Introduction: Ask an Engineer Powerpuff Girls Style Puppets

A favorite webshow is Ask an Engineer hosted by Phil Torrone and Limor "Ladyada" Fried of Adafruit. It's a weekly windup of maker world happenings, news, products and projects.   Although the primary focus is on electronics, it showcases itself as a premier resource and business in the maker community.  And it looks like they have fun at it...the reason this art imitates life.

Adafruit has the spirit of empowering everyone, especially young people into the field of electronics and computing.  Their new webseries Circuit Playground is aimed at kids of all ages but hopefully it will also encourage more girls to be more representative in electrical engineering. So here is my mashup of Powerpuff Girls and Adafruit.  I used to watch the cartoon with Caitlin when she was younger and it was something to spark the imagination(mad scientist dad, you know). Besides, Mojo JoJo was fun to say.

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fabric. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is, well, purely intentional.

Make TW the LED puppet too!

Step 1: Searching for Stuff...

This ible was made up as I went along.  I guess the lesson is you should plan out things and maybe even have a set of plans or diagrams.

Rummage through and see what material you have on hand.

The puppets are made from scraps of fleece, felt, and electronics.

You will need something to stuff the puppet.  I had a bag of polyester fiberfill.

Learn how to sew and solder.  Do it safely.

Yes, you could do all the sewing by hand but a sewing machine makes it a whole lot easier and faster. Better yet if you have a serger.   I think a serger is a good tool to have if you are prototyping things that are sewn.

Step 2: No Blockheads Allowed...

I had the intention of making this some kind of hand puppet or a muppet style puppet to be manipulated by some fashion and animated by electronics.

For the heads, cut out two ovals/rounds about 6 inches wide.

I sewed two darts on the top and bottom of the shape.  When the puppet head is stuffed, it will give a more rounded spherical shape.

Serge around the edge leaving an opening on the bottom so you can attach it to the main body.

The head shape will be flipped inside out to hide the seams.

Step 3: Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes...

Adafruit likes things in black.

To make our puppet, it will be similar to making a plushie or stuffed doll.  

The shoes are connected to the legs, so mate up a piece of black fabric for the shoes to some white fabric for the stockings.

Form a tube for the leg/shoe part.

Serge or sew while rounding out the bottom.

Flip inside out.

Do the same for creating the arms.

Good thing the Powerpuff Girls character has stylized arms which are simple to make..

Cut pieces for the body.

I found some black fabric at the discount fabric store, although Caitlin and I have browsed around Mood (Project Runway fame) which has uppity-up fabrics and prices. This remnant had a somewhat ruffled bottom portion which works out for making a flared skirt.

I did try to size everything so I would be able to fit my hand in the puppet.  I did not measure anything.

Hot glue on some trim pieces of felt to simulate the shoe laces and Mary Jane shoe cutout.

You can stuff the legs and arms since they will be sewn in place.  The attachment seam will close off any point to stuff them later.

Step 4: Plan B...

Start attaching all the parts to the main body.

I did a blind hem on the bottom edge of the black T-shirt.

Keep in mind all of the following sewing is done inside out so you do not see the seams.

Attach the corresponding legs to the bottom of the T-shirt or skirt.

Close up the vertical seam to make the body fabric into a tube.

Serge around to mate up the head with the body.

I didn't think to put the arms in when I was closing up the body tube.

I cut two holes, inserted the arms and serged off everything into one seam.

I cut the slit with a seam ripper but happened to jab another section of fabric which I had to close up later.

Notice that if I had planned to attach the arms properly embedded along the side seams, I would not have this pinching and puckering of fabric due to no seam allowance.

It gets hard to work with all the stuffed arms and legs in the body tube when trying to seam inside out.

So now with everything attached, time to check the plans...reference an image of the Powerpuff Girls and Rowdyruff Boys.

Nope, these puppets are way out of proportion.

Good thing I have a serger.  

I need to shrink the body height and the arms need to be smaller.  The legs are too long.

So I lop off the legs, redo the T-shirt, rip out the arms, serge them back in.  Serge the skirt which the new seam forms a waistband.  Nip and tuck.

Body tube is not big enough to use these as hand puppets.

Step 5: Good Hair Day...

Jeepers creepers, look at them peepers!

Cut out felt pieces to make the eyes and mouth.

Hot glue the layers and then to the face of the puppet.

Attach the yarn for the hair.

Wind up three or four strands of yarn.  

Dab a small line of hot glue on the hairline.

Stretch your strands of yarn across and embed in the hot glue.

Don't try to press the yarn into the hot glue with your fingers or with any object.  You will only get your fingers napalmed and hot glue sticking to your good pair of scissors or something.  Don't do it.  Let it cool completely.  

You can then cut any loops of yarn.  Rinse and repeat.

Step 6: Ask an Engineer...

So where are the blinkenlights?

Rather than whip up a circuit from scratch, I decided to use my laser setup from my Star Trek Phaser Redshirt .

It is just salvaged LEDs and laser diodes from two dollar store laser pointers.  I added a battery pack and some switches.

Always use a resistor with LEDs to prevent them from burning out.  Use any "LED calculator" to figure out the right value of resistor to use with your LEDs.

Of course, now  with the puppet all stuffed with fiberfill, it is difficult to place the electronics.

I used an awl to punch some holes in the eyes to fit the lasers.  

I had to cut a slit in the back of the head and remove the fiberfill to position and tape down the laser diodes.

Once done, I positioned the LEDs and repacked the fiberfill.

I think if I had made the puppet with a detachable head, things would have been easier to place.

Step 7: Chemical X

Sugar, spice, everything nice,...

So there you have it, Ask an Engineer, Powerpuff Girls style.

Back to the lab to add more glowing lights, thin metal rods or dowels to control the arms...

Puppet Contest

Finalist in the
Puppet Contest

Epilog Challenge V

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge V