Creepy Marionette Puppet Costume

Introduction: Creepy Marionette Puppet Costume

My girlfriend and I always do couples costumes and she was set on being Chatty Cathy this year. It took me a while to come up with something that went along with that. What better than another creepy toy? My main goals with the costume were to look like a hand made puppet and to have a tipping moving cross floating above my head. The strings also needed to look like over sized twine.

A couple things before I get started... this isn't an Instructable on sewing or welding. I don't claim to be an expert or know all the best practices. I know enough pull off projects like this and that's about it. Short of emergency hand stitched repairs on clothing, this is the most adventurous sewing project I've taken on. I've done plenty of welding but mostly just fudge my way through it on the fly. 

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Step 1: Materials & Tools Required

I tried to keep this project as low budget as possible and used recycled or on-hand materials where possible. 

(6) 9 x 12" sheets of white felt  - 3 for $1.00 at a craft store
Small scraps of muslin - free from my Mom's sewing room
Black speaker cloth - left over from other projects
50 yds of black crochet thread (about 1/16" diameter) - $1.89 at Jo-Ann's, probably only used 3-4 feet.
Heavy duty brown thread - from the kitchen junk drawer
Heavy duty white thread - borrowed from Mom's sewing room
(4) small snaps - from a mini sewing kit also in the kitchen junk drawer
(2) buttons - same as above
(2) 3" diameter Styrofoam balls - $4.99 for 6 pack at Jo-Ann's, plenty of left overs for other projects.
Plain white mask - $3.99 @ Spirit Halloween Store
Mid length black wig - $12.99 @ Spirit Halloween Store
Suit jacket - Has been part of my halloween wardrobe for years. Been used for many a costumes but originally bought on the small side for Frankenstein.
White collared shirt - $5.99 @ the Goodwill
Black dress pants - from my closet
Black dress shoes & socks - also from my closet
98' of clothes line rope - $1.00 @ some dollar store
Straps for cross support brace (optional) - borrowed from my Hollywood F1B strap on bike rack
(2) 36" x 1/8" cold finished steel round bar - $2.07 ea @ Lowes
(1) 36" x 3/16" cold finished steel round bar - $2.47 ea @ Lowes
(1) Simpson Strong-Tie RTU2 U-anchor - $0.89 @ Lowes
(1) pkg 3/16 x 1-1/4" zinc plated fender washers - $1.15 for a 4 pk @ Lowes
1/2" x 2" wood for cross - free with purchase of house (previous owners left lots of new trim boards, wood, building supplies, etc.. in garage when they moved out.)
(4) 1-5/8" drywall screws - from my drawer-o-hardware

Most people will have the majority of these tools on hand. Anything I had to buy or borrow for the project is noted below. The back support for the cross would be tough to do without a welder but there is probably a way to pull it off. Maybe with lots of duct tape? Duct tape makes every project better.

Tools Required:
Safety glasses
Sewing needles
Upholstery repair/gigantic needle - $1.89 for a variety pack at Jo-Ann's 
Safety pins or straight pins
Sharpie or fabric pen
Styrofoam glue - $3.99 @ Jo-Ann's
Exacto knife
Multi-tool or pocket knife
Lighter or matches
Hammer or mallet
Cordless or corded drill
Drill bits
Center punch
Hand saw or power saw
Hack saw
File or sand paper
Metal cleaning chemical - I used White Lightning Metal Prep.
Welder (borrowed from my work)
Gas - bottle 75/25 steel mix (borrowed from girlfriends dad, work only had full size bottles)
Welding helmet
Leather gloves
Flame resistant clothing

Step 2: Making the Hands

 I used (2) 9 x 12" sheets of the felt for each hand and some thick black crochet thread for the stitching. Full gloves would have been cool but mitts were easier, faster, and look more like puppet hands. I made these without any help but the first step would be much easier with a second set of hands. 

1. Start by sandwiching your hand in between the sheets of felt. Leave you dominant hand free.

2. Using safety pins or straight pins, rough out the desired shape. Try to hug close to your hand (without stabbing yourself) since the felt will stretch somewhat. Leave a few inches on the bottom of your wrist un-pinned so you can get your hand out.

3. Once your done pinning the first hand, use some nice sharp scissors and cut out the shape. Leave about 1/4" excess for stitching the seams. 

4. Lay the cutout hand over another sheet of the felt and trace. I used a black sharpie but it left permanent (hence the name permanent marker) grey smudges on the felt. There may be a better tool for the job but this is what I had. 

5. After transferring the hand pattern, lay the sheet on top of another sheet and pin around the perimeter of the hand. Cut out the second hand. 

6. Starting on the top side of the wrist, remove one or two pins and start stitching. I had to use a very large needle for the crotchet thread. The harder you push on the felt, the harder it is to get the needle through. Light pressure is your friend to make the stitching easier. Continue stitching around the perimeter of the hand, removing pins as you go. I did a couple extra stitches in the crook between my thumb and fore finger to help reinforce the corner.

7. When you get to the bottom of the wrist, start test fitting the mitt to find your stopping point. Again, I added 3-4 close stitches at the end and tied it off securely. 

8. Fold mitt inside out and test fit again. This part may work better with a second set of hands but I was able to do it alone. Overlap the un-stitched felt and get a feel for where the snaps need to be ( you could also use velcro or some other type of closure but this is what I had laying around).

9. Using regular thread (or button thread?), attach the snaps to the mitts. 

10. Add accent stitching to give the look of fingers. This would be easier to do before stitching the mitt but I did it last to get the placement to look right. That was the intent anyways. I ended up stitching some pretty crooked lines on one of the hands. 

11. Try on and admire your "handy" work and then repeat above steps for your other hand.

Step 3: Making the Face Mask

 You can use your creativity on this step and make the mask look however you want. 

1. Shape the styrofoam using a pocket knife or multi-tool.  You can also do quite a bit of shaping work by hand. Just squeeze the foam and compress into the desired shapes. Be sure to test fit your pieces on the plastic mask as you go.

2. Once you are happy with your face add ons, glue them in place on the mask. I wouldn't use too much glue and only do one piece at a time. The styrofoam glue claims to be fast drying so I glued all of my pieces at once. I may have used too much since "fast drying" turned into a day & a half. Make sure your glue is fully dry before moving on.

3. Cut the mouth and the nose hole bigger with an Exacto knife to help with breathabilty. 

4. Pierce paired sets of holes all over the mask again with an Exacto knife. Use a sharp pointed blade and twist into the material to kind of drill through. I tried using a stapler at first but it cracked the mask. Be sure to add holes in all the nooks and crannies. The felt will be stitched through these holes so it's important to provide ample places to secure it.

5. Test fit the mask and smooth any pointy or rough spots caused by the modifications.

6. Cut out a mouth shape, some over sized pupils, and a piece for the nostrils from black speaker cloth. 

7. Cut some squares of muslin or other cloth for the whites of the eyes. 

8. Cut a round hole in the muslin that is smaller than your speaker cloth pupils. 

9. Stitch the pupils over the hole in the muslin using some dark colored thread. 

10. Take a sheet of the felt and start working it around the mask. It will stretch some what so it's easy to conform to the shapes. I started at the top of the forehead and worked my way down. 

11. When you have the felt shaped where you want it for the top half, cut a split in the felt from the center bottom up to just before the tip of the nose.

12. Mark out your eye locations while fitting the felt around the mask and then cut out holes.

13. Stitch the muslin & speaker cloth eyes into the holes from the back side of the felt. 

14. Trim off the excess muslin with scissors.

15. Work the felt around the bottom half of the face overlapping the split and determine where you need to cut. I was lucky enough to make a good one on my first try. Cut out the face pattern from the felt.

16. Fit up the face and see if any changes are needed before you start stitching.

17. With the mask turned inside out, stitch up the chin and the nose. 

18. Cut out holes for the mouth and nostrils.

19. Stitch the black speaker cloth bits over the mouth and nose holes. I used white thread here so it wouldn't show on the front. 

20. Turn the felt mask inside out or right side in and do one final fit up over the plastic mask. Make any adjustments/changes needed to the felt before proceeding. 

21. Start stitching through the holes in the plastic mask and secure the felt with white thread. Work your way around the mask until the felt is fully secured. You could glue the felt down but the semi-looseness of the felt added more wrinkles & character to the face.

Step 4: Making the Neck Wrap

 This one's easy but also works better with two people. Sorry I didn't get any pictures during the process on this one. Most pictures are of the finished piece. You could use snaps or velcro for the closure. I just used what I already had laying around. You want to make this a little snug since the felt will stretch a bit.

1. Take the last sheet of felt and cut in half length wise. You want two 4-1/2" x 12" strips.

2. Lay the two strips on top of one another and stitch one of the 4-1/2" ends together. 

3. Here's where the other set of hands comes in. Unfold the strips so the seam is on the inside. Have someone wrap it around your neck and mark where the other seam needs to be. 

4. Fold it back flat again and cut the excess material off. 

5. Stitch the last seam together.

6. Cut one 4-1/2" side half way between the stitched seams. 

7. Cut two button holes on one end of the neck wrap. 

8. Single layered felt is not strong enough to last as button holes. Cut a strip from the drops of the neck wrap and stitch around the full perimeter. 

9. Cut matching button holes in the second layer of felt.

10. Stitch around the inside of the button holes to re-enforce them.

11. Mark your button locations on the other end of the neck wrap and stitch in place. 

Step 5: Making the Support Rack Brace Thingy

I was expecting this part to take longer but it went together surprisingly fast.

1. Remove any stickers or labels from the round bar and clean with rags and caustic chemicals. 

2. Using pliers or a bench vice, bend a 1-1/4" to 1-1/2" long 90° bend on one end of the 3/16" rod. 

3. The rest of the shaping can be done by hand. Start shaping a curl to wrap around the back of your head and down to the top of your back. 

4. Shape the rod to follow the curvature of your back.

5. Bend the (2) lengths of 1/8" diameter rod into shoulder supports. These are much easier to bend and can be tweaked quite a bit after welding so they don't have to be perfect. 

6. Put on your shoulder pieces and have someone hold up the center support rod. They need to mark the approximate weld locations for the shoulder braces. We used a sharpie for this.

7. Bend a tear drop shape at the bottom of the 3/16" rod that will lay flat on your mid to lower back.

8. Clamp everything together onto a piece of scrap wood or workbench. 

9. Be sure your work area is clear from flammable materials and is dry.

10. Take proper safety precautions when setting up to weld and always wear your welding helmet & other related safety gear.

11. Clamp the ground to one of the rods and go to town on the welding. After it's all tacked together, unclamp the rods and flip the part over to finish welding the other side.

12. Remove the zinc plating from the fender washer or use bare steel ones if you can find them. I skipped this step and had much difficulty getting the washer to stick.

13. Weld the fender washer from the bottom side on the 90° bent portion at the top of the center support. Try to keep the washer perpendicular to the rod. 

14. Remove any weld spatter, burrs, or residue from the MIG welding. 

15. Test fit your contraption and start bending & tweaking to make it comfortable.

16. You can use some straps to keep the brace planted on you. I tried it both ways using some adjustable 1" wide nylon straps from my Hollywood F1B bike rack. It was pretty comfortable with the straps but my suit coat fits so snug, I didn't need them at all. 

Step 6: Making the Cross

 This is another easy one. 

1. Pick out some wood for the project, not too thin or too thick. It needs to be light enough to wear for hours but strong enough to get whacked on door ways and be pulled on by the strings. I used 1/2" x 2" wood of unknown type/orgin. Came with the house. 

2. Cut (2) equal pieces of the wood to about 25" lengths. This will allow the cross to fit through standard size doorways.

3. Use a hammer or mallet to flatten out the Simpson U-anchor. This is what will be rocking on the back brace and will keep it from chewing into the wood.

4. Lay the flattened anchor on the center of one of the boards and use a punch, pencil, or marker to transfer the hole locations.

5. Drill a 3/8" hole on the center punch mark. 

6. Repeat on the approx. center of the other board. 

7. Drill clearance holes for your screws on the two middle screw holes. 

8. Use the 3/8" drill bit to align the two boards. 

9. Match the flattened anchor to the punch marks and screw in place. 

10. Use a hacksaw to trim the screws on the top side. You don't have to cut all the way through. Just make a good dent and snap the end off with pliers. 

11. Drill holes on the ends sized for the string you plan to use. 

12. Test fit the back brace with the cross in place to determine your string length. 

13. Cut your strings and sear the ends with a lighter to keep them from fraying. The dirt cheap stuff I bought at the dollar store feels like the same material plastic grocery bags are made from. 

14. Tie the two short strings on the front of the cross and the long strings on the back. I used the good old square knot and they held securely.

15. Tie a loop on the ends of the strings big enough to slip your hands & feet through. You want to be able to remove your hands from the strings when necessary or in case of emergency.

16. For the feet loops, I slipped each foot through them and then put my shoes on. This kept them in place and wasn't uncomfortable.

Step 7: The Finished Costume

 Time to put the whole package together. You could wear whatever clothes suits you but some kind of jacket or over shirt should be worn to cover the back brace. If you do a good job cleaning the metal, you should be able to wear it without painting the brace. I wore it on top of a white button up shirt and it didn't leave any markings. I had to do some tweaking on the brace to make it comfortable under my jacket. I used white face makeup on my ears and sides of my face where the mask doesn't cover.

I think a combination of the tight wig, the mask with limited breathability, and our friends smoking hot garage where we went for a Halloween party left me uncomfortable and eventually I started getting a headache. When I started feeling like I was getting heat stroke an hour or two into our party, I had to give up on the mask. I will need to add some holes to the mouth next time I use this costume. 

The hand strings looked better when I had my thumbs out of the loops in the last picture below. The other pictures look a bit hazy due to the fog machine at the party. 

With the exception of the tight wig and hot mask, the costume was very comfortable to wear. I could sit down without too much difficulty although leaning up on stuff would result in the welds & round bar pushing into my back. 

Luckily, some of our friends got pictures of me in my costume since we barely took any pictures at the party. Hope you have enjoyed this Instructable and my costume. Happy Halloween!

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    6 Discussions


    Thanks for this, I didn't plan on sleeping tonight anyway. Awesome stuff.


    10 years ago on Introduction

     Also awesome is to do a "broken marionette" costume.  Leave the hands uncovered, but hit the backs of each up with a base of mortician's wax - then insert hooks into some of the bases and inject fake blood into others (just use the nozzle of the face blood packet).  Dress up the edges with a little liquid latex, cover with clown white, dribble a little more blood on the "ripped" spots, and you have a _very_ creepy and real-looking bit of makeup


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Try replacing the strings with elastic or spring load the cross.  It will produce the tautness of string for more realistic movement.  Another thing would be to learn the marionette sway.  (stand on your toes and sway slightly side to side when ever you aren't walking.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your suggestions! I really like the look of the string that I used so I will probably stick with that. I can always tie them off shorter next time.