Adventures in Puppet-Making 101: Skinning Snags and Hair Pieces

Time to skin the puppet! Sounds nasty but we are not taking it off, we are putting it on! I am using a piece of anti-pill fleece with a rather bright green color with some mottling. Not being sure how to approach this, I went ahead and placed a very small tack of hot glue on the center lower jaw and stuck the fleece to it. Then, I started wrapping the fleece around the edges of the jaw looking for lines and folds that I would like for the features. When I found something I liked,  a tiny spot of hot glue was used to tack the material down and then reinforced with some hand-sewing. I kept working this way till the lower jaw and body were done. The skull portion was a repeat of the process by starting with a glue tack, centrally, and then wrapping and stretching the fleece to get the desired effect.  A dart or two near the crown was employed to relieve the extra material buildup but other than that it was pretty much straight forward. I used very little glue and tried to hand sew as much as possible, tucking and pulling as I went along. I found out quickly that too much glue makes sewing impossible. You cannot push a needle through the set up glue very easily. So, the less the better, at this point. We want to be able to manipulate the features as much as we want and this may mean backing up a few steps. Clipping stitches beats cutting material loose from glue.

Two days later: I have found a very cool material remnant. It is a variegated purple shade with a very coarse weave and a bit of shagginess  going for it. I picked it up thinking it would make a good skin for the back.  I cut a piece out of the remnant about 12 x 20 inches and draped it loosely over the back of the puppet.  Bulldog clips were used to hold the materials in place while the hand-sewing was done.

Two days later: I am not very satisfied with look of the back piece.  Because of its stark contrasting color and texture, it looks more like an overcoat than a section of skin. So off it comes!! As no glue was used, removing the piece was as easy as just cutting stitches.  I then replaced it with a dark brown fleece that I had originally bought for this. Not only does it look better but also looks like it belongs for the material texture match.  Not much of a surprise really, as I had matched these different colors of fleece together initially for the different parts. So what happened? Beats me. Having a plan and sticking to it is a lot easier said than done and everything we do can be changed on the fly.

Two days later: Terrance is starting to take on a life of his own and is beginning to dictate his looks. I am now making a hairpiece to decorate the top of his green dome.  Looking for more remnants and supplies, I found some very cool yarn in the bargain bin at a local craft/sewing center.  It immediately attracted my eye for it was also a variegated purple with a slightly fluffy texture and very soft to the touch. I realized then that Terrance was going to have long flowing locks. The yarn was cut into lengths ranging around the 32 to 36 inch mark.
The piece of material that I had used as skin for the back and then removed has a very open weave much  like the material that you would use for hooking rugs.  Placing it on top of the head, I cut a rough triangular piece to follow over the top of the skull with some extra length so that it could be tucked into the body at the back.  Using a crochet hook, I weaved the yarn through the material.  Basically, the yarn was pulled down through one hole and then up through another. I then evened the lengths and knotted the yarn down to the backing material. The slight shag of the backing material blends all this well out of sight. I passed a length of yarn through approximately every fifth hole on every third row until I had the amount of hair that I wanted for the top of the head.

I ran a small stripe of hot glue centrally on the skull and pressed the hairpiece into that.  A tight running stitch along the edge achieved a raised look where the hair meets the skull.  I am really pleased as this looks great and integrates well with the head.  Shaking the puppets head around, the hair looks great as it is flys about. This hair piece process was completed over the course of three evenings.

Next time: We finish up with lips, fingers and eyes.