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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

How to make a moving mouth puppet with arm rods (Mac and Cheese)

Want to know how to make one of those furry monster puppets? (Well, or any similar puppets that’s not furry?) In this post, I am going to show you how to make Mac and Cheese, the puppet that you’ve seen in every podcast episode on this site so far. This is what he looks like: (By the way, if you are looking for how to make Mac and Cheese the recipe, click here.)
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For the most part, I followed this video by puppeteer/puppet builder Paul Louis, but I’ve also made a few variations on my own based on what’s available to me at the time. For example, he used both glue gun and contact cement for gluing, and I used only my hot glue gun. He used foam to stuff the puppet’s head and I didn’t feel like using it. He used untangled wire hangers for arm rods while I just bought bamboo skewers from the supermarket across the street. So yeah, you should feel free to experiment with different materials too. Here’s a list of materials used by Paul Louis to make his puppet in the video, and the materials I used to make Mac and Cheese:

Parts Paul’s puppet Mac and Cheese
Main body fleece fleece
Mouth board (interior) juice carton tissue paper box
Mouth board (exterior) black felt black T-shirt
Tongue red felt red felt
Eyes Ping-pong ball Index card
Pupil self-adhesive felt dots drawn in with a marker
Arm rods wire hangers Bamboo skewers
Nose Pom-pom ain’t got one
Head stuffing foam bag of polyfill
Hair Malibu boa ain’t got any
Arm stuffing Polyfill Polyfill
Sewing Sewing machine Needle and thread
Glues contact cement and hot glue hot glue only

Now here are the steps. The numbers on the pictures correspond to the steps. Please click on them to see the details. I had to use thumbnails here, or the article will appear way too long. Also, keep in mind that Mac and Cheese was the first of this type of puppet I built so it’s a prototype and I did make mistakes along the way that I would also point out.

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1. Draw out a pattern: Draw a head and a body. (If you are wondering why I sort of traced my palm and fingers in the face part, it’s because it’s a good measurement for how big that circle should be. If you’ve ever asked other people or been asked the trick question “Is your hand bigger than your face?”, you know.)
2. Cut out the pattern: You will have an easier time tracing it onto the fabric that way.
3. Trace the pattern onto the folded fabric: I used a permanent marker. There are fabric markers that you can buy at fabric/craft stores as well. If a regular pen works for you, go ahead and use that too. Notice that the fabric has to be folded, so you can sew the two layers together.
4. Sew along the line: In the video he used a sewing machine. However, since I don’t have one, and this is a prototype I am using to learn every single detail, I did this part by hand. I used back-stitches. They are time-consuming but very sturdy.
5. Cut around the stitches and flip it inside out: Be careful not to cut the actual stitches. It’s fine to leave some fabric outside the stitched border since you are flipping it inside out anyway. You should now have sort of a bag that you can put your hand in.
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6. Cut a slit across the head/face part: Along the middle line is probably the best to allow the most mouth movement and flexibilities. If you cut this slit too high or too low, you will have difficulties opening and closing the mouth.
7. Make a mouth board using cardboard and fabric: In the video, a juice carton was used. I used a tissue paper box. I’ve also used other boxes on other puppets so any cardboard would do. Make sure you fold it in the middle so it’s like a mouth. Next, cover it with a piece of black fabric (felt, T-shirt, or even sheet foam) and glue the cardboard and the fabric together. In the video, contact cement was used, but I just used my trusty glue gun. Cut the fabric according to the shape of the cardboard and now the mouth board is done.
8. Stick the mouth board into the slit and glue them together around the edge: For the mouth and slit to fit each other, the diameter of the mouth board should be approximately 2/3 of the length of the slit. Of course, that’s only an estimate. You should probably try to stick the cardboard into the slit before you glue on the fabric, because then you can go back and make more changes to the cardboard to find the ideal size and shape.
9. Make a little bag and stuff it with polyfill. Slide into the puppet’s head above the mouth board. In the video, foam was used. Since I don’t have foam, I made a bag by folding a piece of fabric over and gluing the edges. I then put the polyfill in from the opening and just fold over the extra fabrics at the opening. I didn’t seal it because I might want to adjust the shape and size again later. Slide this bag into the head above the mouth board. Don’t worry, it won’t fall out because the mouth board is there. Squeeze things around to get the head shape you want. If it’s too much or too little stuffing, take the bag out again to adjust the amount of polyfill in there.
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10. Make the arms: Like the body, it’s just a piece of fabric folded over, sewn together, cut out, and flipping over. Stuff the arms with polyfill. Note that I really should put the arm rods in first (steps 11 and 12) but since this was my prototype, I didn’t do that right. Actually, it depends. If your rod is installed into the palm, you should put in the rod before you stuff the arm. However, if the rod is installed on the outside, you should install the rods later. Stuffing the arms give the arms some shape, but don’t stuff too much because you still want the arms to be flexible. Squeeze the middle part and then bend it back and forth a few times. This pushes the polyfill to either the upper or lower arm, hence creating a two part arm with a joint in between.
11. Make arm rods: I used the sharp end of the skewer to penetrate the middle zigzag layer of the cardboard (but not all the way through). Pull the skewer out, put some glue on the tip and insert it again. This time the cardboard and skewer will stick together.
12. Open up the wrist to stick the arm rod in: I cut open the puppet’s wrist to put in the arm rod made from a bamboo skewer. The skewer should come out the bottom of the palm. The cardboard will make sure the arm rod is fixed in place. Close up the wrist again. Note that if I had done this in the right order, I would’ve installed the rod before I stuffed the arm. If I did that, then I didn’t need to open up the wrist again.
13. Glue on the eyes and arms: In the video he used ping-pong balls, which created more 3-D eyes. I didn’t have ping-pong balls at the moment, and I wanted to see what it would be like if I just drew eyes on an index card and cut them out. So I did that and glued the eyes to the head. The arms can be glued on or sewn on. I tried to glue and then sew, but it’s mostly glued because later I realized that it’s very hard to sew through that layer of glue with the needles I have. So they were just glued on and I’ve been puppeteering it for a while now and it didn’t seem to be falling off… that’s a good thing. By this step, the puppet is pretty much done.
14. Glue the tongue into the mouth: That red tongue is made from a piece of felt. You would have used something else or just skip this step. (For example, Bottle Monster doesn’t have a tongue like this.)

So there you go. That’s how you make Mac and Cheese. I hope this article is helpful if you are trying to build your own puppet at home. :-)

Comments

  1. April 12th, 2010 | 4:17 am

    […] a few modifications of my own. You can also find my own tutorials on this website for building a monster puppet with arm rods, a monster puppet with glove hands, and a sheep puppet. One thing I do want to point out that […]

  2. iNeedHelpMakingPuppets
    November 6th, 2010 | 4:50 pm

    Awesome!! im so making this for my project!

  3. November 8th, 2010 | 12:41 am

    Cool. Let me know how it goes. :-)

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