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Puppet-in-Progress: From the foam up

Slackbot

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So some people have asked me how I build my puppets. And others have expressed interest in a "build journal." So, what the heck, I thought it'd be fun to show my work on my latest puppet. I'm making this from the ground up, starting with creating my own patterns from scratch, so there may be false starts and other goofery here. Hopefully not too much, though, as that stuff wears on my nerves!

This will be updated when I have the time. I have a lot of other things going on in my life, so the updates will come when I have progress to report. The updates may be fast and furious, or they may be days or even weeks apart. Probably not weeks, though. And I'm not an expert photographer, so my photo quality will probably be hit and miss. As long as you can see what I'm trying to show, it's good enough for me.

Feel free to ask questions. However, to head off one FAQ, no, I'm not planning to post or E-mail my patterns. Please don't ask for 'em.

Anyhow, here are some skull shots:



It took me multiple tries to get the head shape right, starting from the skull pattern from my Derpy puppet. These are my last four tries. There were one or two before this. You can see the shape evolved over successive tries. The paper sticking out of each is the pattern, which I save in case I decide I want to use one of those later. What isn't right for this character may work for another.

The mouthplates in the green test skulls are cut from manila folders. It's important to test the skull with the mouthplate glued in; it makes a big difference in the head shape! The final skull is at the lower right, and it's made out of reticulated foam rather than cheap open cell stuff. The mouthplate (made of gasket rubber) is already glued in.

And here are some closeups of the skull. Excuse the lousy photography, but I'm a lousy photographer.





There's a strap attached to the top mouthplate for my hand to slide under, otherwise it'd rattle around in there. The black you can see between the mouthplate and foam is the edge of the strap. There's no need for a strap in the lower jaw, as it fits snugly enough.
 

Slackbot

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Skinning the head...



Here's an Extreeeeme Close-Up showing the Henson Stitch, which is like the ladder stitch, but it zigzags rather than parallels. To the right of the green pin, what the stitches look like before pulled tight. Between red and green, what the seam looks like pulled tight. To the left of the red, the seam after picking it with a needle and then brushing the fiber down with a toothbrush.

To get the best shot I had the light shining straight down onto the head. However, that had the effect of making the un-picked seam look near invisible. It's much more obvious than that, trust me. The seam on the lower left is a more accurate representation.

Click picture for embiggening.
 

Slackbot

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Today I've been a real sew-and-sew. Here's the head all sewn up.



Next: to attach the lips to the mouthplate. I've drawn an outline of the lipline on the palate in red Sharpie, which may sound dire, but after I've sewn the fleece up to the edge of that guideline it simply disappears. You can see the line if you look closely. I haven't sewn the neck together in either the front or the back because I'm going to need to do some fiddly work inside the skull when I attach the eyes and hairball.

The seams haven't been picked. That's a pain-in-the-neck task, one I usually do in front of the TV while watching something that doesn't require a lot of eye contact.
 

Slackbot

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And here it is, with the seams all picked and brushed down and the lip sewn to the mouthplate:



Hmm, that tongue may be a tad too wide. I'll compare it to the original character and see if that needs changing.

Is this thread of any use or interest to anyone? If it isn't I'll stop wasting my time here.
 

mostlikemokey

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I don't build puppets (can't sew for one billion dollars) but this is interesting! I like it.
 

Kermieuk

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It is of interest to me. How do you stitch the lips to the mouth plate!??
I think I am making the same character as you and I'm at pretty much the same stage as you!!
Look forward to the next update.
Chris
 

Slackbot

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I think I know who you're making here....
Izzatafactnow? :wink:
It is of interest to me. How do you stitch the lips to the mouth plate!??
The mouthplate is covered by self-adhesive felt, the kind with the paper back you peel away. I stitched the skin to that using orange thread. It's fussy, and the needle gets all sticky-nasty with the adhesive, but in the end you have a nice, firm, even lipline. I use the Henson stitch, not to conceal the seam, but to hide the thread and keep the lipline from having jagged edges.
 

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So I've been working on the eyes. Here are the elements: half-sphere eyes from Out Of The Box Puppets, wired together with wires sticking out the bottom edges, and 2" styrofoam balls covered with fleece eyelids. Just have to put the halves together, run the wires through the head and twist 'em together on the underside the way I usually do and I'm done, right?



Guess what I didn't realize? Contact cement melts styrofoam! The balls beneath the eyelids shriveled up and the eyes look terrible, like battered fruit. I'm going to take these off and make new eyes once I find an adhesive that won't screw the styrofoam up. Anyone know what'll work?

I might be able to use the eye fronts and replace the lids only, but I think the lids are angled forward a little too far, plus there's a little bit of wire visible on the sides. Oh well, live and learn.
 
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