If you are looking for a tutorial on how to make a puppet that has a movable mouth and hands that can actually grab things, this tutorial is for you! In this post, I’m going to talk about how to make Bottle Monster, who has a structure similar to that of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, Avenue Q’s Trekkie Monster and The Muppet Show’s Rowlf. A lot of these puppets use furry fabric but of course, that’s not a requirement.
Note that Bottle Monster is a variation of my prototype Mac and Cheese. I will not go as much into details as I did in the tutorial on how to build Mac and Cheese (a moving mouth puppet with arm rods), so I strongly recommend you to take a look at that post if you haven’t. First, the materials:
|Main body||furry fabric|
|Mouth board (interior)||cereal box|
|Mouth board (exterior)||black T-shirt|
|Pupil||drawn in with a marker|
|Head stuffing||bag of polyfill|
|Glues||hot glue gun|
Now, the steps: (The pictures match the number of steps. Click to enlarge.)
1) Draw your pattern onto the fabric: First draw your pattern onto the non-furry side of the fabric if you are using furry fabric because you will be flipping this inside out later. You want to first fold this piece of fabric in half, and then sew along the line you drew. And then cut it out (be careful, don’t cut the lines you’ve just sewn). At this point you should have some kind of giant bag made of fabric. Now flip it inside out. This would be the basic structure of the puppet.
Note that I have two types of patterns here. The one on top is the most straight forward way of doing it. Once you sew it and cut it, you pretty much already have the head, the body and the hands. However, if you didn’t buy enough fabric (I didn’t), then you can do it like the one at the bottom. The basic structure will lack the hands and you’ll make up for that by making two furry gloves that you will sew to the main structure when they are done. This is a little more work but it’s the way to go when you don’t have big enough fabric.
Also, make sure that you draw the hands way bigger than your actual hands. Why? This is because your fingers have some volume. If you just trace your hand instead of drawing it bigger, your fingers will not fit in the gloves when they are made. Also, in the process of sewing things and flipping it inside out, you lose some room too. So make sure you draw the gloves way bigger than your hand.
2) Make the mouth board: I cut out a piece of cardboard from the cereal box shown in the picture. (By the way, my ex-apartment-mate Scott said it’s very good cereal. I never tried it though.) And then cover this cardboard with a black piece of fabric. You can use felt or sheet foam if you want, but I just used a black T-shirt that I got from Rite-Aid for 2 bucks.
3) Cut a slit across the face to put the mouth board in: For maximum flexibility of the mouth, cut this slit about equal distance to the top and bottom of the face. Use some trials and errors to determine how wide this slit and how big the mouthboard should be. Before you actually glue them together, you can always make changes.
4) Glue the mouthboard in: Glue the mouthboard in. If you had done some experimenting in the previous step, the edge of the mouthboard should fit the edge of the open slit fairly well.
5) Put on the eyes: I drew these eyes on an index card, cut them out, and then glue them to the puppet. You can decorate it some more but I chose to keep it simple.
So that’s how you make a moving mouth puppet with glove hands! Now how do we operate this new puppet?
When this kind of puppet appear on TV, it’s usually operated by two puppeteers. One person will use his/her right hand to control the puppet’s mouth, and his/her left hand to control the puppets left hand, while another puppeteer uses his/her right hand to control the puppet’s right hand. But when you only have one puppeteer, you can go without the right hand. In fact, if you’ve noticed in our podcast, Bottle Monster almost never uses his right hand and I often put him on the right side of the screen as a result. What’s awesome about this kind of puppet is that his hands can actually hold things and have flexible gestures. That’s why in my podcasts, he’s usually the one holding a piece of paper reading questions from viewers.