Introduction: How to Design Hand Puppets

Make do with household items, to design a unique puppet!

If you enjoy construction, gluing and sewing and take time and care with details, you can finish several puppets over a 2 weeks.

If you're short on time and need a puppet quickly -
Watch renowned Puppeteer Barbara Dewey demonstrate
how to make a puppet from already made stuffed toy.

Check out ways you can use puppetry for educational purposes:

Step 1: Choose Head Shape

I cut out small paper circles "thumbnail sculptures" then experimented with designing head shapes.

The more v-shaped slits you cut, you will come up with an egg head shape.

The fabric I used for the puppets here is EVA. Its a strong, soft, lightweight foam, similar to foam used in camping mats.
(I got a 4 metre piece for $6.)

It is sewn with polyester thread.

Step 2: Lining the Head & Chin

Cover the top half of head with fleece. Line inside with lightweight fabric and outside with fleece, or terry toweling, or even an old quilt. Fleece is great because it doesn't fray. I used invisible thread to sew the fleece to the EVA foam.

Make the chin in the same way as head top.

The chin shape will be half the size of the top half of the head.

Step 3: Insert Linings and Mouth Supports

You will need 2 linings to sandwhich ths cardboard mouth. (I use EVA as it is softer and lighter).

Step 4: Insert Thumb Pocket

The red felt is to fit your thumb in for moving the chin.

Invisible thread is your best friend here.

Step 5: Decide on Your Mouth Hinge

Do you want a tight mouth hinge or a loose one?

The loose one is less tiring to control. Leave 2cm between top of head and chin for a loose hinge.

A tight hinge is sewn at the corner of head and chin corners.

Step 6: Add Neck

Fold over a piece of fleece that roughly fits larger than neck space.

Fold in half. Begin sewing with invisible thread from the back.

Sew to head top and chin until you have a "sleeve" for your hand to fit through. Use a shorter section of fleece then join a longer sleeve with another fabric to save fleece.

Step 7: Add Accessories

For the eyes I used cut spoons and to add a bit of shine to the pupils, cut black plastic bags.

On other puppets I used ping pong balls sliced in half. I then spilled a little foam / pva glue inside and left to dry overnight. The nose is a bit of felt sewn over sponge ball.

Eyelashes are black frilly wool. Eyelids for the magenta quilt puppet head are made of orange felt cut in a crescent then glued to the back of ping pong ball.

The hair is a short bit of knitted wool. You can improvise with anything at hand.

You create different characters by rearranging the angle and placement and size of the accessories. The pupils are usually placed a bit cross-eyed (near the nose), to give an appearance of looking directly at the audience at every angle.

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