How To Make Ventriloquist Puppets

Written by patti perry
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Move into the world of fantasy with a moving-mouth ventriloquist puppet. Puppets are best when they look different compared to their human counterparts. Famous ventriloquist Shari Lewis said, "When you deal with a puppet, you're allowing a sub-personality to emerge and create itself. You don't create it; it does what it wants to do." With some sewing skills and glue, fashion a ventriloquist puppet from many household items. This is not an exact science; imagination will lead you to create a character that will acquire its own personality as it grows in your hands into a one-of-a-kind puppet.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 1 yard 60-inch wide knit fabric
  • Marker
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Thread to match fabric
  • 1/4 yard quilt batting
  • 6-inch square piece of heavy cardboard
  • 6-inch square of red fabric
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue sticks
  • Razor blade knife
  • 6-inch square of 1-inch foam
  • 2 white plastic spoons
  • Black acrylic paint
  • Infant or toddler clothing

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Instructions

    Body and Head

  1. 1

    Fold the yard of knit fabric (of whatever colour desired for puppet) in half, with the printed or finished side (if applicable) facing inward.

  2. 2

    Draw the rough outline of a head, torso, arms and hands with only three or four fingers. Make the head 8 to 10 inches across, the arms 3 inches in diameter and the fingers 3/4 inch in diameter. This will allow ease in stuffing them. Make the arm shapes come off the body right below the head and neck area. Remember that you need to get your hand up into the head, so keep the neck 6 inches wide.

  3. 3

    Pin the fabric together so that it will not slip when cutting.

  4. 4

    Draw another line parallel to the outside edge, 1/4 inch all the way around the contour, as a seam allowance.

  5. 5

    Cut out the body form on this outer edge.

  6. 6

    Sew around the outside of the body (by hand or with a sewing machine), keeping both sides of the folded fabric together.

  7. 7

    Turn the torso, head and arms right side out when you have finished sewing.

  8. 8

    Stuff little pieces of batting into the fingers, using the eraser end of a pencil to push it into small spaces.

  9. 9

    Stuff the rest of the hand and arm space with batting. Do not make it too compact, as the arms will not be able to bend and realistic movements will be compromised.

    Mouth

  1. 1

    Take the 6-inch square of stiff cardboard and glue the red fabric to it.

  2. 2

    Fold the cardboard in half and deeply score the uncovered cardboard side along the fold. Use a razor blade knife, but do not cut all the way through the cardboard or the fabric on the other side.

  3. 3

    Trim the corners to make them rounded. The top and bottom sections do not need to be equal and may appear more humorous if they are different in shape.

  4. 4

    Lay this folded-cardboard mouth form onto the head at the desired mouth location.

  5. 5

    Draw a line with the marker to indicate the bearing for the mouth hole.

  6. 6

    Cut along this line.

  7. 7

    Insert the cardboard mouth piece into this slit so that the red side is showing.

  8. 8

    Hot glue the fabric onto the edge of the mouth. Pull some of the fabric over the edge of the red mouth to create a lip surface.

    Finishing the Puppet

  1. 1

    Take the 6-inch square of foam (available at upholstery or fabric stores) and cut 2-inch slits into each side at the halfway point.

  2. 2

    Fold the foam in on itself so that it forms a scrunched-ball shape.

  3. 3

    Holding the foam tightly into this form, insert it into the head area and allow it to open.

  4. 4

    Move the foam around inside the head until you achieve the desired finished appearance.

  5. 5

    Cut the end off of the white plastic spoons.

  6. 6

    Paint an eye pupil onto the rounded side of the spoon piece.

  7. 7

    Hot glue the eyes onto the head.

  8. 8

    Add a nose--any small ball of batting covered in the original fabric or another of your choice--and hot glue it onto the face.

  9. 9

    Dress with infant or children clothing (readily available at thrift stores).

Tips and warnings

  • Eyes and nose can be made out of any materials that are available and to your liking. Styrofoam balls and ping pong balls cut in half make good eyes and noses.
  • Eyelids add character. These can be painted on or be added as fabric.
  • Teeth may be fashioned and glued into the mouth.
  • Wigs, fake fur and yarn are some ideas for hair.
  • Wire may be added to the arms so that they can move. Use a straightened wire clothes hanger and fold it around the wrists.
  • Halloween costume accessories make good puppet parts.

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