1/2" longer than the length of the upper arm.  Fold these ends as well so it doesn't poke itself through the body.

Fill with poly fill leaving it loose enough at the elbow joint you made so it can bend.

Attach the arm to the shoulder.  You can sew it on as I did, glue it on or use doll joints.  The choice is yours.

Attach the head to the neck, add clothes (close for 18 month children work well on mine) and have fun!